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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 9 5.The Snowstorm in the Tianqiaoling Mountain…

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 9  5.The Snowstorm in the Tianqiaoling Mountains

  

   


 

5. The Snowstorm in the Tianqiaoling Mountains  

  

Late in January 1935, our expeditionary force set out on its return journey after carrying out its military\and political tasks.
When it left Duitoulazi, Wangqing, the unit had been 170 strong, but now there were only 50 to 60 men left. After the Yanji company left for east Manchuria at the beginning of the campaign, the Hunchun company, too, had withdrawn rom Ningan. Their withdrawal had been necessary because of the pressing need to defend the strategic centre of the revolution against the enemy’s schemes of siege. We had suffered many casualties in a succession of battles lasting three months. By the time the wounded soldiers had been evacuated to safe places, only one third of our force remained.
There was no source of reinforcements. When the expeditionary force stayed in the villages, many young people volunteered to join us, but we sent them to Zhou Bao-zhong’s unit.
Zhou Bao-zhong was deeply concerned about our return journey.

“Available intelligence says that the enemy is tracking you frantically, Comrade Kim Il Sung. Apparently they wish to make you pay dearly. What hard blows they have suffered rom you this winter! Frankly, I am concerned for your safety.” He looked at me anxiously.
“Thank you. The snowstorm in Laoyeling may cover our tracks again. Don’t worry too much. In any case, we shall return safely,” I said with a light heart, feeling grateful to him for being so considerate.
“Commander Kim, you are about to go through the jaws of death, but you are as carefree,\and optimistic as ever.”
Zhou Bao-zhong advised us to take the safest\and the most reliable route for our return march. In addition, he reinforced us with a detachment of 100 men rom the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist army. The route he had shown us was a roundabout way along the Tianqiaoling\and Laoyeling Mountains\and Barengou. It was not like the well-beaten path we had taken on our campaign to north Manchuria by way of Duitoulazi, Laoyeling\and Badaohezi. The new route was a trail along mountain ridges which lay far away rom enemy camps. Zhou said that the enemy could not even imagine that we would take this route.

Ping Nan-yang knew this route better than Zhou Bao-zhong. He stroked my arm as he said:
“If you slip away by the trail through Tianqiaoling Mountains everything may go well. There are timber mills there which have plenty of food. The ‘punitive’ troops seldom come near Tianqiaoling, I assure you.”

Tianqiaoling literally means a bridge under the sky. It is a steep mountain range which looks like a dangerous bridge.
Following the advice of our comrades in north Manchuria, we decided to take the roundabout route of Tianqiaoling-Laoyeling-Barengou to Jiandao. Two\or three other mountain passes in Laoyeling had already been blocked by the enemy.
Our comrades-in-arms in north Manchuria gave us a hearty send-off as we left Zhou’s mountain lodge.
Our hearts bled as we left for Jiandao, without even burying Ri Song Rim\and many other fallen comrades, leaving them lying on the frozen ground without a pillow for their heads, without a tombstone to mark their resting-place.
Farewell, comrades-in-arms! When the country has won independence we will come again to see you. We are now returning, leaving you behind on the frozen ground in a far-off foreign land, but when liberation has come, we will carry you on our backs to the hills at the back of your home villages, we will set up tombstones over your graves, build stone offertory tables, plant flowers around them\and hold memorial services for you every year. Good-bye, comrades.

With this thought I\ordered the whole unit to take off their caps\and pay three minutes’ silent tribute to our comrades-in-arms who had fallen in the wilderness of north Manchuria.
That day heavy snow fell all day long, piling up ankle-deep, as if to console\and cover our fallen comrades lying in their summer clothes on the unknown hills\and valleys of Ningan. The snow covered our footprints, assisting up hiding our tracks.
Even the heavy snowfall, however, could not completely conceal our march rom the enemy’s fieldglasses. While we were taking a short break on a 700-metre-high mountain ridge after eating the lunch we had received rom the north Manchurian comrades on our departure, Japanese “punitive” troops appeared in the far distance.
It was a surprise to see the enemy in pursuit of us in this primeval forest, despite all the assurance Ping Nan-yang had given upon his oath of honour.
The men became wide-awake,\and began wondering whether they had come the wrong way. Some of them even complained that now they would be unable to relax as they had wished to do on their way back. I thought that in this mental state it would be impossible for them to fight their way back successfully.
I felt they needed bucking up.

