I have been researching this topic for a historical novel I am writing about the Korean War. This video clip is not representative of Chinese attacks in the Korean War—People’s Liberation Army attacks were typically carried out by smaller attack teams concentrating on a particular enemy line of defense.

Quite familiar to most Americans, human wave Banzai charges were used in the Pacific War WWII by the Imperial Japanese Army. During the Chinese Civil War, Nationalist Chinese accused the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of using unarmed civilians as human shields in human sea attacks to drain Nationalist ammunition during battles.

Although attacks by the People’s Liberation Army troops during the Korean War have often been depicted in the West as human wave attacks, they are more properly described as Chinese short attacks— a combination of infiltration and shock tactics in which the Chinese assault team would crawl undetected within hand grenade range, then launch surprise attacks to breach the defenses by relying on maximum shock and confusion.


Usually carried out at night, Chinese short attacks, announced by an eerie cacophony of bugles, whistles, drums and cymbals,  thrust small fire teams on a narrow front against the weakest point in enemy defenses. If the initial shock failed to breach the defenses, additional fire teams would attack the same point until penetration was achieved. Then the bulk of the Chinese forces would attack the enemy from behind.

Masked in the terrain, Chinese short attacks were carefully timed to minimize casualties and often repeated indefinitely until either the defenses were penetrated or the attacker’s ammunition supply was exhausted, regardless of the chances of success or human cost.

Main Source: Wikipedia


At 2200, a red flare rose above the high ground to the east. Then, with a whistle blast, a company-sized unit of PLA charged the perimeter of RCT-31. With clanging cymbals and bugle calls, the Chinese infantrymen shrieked something that, to Nick, sounded like “you die!”

Red and green tracers arced back and forth as machine gun bullets and mortar shells streaked through the bluish-white light of the star shells slowly parachuting down over the frozen hillside. White-quilted soldiers, firing burp guns and flinging fragmentation hand grenades, rushed into the perimeter of Able Company.

Crouching behind the log barrier, Nick fired his M1 carbine as fast as he could. But the PLA kept charging—farmers and peasants leaping like Kung Fu fighters over the bodies of their fallen comrades. They were almost on top of Nick. Was this the end?

– Excerpt from my upcoming historical fiction novel about events leading up to the battle of Chosin Reservoir