East Turkistan National Army Memorial Day (April 8)

On April 8, 2020 Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples across the world commemorated the East Turkistan National Army Memorial Day to remember and honor the armed forces of the former East Turkistan Republic (1944-1949).

On April 8, 1945, the founding of the East Turkistan Republic’s National Army was proclaimed  with a large military parade, and the various armed groups scattered across that part of East Turkistan were organized into seven regiments, four independent battalions, and one independent company. General recruitment of all ethnic groups, except for the Chinese, were carried out by the East Turkistan National Army.

Formal establishment of the East Turkistan National Army – April 8, 1945

At its height in 1946, the East Turkistan National Army had a total of  40,000 active duty troops and some 20,000 reserve troops. A number of departments were  established under the East Turkistan National Army Headquarters, including Political Department, War Department, Military Administration Department, Cadre Department, Reconnaissance Department, and a Supply & Logistics Department.  The Soviets had also imbedded military advisors into the East Turkistan National Army to help train them and to monitor their movements.

The East Turkistan National Army was armed with mostly German weaponry, along with some Soviet weaponry, and American weaponry captured from the Republic of China. Much of its initial arms were sold to the East Turkistan Republic by the Soviet Union. The East Turkistan National Army’s Artillery Division originally consisted of at least 12 cannons, two armored vehicles, and two tanks. A National Aviation Force was established with forty-two airplanes that the East Turkistan National Army had captured at a Republic of China (Nationalist China) airbase in Ghulja.

Officers of the East Turkistan National Army -1945

By July 1945, the East Turkistan National Army was conducting a three-front-war advancing against Republic of China positions in the rest of East Turkistan. On the Northern Front, the East   Turkistan National Army succeeded in liberating the Targabatay and Altay region by September of 1945. On the Central Front, the East Turkistan National Army succeeded in liberating all territories west of the Manas River. On the Southern Front, the East Turkistan National Army crossed the Tengri Tagh (“Tianshan”) mountains and succeeded in liberating much of the Aksu region by September, 1945 and setup a Kashgar Regiment to liberate Kashgar. 

East Turkistan National Army amor units along the banks of the Manas River – September 1945

After hearing about the East Turkistan National Army’s impending arrival to all of southern East Turkistan, Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples across Kashgar, Yarkent, and other places across East Turkistan began to  rebel against Chinese occupation. The East Turkistan Republic was rapidly expanding but that came to halt in October 1945.

On March 28, 1946, the East Turkistan Government Council issue Resolution No. 249  which declared April 8 as Memorial Day for the Founding of the East Turkistan National Army.

The East Turkistan National Army was merged into China’s People’s Liberation Army’s 5th Army Corps following the Chinese Communist invasion and occupation of East Turkistan on December 22, 1949.