Fight­ing to record the war’s his­tory

China Daily (USA) - - BOOK | LIFE - ByWANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­

Old sol­diers never die. That is, if they’re re­mem­bered.

Sun­day com­mem­o­rated the Sept 18 In­ci­dent’s 85th an­niver­sary, mark­ing the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of north­east­ern China. It’s a day re­mem­bered with a mix of mis­ery and pride.

Many in the crowd shed tears when 92-year-old fe­male vet­eran Li Min stood on­stage in the Na­tional Li­brary of China to re­call her ex­pe­ri­ences fight­ing the in­vaders and close calls with death.

“I was the only one among the com­rades inmy unit who didn’t die on the bat­tle­field,” she says.

“I got lost and found an­other unit. I joined them to con­tinue to fight. Most of them also died.”

Li is one of only two sur­viv­ing women veter­ans of the North­east Anti-Ja­panese United Army led by the Com­mu­nist Party of China.

Files show the army had about 30,000guer­rilla fight­er­swhen­it­was formed after the Sept 18 In­ci­dent. There were fewer than 1,000 by the end ofWorldWar II in 1945.

The NLC on Sun­day re­leased three new books based on in­ter­views with United Army veter­ans.

It also opened an ex­hi­bi­tion about this his­tory, and the vets’ brav­ery and sac­ri­fice, that will run un­til Sept 30.

The 220,000-char­ac­ter-long North­east Anti-Ja­panese United Army, one of the trilogy’s books, in­cludes oral his­tory. It records in­ter­views with 16 veter­ans and four of their sons since 2012.

“This has taken the long­est time and in­cluded the most in­ter­views among the NLC’s oral his­tory projects in re­cent years,” project or­ga­nizer TangGeng­sheng says.

Tang’s group in­ter­viewed all known 25 veter­ans and 60 veter­ans’ sons in seven prov­ince-level ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gions. It filmed 240 hours of footage, and ob­tained nu­mer­ous manuscripts and pic­tures. Only 13 of the vets are still alive. “We have to hurry against time,” Tang says.

“Records must be saved the old sol­diers are gone.”

The other two books are com­piled ac­cord­ing to two re­searchers’ be­fore in­ter­views, start­ing from the mid1990s.

“Sol­diers had to fight in­vaders. Their fam­i­lies were killed in many bru­tal ways,” re­searcher Jiang Bao­cai says.

“Some de­tails shock me. Some women sol­diers aban­doned their ba­bies when hid­ing in the forests, since the in­fants’ cries at­tracted en­emy at­ten­tion.

“War is so cruel. But they didn’t have a choice. It’s much more dif­fi­cult to honor un­named peo­ple than (fa­mous) heroes. But his­tory is made by many un­named peo­ple’s ef­forts.”

Oral his­tory scholar Ding Yizhuang ex­pects more projects on United Army to fol­low the books’ re­lease.

“Wars’ oral his­to­ries re­veal many vivid de­tails that can’t be gained from of­fi­cial records,” she says.

“The books pro­vide many new an­gles from hero­ines, although wars are of­ten seen as fights among men.”

The re­search faced­many dif­fi­cul­ties. One is con­firm­ing de­tails pro­vided by in­ter­vie­wees with his­tor­i­cal records.

“And some veter­ans’ chil­dren ini­tially re­fused to do in­ter­views due to the lack of their par­ents’ recog­ni­tion as heroes,” Jiang says.

Some sol­diers re­turned to their farms rather than fight un­til the war’s end. Author­i­ties in later decades re­fused to rec­og­nize their brave deeds.

“I’m glad the new books give those sol­diers the recog­ni­tion they de­serve,” says Li.

“Every mem­oir of us sur­vivors is not about in­di­vid­ual mem­o­ries but serves a whole gen­er­a­tion.”

Liu Yue­bin, a his­tory pro­fes­sor with the Party School of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, be­lieves more re­search on the United Army will dis­pel some stereo­types about the War of Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45).

The war has tra­di­tion­ally been con­sid­ered to have bro­ken out with the Marco Polo Bridge In­ci­dent in Bei­jing. But more of­fi­cial doc­u­ments re­viewed in re­cent years point to­ward the Sept 18 In­ci­dent.

“We got used to say­ing ‘eightyears’ when re­fer­ring to the war in text­books,” he says.

“How­ever, that’s un­fair to north­east­ern China’s fight­ers, who sac­ri­ficed be­fore the rest of the coun­try.”


Li Min at­tends a Bei­jing event mark­ing the launch of three new books about veter­ans who fought against Ja­panese in­vaders.

The Chi­nese edi­tion of Zoref’s book.

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