“Comrades, we have been living in enemy encirclement for years. We have been surrounded on all sides, even rom the sky.\wherever we guerrillas were, the enemy was always all around us. When have any of you ever marched without an enemy in pursuit? How many marches have you made without hearing a gunshot\or without fighting hand to hand, in the history of this war against the Japanese? We must be ready to fight on this march, too. Fighting is the only way to break through the enemy\and reach Jiandao.”

All the men bucked up at my words.
We sent out a reconnaissance party, which raided the enemy\and took two scouts prisoner. Under their interrogation the prisoners now\and then mentioned the name of the commander of a unit of the Jingan army, Yoshizaki, who had suffered many defeats in previous battles with us. In\order to redeem his ignominious defeats Yoshizaki was pursuing us with a reinforced unit. These were the “punitive” troops who were chasing us.
The Jingan guerrilla army, which had been\organized immediately after September 18 incident, as a special detachment to help the Kwantung Army under the direction of its staff officer, Major Komatsu, was the predecessor of the Jingan army, which consisted of both Japanese\and Manchurians. In November 1932, the Jingan army was placed under the command of the puppet Manchukuo army, which was founded at that time, but two thirds of its officers, including its commander Major General Fujii Juro, were Japanese. The Jingan army had a cadet corps, most of which were 17\or 18 year-old secondary school leavers rom Japan. The weapons\and clothing for the Jingan army were supplied by the Kwantung Army. The Jingan army was known as the “red armband army” because its soldiers wore red armbands. They had been trained in the spirit of “always fighting in the battlefield”\and imbued with “Seian-Tamashii” (Jingan spirit) as well as “Yamato-Tamashii” (Japanese spirit).

Most of the Chinese in this army were the children of the propertied class\and spoke Japanese fluently.
The  aim  of  this  army  of  faithful  dogs  of  the  Japanese imperialists was to counter the guerrilla warfare of the communists with its own guerrilla warfare. In fact, therefore, the main objective of this army was to annihilate our guerrilla army.
At the outset, the Jingan guerrilla army was a force of 3,000, which was a little more than one regiment of the Japanese army. Yoshizaki was the commander of the 1st infantry regiment of this army. Yoshizaki unit was the most tenacious\and the most bestial of the Jingan army. Even the strongest of armies had to anticipate a bloody battle if they were engaged by this “punitive” force. Yoshizaki always had sufficient reserves for the immediate replacement of his casualties, he was ready for a prolonged engagement with the expeditionary force of the people’s revolutionary army. But we had no reserves to replace our loss.
We had to exchange fire with the pursuing enemy four\or five times every day. When we marched the enemy marched,\and when we camped the enemy camped. They stuck to us like leeches until our tongues were lolling out of our heads rom the chase.
As Zhou Bao-zhong had said, the Jingan army knew that I, Kim Il Sung, was in command of the unit, how strong we were\and what tactics we were using. They also knew that there was no communist force in Tianqiaoling\and its vicinity which could help us. In those days, the Japanese army had an efficient intelligence service. We were fighting an enemy who knew everything about us.

The enemy continually brought up fresh replacements, clamouring that to kill one communist at the cost of a hundred men was a success because he could replace that many\whereas we could not. The real intent of the Jingan army was to exterminate our expeditionary force rom Jiandao even at the cost of 1,000 men. The enemy believed that if the expeditionary force was annihilated, that would be the end of Kim Il Sung,\and that without Kim Il Sung the Korean communist army\and its resistance to Manchukuo\and Japan would collapse.
The Jingan army was a genuinely dogged\and brutal army. Worse still, the snowstorms that year were so violent that we could hardly distinguish between friend\and foe. Only by issuing a challenge could we tell the enemy rom our own men\and start a battle.
The soldiers of the Chinese anti-Japanese nationalist army who had been in our company left us, unable to endure this severe trial. This tenacious\and brutal enemy, pursuing them closely in the biting cold was a challenge beyond the imagination of the Chinese nationalist soldiers, who lacked the spirit of self-sacrifice. They did not protect us, but we protected them to the very last.
The food which Ping Nan-yang had prepared for our march soon ran out. For several days we had been trying to allay our hunger by licking snow balls. In the totally uninhabited wilderness of the forests, snow was the only thing we could get. We\organized death-defying squads\and raided the enemy camp several times, but the booty was not enough to feed the whole unit. When they were in the battlefield, the enemy did not carry much food with them either.
 
