In June 1935, eight months and over three-thousand miles into the Long March, Mao’s Red Army moved into Western Sichuan Province. For a time, Mao’s troops were safe from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
Meanwhile, the Japanese launched an attack on another northern Chinese province. The Japanese now occupied most of Northern China and the Chinese there knew little about the struggle between Mao and Chiang Kai-shek. Feeling abandoned, they were alienated from the Nationalist government.
However, the Red Army had to cross the Snowy Mountains with peaks as high as 15,000 feet. Because these mountains were so rugged and dangerous, the Nationalist Army stopped the pursuit and waited for the mountains to kill Mao.
Some historians believed crossing these mountains was a blunder, but Mao had no choice. Only defeat waited behind him. There was no turning back.
The thin air and the steep, snow-covered mountains exhausted the troops. A shortage of food, lack of firewood, snow blindness all contributed to the challenge. While crossing the mountains and linking up with the Fourth Red Army, thousands were lost. Once joined, the combined armies number 100,000 troops.
The next challenge was the deadliest obstacle of all—a high-desert grassland. There was no choice. All the easy routes were controlled by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops. Then heavy rains came, which turned the grassland into a swamp.
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