Chinese History: Mao, The Red Army, and the Long March Part 2

About the long march of the Red Army of China, Mao Tse-Tung, then a soldier, his biography and part in the event.


WHEN: 1934

The Red Army started by breaking through the lines and moving into Kweichow, where they captured the governor's headquarters. Here, in a politburo conference, Mao was made chairman of the party. It was fairly easy for the Army to cross the upper Yangtze, the "Gold Sand" River, but from there they went into the wild mountains of West Yunnan, where a treacherous river ran through gorges thousands of feet deep. All the bridge crossings were occupied by enemy troops. All the ferry-boats were drawn to the opposite bank. Chiang figured he had won. All he had to do was finish off the Red Army, caught in the defiles of the mountains. He forgot to consider their desperation and resourcefulness. A Red commando force, after marching 85 mi. through the mountains in 24 hours, captured a Nationalist group at a ferry crossing. Then they dressed in the enemy uniforms and persuaded the troops on the other bank to send over the ferryboats. In the dark, they crossed the river, took a fort, and secured a route to the west.

But there was another river to cross, the Tatu, in western Szechwan. Mao knew it was imperative that the Red Army beat Chiang to the river. In order to do so, the Army entered a dangerous piece of land dominated by aborigines, the Lolos, who hated the Chinese. There were 2 kinds of Lolos--Black and White. The Reds approached the Black Lolos, telling them that they were Red Chinese, enemies of the White Chinese (the Nationalists), and therefore friends of the Black Lolos. Through a Red commander who knew the Lolo language, an agreement with the Black Lolos was reached, and the Red Army was able to take the shortcut through their territory. They crossed the bridge at the Tatu 1st. If they had not, they would likely have been forced into the mountains of Tibet to die in the snow. Ahead of them were mountains, the Great Snowy Mountains of Szechwan, and more mountains after that. Mao said later, "On Pao-tung Kand peak alone, one army lost 2/3 of its transport animals. Hundreds fell down and never got up again." The men and women on the march did not do much better. In July, they reached eastern Tibet, where they met the 4th Front Red Army led by Chang Kuo-t'ao. Here Chang Kuo-t'ao and Mao locked horns in a battle for supremacy, a battle that was interrupted by the advance of Chiang Kai-shek's forces and the rising of a river, which divided the 2 armies physically. For weeks after that, Mao's Army advanced through gloomy forests, jungles, treacherous marshlands, and mountain passes, constantly threatened by natives who hated them. "To get one sheep," Mao later reflected, "cost the life of one comrade."

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