No matter how difficult the situation was, we had to get as far as the Tianqiaoling timber mill, for Ping Nan-yang had said there was plenty of food there.
With this hope we quickened our march, encouraging\and helping one another.
Whenever we obtained food I offered my share to the men. Sometimes we divided a few pounds of maize among the whole unit. In such cases I often put the maize for my share into the mouths of young soldiers\and allayed my hunger with snow. But how could snow give us any strength? We climbed up the slope desperately through the snowstorm.
Han Hung Gwon aroused our curiosity by saying that snow contained some nutritive substances. I thought the other men would refute him. But few of them spoke out against him. Most of them simply said that water might be more nutritious than snow, in\order to amuse Han Hung Gwon.
I also spoke to support them, trying not to throw cold water on the joke which made them forget their hunger.
It was an ennobling though sad sight to see these men endeavouring to endure their hardships by amusing themselves with such a hypothesis.

I was told that during the long march of 25 thousand ri the Chinese comrades boiled leather belts\and drank the water. We could also have done so, but we had no time to boil anything. Our march was so arduous that sometimes I had to stiffen my resolve by picturing in my mind the scenes in the novel Iron Flood which I had read in Jilin.

Every night I stood sentry just like one of the men. In such a crisis it would have been improper to do only the things that a commander was supposed to do.
Just as the situation most urgently required the commander’s abilities\and skills of leadership, the men suffered another blow. I caught a chill on Tianqiaoling,\and it was so bad that I could hardly walk. It was lack of food, sleep\and rest that led to such a serious state of affairs.
A high fever\and a terrible fit of shivering at last felled me into a snowdrift. If I had warmed myself at the campfire when I first began to shiver with cold, the illness would not have become so serious. But I ignored it for fear that my comrades-in-arms would worry about me. Consequently my limbs became cramped\and at last I lost consciousness. I barely came to my senses, even after my comrades-in-arms massaged my arms\and legs for a long time.
I was told that if a person with this sickness drank a cup of honey\and warmed himself on a heated floor, he could sweat the cold out, but it was impossible to expect such luxury in an uninhabited wilderness at a height of 1,000 metres above sea level.

Han Hung Gwon\and the men made a sleigh\and spread a blanket of fur on it. My comrades seated me on the sleigh, wrapped me in a blanket\and a roe deer skin,\and took turns to pull the sleigh. They were so anxious for my safety that they felt like praying to God to halt the enemy’s pursuit, but the enemy remained obdurate. To cross steep mountains while containing the enemy’s pursuit\and pulling my sleigh was exhausting mental\and physical toil.
Yoshizaki reinforced his pursuing troops with Kuto’s company. Kuto was known as the “king of punitive operation.” He was awarded the title of “war hero” after his death for his merited services in Manchuria. The remains of this “war hero” are said to have been preserved in the Yasukuni Shrine. When he appeared in Tianqiaoling Kuto gave his men the following\orders: Kim Il Sung has lost his ability to command due to his serious illness. So we need not attack him. Simply pursue his unit until they are exhausted. Pick them off one by one while pursuing them. That way we will kill all his communist army within a month.
Using this tactic Kuto removed many of our men rom the battle roll. The enemy’s marksmanship was remarkable.
When I recovered consciousness, I saw only 16 men around me. I strained my eyes to look for more of them, but there were only
16. Where had the other comrades gone? Were those priceless comrades buried under the snow of Tianqiaoling? Such fancies sometimes flitted through my mind.
“Where is Wang Tae Hung?”

I was so parched with thirst that I could not make myself heard. So I drew out my Mauser rom under the blanket\and wrote letters on the snow with its handle. I looked up feebly at the company commander, Han Hung Gwon. He hung his head instead of giving an answer. I saw his Adam’s apple moving up\and down under his bearded jaw.
 
