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[Reminiscences]Chapter 24 3. The Breakthrough in the Operations against Japan

 

      


 

3. The Breakthrough in the Operations against Japan  

 

 During the run-up to the operations against Japan, numerous soldiers of the KPRA died heroically in the course of carrying out small-unit reconnaissance under the banner of national liberation\and proletarian internationalism.


The soldiers of the KPRA who took part in reconnaissance work made a breakthrough in the operations against Japan through their self-sacrificing struggle.

The following recollection of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung helps us to look back upon the heroic exploits performed by the soldiers of the KPRA in their reconnaissance activities in the enemy areas.


When preparing for the final operations against Japan to liberate the country, the KPRA took the lead in making a breakthrough.


The activities of the KPRA for the preparation\and execution of the operations against Japan were carried out directly through the chain of command of its main force as a component of the IAF, as well as through its detachments under the control of the IAF.


To step up reconnaissance work, especially joint reconnaissance by the IAF, in preparation for operations was a pressing need in view of the prevailing situation at the time.

In\order to obtain information about the strategy of the Japanese imperialists, it was necessary to conduct intensive reconnaissance in Manchuria\and Korea, especially in the areas bordering on the Soviet\union, as well as widespread intelligence activities in Japan proper.


In the first half of the 1940s, when we were anticipating the great event of national liberation, we were faced with an immensely heavy task of reconnaissance, incomparably greater than in the previous period.

 

At that time we were preparing for a final showdown with the Japanese imperialists. That required reconnaissance of a large number of targets. Previously we used to\select a single\or a few prize targets at a time, mainly for raiding, demolition\or ambush, so reconnaissance had been\limited to these targets. But now the enemy’s military posts, fortified areas, airfields, gun positions\and all the other hostile elements had to be reconnoitred. Even the seats of reactionary\organizations, their structural characteristics\and the sentiments of the public came within the range of our reconnaissance.


Another reason why we attached importance to reconnaissance in this period was that the Japanese army had stepped up its movements,\and there were frequent changes in its chain of command.


When Germany started to invade the Soviet\union, the Japanese military dispatched hundreds of thousands of troops to Manchuria as reinforcements for the Kwantung Army, in an attempt to push north if the Nazi army occupied Moscow\and threw the Soviet\union into confusion.


Seeing the Nazi army bogged down, unable to occupy Moscow, the cunning Japanese military judged that a push north was premature,\and shifted most of their forces massed in Manchuria to the south, attacking Pearl Harbour\and occupying Singapore, in pursuance of their policy of “defending the north\and attacking the south”. This entailed the movement of troops, weapons\and equipment.


The soldiers of the KPRA trekked about the vast expanse of Manchuria\and the homeland, collecting a lot of information necessary for the operations to liberate the country.


I considered most important information about the fortresses\and fortified areas on the borders between Korea\and the Soviet\union, between Korea\and Manchuria,\and between the Soviet\union\and Manchuria. But for this information, it would have been impossible for us to carry out the operations against Japan as successfully as we did. It was because we had scouted the enemy so thoroughly that the Kwantung Army, the elite of the enemy forces, that had bragged of being the “son of tiger”, surrendered without offering any resistance worth mentioning.

 

It was natural that the Japanese boasted of these fortified areas as impregnable. The world knew well that the French Maginot Line\and the German Siegfried Line were imposing fortifications, but not much was known about the Japanese fortresses.


The Japanese fortifications covered a distance of 1,000 kilometres in all. Over a long period of time, the Japanese had constructed them with the use of huge amounts of materials. Each fortified stretch consisted of 500 concrete\and earthen pillboxes on the average, in addition to command posts, observation posts, artillery positions, all sorts of troop shelters\and combat trenches, communication trenches,\and anti-tank\and anti-personnel barriers–a network of fortifications tight enough to prevent the infiltration of an ant. The fact that the main force of the Kwantung Army was positioned in these fortifications shows how much strategic importance the Japanese military attached to them.


That was why we put priority efforts into the reconnaissance of these fortifications.


When I was moving in command of a small unit to\and rom Manchuria\and the homeland, our team once passed through the northern flank of the fortifications at Dongxingzhen,\where we often encountered the enemy’s pillboxes\and well-covered troop shelters. When we woke up early in the morning rom our bivouac overnight, we often found ourselves either on the roof of an underground structure\or near a concrete pillbox built by the enemy.


Once we bivouacked at the foot of a mountain\where an enemy’s sentry post was situated.


