[Reminiscences]Chapter 20. For a Fresh Upsurge of the Revolution 1. Arduous March > 새 소식

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 20. For a Fresh Upsurge of the Revolution 1. Arduous March

  

   

 


 

Chapter 20. For a Fresh Upsurge of the Revolution

1. Arduous March 


 When we talk about the Arduous March, we refer to the trek made by the main force of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army rom Nanpaizi, Mengjiang County, to Beidadingzi, Changbai County, rom early December 1938 to the end of March the following year. Over half a century has passed since the march, but our people still remember this epochal event.


The great exploits performed by the respected leader Comrade Kim Il Sung during this march\and the indomitable revolutionary spirit displayed by the anti-Japanese guerrillas are a priceless heritage our people will pass down through generations as a source for their inspiration.

The following is the tran of the great leader’s recollections about the Arduous March, of an address he made to historians\and writers.


You comrades have worked hard to create\and disseminate systematic accounts of the revolutionary traditions established by our Party. Our writers have produced many literary works of great educational value that deal with the revolutionary traditions.


Over a long period of time I have been getting requests rom you to tell you about the Arduous March. I shall take this opportunity to dwell on that event.


Late 1938 to early 1939, the time spent on the Arduous March, was our bitterest time of trial in the entire history of the anti-Japanese armed struggle.


The situation in those days was not suitable for us to advance into the homeland in a large force. Developments were so unfavourable to us that a man like Om Kwang Ho openly wailed that the revolution was on the wane. A large expedition to the homeland in these circumstances, in fact, involved a great risk.


Yet we ventured upon this expedition towards the Amnok River in\order to push into Korea. Why? Because we wanted to turn the adverse revolutionary situation in our favour. Merely worrying about the state of affairs was not a solution to the problem. If we had stayed put in a hide-out somewhere, we could, of course, have passed the winter in safety\and preserved our force. Maintaining the status quo in that manner, however, was not the kind of attitude that would overcome the difficulties facing the revolution. This was why we decided to undertake the march towards the homeland, even though it would be arduous.


We knew that this was the only way to bring new hope\and energy to the revolution.


In 1938 the people in West Jiandao\and Korea were in low spirits. During the “Hyesan incident”, many underground\organization members were arrested\and the revolutionary movement in the homeland got bogged down. On top of that, the enemy gleefully boasted that there was no more People’s Revolutionary Army. The Japanese propaganda, though a total lie, had its effect on many people. Ominous rumours were so rife that people who normally did not believe the enemy propaganda were feeling apprehensive. Even renowned revolutionaries were losing heart\and turning to Mt. Paektu for encouragement.


The enemy was in a much better position than we were to make pro-paganda, having a powerful mass media at their command. A plausible, shocking story that a KPRA unit had been annihilated at a certain time in a certain place, carried in a newspaper with a circulation of thousands of copies, would be read by thousands of people. The radio also gave out such propaganda, of course.


Our own “mass media” were only a few newspapers, magazines, handbills\and written appeals, published by guerrilla units. Occasionally we used some materials printed by underground\organizations in different provinces. What is worse, the circulation of these “illegal” publications was carefully monitored\and very difficult. Simply scattering a handbill could easily cost the life of a patriot. An underground worker had to risk his life to go into Korea with a knapsackful of leaflets.


Advancing into the homeland\and shooting off our guns there was the best way to declare that the KPRA was still very much alive\and to expose the enemy’s propaganda lie that the KPRA had been destroyed. The sound of our gunshots would help set the underground\organizations back on their feet.


A liaison man rom West Jiandao told us that most of the underground\organizations in Changbai had been destroyed. A lot of\organization members had been arrested in Korea\and there was no knowing\where those who had escaped were hiding out, he said.


Listening to his report, I thought that even if the\organizations were scattered, something might still remain of them,\and that these remnants could be patched together to create new ones. So I decided to go to Changbai to rebuild them\and then advance into the homeland.


Some people suggested that we hold military\and political training in a secret camp during the winter, as we had done in Matanggou,\and then launch new operations when warm weather set in. They said there was no need for us to take needless risks in the severe winter cold.


We did not accept this suggestion. How could we remain onlookers when the anti-Japanese struggle in the homeland was undergoing such severe trials? Hardships were nothing new to us; we had gone through them ever since we started the revolution. Had we experienced only a few, unheard-of problems up to now? How could we, the revolutionary army who had taken the cause of national liberation upon ourselves, merely look on with folded arms when the anti-Japanese struggle in Korea was in such trouble\and the people were looking up to Mt. Paektu for help? We had to advance into the homeland, even if it meant living on tree bark\and it might involve sacrifices\and tribulations. Naturally, we would have to cut our way through a forest of bayonets\and face enormous hardships on the way. Nevertheless, we would make big strides\and strike the enemy. This was what I thought at the time.


This, then, was the motive of the Arduous March–to make the homeland seethe with renewed hope.


As you know, we made many hard treks during the anti-Japanese armed struggle. The march rom Antu to Wangqing in autumn 1932, the march coming back to Jiandao after the first expedition to northern Manchuria\and the Fusong expedition in early spring 1937 were all difficult excursions. However, the trek rom Nanpaizi, Mengjiang County, to Beidadingzi,


Changbai County, was such an unprecedented\ordeal that it is beyond comparison with any other expeditions in terms of duration\and misery. Because it took about one hundred days, this march is also called “the hundred-day march”. To be exact, our journey took 110 days\and was indescribably arduous, so it finally came to be known as the Arduous March.


I read many works about other treks in the past. I read the novel Iron Flood\and watched its film version. However, I have never read anything describing a trek as full of twists\and turns\and beset with hardships as our march. In my secondary school days, as I read the Iron Flood, I wondered whether such a tough journey had ever really taken place. I was deeply impressed by Kojuh, who managed to break through one hardship after another. After I experienced the Arduous March, however, I thought Kojuh’s trek was nothing compared to our march.