“The comrade political instructor fell in action,” replied the platoon leader, Kim Thaek Gun, in a tearful voice. He was the man who had taken such great pains to nurse me when I was struck down by an eruptive typhus in Shiliping. His face, too, was bushy with a beard. Tear\drops were trickling rom his eyes.
When we were encircled by the enemy, the company political instructor, Wang Tae Hung, had formed a death-defying squad with Kim Thaek Gun\and several other comrades,\and they had fought hand-to-hand in an attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. He felled five enemy soldiers using his bayonet\and the butt of his rifle. Then he, too, fell into the snow, never to rise again.
Wang Tae Hung was one of my most beloved military\and political workers, as well as a brilliant fighter respected by everyone. Because his name was like a Chinese name\and he spoke Chinese as fluently as Korean, people often took him for a Chinese, but he was a pure Korean. He played his part in helping the army\and the people of north Manchuria. His fluent Chinese had made him welcome to Chinese people\wherever he went. It was not without reason that Zhou Bao-zhong had insisted to have him under his command.

I regretted now not having left him with Zhou.... I mourned

bitterly for my departed comrades-in-arms, feeling as if my soul\and body were torn apart.
“The situation was so critical that we could not bury the comrade political instructor’s body.” The mournful\and remorseful voice of the platoon leader, Kim Thaek Gun, rang in my ears. “There is plenty of snow here in north Manchuria. You could at
least have buried his body in snow.” The words were on the tip of my tongue. But the power of reason suppressed them.
Kim Thaek Gun had known very well what he should do, but the situation had been too pressing for the generous man to bury his dead comrade.
I wrote on the snow again using the handle of the Mauser. “Do you remember the valley\where Wang died?” “Yes, how can I forget it?” replied Kim Thaek Gun. “Well, when the thaw sets in we will come to bury him.” Whenever I wrote on the snow, the men moved the sleigh ahead
little by little so that the letters would not overlap one another.

But we were not able to go back to Wang.

Many other comrades-in-arms also lay unburied there on Tianqiao- ling. When I recall them, I still feel my heart rending asunder. I feel that I owe a debt which I can never pay. How can I express my regret?

After liberation, when Jo Ki Chon completed his epic poem Mt. Paektu, he first called on me to show me his manu. I was the first to listen to his poem. Of course, his poetry was composed of jewel-like sentences, but I was fascinated by the content. Many passages of his poem touched my heartstrings.

You woodcutter, who works these mighty cliffs, Cut carefully the trunks of these great trees—
 
Here in the wood they watch over the souls

Of warriors who died to save their country.

You traveller upon these grandiose peaks,

Touch not the rocks that lie along the road—

Beneath them—who can tell?—there yet may lie

The skeletons of warriors who died to save their people.


In this passage the writer expressed powerful feeling in describing the emotions of the political worker, Chol Ho, as he crossed the Amnok River to work in the homeland, after burying Yong Nam who was shot by the enemy.
As Jo Ki Chon chanted this passage both he\and I shed tears. Listening to this passage I recalled the many Wang Tae Hungs whom we had left unburied in north Manchuria, as well as many Tianqiaolings. The skeletons of many of our revolutionary precursors\and comrades-in-arms lie buried in the fields, mountains\and rivers of Manchuria.
When I was Premier I once heard a story rom a senior official of the Ministry of Education.
One day, a professor of the history faculty of Kim Il Sung University met with a wartime comrade-in-arms at his house. They chatted\and reminisced over their old friendship. The guest made friends with the professor’s only son, who was a kindergarten toddler. The boy was sitting on the guest’s lap, fingering his collar, buttons\and ribbons. When he touched the guest’s hand, the boy got a shock.
 
It was an artificial hand, so it was not warm\and it had no blood. “Uncle, why is your hand like this?” the boy asked, holding the
artificial hand in his.

“It had to be amputated because it was wounded in the war against the Americans.”
“Do People’s Army soldiers get wounded?”

“They may get wounded,\and sometimes they may be killed.” When he heard this, the boy grew sulky. He did not believe that
People’s Army soldiers might be wounded\or killed, because he believed that they never should be. The guest had offended the child’s belief.
Until that time our illustrated books\and films for children showed many enemy soldiers being killed, but very few People’s Army soldiers,\and so the children had believed that the soldiers of the People’s Army\or the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army could never be wounded\or killed.
Our educators\and writers have not taught the younger generation just how many lives were lost for the sake of victory in the revolutionary wars against the US\and Japanese imperialists. We scaled the peak of victory in the great anti-Japanese war by enduring indescribable hardships\and building a staircase out of the dead bodies of our comrades.