I woke my men up quietly\and took them out of range of the enemy’s observation. When I asked them during breakfast if they knew that they had slept right under an enemy sentry post, they were wide-eyed with surprise.


For the reconnaissance of a fortified area I used to dispatch several parties of scouts. For instance, responsibility for observing the fortifications at Kyonghung (present-day Undok) was given to a dozen scouting parties. Similarly in Hunchun, Dongxingzhen\and Dongning.


Our scouts in those days would penetrate the enemy’s fortifications\and return with even the scraps of concrete they had chipped rom a pillbox.


A piece of string\or a ruler could be used to measure the size of a concrete pillbox\or the calibre of a gun, but it was indeed difficult beyond imagination to take away concrete scraps, unnoticed by the enemy’s sentry. Our comrades, however, made a fine job of it.


Our comrades reconnoitred not only the fortifications in the border area but also those in Rajin, Chongjin, Wonsan\and those in Jinhae\and Ryosu, as far as the southern tip of the homeland.

The scouts discovered everything that needed to be detected–the layout of the fortifications, number of guns, landing-strips, planes\and troops, harbour facilities, tonnage of enemy warships, the procedures of entry into harbours, the location of communication centres, depots of military supplies,\and so on.


In scouting the fortifications\and fortified areas, O Paek Ryong\and his party, including Kim Chol Man, Han Chon Chu,\and Kim Hyok Chol, performed outstanding exploits. This party carried out dozens of reconnaissance missions in the homeland.


Initially they made use of pigeons for communication, for want of wireless equipment. Reaching their destinations, they would write a report on a slip of paper, put it into a tiny aluminium cylinder attached to a pigeon’s leg,\and let the bird loose, so reporting their arrival. But rom 1942 onward, most of the small units\and scouting parties that infiltrated into the homeland\and Manchuria made use of wireless equipment.


Entering the homeland, they would wear\ordinary civilian clothes. They would subsist on rations they carried with them\and would travel on foot, avoiding trains, buses\or even horses.

We familiarized the scouts with the geography, customs\and dialects of their destinations.


The enemy guards were always vigilant against the infiltration of the small units\and parties of the KPRA across the Tuman\and the northern border. They would stretch something like thread over the hillocks through which the small units\or parties might possibly infiltrate,\and keep constant watch. When they found the thread broken, they used to\order out the soldiers\and policemen stationed there as well as the local inhabitants for searches. Occasionally they would discover the footprints of our scouts.

O Paek Ryong’s scouting party had many hair-raising experiences.


His party once encountered a rabid element of the Home Guard on the Josul Pass on their way rom Unggi (present-day Sonbong) to Kyonghung (present-day Undok). Finding his dead body the following morning, the enemy made a thorough search of the pass even by\ordering out hundreds of the local inhabitants.


Even when they saw our comrades hiding in the thicket of oaks, the local people feigned ignorance.


That day Kim Chol Man hung on a branch of an oak tree a slip of paper with an inion reading, “We are the revolutionary army fighting for Korea’s independence.”

Reading the notice, the inhabitants whispered among themselves before shouting that there was nobody there,\and proceeding to another valley.


O Paek Ryong’s party set up many temporary secret bases during their work in the homeland. The secret bases on Mt. Poroji, at Jagunkamaewon\and on Mt. Chonghak were established by them.

From these bases, our scouts carried out work among the masses on their own initiative, during which they got to know many good people.


Our comrades persuaded an old charcoal burner to obtain information\and buy newspapers\and magazines for them. When the old man became familiar with information collection, they gave him an assignment to scout the ports at Chongjin\and Wonsan. Staying at a relative’s house in Wonsan, the old man scouted the fortress there for a long time, obtaining important information for O Paek Ryong’s reconnaissance party.


O Paek Ryong had enlisted in his scouting activities a man who had been farming\and burning charcoal deep in the forest of Mt. Poroji. This man spoke Japanese quite well, so O Paek Ryong trained him for some time\and then dispatched him to Japan. In those days the Japanese army used to ship horses rom that region to Japan every autumn. When they did so they would select Koreans to escort the horses. O Paek Ryong got this man to slip into the ranks of the horse escorts. This man also tried hard to gain information about the sea routes between Rajin\and Niigata,\and between Chongjin\and Tsuruga.


What was characteristic of the activities of O Paek Ryong’s party was that the range of their activities was wide\and the information they obtained was very accurate.

Even information on the fortifications in Jinhae, Masan, Pusan,\and other areas on the southern tip of Korea was obtained by agents dispatched by O’s party. One agent sent to Pusan was said to have carried out his mission while working as a dealer in miscellaneous goods. One of our operatives also was active in the fortress in Ryosu.