The Arduous March was, in a nutshell, a constant, non-stop struggle against the worst of natural conditions, hunger, exhaustion, diseases\and of course the brutal enemy. All of these were accompanied by yet another severe struggle: that of not giving in to all these hardships. It was primarily a struggle to survive\and to destroy the enemy. These were the main contents of the Arduous March. Indeed, it was a series of incredible\ordeals\and hardships rom beginning to end.


That year the first frost fell before Harvest Moon Day14\and after that the first snow fell heavily. Already early in winter rumour had it that a birch tree had frozen\and cracked up in the severe cold.


Hunger\and emaciation piled on top of the cold–and we had to fight several battles a day without rest\or sleep. The hardships were beyond deion.

Just think: It was only a five\or six day walk rom Nanpaizi to Beidadingzi, yet it took us more than 100 days to cover the distance! This was because we had to fight the enemy every single step of the way.


You have no doubt seen the map of the march route. What do you think of it? You must have found it incredibly complex.


The Arduous March was a trek that dwarfed all previous expeditions just in terms of physical exertion\and suffering.


What made this trek such an unprecedentedly horrendous one in the history of the KPRA? The enemy’s continuous pursuit\and encirclement\and nothing else explains it. You cannot imagine how tenacious the enemy was in chasing\and constantly surrounding us.


The Japanese imperialists concentrated all their “punitive” troops on our main force, sending all their forces out on the “punitive” campaign against Kim Il Sung’s unit, the only force remaining now that the 1st Corps had been virtually annihilated. They whipped up their men’s fighting spirit against us. They even used carrier pigeons for their campaign.


The enemy’s tactic was quite simple: to deny the KPRA any chance to rest, eat\or sleep. They hurled hundreds of troops continually against us, to the point\where sometimes we had to fight 20 battles a day.


If we had slipped out of Nanpaizi, as we had done for previous expeditions, we would not have gone through such severe troubles. However, it was impossible for us to do this.


We had to let our gunshots be heard right rom the start. Obtaining food for the march also required a battle, so we attacked an internment village as soon as we had left the secret camp. Having heard our fire, the enemy immediately tailed after us. Knowing\where the 2nd Directional Army was moving to, the enemy did not leave us alone for a minute.


The Japanese, who had encircled Nanpaizi, started their pursuit at once. They moved very fast. As we were starting to prepare a meal after a forced march of 20 kilometres, they fell on us, so we could not cook, but had to repack our wet rice. This sort of thing was to take place frequently. Had it been a simple march without battles, we would have had nothing to worry about. It was the enemy’s non-stop hounding\and encirclement of us, as well as the ceaseless battles, that doubled our difficulties\and made the march our worst trial yet.


Shortage of food supplies added to our problems. For several reasons our food supplies had run out. In the autumn of 1938 we had stored up enough provisions for the coming winter, but we then consumed a large portion of the food during the meeting at Nanpaizi. The remainder was distributed among the units that left earlier for their theatre of operations in other directions. In the cold winter it was impossible to gather edible herbs\or plants. If the enemy had not been so frantic, we could have hunted wild animals\and eaten their raw meat. But firing between battles was disadvantageous for our activity. Only once did I allow hunting: O Paek Ryong had found a bear sleeping in a hollow tree\and suggested shooting it. I said he might shoot if he could kill it at a single shot after assuring himself that the enemy was not nearby. He killed the bear, which was as large as an ox, with one shot. At the beginning of the march we had two meals of gruel a day. As the food ran short, we had just one meal a day. Finally we went without food altogether, only eating snow. Our vision became blurry\and when we got up to continue the march, we felt dizzy\and could hardly walk.


This is why, whenever I talked to cadres after liberation, I used to say that people who have experienced starvation know how valuable rice\and peasants are\and that no one without this experience can claim to know all about revolution.


One day O Paek Ryong went down to Qidaogou with my permission, raided a lumber mill\and brought back several horses. Because our provisions had run out, we decided to eat horsemeat for our meals. We could not roast it in the enemy’s encirclement\and had to eat it raw\and without salt. At the second meal our stomachs revolted. The raw meat caused loose bowels, which were even more painful than hunger.


In spite of their suffering rom diarrhoea, the men continued to eat the horsemeat because that was the only thing they had. However, in four\or five days, even the frozen meat ran out.


There are many short men among the anti-Japanese veterans because they did not get proper nutrition in their youth\and because they had to go through all kinds of hardships. These factors stunted their growth.


When we were fighting in the mountains, we often had to do without proper food, eating such things as wild herbs, grass roots, tree bark, malted wheat, rice bran, the residue left over rom brewing\and so on. We ate mainly coarse food at irregular times, so we suffered rom all sorts of troubles of the digestive canal.


When Fidel Castro was on a visit to our country, he asked me how we had obtained food\and clothing,\where we had slept\and how we had endured the severe cold of 40 degrees below zero during the anti-Japanese armed struggle. I told him how we had suffered hunger\and the biting cold during the Arduous March.


He was deeply moved by my deion. Apparently, he had not experienced hardships such as ours during his own guerrilla-fighting days. It is very warm in Cuba, unlike Northeast China\or our country,\and food is readily available.


When I was fighting in the mountains, I felt sorriest to see my comrades-in-arms unable to eat their fill, suffering all kinds of problems\and unable to get married at their most marriageable age.


No matter how much I might describe the hardships we suffered during the Arduous March, you who have not experienced it cannot imagine what it was like. Let me tell you further about the difficulties of the march that followed.


From the very beginning the enemy used the tactic of “violent attack\and tenacious pursuit”. This attack\and pursuit was so stubborn that we had to keep constantly on the move, chewing raw grain because we had no time to cook.