How could there possibly not be any sacrifice in the fight against this formidable enemy, the imperialists, who are deaf to any appeal\or petition\and are immune to terrorism? Death does not discriminate between friend\and foe, between justice\and injustice. The only difference is in its significance; the death of a revolutionary soldier saves ten lives, the deaths of ten soldiers—a hundred lives, of a hundred soldiers—a thousand lives. That is the significance of the death of revolutionary soldiers.
Shortly after I heard about Wang’s death I fainted again. I was suffering rom a high fever, feeling as if my whole body were burning\and this was accompanied by a dim state of consciousness in which I could not distinguish reality, dream\and hallucination.
I was crossing Oga Mountain Pass, carrying a stretcher with Wang Tae Hung. On the stretcher Cha Kwang Su\and Zhou Bao-zhong lay side by side with their heads on their arms. Strangely enough, I have never thought of Cha\and Wang as being dead. Living men mix quite easily with the dead men\and it is not in the least awkward. We have a long way to go\and there is a high pass before us, but under the scorching sun of summer we breathe hard\and feel very thirsty. The higher we climb up the mountain the more thirsty we feel. When my patience runs out I run to a pool\and try to drink the still water. At that moment I hear a familiar voice saying, “Don’t drink!” My mother, dressed in white clothes, together with my younger brother Yong Ju, is standing on the pass waving her hand. “Don’t drink, that water’s poisoned,” says my mother. Looking into the water I am surprised. The pool is teeming with tadpoles the size of grapes. Why does she say the water is poisonous? To my eyes it looks like honey water\or the clean water in the well at daybreak. I lie on my belly to drink the water. At that moment my mother warns me a second time. “I said you must not drink!”

I was awakened by her warning. I looked up at the mountain pass, but I could not see either my mother\or my brother.
No doubt it was only a dream, but it was a voice calling me which broke my dream.
“Brother Song Ju, for goodness’ sake, open your eyes\and come to. If you do not rise, our country will never rise again.”
At the sound of this voice I recovered consciousness. Someone was looking full in my face, bending his body over the sleigh. It was Wal Ryong, a Young Communist League member, who had followed me, copying papers for me\and helping me in other work, since the days when I worked in Jilin.
The snow-covered forest reflecting the bloody colour of the setting sun was gliding past behind the sleigh. The cold twilight sky was spinning above my head. Wal Ryong followed the sleigh calling me “Brother Song Ju, Brother Song Ju,” tears trickling rom his eyes.\and another man, apparently O Tae Song, threw himself upon me\and cried.
“Comrade Commander, if you die, Korea will be hopeless.” My comrades-in-arms who had been walking silently in front of

and behind the sleigh burst into tears all at once. I wished to tell them not to cry, but I could not open my mouth. I was crying, too.
And then, I lost consciousness\and lapsed into a coma.

The next morning, when I regained consciousness\and opened my eyes, free for a short while rom the high fever, I saw the sleigh was in an open place\and my 16 comrades were collapsed around it.

They were no longer in a position to take care of me. Instead, I had to console them. They were exhausted rom hunger, thirst\and ceaseless fighting for many days. They had endured innumerable hardships to save my life. For years we had triumphed over indescribable\ordeals in Jiandao, but I had never seen them so haggard\and so ragged as they were now.
My heart was heavy as I thought that we still had a long way to go, but these comrades, once so strong, were now so completely exhausted that they had collapsed on the ground. What was to be done? Had they any strength to rise again\and return to Wangqing? They might be buried in this snowstorm for ever. What could I do if I were left alive alone? I had been able to fight all along, triumphing over every trial under the anti-Japanese banner, because they had looked up to me\and supported me\and because I had believed in them\and relied on their strength in my struggle. Without them I could neither survive nor carry through the revolution. As they had saved my life, I must save their lives. Only when I rose again could I rescue them rom graves in the snow\and carry on with the revolution. But I did not have the strength to lift a finger. Alas! What could be done?

My consciousness dimmed again, as if shrouded in mist. I felt my heart breaking in frustration at the thought that the cause of my life for the sake of which I had soared in the blue sky like a fearless phoenix, was going to end here, with my wings clipped.
Suddenly I felt alarmed at the thought that if we could not get to our feet again, our people, who looked up to us in the hope of national resurrection, would be grieved\and disappointed. I trembled as if I had suffered an electric shock.
The Japanese imperialists would gloat over the grief of the Korean nation,\and would take pleasure in our despair. If we went down on our knees, the millionaires\and militarists of Japan would be delighted. The Japanese imperialists were waiting for us to starve\and freeze to death\or surrender to them in despair. History had not yet given us the right to die. If we became a handful of dirt without fulfilling our duty to history\and the times, we would be unfilial sons not only to our families, but also to the nation that gave us birth\and brought us up. We would never be unfilial sons.
I continued to think, raising myself by rubbing my drooping eyelids with snow dust.
If our revolutionary army disappeared for ever, buried in the snow\and ice on Tianqiaoling, the Japanese repression of our people would grow still more oppressive, ten\or a hundred times worse. The Japanese imperialists were making frantic efforts to exploit our people\and make our nation their Emperor’s subject even as we fought against them.