O’s party conducted their reconnaissance activities on a large scale, yet in a skilful\and accurate way. The landing operations at the major ports of Rajin, Unggi,\and Chongjin on the east coast for the war against Japan were planned by the Soviet army, based entirely on the information obtained by O’s party, which made reconnaissance of the ports in a daring\and unique way.


Kim Hyok Chol was a hero of the KPRA produced by this reconnaissance party. He died on his tenth mission to the homeland. One of his group of three men on that mission was suffering rom arthritis. The group carried out their mission successfully, but got into trouble because the sick man could hardly walk. Kim Hyok Chol carried this man on his back. As it was snowing heavily they plodded along with great difficulty,\and because they were late reaching the rendezvous across the river, their guide there had withdrawn.


The leader of the group went down to a village to obtain food for his comrades, who had been starving for days. Meanwhile, Kim Hyok Chol did his best for the sick comrade, but the latter died.

Kim Hyok Chol himself was so exhausted that he was reduced to crawling through the snow. Before long, he too died. Many soldiers died of hunger like him during the anti-Japanese armed struggle.


The following spring local villagers found his body,\and buried it by the Tuman River. Beside him they buried the sick man he had tried to save. It is said that Kim Hyok Chol was still grasping his pistol when he died, so the local people must have known that he\and his comrade were guerrillas.


Kim Hyok Chol had been recruited by Kim Jong Suk during her underground activities in Taoquanli. He was very courageous\and loyal. The volunteers rom Taoquanli all fought courageously.


The fortifications in Kyonghung were scouted by Son Thae Chun’s party.


They also worked efficiently.


They collected a lot of information rom a temporary secret base they had set up on the mountain at the back of Unggi. When surrounded by the enemy in the summer of 1942, Son Thae Chun fought them barehanded, before dying a heroic death.


He had been transferred to our main force rom the Helong guerrilla unit. In our unit, he had served as a squad leader\and then a platoon leader. Pak Yong Sun\and Kim Ju Hyon, who hailed rom Helong, used to praise him a lot, saying that he was intelligent\and upright, had strong convictions\and principles,\and was full of ardour.


Their praise was no exaggeration. Son was greatly loved by his comrades. In terms of his service record in the guerrilla army, he was a veteran like Kim Ju Hyon. He was a handsome man with wavy hair.

The following episode shows what sort of man he was.


When he was living in Helong he was engaged to marry a girl. But misfortune befell them when the girl’s brother, a revolutionary, was arrested\and imprisoned\and, to make matters worse, the girl’s family got their house foreclosed by the landlord\and had to live in a hut\where the bier\and other funeral equipment were kept by the village.


In those days Son Thae Chun was doing YCL work at Changrenjiang.


The plight of his fiancee’s family grieved him sorely.


However, he had no means to help her out. He racked his brains\and called at the house of a man called Kim, a YCL member, in a nearby village. He met Kim’s father\and asked him if he would give him an ox in exchange for his introduction of a girl who could be a good daughter-in-law. Interested in the “good daughter-in-law”, Kim’s father replied that he would not object to the idea if Son would pay for the ox in a few years’ time. By a “good daughter-in-law” Son meant his fiancee.


Son sold the ox he had obtained in this way\and paid off the debt of his fiancee’s family to help them get back their house. Thus he saved her family rom the crisis. Only then did he meet his fiancee\and tell her everything.


At first the girl protested in tears that she would never marry a stranger. Son persuaded her, saying, “Why should I be willing to let you marry a stranger? But can we not sacrifice our love for the sake of your father, mother, elder brother, elder sister,\and younger brothers\and sisters who are crying over their ill-treatment by the landlord? Please don’t object to my idea any more.” The girl just sobbed\and cried sadly, making no further remark.


As bad luck would have it, however, the enemy’s “punitive” force pounced upon the village on the day of her marriage, causing pandemonium in the village\and driving both the bridegroom\and bride to flee rom the house. With all the family scattered, the bridegroom joined the guerrilla army\and the bride remained in the enemy-held area, continuing her work in the YCL.


Son Thae Chun, too, joined the guerrilla army. The bridegroom Kim fell in battle while serving with the Wangqing guerrillas. The girl, who had suffered one misfortune after another, lived alone for the rest of her life, unable to forget Son, I was told.


I always used to send Son Thae Chun on difficult missions. He took part in every major battle I\organized\and commanded, among them the battles at Jiansanfeng, Musan\and Hongqihe, each time displaying unrivalled courage\and heroism. During the battle at Hongqihe he carried out his duty responsibly as a frontline scout.