Their tactic was, in essence, the “dani tactic”, which meant harassing the opponent ceaselessly by clinging to it like a tick. The Japanese word dani means “tick”. With this tactic the enemy placed a “punitive” force at every single vantage point. As soon as guerrillas appeared, the enemy attacked immediately,\and after the attack, tailed after them tenaciously in an attempt to annihilate them. The goal was to chase\and strike the guerrillas continuously without giving them time to rest, sleep\or eat until they were completely exhausted\and destroyed. The enemy themselves could rest by shifts, but the guerrillas were compelled to fight without a breathing space, so their tribulations were beyond deion.


An old book on war says that an army caught by a long-distance pursuit by the enemy that comes in shifts will certainly be defeated, so that a good general will avoid such a trap. In other words, once in such a trap, there is no way out. Unfortunately we fell into such a trap. The enemy converged on us rom every direction\and clung to us like ticks. We found ourselves in a real predicament\and had to develop elusive tactics to get out of it.


I racked my brains\and thought out a new, zigzag tactic. I summoned the regimental commanders\and said: “From now on, we’ll march in a zigzag; at every turn of the zigzag we’ll lie in ambush\and pepper the approaching enemy with machine-gun fire. This is the only way to take away the Japanese ticks.” The zigzag tactic was the best way to strike the pursuing enemy in the Manchurian mountains covered with deep snow. That winter there was an unusually heavy snowfall, so that the men at the head of the column had to tramp down the snow to open a path. The snow was so deep that even the healthy ones among us were totally exhausted after advancing only fifty\or sixty metres. In some places we had to roll bodily on the snow to make a path,\and in others we tunnelled through.\where the snow was too deep, the men took off their leggings, linked them in a long line\and held on while forging ahead. This prevented anyone rom falling behind.


The enemy had no choice but to follow the zigzag we were making. Bringing up the rear of the marching column, O Jung Hup would post two or three men with a machine-gun in ambush at every turn of the zigzag to hit the on-coming enemy. While the enemy was disposing of their dead, O Jung Hup moved his ambush to the next turn\and beat the pursuers by the same method. Because the enemy had to take the single path we had opened, they could not avoid being struck each time. They were thrown on the defensive\and suffered heavy casualties,\whereas we took the initiative\and dealt a series of heavy blows at them.


We continued the march through the heavy snow until we finally arrived at the end of Qidaogou, Changbai County, early in January 1939. Over the course of it we fought many battles, including the raid on the Yaogou internment village,\and the battle near Mayihe, in Linjiang County,\and the raid on Wangjiadian. You probably know about them.


As the days went by the enemy poured more troops into its “punitive” operations. In their continuing pursuit their casualties increased, but they went on attacking us stubbornly with fresh replacements. Since the enemy had enormous forces in reserve, they thought nothing of hundreds of deaths.


My men walked, dozing, even dreaming. You can imagine how tired they were. As enemy planes frequently came to find our\whereabouts, we could not build campfires either. The planes were similar to the plane we use now on Farm No. 5 for spraying agricultural chemicals. Anyhow they were planes. These planes flew over us every day\and informed their ground forces of our location.


One day the enemy fell upon us, attacking our marching column in swarms. There were foes everywhere, in front\and at our back, on both sides\and even in the sky. The situation was so urgent that I\ordered the machine-gun platoon to strike the enemy in front of us, the 7th Regiment to check the enemy attacking rom behind\and others to break through the encirclement sideways.


We managed to get out of the crisis in this way. We could do so once\or twice, but it would be no good to have to walk this kind of tightrope all the time. Marching as a large force was disadvantageous in every respect. First of all, it was difficult for us to conceal ourselves. Next, obtaining food was a problem. The food dozens of men brought on their backs with great effort ran out in only a few days. Soldiers fell one after another, exhausted because they were fighting without eating\or sleeping.


How were we all to survive\and arrive in Changbai safely? After much thought, I decided to disperse our marching column. Not that dispersion would guarantee that everything would go well, of course. Other burdens\and difficulties would no doubt result rom dispersed actions.


Dispersing the entire army into several directions, I made up my mind to go with the 7th Regiment. But commanding officers present at the officers’ meeting unanimously objected to my going with the 7th Regiment. They insisted that Headquarters should go to the Qingfeng Secret Camp, the safest in the secret camps around Qidaogou. They were concerned about my personal safety, worried that if I went with the 7th Regiment, which fought the most frequently, I would be in personal danger.


I could not agree with them. I said that only the wounded\and sick soldiers should be sent to the Qingfeng Secret Camp,\and that our people needed a fighting Kim Il Sung, not a Kim Il Sung that sat in hiding with his arms folded. When I said this, they no longer objected.


In the end we decided to disperse our forces into three directions. Headquarters would go to Jiazaishui, via the Qingfeng Secret Camp, in command of the Guard Company\and the machine-gun platoon, O Jung Hup’s 7th Regiment advancing towards Shanggangqu, Changbai County,\and the 8th Regiment\and the Independent Battalion operating around Donggang, Fusong County.


We can call this dispersion the second stage of the Arduous March. Today we remember it simply as a past event, but at that time our hearts ached at this parting. The comrades who were leaving me shed tears of sadness. They hugged the men of the Guard Company\and earnestly requested them to protect me carefully. Their determination to safeguard me with lives moved me to tears as well. Some of the soldiers’ uniforms were terribly torn, exposing their bodies,\and the footwear of others was so worn out that they bound their feet with their leggings. Some soldiers used cowhide as foot wrappings.\and yet they felt no concern about themselves, but instead worried about my safety. I could not help shedding tears because of this.