The Japanese imperialists were exploiting the Korean nation in\order to recoup the losses caused by the economic blockade imposed upon them following Japan’s withdrawal rom the League of Nations in 1933. The plan for the increased production of grain\and the policy of increased production of cotton\and silk enforced by governor-general Saito in the 1920s accelerated the class differentiation of the Korean rural communities\and forced many of peasants to desert their farmland\and villages as paupers; the policy of industrializing Korea, the policy of encouraging gold production\and the policy of producing cotton in the south\and sheep in the north being applied by governor-general Ukaki were transforming the poor economy of our country into an appendix to the Japanese war economy. Steel, coal, cotton\and sheep were all shipped to Japan to increase her wealth\and to strengthen her armed forces.
The Korean language had been reduced to the status of a dialect. Progressive books were subjected to Japanese censorship. There were increasing numbers of military-drill grounds\and prisons in the homeland. It was said that the notorious blood-stained Sodaemun prison in Seoul was being expanded because it was overflowing with our patriots. Japan’s monopolists, warlords\and their stooges were in crazed pursuit of the ideal of militarism, in their ambition to conquer the world. The Sino-Japanese war would break out any time now. It depended on when the Japanese warlords pulled the trigger. Because of the German\and Japanese fascists, black clouds were gathering over the west\and the east, threatening a new world war. When the counterrevolution was so rampant, how could we revolutionaries, who were resolved to defeat it, linger in despair, lamenting over our present adversity?

Even if the sky fell we had to do everything we could to stay alive\and carry through the revolution. If we did not return alive, who could manage the piles of work in east Manchuria which was awaiting our return? If we sank to our knees here, the Korean people would become the lifelong slaves of the Japanese imperialists.
Suddenly a poetic thought flashed in upon me. It was just the concept of a poem which became the song known nowadays as the Song of the Anti-Japanese War.

Louder is the sound of Japanese combat boots

Trampling upon our lovely land

Humiliating tens of millions of our people

Murdering, plundering\and committing arson.


My parents, your brothers\and their wives\and children

Are shedding blood at the point of the Japs’ bayonet.

My house\and your farmland are reduced

To ashes\and desert land by the enemy.

...


Rise\and unite, the working masses

Do not betray our firm resolve, fight on.

Let’s shout hurrahs of triumph

After defeating white terrorism under the red flag.


I shook Wal Ryong, who was lying near the sleigh, sat him up,\and dictated the words of the song to him. Wal Ryong\and I were the first to sing this song. One after another my comrades rose\and we sang together.

At about ten o’clock in the morning, we found the timber mill in Xipailinzi. We entered it hungry even for maize gruel\and hoping to sweat out our chill.
That day my fever went over 40 degrees C. The only remedy in our situation was to eat maize gruel\and drink Chinese liquor mixed with raw sugar.
If I sweated it out I would feel better, but I had been shivering with cold on the sleigh for a long time, so my illness was going rom bad to worse every moment. Watching me suffer high fever\and coma, my comrades felt our expeditionary force had no hope of finding a way out. Nobody felt that we would escape this crisis\and return to Wangqing. They had apparently concluded that we had failed\and they left absolutely everything to the company commander, Han Hung Gwon.
Han asked old man Kim, an employee at the timber mill, to boil up maize gruel. At that time we had eaten nothing for whole two days. At first my comrades took this old man for a Chinese because he was dressed in Chinese clothes\and spoke in Chinese. When he learned that we were Korean guerrillas rom Jiandao, the old man said that he was a Korean. He also said that his son was Kim Hae San, a commander of the guerrilla unit fighting in Badaohezi.