Like O Thae Hui’s in Wangqing, Son Thae Chun’s family was a revolutionary family who laid down their lives in the war against the Japanese. Son Thae I, Son Thae Un, Son Thae Ryong\and many other brothers of his fell in action while fighting in the guerrilla army\and revolutionary\organizations.


Kim Hak Song died while reconnoitring the fortifications at Kyonghung.

 

He was also surrounded by the enemy as Son Thae Chun had been. He handed over the information he had gathered to Kim Pong Sok\and lured the enemy towards himself to his last moment.

Han Thae Ryong’s reconnaissance party participated in scouting the fortresses at Chongjin\and Ranam. They carried out their mission by disguising themselves sometimes as Japanese gendarmes, sometimes as shoemakers\and sometimes as rickshaw pullers.


However well they disguised themselves\and however skilfully they acted according to the circumstances, they were unable to gain information on an anti-aircraft artillery position on a mountain because of strict surveillance by the enemy. Their object was to ascertain the calibres of the guns\and their number, but it was difficult to approach the area.


One day they saw an old man pulling a handcart up the hill towards the position of the guns. In sympathy for the old man, they pushed the cart rom behind. He thanked them\and, hearing Han Thae Ryong lamenting their lot of “wandering\and begging”, he sympathized with him, saying that the Koreans could live only when the Japanese perished. Not missing this chance, Han said, pointing at the gun position: “When they have so many guns, why should they perish?” With a wry smile on his face, the old man replied, “Most of those guns on that mountain are fake, you know. Only a few of them are real; the rest are all made of wood. They used to cut the trees here, strip them of branches\and paint them,\and carry them to the position.” The old man knew the disposition of all the enemy forces in the Chongjin area, the times of arrival\and departure of the ships at the Chongjin Port\and the details of the cargo they transported.


What the old man said agreed exactly with information obtained through other channels, I was told.


Pak Kwang Son’s\and Hong Chun Su’s parties did most of the scouting of the fortified areas\and fortresses in Onsong, Kyongwon, Kyonghung\and other parts of the northern border region.


Pak Kwang Son’s scouting party combined reconnaissance skilfully with work among the masses. While concentrating on reconnaissance, they never neglected political work aimed at educating the masses along revolutionary lines. Their efficient work among the masses encouraged the people to help them in carrying out their reconnaissance.

In Onsong, Unggi, Kyongwon, Kyonghung,\and Rajin there were many\organizations we had formed rom the early 1930s. Pak’s party were able to obtain much information because they set these\organizations in motion again.


After liberation, recalling his days of small-unit actions, Pak Kwang Son said that his scouting party owed a great deal of their success to the inhabitants of Onsong during their activities in the northern area of North Hamgyong Province. They found that the inhabitants were either\organization members who had been ceaselessly assisting the guerrilla army, living under the great influence of the “Jilin Wind”\and “Jiandao Wind” rom the early 1930s\or their descendants. He also said that the village headman with whom they had joined hands unexpectedly in Onsong was a member of an underground\organization. The village headman would warn them not to cross the Tuman on such\and such a night, because an instruction had been issued to guard the ferry strictly. He also told them that they would find such\and such a place safe to tap a telephone giving them necessary information.


Among those who helped Pak’s party, there was a man serving as a corporal in the gendarme squad stationed in Namyang, I was told. It was rare for a Korean to become a corporal in the Japanese gendarmerie. There were some Koreans like Hong Jong U working as assistant gendarmes, but the rank of corporal was exceptional for Koreans.


Pak Kwang Son’s party decided to win over the corporal. They found that he was a special member of the ARF who had been in touch with Son Jang Chun since the early 1940s. After the death of Son Jang Chun while carrying out small-unit activities in Kyongwon County, the corporal had been lying low, waiting for the re-establishment of connection with the People’s Revolutionary Army.


The corporal handed over to the scouting party every piece of information he had obtained rom the gendarmerie. He also provided security for the members of the small units of the KPRA\and of revolutionary\organizations. When one small unit was arrested, the corporal got them set free by


claiming that they were undercover agents of his gendarme unit.


Namyang was a relay point between the fortifications in the border area\and Japan proper. The important road\and railway as well as the communications network linking the northern border area of our country with Northeast China ran mainly through Namyang,\and even the material supplies for aggression on the continent had to pass through Namyang to get to Northeast China.


In the light of this, it was a great success in the activities in the enemy area that this scouting party drew the corporal in Namyang into intelligence service for us.