As I found out later, before parting rom me O Jung Hup said he would lure away the enemy towards his own regiment,\and told O Paek Ryong’s Guard Company to avoid battle so as to get me to the Qingfeng Secret Camp one way\or another.


The spirit of self-sacrifice\and loyalty displayed by O Jung Hup to ensure Headquarters’ security during the Arduous March is still fresh in my mind today.


From the moment he left Qidaogou, O Jung Hup fought one battle after another to lure the enemy in his direction in\order to draw danger away rom Headquarters. Having disguised his regiment as Headquarters, he shouldered all the heaviest burdens. Because the Japanese thought this regiment was safeguarding Kim Il Sung, whom they were making such frantic attempts to catch, they naturally concentrated their heaviest attacks on the unit.


I was told that O Jung Hup’s regiment fought ceaselessly to fool the enemy\and ate nothing for over a week. At the time of our battle on Mt. Hongtou, hearing the sound of our gunfire, he had come running a long way to defend Headquarters.


Thanks to him, we were not harassed too much,\and he scattered the enemy force that had been concentrating on Headquarters. But there was no way for us to obtain food\and we marched towards Qingfeng with empty stomachs. At one point in the past we had sent supply-service men to Qingfeng to plant potatoes. I intended to give my men a few days’ rest eating these potatoes if any remained. There was nothing to eat\and we were almost starving to death.


Near Qingfeng we unexpectedly found a field of foxtail millet. Looking around the natural features, I recognized that this was the field\where we ourselves had sown seeds the previous spring on the way to the Xintaizi Secret Camp. Apparently a man engaged in opium farming in a mountain valley had cultivated the field,\and when we arrived there in spring, he had been doing his spring sowing. At the sight of our men he had run away. He took us for mountain bandits\or Japanese troops, I think.


My men had been very sorry to see the owner of the field running away. We thought he might not come back because he was so scared, so we planted foxtail millet there. We felt we should not leave the field to lie fallow for a year, but sow seeds on behalf of the owner, who had run away because of us, so that he might have something to harvest in autumn.


However, the foxtail millet had remained in the field unharvested. The men were delighted to find the ears of millet in the snow. One man jokingly said that “God” seemed to exist in the world, because nobody but “God” could save us rom the danger of starvation. Another man told me, “General, ‘God’, too, is now on the side of the revolutionary army.”


In fact, we did not benefit rom the grace of God, but owed our salvation to ourselves. If we had not sown the seeds after the land-owner fled, we would not have made such a lucky find.


Whenever we arrived in a new camp, we made it a rule to break fresh land not far rom the camp\and plant foxtail millet, potatoes\and pumpkins, then mark the field so that we could find it afterwards. Whenever we did it, my\orderlies would ask, “General, will we be coming here again in the future?” They meant that such efforts were useless, since we would not be coming back.


I explained, “We may\or may not return. Most probably we will not come back. But our liaison men\or small units may come. If they can get potatoes\or pumpkins when they are hungry in this desolation, think of how glad they’ll be!” The routes taken by our units were named Route One, Two, Three\and Fifteen. When I asked liaison men\or small units on their return rom a mission which way they had taken, they replied that they had taken Route Three\or Fifteen,\and so on. When I asked them if they had not suffered rom hunger, they replied that they had picked pumpkins\or dug potatoes rom the field my unit had planted while camping on the march. They had boiled\or roasted the vegetables.


Food shortages during the anti-Japanese revolution were so serious that we even consumed white-birch juice, which was used both as medicine\and food.


We picked up the foxtail millet ears one by one rom the snow, milled them\and cooked them into gruel. We improvised our own treadmill for this.


About a week of millet-gruel diet gave us back our strength. But even the foxtail millet soon ran out. The only way to get food was to go to Qingfeng\and obtain one knapsack of potatoes for each man.


On the way to Qingfeng we came to a river. We had to cross it, but it was not frozen. The mid-streams in steep mountain valleys do not freeze even in winter. We did not want to cross it by the bridge, because an enemy sentry might be guarding it, but there was no other alternative. Risking our lives, we crawled across the bridge one by one.

 

Hardly had we crossed when the enemy closed in on us\and we had to fight. We quickly climbed the mountain on which the potato field was supposed to be. My plan was to contain the pursuing enemy while some men loaded their knapsacks with potatoes. But we discovered that neither the potatoes nor the hut that had been on top of the mountain remained. Apparently the supply-service men rom the secret camp had dug them all up. The “punitive” force was almost upon us, firing machine-guns. It was a real crisis. I told my men, “We must get down through the valley to that moor. Then as soon as it’s dark we can find a way out. The snow is awfully deep\and we have no food; worse still, the ‘punitive’ force is still on our tail, so we have to disappear\and get as far away as possible by a forced march along the road.”

On the forced march we came upon a mountain rebels’ hut. The rebels had fled, frightened by the sound of gunshots,\and the hut was empty. There was plenty of food, including rib meat. Some comrades said that the food might have been poisoned by the Japanese, but it did not seem so. Playing-cards scattered on the floor showed that it was a hut belonging to mountain rebels\and that they had fled in the middle of their meal. The heated floor was still warm.


The room was so cosy that if the enemy had not been chasing us, we would have slept off our fatigue. But we had no time to eat the rich food spread out on the table. At a guess, the food was enough for two days’ rations for our Headquarters.


I\ordered the men to pack it all up.


Hardly had we left the hut when the enemy caught up to us. It was a frantic pursuit indeed. We had no time to sit comfortably to eat a meat dumpling\or a cracker.


One of the reasons our Headquarters was pursued by the enemy so hard was that a man surnamed Kim who had been engaged in underground work in Jiazaishui, was arrested by the enemy. He had joined the revolutionary army in Changbai after our move to West Jiandao. Before joining the army he had worked in an underground revolutionary\organization,\and in the army, too, he had fought well. For a few years he had fought among us before being dispatched to a local area for underground work. On being arrested he had probably stained his honour by telling the enemy\where we were going.