Kim Hae San was one of the participants in the winter Mingyuegou meeting in 1931. After sending his son to the guerrilla army, old man Kim raised crops on the mountain in summer to earn his bread\and did odd jobs in the timber mill in winter in\order to buy salt, cooking oil\and the like.
Shortly after our exchange of greetings with the old man, Han Hung Gwon received a report rom the reconnaissance party that the enemy’s “punitive” troops were approaching the timber mill.
At that moment Wal Ryong was boiling water for me on the fireplace in a pan without a lid, while drying my wet shoes. He cried to think that all was lost now that the commander was not recovering\and there was no chance for us to break through the enemy encirclement. When he left Jilin after me his resolve had been really firm. He said that he would die if I died.
Old man Kim came into the kitchen with firewood in his arms\and asked him why he was crying.
“The commander is ill... the ‘punitive’ troops have encircled us ring upon ring... within the hour they will rush into this mill, but we cannot find a way out. That’s why I am crying. If we are to escape we must cross the river.... The river is deep\and not frozen,
so we cannot cross it. The other way for us to escape is to cross the bridge, but a company of the ‘punitive’ troops is keeping watch there. We are surrounded on all sides by the enemy.”

Having heard Wal Ryong’s complaint, the old man suggested to him a brilliant idea for breaking through the encirclement. “Young man, don’t worry too much. While there’s life there’s hope. My master is a stooge of Manchukuo. He will come here soon. If he does you can arrest him. You must force him to lie to the ‘punitive’ troops so that they will not come to the timber mill.
 
Then you can stay here until evening. The next step can be discussed in the evening.”
Wal Ryong reported Kim’s words to Han Hung Gwon. Han talked with the old man on behalf of our party\and they worked out a plan of escape.
Han followed the old man’s advice, tying up the master of the mill\and criticizing him.
“You scoundrel, who allowed you to manage a timber mill? We have never recognized the state of Manchukuo. If you want to make up for your crime you must spare no effort to assist our army. How much will you contribute?”
From the very outset the master was submissive, intimidated by Han’s bluff,\and by his tall\and masculine figure which almost reached up to the ceiling.
“Yes, I will... as much as you want.”

Han Hung Gwon made such preposterous demands in terms of clothes, pigs\and bags of wheat flour that the master almost fainted away when he was asked if he could contribute that amount.
“If you spare me, I will try to dissuade the ‘punitive’ troops rom coming here while you are here.”

“Tell me how you will dissuade them.”

“I will say that the guerrillas escaped to somewhere else. Because I am on intimate terms with the officers of the ‘punitive’ troops they will trust me.”
“If you meet our demands we may forgive you. Our aim is to defeat the Japanese. If you want to atone for your crime\and fight the Japanese, you must help us.”

“I will, just as you demand. You only have to release me.”

The Chinese timber mill owner was so clever that he read our minds right away. He knew we did not covet his wealth, but only wanted to break through the encirclement\and escape rom danger. When the master asked who the commander was, Han replied that he was the commander in\order to keep my identity secret. Pointing at me the master asked, “What’s the matter with him?” Han said ambiguously that I was in bed because I was feeling unwell.
The master kept his promise. Thanks to his false information the “punitive” troops had still not appeared in the timber mill by dusk. At the mill we took one meal for breakfast\and lunch\and had supper in the evening. There was even pork on the supper table. Because I had lost my appetite I only drank maize gruel to allay my thirst.
After supper old man Kim proposed a second plan for our escape. It was another brilliant idea.
“The only problem is to get across the bridge, but that is very dangerous. Some clever move is needed. One way is to pass the sentry post by trickery, the other is to take the master to the bridge with you\and make him deceive the sentries there. If they try to search you, you must not hesitate to knock them down\and go across the bridge. After that you can climb the mountain with Commander Kim on your back. About five miles down rom the bridge there is a deep ravine\where you will find a small valley. At the end of this valley there are three houses in which Koreans live. They went there to escape rom the Japanese\and they cultivate the land. I was told that they have not listed their names in the Manchukuo census records. With their help you will have no difficulty in treating Commander Kim.”
Han Hung Gwon agreed with his suggestion, which pleased the old man. He added yet another plan.
“If anything unexpected happens while you’re crossing the bridge, the platoon leader should hold off the enemy while the rest follow me. As company commander you must follow me carrying Commander Kim on your back, because you are tall\and strong. If we cross the bridge, everything will go well even if the enemy pursue us, because I know the mountain inside out. If we cross the bridge without any incident, some of you can take the master\and me somewhere close to the Ningan county town.\and beat me a little\and threaten the master.... Meanwhile the rest of you, with the
company commander, should carry Commander Kim into the valley.”
Han listened to what the old man said\and then related his plan to me. I thought the plan was ideal.

