The offensive was originally intended to prevent Chinese forces from reinforcing the British Commonwealth forces engaged in Hong Kong. With the capture of Hong Kong on December 25th however, it was decided to continue the offensive against Changsha in order to maximize the blow against the Chinese government.
The offensive resulted in failure for the Japanese, as Chinese forces were able to lure them into a trap and encircle them. After suffering heavy casualties, Japanese forces called for a general retreat.
Changsha was evacuated except for the Chinese army and some 160 civilians who wished to stay to help the defense. On December 31st, the Japanese troops stormed the southeastern defense of the city but failed to make any gains, and then made an attempt at the southern and then eastern part of the defense. Meanwhile, the northern part of the city was heavily bombarded. The Japanese eventually cut through the first line of defense, only to meet stubborn resistance from a second line of defense near the city center.
On January 1, the Chinese quickly counter-attacked and surprised the Japanese with heavy guns and inflicted heavy casualties on them. At about the same time, the previous army units that had retreated to the mountains swept down to attack the Japanese supply lines, with plenty of aid from local guerillas. The Japanese line collapsed on January 4th. The three Japanese divisions were besieged and requested the help of the Japanese 9th Independent Brigade stationed in Yueyang. However, on January 9th they faced heavy fighting with the Chinese and were unable to relieve the besieged Japanese divisions. The Japanese then attempted to retreat through the Luoyang River, not knowing that an ambush party was already stationed in the region. Losing heavily at the river crossing, the Japanese eventually reached the Sinchiang River on January 15th to complete the retreat.