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Horrors of the Longest March of: Mao’s communists retreat in 1935

It is Oct. 20, 1935.  The Chinese communist party of Mao Tse Tong (The Chinese Red Army) is seriously attacked by the Nationalist forces of Chang Kai-Chek (Kuomintang) and is about to be wiped out, unless a hasty retreat to a safe refuge in the province of Shaanxi (North-West of China) is successful.

One hundred thousand communists began their retreat from the city of Ruijin in the Jiangxi province. Only 8 thousands arrived at destination after an entire year of steady progress over 10,000 kilometers in all kinds of weather and geographic conditions… It was the quickest, and most famished retreat of all times in history. The wife of Mao is pregnant and Mao is seriously sick with malaria and was using the sole horse available to the retreating army.

Every member had to carry his provisions: 5 pounds of rice, and on each side of a stick across the shoulders were hanging either two boxes of munition or grenades, and an empty large canister of kerosene filled with hand tools. Back packs contained a sleeping cover,  a winter outfit, and three pairs of study shoes made of cord and reinforced with metal at the heel.

This huge army had no medicine and progressed for days without eating anything.  Most of them died of illness and were left on side roads. During most of the retreat, the Red Army was harassed and attacked by the Kuomintang forces. This army had to cross a river at Luting hanging to a cable of a suspended bridge. The army had to traverse seven ranges of high mountains in winter and crossed deserts in summer time. 

The humid soil prevented the soldiers of cooking whatever food they managed to scavenge. Thousands died of dysentery after eating raw rice and raw vegetables.

Chang Kai-Chek had decided to eradicate the communists, even though Japan had started its invasion of China. By 1937, Chang Kai-Chek  realized the impossibility of wiping out the communist forces and agreed on a truce to opposing the Japanese forces. Once the Japanese army vacated China in 1945, hostility resumed.

The US tested its newly acquired biological weapons on the Red Army, but the communists had the upper hand in 1949. Chang Kai-Chek fled to Taiwan and established his rule on this nearby island. Mao had stated: “Power is won by armed forces”

Note 1: Curious to know a sample of what happened after Mao gained power?

Note 2: Story extracted from “365 dates that made history”  by W.B. Marsh and Bruce Carrick




May 2023

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