It was thus the enemy found out that O Jung Hup’s regiment, which was fighting around the Changbai area, was false Headquarters,\and so they concentrated all the “punitive” forces on us. Enemy planes, too, flew over our unit every day. Because the enemy attacked us rom every direction, we had no room to escape. The men were pale with worry. O Paek Ryong, too, grew anxious, even though he had experienced all kinds of difficulties under my command since our days in Wangqing. The commanding officers, convinced that there was no way out of this trap, could only look at me with apprehension. A stirring speech was necessary in this situation. During a break, I summoned all of Headquarters\and said,


“... Even the eyes of ten thousand people will not find a needle in a forest. If we use elusive tactics, we can conceal ourselves rom the large enemy force, just as if we were a needle in a large forest. Admiral Ri Sun Sin defeated a large Japanese fleet with only a few warships in the naval battle of Myongryang. This turned in his favour the tide of the war against the Japanese in 1592. It was a miraculous success worthy of special mention in the world history of naval engagements. How did Ri Sun Sin defeat the enemy? Of course, his intelligence, tactics\and courage contributed to the success. But an even more important factor was his love for his country. He knew that if the Japanese invaders were not destroyed, they would conquer his country\and enslave his people. That was why he rose to the occasion\and defeated the Japanese. Because of his ardent love for his country he was able to muster all his wisdom\and courage.


“If we love our country, we also can break through this difficulty. Needless to say, our situation is grave, but if we have a firm confidence in the victory of revolution\and if we do not give in to difficulties, we can reverse the situation. Let’s continue our march with confidence.”


When I finished the speech, my men said, “General, give us the\order. We will follow you to the end.” They resumed the march with brighter faces. I, too, felt more encouraged by their reaction.

 

On the Arduous March we used a variety of combat methods\and tactics. We can say that the march was a testing ground for all the strategies\and tactics that had evolved in guerrilla warfare.


Let me give a few examples of the flexible tactics we used.


To conceal the traces of our march in the snow, we filled up\or erased our footprints before disappearing; we also slipped away to the side by treading only on fallen tree trunks. A most thrilling experience was to throw the enemy into chaos by disappearing off to the side so that their forces, closing in on us rom the front\and back, ended up fighting against each other. We called this the “telescope tactic”. It meant that we made the enemy forces fight each other while we looked on rom a safe distance. We used this tactic in Hongtushanzi, Changbai County,\and on the Fuhoushui tableland to drive the enemy into a mess.


Hongtushanzi was a big mountain, the top of which was bare of trees. At that time, we marched around the mountain with the chasing enemy in our wake,\and on the second round, when another enemy force appeared in front of us, we dodged away, picking our way across the fallen trees. The enemy forces came up against each other while one was in pursuit\and the other in search of us. Mistaking each other for the revolutionary army, they fell into an exchange of heavy fire. The duel, caused by mistaken identity, ended in a tremendous life-and-death struggle.


On the Fuhoushui tableland, too, we used a similar tactic. A large enemy force was coming in our wake, but we had no way to throw them off, so we circled around the Fuhoushui tableland, as we had done in Hongtushanzi. During the second round, another “punitive” force appeared, this time between us\and the chasing enemy. One round was a long enough distance to take us a whole day, so the two enemy forces pursuing us were out of mutual contact. It was a queer situation.


I had earlier\ordered each of my men to cut a tree as long as a sleigh pole while on the march. Now we threw them across the tree stumps\and slipped away to one side, using the poles as bridges over the stumps.


While we were taking rest under some bushes, wearing white capes\and chewing on raw barley, one enemy force closed in upon the other\and they battled it out between themselves. We watched them calmly rom a distance as they fought\and killed each other in large numbers. Having suffered this rather foolish loss on the Fuhoushui tableland, the enemy later said in despair that we were so slippery, it was totally impossible to catch us.


We employed versatile tactics such as this several times a day, killing a lot of enemy soldiers. Still, the Japanese had a never-ending reserve of fighters. Japan’s enormous supply of manpower was one reason they set up a clamour for overseas expansion, using the excuse of overpopulation. No wonder it was able to send ready replacements for lost “punitive” troops, no matter how many we killed off. By contrast, we who were fighting in the mountains had no immediate source of replacement, even for a single dead comrade.


After the battle of the Fuhoushui tableland, we did a forced march straight through to Jiazaishui, going all through the night.


When I\ordered the march towards low hills, my men anxiously said, “General, there is a moor in that direction. We may land up in an internment village.”


I said, “In this situation it is better to move straight to the hillock area than to stay in the forest. If we are chased ceaselessly like this, we’ll end up totally helpless. The enemy replenishes its forces every day, but we can’t. Only our casualties can increase. If one dies today, another tomorrow,\and if our force continues to decrease this way, how many men will remain alive? Our comrades of the 7th\and 8th Regiments may not be aware that we are in this tight corner, we can’t send for them to help us, so there’s no other way for us. We must advance to the hillock area\and throw off the enemy in the forest. Because the enemy pays little attention to that particular area, we have to go in that direction to preserve our force\and recover our breath.”


As the saying goes, it’s darkest at the foot of the candle, so the place near the village might well be the safest place for us.


We camped on a small hill that commanded a view of the village of Jiazaishui. The hill was dense with pine\and oak trees half again as tall as a man. The hill was fringed with a cliff under which a stream flowed. The sound of dogs barking in the village could be heard on the hill. Jiazaishui was also called a watermill village.


We relaxed\and studied in combat readiness, making camp at night\and striking it early in the morning. That was our first camping since we left Nanpaizi.