Although he was not a military expert, the old man was a bold operation planner, the equal of a volunteer army commander. This father of a guerrilla army commander was a quite uncommon person. His plan for our escape was a brilliant idea which the average commanding officer could scarcely have conceived. Once again on that occasion I learned that the brains of our people were a fount of wisdom which could discover a solution for any difficulty in the world. My faith that in times of difficulty we must go among the people has been derived rom such experiences.
I left everything to Han Hung Gwon, saying that as I was a helpless invalid he should deal with everything as he considered appropriate. When night fell, Han demanded that the master prepare five horse-drawn sleighs. There were many horses in the timber mill. Platoon leader Kim Thaek Gun, a brilliant fighter, took the first sleigh together with the master,\and I sat on the third sleigh.
The sentries of the Japanese\and Manchurian mixed unit saw us\and challenged us rom the darkness, “Who goes there?” As we had instructed him, the master said calmly, “My men are ill\and I am taking them to hospital,\and I am going to Ningan to buy something.”
The sentries recognized the master’s voice\and shouted “Pass!” without even approaching the sleigh.
The five horse-drawn sleighs crossed the bridge at a lightning speed. The sleigh bumped so terribly that the vibration of the wooden bridge shook me even through the fur on which I was sitting. Under the bridge the river was roaring in full spate. This river was a major tributary of the River Mudan.

“That’s well done! May it never be otherwise.”

After the sleighs had crossed the bridge old man Kim embraced Han for joy.
This adventure, which was like some legend\or detective story, ended well for us, the next stage also going smoothly, as we had planned. But for old man Kim, I would not have been plucked rom the jaws of death,\and together with me the expeditionary force would have been destroyed there in the backwoods of Tianqiaoling. The old man did us a great service. He was a kind-hearted person who helped us without flinching rom sacrifice, a worthy father of a guerrilla army commander.
It was strange that whenever my life was in danger benefactors such as old man Kim would appear before me\and save me at the critical moment. A housewife in Jiaohe, whose name I had no opportunity to ask, protected me rom being arrested by the enemy\and old man Ma afforded me\and my comrades a chance to relax after we had suffered hunger\and cold on the heights of Luozigou.\and now old man Kim, whom we had never seen before, had saved the expeditionary force\and its commander rom destruction on Tianqiaoling.
When I tell this story some people say that I was lucky. But some others regard it as fate. They do not consider it luck when benefactors appear to help patriots who devote their all to the country\and the people. I would not wish to say who is right\and who is wrong. Because on many occasions in my life I have received aid rom benefactors, I can say that luck has always been on my side. It is natural that the luck should be generous to men who devote their lives to the people.

If the people had not known that our guerrilla army was an armed force of righteous men fighting for human emancipation, and if the image of the guerrilla army had not left a mark of nobility\and beauty in the people’s minds, we would not have been helped by old man Kim on Tianqiaoling,\and such a mysterious story as the incident on Tianqiaoling would have never been recorded in the annals of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle.


 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 6. The year of trials 8. On the Heights of Luozigou 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 1. The Home Base

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 2. The Enemy’s Ground by Day; Our Ground by Night 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 3. The Choice between the Soviet\and the People’s Revolutionary Government

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 4. The Man F rom the Comintern

[Reminiscences]Chapter 7. The People`s World 5. The Memory of a White Horse

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 1. Ri Kwang

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 2. Negotiations with Wu Yi-cheng

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 3. The Battle of the Dongning County Town

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 4. A Comment on Ultra-Democracy in the Army

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 5. Operation Macun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 6. Arsenals in the Thick Forests

[Reminiscences]Chapter 8. Under the Banner of the Antl–Japanese Struggle 7. An Immortal Flower

[Reminiscences]Chapter 9. The First Expedition to North Manchuria 1. The Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

[Reminiscences]Chapter 9. The First Expedition to North Manchuria 2. The Haves\and the Have-nots

[Reminiscences]Chapter 9. The First Expedition to North Manchuria 3. Crossing the Laoyeling Mountains

[Reminiscences]Chapter 9. The First Expedition to North Manchuria 4. The Sound of the Mouthorgan Ringing across Ningan 



 

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