It was a miracle I survived, says youngest participant of Long March

Ma Chi( | Updated: 2016-09-02 10:10

It was a miracle I survived, says youngest participant of Long March

He Longjie, the daughter of Red Army general He Long and the youngest participant in the Long March, and her mother Jian Xianren. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Red Army that embarked on the Long March was pretty young – the soldiers had an average age of less than 18 years old, said American journalist Harrison Salisbury in his book The Long March: The Untold Story.

But that is nothing compared with the Long March's youngest participant.

On Nov 1, 1935, He Long, a Red Army general, had just led his troops to a victory against the enemy in Hunan province, when a telegram was sent to the frontline: His wife Jian Xianren had given birth to a baby girl.

Because the girl was born when the troops defeated the enemy, He named his girl "Jiesheng", which means "born after a victory".

With the troops set to start the expedition, He decided to entrust the baby to the care of a relative, because the baby could not go with the troops.

After one week, however, the relative did not appear. In his anxiety, He went to the relative's home over night, only to find that the relative's family had already moved away.

This would have been a sensible choice because during the war, if a family was found to have sheltered the kid of a Red Army leader, the whole family would be killed.

With no choice, He decided to take his newborn baby along on the expedition. Before setting out, He told his wife to take care of their baby, and gave her two grenades in case they were besieged by enemies.

On Nov 19, 1935, He Jiesheng, carried on a cradle on a mule, embarked on her Long March as the youngest participant of the troops.

"To prevent me from being scratched by branches, my mother wrapped me in a cloth bag and put me against her chest," recalled He Jiesheng decades after the expedition.

"I went along with the troops in my mom's arms, listening to the roar of the aircraft flying above and the noises of gunfire, a unique lullaby to me," she said.

Sometimes, He Long would put the baby in his largest pocket. Once, after the troops marched dozens of kilometers continuously in Guizhou province, He caught his breath and fumbled for a pipe to take a rest. But he found his daughter was not in his pocket!

It turned out the baby fell on the ground when He rode on the horse and it jolted marching forward. He immediately ran back and fortunately the baby was picked up by soldiers behind him.

"It is a miracle that I could survive the path full of dangers and also full of promises in the one-year Long March," He Jiesheng wrote in a book about the Long March in 2013.

When the troops ended the expedition in Shaanxi province in 1936, He Jiesheng had just turned one year old.


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