The small units\and groups of the KPRA boldly enlisted even the servants of the enemy\organs in reconnaissance. An office boy of the police station in Sosura rendered great help to our men who were scouting the fortifications in Kyonghung\and the fortresses in Rajin. After gaining the confidence of the chief of the police station through his devoted service, he collected various bits of information,\and even got access to a top-secret military document in the end. Even among the Japanese policemen in Chonghak, which Han Chang Bong\and Jo Myong Son frequented during their activities in the northern border area, there was a man who, under their influence, gave active assistance to our intelligence activities.


Through their reconnaissance activities, our small units\and groups kept a constant watch over the Japanese imperialists’ operations\and troop movements, while gathering a lot of valuable information useful for reference in the planning of our final offensive.


As the Japanese often made feints, our comrades had to repeat their reconnaissance frequently. In spite of every conceivable kind of trickery, the enemy could not deceive our scouts.


Yun Thae Hong, too, gathered accurate information about the make-up of the first directional army of the Kwantung Army, thus making a great contribution to the planning of operations against Japan by the Headquarters of the IAF.

 

We also paid great attention to infiltrating a great number of operatives into the enemy-held areas on a long-term basis. In those days many of our operatives worked in various important positions in enemy establishments, even in the Japanese army units, not to speak of the puppet Manchukuo army\and police.


Underground workers were guided by an important principle that required them not to leave their work place at their own discretion unless recalled by those who had sent them. They were pledged not to divulge their secret work, at the cost of their lives.


Our comrades indeed lived up to this principle with their lives.


Let me take the case of Ji Kyong Su for example. Our Headquarters assigned him to the task of keeping himself entrenched in the enemy area for a long time, carrying out underground activities in the Soviet-Manchurian border area.


With his operational funds, Ji Kyong Su purchased land\and a house,\and also married. Pretending to be a landowner, he shrewdly got on intimate terms with Japanese soldiers\and policemen, gleaning top-secret information rom them\and reporting it regularly to Headquarters. His information proved its worth in the operations for the final offensive for the liberation of the country.


Even after liberation, we did not recall him, because we judged that his work post would be the venue of the decisive battle with Jiang Jie-shi’s army before long.


When his area was liberated, he gave up his land\and house,\and so escaped being attacked by the newly-liberated peasants.


Some time later, however, the area fell under the rule of the Kuomintang army. He took back his land rom his tenants,\and behaved as a landowner again, making friends with senior officers of the Kuomintang army\and drawing valuable information rom them.


However, when Northeast China was liberated rom the rule of the Kuomintang army, Ji Kyong Su, who had performed distinguished services in silence, was branded as a reactionary\and brought to trial. He was nearly beaten to death by the peasants. Even while being flogged, he did not reveal his real identity.


He would have suffered greater mishaps if our comrades who were at his trial had not vouched for him as a soldier of the Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Army.


Hearing the news, I immediately recalled him to the homeland.


In Mijiang, Hunchun County, there is a place called Ssoksaegol,\where an old man called Ryom was eking out a living by hunting. In those days the Japanese imperialists did not give permission to\ordinary people to hunt unless they promised to help them with their intelligence work. Old man Ryom obtained a hunting license only after promising to do so. Im Chol’s scouting party, which had been operating in the Tumen area, got this old man to play a double game by giving false information to the enemy, while giving authentic information to the guerrillas.


Im Chol’s party succeeded in their reconnaissance of the Tumen area because they made effective use of this old man. Previously other parties dispatched to the Tumen area had all failed in their mission due to the counterintelligence of the enemy. Tumen was the base of the Japanese imperialist secret intelligence services, as well as of their army\and police.


After liberation, the inhabitants of the area, regarding Ryom as a reactionary who had worked as an agent of the Japanese, confiscated all of his property. Like Ji Kyong Su, the old man seemed to have had a hard time of it at his trial. In early 1946, Im Chol vouched for his real identity. Afterwards, old man Ryom was held in respect as a patriot.


With the war against Japan impending, the military\and political activities to make a breakthrough in the operations were stepped up.


With their defeat in the offing, the Japanese political\and military circles came up with an assertion that they should “defend Korea to the last”. They insisted that in the system of their self-support\and self-protection Korea would be not only the supply base for their continental war, the last war base, but also a lifeline for keeping Japan alive to the last. Their “doctrine of the defence of Korea to the last” meant that they were prepared to fall back on Korea to make a last-ditch effort to survive. To translate this doctrine into practice signified that Korea would be the ground of the final battle to annihilate the Japanese imperialists.

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