It is now known as the longest march in the history of warfare. Of the 86,000
troops, 15,000 personnel, and 35 women who marched, only 4,000 would arrive at
their destination. It started at 5:00 pm on this day, took 368 days to cover the
6,000 miles during which they crossed 24 rivers, 18 mountain ranges, some of which
were snow covered.
the Chinese Civil War, which had broken out in 1927, the Chinese Communists were
encircled by the Chinese Nationalists, who vastly outnumbered them (the Nationalists
possibly had 700,000 troops). The Nationalists were trying to starve the Communists
to submission; hundreds of thousands of peasants died of starvation. To escape,
the Communists broke though the weakest points of the encirclement, thus beginning
'The Long March'.
Communists employed a guerilla campaign against the Nationalists, whilst initially
under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The Communist hierarchy doubted this strategy
and replaced him. The new strategy was to use the Red Army to engage the Nationalists
in a conventional war. This strategy failed spectacularly.
retreating Communists carried weapons on their backs or in horse drawn carriages.
At some points the march, which was mostly at night, stretched for 50 miles.
Nationalists caught up with the Communists in November when they blockaded the
Hsiang River. In this attack alone, the Communists lost 50,000 of their number.
Zedong was reinstalled as leader in January. He decided to break the march up
into separate columns to confuse the enemy. He set their destination to the Shensi
Province in the northwest.
Communists arrived at their destination on November 20th 1935, at the foot of
the Great Wall of China. Here they were welcomed by the Provincial Soviet of Northern
Shensi who offered their support.
hearing of their heroism, thousands of Chinese joined Zedong's army.
civil war was put on hold while China fought the Japanese in the Second World
War, but when the civil war restarted in 1945 it took just 4 years for the Nationalists
to be defeated.
The People's Republic of China was proclaimed; Mao was named chairman for life.