How a teenage clerk turned into a war veteran (China Daily)

Guo Shaojun, a war veteran, was among those honored by the government on the 70th anniversary of China’s victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

But owing to his poor health, the 91-year-old couldn’t participate in the grand military parade on Sept 3, when his fellow war heroes were cheered by the public as they sat on a bus moving along Chang’an Avenue, the city’s arterial road that served as the commemoration venue.

Ahead of the parade, Guo told China Daily that the day held a special meaning for him as a part of history.

Guo had joined Chinese guerrilla forces at age 15, becoming a member of the Communist Party of China in 1939. For the next four years, he fought the occupying Japanese troops on the North China Plain. The change was radical for a teenager who until then helped with accounts at a tinsmith’s shop in Tianjin city.

His mind was made up, though, once he learned the tin sheets were ending up with the Japanese military. Besides, while in Tianjin, Guo was once hit by a passing Japanese army vehicle as he rode his bicycle to a bank to deposit cash that belonged to the shop. As Guo tried to get back on his feet, he was given a good beating and the money was snatched.

The incident forced him to return to his hometown in Wuqiang county in North China’s Hebei province.

“The mental torture was worse than the physical pain for me,” Guo says. “I couldn’t wait to find the anti-Japanese guerrilla force (in Wuqiang) about which I had heard.”

Guo was immediately taken in and served as an office assistant in one such facility. His early days there were mostly spent transcribing files and painting slogans on public walls. But Guo soon went to the frontlines, and in 1942, he was sent to Hejian county, about 60 kilometers away from Wuqiang, to work as a secretary for the local Party committee.

The Japanese forces had some 60 fortified locations in that county and often carried mop-up operations against the Chinese. But the local troops had developed smart tunnel systems to protect themselves and the villagers from the Japanese soldiers. The Chinese often hid in the tunnels during the day and carried on guerrilla activities at night.

Guo’s committee helped the Chinese fighters to destroy enemy targets, dig more tunnels and mobilize local residents to join their efforts. They had to fight with minimal food and low-end equipment and arms, which were in sharp contrast to those being used by the Japanese troops then. Medical care was limited and many soldiers died from injuries.

“We sometimes gathered for games and singing,” Guo says. “Sadness from losing our comrades lasted a short time; it prompted us to fight with greater courage.”

Speaking of the many battles he fought at the time, Guo says the Japanese troops once tried to damage a tunnel in Hejian by flooding but didn’t succeed.

Guo, who saw fellow soldiers fall in the war, says the support and protection of local people of the county and its surrounding areas ensured the safety of many other Chinese soldiers who lived to cherish the victory.

“We lived together with local villagers as if they were family. They would offer us cover in dangerous situations,” he says.

In the later years of the war, the Chinese guerrilla forces gradually expanded. By the end of the war in 1945, they could mount attacks on the Japanese forces without using tunnels.

But most of all, Guo vividly remembers the news of the Japanese surrender.

“I couldn’t believe my ears at first. I was so excited that I cried aloud,” Guo says.

Guo later fought in the Korean War in the ’50s, before he was found to have a heart problem and transferred to Beijing for treatment.

In 1982, he retired as Party secretary of the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, an affiliate of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Guo, who has spent time on calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting in recent decades, has also written a wartime memoir titled Fighting in the Glorious Days.

“I am an optimist. I don’t look at my past experiences (during the war) as a kind of suffering. They are valuable and unforgettable to me.”

(China Daily 09/11/2015 page20)

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