We rested ourselves for some time there. I often sat together with my Headquarters\and discussed our future course of action\and tactics with them. Our plan was to assemble all our scattered forces with the approach of warm weather after the lunar New Year’s Day\and advance into the border area\and the homeland, striking the enemy everywhere\and rebuilding the damaged\organizations.


In the midst of all this, however, we ran out of food\and again came close to starving to death.


I sent Ri Pong Rok, the political instructor of the Guard Company, to Jiazaishui. In this village the underground\organization\originally built by Kim Il was still active. An\organization member called An lived there. He was a farmer with unusual connections to us. When his father was kidnapped by the mountain rebels, I had written to their chief to set him free. The chief owed us a favour rom former days, so on receiving my letter he sent the farmer home. The farmer had been helping the revolutionary work under the influence of Kim Il,\and after this event, he joined the underground\organization.


I asked Ri Pong Rok to meet the owner of the watermill in Jiazaishui\and try to get in touch with the farmer.


He went down the mountain\and first met the watermill owner. He introduced himself vaguely saying that he had come down to find a human habitation because the enemy’s “punitive” attacks were so frantic\and the food problem was so serious. He asked if they could have a chat, even though it was late at night.


The owner coldly asked him whether he had come down to surrender. Ri said yes, to sound him out. The miller was very disappointed at Ri’s reply\and answered, “You must have gone through many hardships in the mountains. However, you should not surrender. Once you take up arms to liberate the country, you can’t just give up halfway, you have to fight to the end. You must not surrender, even though you have to endure severe hardships.”\and he asked if General Kim Il Sung was keeping well.”


Ri Pong Rok replied that he did not know\where the General was exactly, but that he was making strikes at the enemy in command of the revolutionary army. Having heard this the miller rebuked him, “It’s not proper that you should betray the General by surrendering while he leads the revolutionary army in good health.”


After this confirmation that the owner was a man he could trust, Ri admitted that he had not come to surrender, but had come down to obtain food,\and that his comrades-in-arms were still up on the mountain. He asked the owner to help him obtain food, offering money.


The watermill owner said, “Buying it is dangerous. I will bury the grain in the heap of husks, the grain I received as payment for milling. You can carry it off in secret when no customers are around.” The owner was really a good man.


While obtaining food in the village, Ri found out also that the watermill owner was a member of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. He was on friendly terms with farmer An.


The\organization in Jiazaishui had not been destroyed even after the “Hyesan incident” because our operatives had kept it secret.


When I heard about the watermill owner, I said to myself, “Very good! The people continue to support us as ever. As long as we enjoy support rom the people we will win. Now there is a way out.” The watermill owner was as good as having joined our Arduous March, carrying food supplies on his back. Had it not been for the food he provided, it would not have been possible for us to plan our future course of action with confidence\or to relax by playing chess\and similar games. We would in all probability have starved to death.


Not only the watermill owner but all his villagers helped us.


One day Ri Pong Rok asked for my permission to go to fetch food supplies, including those for the New Year Day party the villagers had prepared.

 

When I thought of my men having to get along, eating raw rice, raw meat\or only water for so many days since we’d started the Arduous March, I had no mind to decline the kind offer of the villagers. I told the men to fetch the festive food, prepared with such warm kindness by the villagers. The prospects of being free rom need on New Year’s Day in 1939, thanks to the people of Jiazaishui, gave me some relief. My feelings of guilt at having to see my men go hungry seemed to be more\or less eased.


Unfortunately, we were finally unable to accept their present: Ri Ho Rim, who went to the village with Ri Pong Rok, suddenly deserted. Ri Pong Rok returned empty-handed\and reported to me that he had abandoned all the food because of Ri Ho Rim’s desertion. It was the first time that a deserter had appeared among the Headquarters Guard Company men.


There had never been a deserter among them, no matter how terrible the conditions on a march. During the Arduous March, however, four men ran away rom our ranks. They took off because they simply could not endure the terrible hardships any longer.


Ri Ho Rim had not served long in the guerrilla army, but I had loved him dearly. My love for him was special, for he came rom Korea. He spoke Japanese fluently. When there was a need to reconnoitre enemy movements, I used to assign him to the task. He would take one\or two men with him\and climb telegraph poles to tap the wires. He was so healthy\and knowledgeable that I singled him out for a future officer. Apparently he ran away because he had lost confidence in the success of the revolution.


His defection exposed us to great danger. We had to move out as soon as possible\and take safety measures.


We decided to leave the hill behind the Jiazaishui village\and pass through the vast plain in broad daylight. I\ordered my men to march non-stop, whether the enemy came after us\or not.


Dispersing our force to evade a large force of the attacking enemy was a general principle of guerrilla warfare. We maintained this principle thoroughly during the Arduous March. As a result, we were able to scatter the enemy force considerably. On this dispersed march, however, our Headquarters with a small force went through many crises which threatened its very existence.


Why? It was because the enemy knew we were Headquarters\and concentrated all their forces on us.


Learning a lesson rom such experiences, we widely discussed tactics when reviewing the Arduous March at Beidadingzi. I emphasized that dispersed action was a tactic of guerrilla warfare to cope with a large attacking enemy, but that we should not apply it indiscriminately. Other commanding officers, too, asserted that for Headquarters to move alone separately without any support of a larger unit was an adventure that should not be repeated.


Reviewing the Arduous March, I keenly realized the truth that we should not commit dogmatism in applying tactics, even though they might accord with the principles of guerrilla warfare.


Immediately after we started the march in broad daylight, two other defectors appeared in our ranks. One was “Instructor Li”, a graduate rom Beijing University, introduced by Wang De-lin,\and the other was a Chinese soldier. Worse still, there were many wounded men in the unit. For one thing\or another, only a small number of men remained. If our unit decreased any more, it would be impossible even to relieve guards.


