Date of Award

Spring 6-13-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Libi Sundermann


This paper examines the shortcomings of Western academia’s coverage of the Guomindang’s decision to breach the Yellow River dikes in 1938. The catastrophe is discussed in individual segments by many in Western academia and lacks a comprehensive view of the event, which this paper will provide. Flood waters inundated the plains of the Henan, Anhui, and Kiangsu provinces, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and creating a massive refugee crisis. The lack of arable land and labor, the damaged agricultural infrastructure, and a major drought led to the Henan Famine of 1942-1943 which killed millions more. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, considerable effort was made to plug the breach with substantial international support in the form of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The repair effort was steeped in politics as a civil war between the Guomindang and the Communists erupted. When the breach was repaired, it flooded refugee settlements relocated into the old riverbed. Frustrated with how they had been treated, the people of northern China assisted the communists in their defeat of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. This research consisted of primary and secondary source material that was available through online archives. The United Nations archives were utilized to acquire the monthly reports regarding the repair of the breach. Included in the study is a report from the Chief Engineer of the repair which contained a map of the flooded areas. To supplement these sources, newspaper and magazine articles were obtained from the ProQuest Historical Newspapers archive.