During the retreat, the Communists brought along the machinery for their government—printing presses, typewriters, etc. The Communist’s leaders argued about what to do. Mao wanted to break through the Nationalist lines and attack from the rear. He was voted down.
Instead, the decision was for a full-scale retreat and to link up with another Red Army in its stronghold deeper in China. The Nationalists used hundreds of aircraft to bomb and strafe the Communist columns. As much as one-third of the Communist forces were killed by air attacks. To avoid this, the Communists started to move at night and hide during the day.
A new obstacle, a rugged river, stood in their way. A brutal battle was fought to cross the river. A small force made it and the survivors were ferried across on bamboo rafts. It took eight days for the entire army to cross.
The biggest problem was the heavy supply column with the machinery of government, so the Communists left the printing presses and coin minting machines behind along with the government’s records. After suffering horrible losses and not knowing what to do, Mao argued for a change of tactics. He said they didn’t have to win every battle.
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