When I gave the marching\order, O Paek Ryong asked, “General, if we start the march, the enemy’s gun batteries will open up on us. How can we cross the open country?” I said, “Don’t ask how! Keep one machine-gun in front\and another in the rear. We must make a forced march. Shoot at the enemy\wherever they appear, in our front\or in our wake. There is no other choice.”


Strangely enough, the enemy did not touch us as we moved out, just looked down at us rom their batteries. Their main force had gone to the mountain areas for “punitive” actions\and only a small force remained in the village. Moreover, the enemy was overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of our move. We crossed the open country in broad daylight without any disturbance\and arrived in the forest. There we cooked\and ate our meal\and took a brief rest.

 

Perhaps people might call such experience good luck. After passing through the plain without the slightest trouble, we ourselves thought it somewhat strange. Naturally we had thought the enemy would fire, but they had not as much as sneezed, let alone fired at us, only looked down at us rom their batteries. During the guerrilla struggle, we sometimes experienced such peculiar things, though not often.


After passing the plain safely, my men were delighted\and said that “God” had helped the revolutionary army again.


When in a tight corner, take the plunge\and ignore all danger as you fight. If you’re unafraid of death, you will be able to break through any difficulty whatsoever.


As we were marching after coming out of the forest, I got the report that the enemy had appeared behind us. Apparently, the defectors had revealed our route, no doubt saying, “Kim Il Sung is leading a few dozen men after sending the large units in other directions, so you can beat him easily.”


Shortly after, I received another report rom the scouts that another enemy force had appeared before us. We were now in a critical situation, with the enemy closing in rom both directions.


Looking me in the face, O Paek Ryong asked, “General, the enemy probably knows that we are Headquarters. What shall we do?”


I replied, “There is no other alternative but to fight to the death. The enemy before us is totally ignorant of our existence. They are not even aware that they’re about to encounter us, so they will be off their guard. But the enemy behind us knows how many we are\and how tired we are, so it’ll be difficult to fight them off. Let one squad contain them\and commit the main force to striking the enemy in our front. That’ll open the way out for us.”


The enemy chasing us was Japanese,\and the enemy approaching us in front was a Manchukuo force. We knew the latter would be afraid of confronting us, so the enemy in our front was the weaker one.


“Strike the enemy ahead of us\and open the way!” I\ordered O Paek Ryong. “If they flinch, hit them without giving them a moment to breathe\and chase them to their barracks to teach them a lesson.”

 

O Paek Ryong set a machine-gun at the head of our column\and sent off a running stream of fire at the enemy, then charged them, blowing a bugle. Having suffered heavy casualties, the Manchukuo army fled, throwing away their packs. Probably they thought we were a much larger force.


We collected the food\and shoes rom their packs\and pursued them to a highway. In this way we also eluded the pursuing enemy\and seized the initiative.


We now changed our tactics rom escaping the enemy to forestalling them through attack. Constant\and elusive escaping was no way to survive.


A book on war says that the best way to deal with a strong enemy is to parry his bayonet, harass him\and wear him out,\and when he wavers, attack him violently. If he retreats, pursue him hard enough to weaken him\and turn the tide in your favour.


By employing these tactics widely during the Arduous March, we broke through many crises\and seized the initiative.


I decided to attack an internment village to obtain food while throwing the enemy on the defensive. With the lunar New Year’s Day just around the corner, I was eager to feed my men to their fill, the men who had gone hungry for so many months. Thus the battle of Shisandaowan was\organized.


Before the battle we tapped the enemy’s telephone line. An officer of the puppet Machukuo army, who had withdrawn to Shierdaogou, was reporting to his superior in Linjiang County. He said, “We encountered Kim Il Sung’s unit. They attacked us so violently that we could not resist. We retreated to Shierdaogou. I expect your instruction about our action after this.” He also rang up his colleagues in the neighbouring internment villages\and warned them of our possible raids.


Based on this information, we attacked the closest enemy\and another village\and captured large amounts of rice\and other foodstuffs. The supplies contained meat dumplings the enemy had prepared to eat. The loads were too heavy to be carried away, so we buried some of them in the snow\and marked the spot. We feasted ourselves on New Year’s Day.


The guerrilla struggle was not always one of constant hardships. Hunger and poor clothing were our usual companions, but once in a long while we ate our fill\and had a well-heated shelter.


After the battle of Shisandaowan, the enemy concentrated more “punitive” forces on our Headquarters. “Punitive” troops were everywhere. The enemy chased us so tenaciously that we had to pass a couple of nights on a height in temperatures of 40 degrees below zero.


Even in such difficulties we maintained the initiative\and attacked another internment village. It was a battle to signal our location to our large units in dispersed action. I cannot remember the name of that village. On hearing the news about our battle, O Jung Hup’s 7th Regiment, which had been in action around Shanggangqu, Changbai County, judged that Headquarters was in danger\and attacked an internment village in\order to draw the enemy forces. It also signaled their location to us.


The 7th Regiment came to Beidadingzi first to meet Headquarters\and it was followed by the 8th Regiment\and the Independent Battalion. The service units, which were in the Qingfeng Secret Camp, came to Beidadingzi as well. I called the roll\and found that our strength remained much the same as when we had left Nanpaizi, Mengjiang County, in the previous year. Nearly all our fighters survived.


Our deep emotion at that time was beyond deion. We experienced many partings\and reunions during the anti-Japanese war, but I had never felt greater excitement than at this time. Beidadingzi was a scene of jubilation, as if we were holding a festival. The men, who met after more than one hundred days of hardship in the shadow of death, hugged each other\or rolled over on the ground, laughing\and talking like children.


The harder our trials, the happier our reunion. Comrades realize how dear they are to each other most when they are reunited after a separation. Partings\and reunions between comrades who spill blood in a common cause strengthen their comradeship. Such close friendships do not break even in the strongest tempest.


