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KF5JRV > TODAY    16.10.18 13:30l 70 Lines 3829 Bytes #6 (0) @ WW
BID : 23203_KF5JRV
Subj: Today in History - Oct 16
Sent: 181016/1121Z 23203@KF5JRV.#NWAR.AR.USA.NA BPQ6.0.16

The embattled Chinese Communists break through Nationalist enemy lines
and begin an epic flight from their encircled headquarters in southwest
China. Known as Ch’ang Cheng—the “Long Marchö—the retreat lasted 368
days and covered 6,000 miles, nearly twice the distance from New York to
San Francisco.

Civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communists broke out
in 1927. In 1931, Communist leader Mao Zedong was elected chairman of
the newly established Soviet Republic of China, based in Kiangsi
province in the southwest. Between 1930 and 1934, the Nationalists under
Chiang Kai-shek launched a series of five encirclement campaigns against
the Soviet Republic. Under the leadership of Mao, the Communists
employed guerrilla tactics to resist successfully the first four
campaigns, but in the fifth, Chiang raised 700,000 troops and built
fortifications around the Communist positions. Hundreds of thousands of
peasants were killed or died of starvation in the siege, and Mao was
removed as chairman by the Communist Central Committee. The new
Communist leadership employed more conventional warfare tactics, and its
Red Army was decimated.

With defeat imminent, the Communists decided to break out of the
encirclement at its weakest points. The Long March began at 5:00 p.m. on
October 16, 1934. Secrecy and rear-guard actions confused the
Nationalists, and it was several weeks before they realized that the
main body of the Red Army had fled. The retreating force initially
consisted of 86,000 troops, 15,000 personnel, and 35 women. Weapons and
supplies were borne on men’s backs or in horse-drawn carts, and the line
of marchers stretched for 50 miles. The Communists generally marched at
night, and when the enemy was not near, a long column of torches could
be seen snaking over valleys and hills into the distance.

The first disaster came in November, when Nationalist forces blocked the
Communists’ route across the Hsiang River. It took a week for the
Communists to break through the fortifications and cost them 50,000
men—more than half their number. After that debacle, Mao steadily
regained his influence, and in January he was again made chairman during
a meeting of the party leaders in the captured city of Tsuni. Mao
changed strategy, breaking his force into several columns that would
take varying paths to confuse the enemy. There would be no more direct
assaults on enemy positions. And the destination would now be Shensi
Province, in the far northwest, where the Communists hoped to fight the
Japanese invaders and earn the respect of China’s masses.

After enduring starvation, aerial bombardment, and almost daily
skirmishes with Nationalist forces, Mao halted his columns at the foot
of the Great Wall of China on October 20, 1935. Waiting for them were
five machine-gun- and red-flag-bearing horsemen. “Welcome, Chairman
Mao,ö one said. “We represent the Provincial Soviet of Northern Shensi.
We have been waiting for you anxiously. All that we have is at your
disposal!ö The Long March was over.

The Communist marchers crossed 24 rivers and 18 mountain ranges, mostly
snow-capped. Only 4,000 troops completed the journey. The majority of
those who did not perished. It was the longest continuous march in the
history of warfare and marked the emergence of Mao Zedong as the
undisputed leader of the Chinese Communists. Learning of the Communists’
heroism and determination in the Long March, thousands of young Chinese
traveled to Shensi to enlist in Mao’s Red Army. After fighting the
Japanese for a decade, the Chinese Civil War resumed in 1945. Four years
later, the Nationalists were defeated, and Mao proclaimed the People’s
Republic of China. He served as chairman until his death in 1976.

73 de Scott KF5JRV


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