*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
After more than a year trudging into the hills avoiding Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalist Party, Mao Zedong’s First Red Front Army reached Shaanxi on October 20, 1935, ending the Long March. Tired and ragged following an 8,000-mile journey, the Communist Party in China had found itself a new leader — one that would set the nation on a course that continues to this day.
Mao and his contemporary, Zhu De, had quietly founded the Jiangxi-Fujian Soviet in 1930. Based in Ruijin in the southeast of China, Mao managed to secure the help of the Soviet Union to organize the National Soviet People’s Delegates Conference and declare a new Chinese Soviet Republic in November 1931. The fragmented nation, already filled with lawless warlords launching attacks on the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek, now had a second government and sizable army entering what amounted to a civil war.
Seeing Mao and the Communists quickly gain territory and build up a 140,000-strong professional fighting force, Chiang moved his soldiers into the countryside for a series of Encirclement Campaigns. Though the Red Army found some success in the early stages of the conflict, by early October 1934, its numbers had been greatly reduced and the Nationalist Army almost had it surrounded. Attempting to execute Chiang’s “Iron Bucket Plan” for the elimination of Communist sympathizers, it seemed as if the Nationalists would inevitably triumph.
Sensing an opportunity to escape before Chiang’s forces pinned them in at Lushan, the Communist leadership ordered a secret retreat on October 10, 1934. Six days later, what would become known as the Long March began. Telling the people — including Mao — that the idea was to become a mobile threat to the Nationalists, the committee hid its intention to regroup in Hubei from even those who would undertake the evacuation.
But for a massive defeat just a few weeks after leaving Lushan, the Communists managed to avoid capture by slipping off to the south and west. Working in conjunction with Zhou Enlai, Mao had gained favor by suggesting a movement through Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan would allow the Communists to avoid an action against Chiang’s army or hostile tribes.
By mid-summer, the Fourth Red Army led by Zhang Guotao had caught up with Zhou and Mao at Lianghekou. The unification was only momentary, with Mao plotting a northern course to Shaanxi and Zhang believing a march further to the southwest a better idea. Chiang’s army would manage to catch up with Zhang and his men, coming close to obliterating them in the process.
On October 20, 1935, Mao’s First Red Army reached the safety of Shaanxi, connecting with local Communists after pushing his troops through acres of swampland defended by Hui Ma Clique fighters. With thousands of soldiers still working their way to the stronghold of Bao’an, Mao solidified his hold on the leadership of the Party in the following weeks — a position he would maintain for the next four decades until his death in 1976.
Now secluded from the Nationalists, it took another year for the remainder of the Red Army to reach Bao’an. Aided by an uneasy alliance with their Nationalist enemies during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Communists gained the strength and military experience necessary to drive the Chiang and his men across the South China Sea to Taiwan in 1949, allowing Mao and his fellow Communists to found the People’s Republic of China.
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1944 – The Soviet Army liberates Belgrade, Yugoslavia
1961 – The Soviet Union completes the first test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile
1973 – The Sydney Opera House opens
2011 – Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Mutassim, are killed after being captured by rebels