The Arduous March was not a mere movement of our forces. It was a large-scale military operation that was equal to a campaign. It was the epitome of our anti-Japanese armed struggle, so to speak. During this march we went through every kind of suffering a soldier could go through\and experienced every kind of trial a man could experience.


Through the Arduous March we demonstrated once again to the world that the communists who took part in the anti-Japanese armed struggle were the true sons of the fatherland\and the people,\and that the revolutionary fighters were unfailingly loyal to their nation\and to the cause of national liberation. Every anti-Japanese guerrilla that went through the march developed his character to the highest level possible. The noble image of the Korean communists formed in this event is a model that our people must learn\and follow through the coming generations. The Arduous March created typical communists who defeated the enemy because they were rallied rock-solid behind their leader\and did not relinquish their faith in any adversity. This was an important success in the Arduous March, as well as one of the great achievements of the anti-Japanese revolution.


All the participants in the Arduous March were heroes, whether they are still alive\or dead.


There are many factors that led the guerrillas to survive their hardships\and emerge victorious, like immortal beings. Let me tell you some of these factors.


First was their indomitable revolutionary spirit, the spirit of self-reliance, fortitude\and revolutionary optimism. I can say that this spirit contributed to their triumph over all their difficulties. Going through the most terrible suffering, we never lost heart\or became pessimistic, but endured all our miseries by picturing in our minds the day of victory. In short we were absolutely convinced of our eventual victory. If we had lost heart\or taken a gloomy view of the revolution, overwhelmed by all the difficulties we faced, we would have sunk into the snow, unable to face our grave trials.


Another factor for the success in the march was our love for our comrades in the revolution. I still remember how I met O Jung Hup\and his unit towards the end of the march.


He wrapped his arms around me\and cried. I also shed tears when I saw him. The joy of reunion with my blood relations would not have been so great as the joy I felt at that time. I was so glad that I could not get rid of the lump in my throat. I made up my mind never to part with these priceless comrades-in-arms again, not under any circumstances.


That winter I had worried myself sick after dispersing my comrades–I had never in my life missed my friends\and companions as much as I did at that time. As many of you are discharged soldiers, you probably know how warm the love for one’s comrades can be. No love in the world is warmer\or stronger than love for one’s comrades-in-arms\and no moral obligation is nobler than the loyalty between them.


Revolutionary comradeship was an important factor in victory. It ran all through the anti-Japanese revolution. However, during the Arduous March the sense of moral obligation of our men was displayed more intensely than ever before. The anecdote of “a cup of parched-rice flour” was only one of many anecdotes about good deeds done in those days. One of my\orderlies was carrying a cup of parched-rice flour in his pack as my emergency ration, but I could not eat it alone, so I shared it with my men,\and this event has been handed down as a legendary tale to our children. This was not a rare instance.


Our men would have given their very flesh if their comrades had needed it, they were that willing to give their all to their comrades in the revolution.


As I mentioned once before, when Ri Ul Sol saw a recruit shivering with cold after his clothes were burnt while he was sleeping by the campfire, he took off his own padded jacket\and gave it to the recruit. He went through a terribly cold winter in an unlined jacket, but he did not freeze to death. That was because his comrades, too, showed their burning love to him. We did not starve to death because we lived\and fought in the spirit of sharing a cup of parched-rice flour throughout the Arduous March of over 100 days. Though we went through severe cold in worn-out clothing, our hearts were always warm. This was the secret of why nobody starved\or froze to death\and why all of us survived like immortal beings. The power of love defeated death.


This experience has convinced me that a community firmly united in comradeship will never perish.


Another factor that helped to bring the Arduous March to a successful conclusion was the people’s love\and support for us.


All through the march we received great help rom such benevolent people as the owner of the watermill in Jiazaishui. You should not think that only our guerrillas took part in the march. The people, too, joined in. I would say that the people rom Erdaohuawen\and Yaogou who brought aid-goods such as rice, salt, shoes\and cloth at the risk of their own lives participated in our march.


As we experienced on the Luozigou plateau\and at the Tianqiaoling pass, the people saved us, helped us\and became our companions whenever we were faced with a crisis. I was able to summon my courage because I was convinced that as long as we had such people, we would emerge victorious in this strenuous journey.


Our victory can also be explained by the fact that we applied flexible guerrilla tactics throughout the march to suit different situations.


Today we are still building socialism in a difficult situation. Our revolution continues to follow a rugged path, so we can say that we are even now continuing the Arduous March. In those days hundreds of thousands of the Japanese troops encircled\and harassed us, but nowadays atrocious imperialist forces incomparably stronger than the former Japanese troops are trying to crush our country. In fact, we are living in a situation little short of war.

What is the best way for us to survive in this adversity? The only way is to display fully in our lives the same revolutionary spirit of Mt. Paektu that the anti-Japanese revolutionary forerunners displayed during the Arduous March.


Not only in the anti-Japanese war, but also later, in the days of building a new country, during the Great Fatherland Liberation War,\and in the period of postwar reconstruction, we overcame all hardships\and emerged victorious in the revolution by displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, fortitude\and optimism.


Nothing is impossible for a people with as great a history as that of the Arduous March. No force can ever conquer the people who have inherited the history of this march.


 


 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 18. In the Flames of the Sino-Japanese War 6. My Experience of the “Hyesan Incident”

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  1. The Matanggou Secret Camp

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  2. The Weasel Hunter

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  3. The Last of the Independence Army Forces

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  4. Village Headman Wang\and Police Chief Wang

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  5. Expedition to Rehe

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  6. My Meeting with Yang Jing-yu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  7. Grandmother Ri Po Ik

[Reminiscences]Chapter 19. Overcoming Trials  8. In the Forest of Nanpaizi



            

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