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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 15 3. Fighting at the Foot of Mt. Paektu

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 15 3. Fighting at the Foot of Mt. Paektu

  

   


 

3. Fighting at the Foot of Mt. Paektu 

  

Our advance to Mt. Paektu transformed the eastern frontier region (Dongbiandao), particularly the northern part of the region\where Changbai was situated, into the most “unruly zone”, causing a great headache for both the Kwantung Army\and the puppet Manchukuo public security authorities.

The Japanese\and the puppet Manchukuo army\and police focussed all their efforts on the eastern frontier region. Newspapers constantly reported on the boisterous developments in Changbai. The area around the foot of Mt. Paektu, previously regarded as a peaceful zone, was thrown into utter confusion.

Since the early days of their occupation of Manchuria, the Japanese aggressors had accorded considerable attention to public security in this area, in\order to turn Manchuria\and Korea into a strategic base for their domination of Asia.

The eastern frontier region constituted an administration area, emerging after the division by the Beiyang government of northeast China into the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin\and Heilongjiang, including ten regions. It is a vast area covering some parts of today’s Jilin\and Liaoning Provinces. Bordering Korea with the Amnok River in between, it was one of the major areas to attract the special attention of the political\and business circles, as well as that of Japan’s military\and puppet Manchukuo in the light of the ideal of the “integration of Korea\and Manchuria”\and economically owing to its inexhaustible mineral\and forest resources.


However, the enemy was inevitably alarmed, as we had taken complete control of the northern part of this area\and continued military\and political activities along the Amnok River.

 

Surprised, the Kwantung Army drew up a “general programme for ensuring public peace in Manchukuo”, on the pretext of taking measures to instigate a lasting public peace in the Manchurian area, including the eastern frontier region. On this basis, the puppet Manchukuo government put forward the “outline of a three-year plan for ensuring public peace”, which defined the northern part of the eastern frontier region (Changbai, Linjiang, Fusong, Donggang, Huinan, Jinchuan, Liuhe, Tonghua\and Jian Counties) as the most important place for special operations. It set up an “eastern frontier region rehabilitation committee” as a central\organ, an “administrative office for the rehabilitation of the eastern frontier region”\and a “special association for the maintenance of public peace in the eastern frontier region” in Tonghua. It also established “Tonghua punitive command” headed by Sasaki, the highest advisor to the military authorities of Manchukuo\and launched “large-scale winter punitive operations” aimed at securing public peace in the northern part of the eastern frontier region.


Japan’s military nerves were most irritated by gunshots raised everyday in west Jiandao by the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army units, the network of secret camps set up in various places on Mt. Paektu under the cover of the army’s operations\and the revolutionary base of a new type, centring on the underground liberation front.

Tokyo had already\ordered Army General Minami, the Governor-General of Korea\and the supreme ruler of the colonial Korea,\and Army General Ueda, the commander of the Kwantung Army\and de facto supreme ruler of Manchuria, to discuss emergency measures for annihilating the anti-Japanese armed forces\and promoting public peace. As a result, a notorious meeting, called “Tumen conference”, was held in a secret room of the detached building of the Japanese consulate in Tumen, a small customs town on the border of Korea\and Manchuria. We can see rom this fact how Minami, former commander  of  the  Kwantung  Army \and  ambassador  extraordinary \and plenipotentiary to Manchukuo, racked his brains in panic, together with Ueda, to work out measures to “mop up” the Korean guerrillas soon after his appointment as the Governor-General of Korea.

The secret talks between Minami\and Ueda were followed by a meeting between their seconds—Tojo, the provost marshal of the Kwantung Army,\and Mitsubashi, police department head of the Government-General of Korea.

The talks adopted the so-called “three-point policy” aimed at stifling the anti-Japanese armed forces; intensifying security over the border area, launching large-scale joint “punitive” operations\and establishing concentration villages in west Jiandao.

Detailed measures were discussed between Tojo\and Mitsubashi for intensifying their joint action.

The essence of the “three-point policy” was the “large-scale winter punitive operations” in 1936; its main target was Mt. Paektu,\where our Headquarters were situated. The “large-scale winter punitive operations” differed rom former operations, in that they represented joint operations of the Japanese troops sent to Manchuria rom Korea\and the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Their tactics involved new methods of combining encirclement by large forces with searches of the mountain valleys\and ridges, as if combing them with a fine-tooth comb. They sought in this way to wipe out the anti-Japanese armed units within the winter of that year.


Acting on the basis of this sinister objective, the Government-General of Korea set the “maintenance of public peace\and the tightening of the guard over the border” as its primary task, reinforced the border garrison, consolidated defence installations\and ensured that considerable additional funds were supplied rom the state budget of the Empire of Japan. Japanese army units stationing in Korea, special border garrisons\and the police units on the frontier were\ordered to the front en masse.

The Kwantung Army, too, prepared for the “punitive” operations with the utmost interest in the eastern frontier region.

Various “punitive” troops were committed en masse to the border area along the Amnok\and Tuman Rivers around Mt. Paektu: the police units in the southern part of Korea moved to the mountainous areas in the north; the Kwantung Army units in Qiqihaer also started moving southwards to Mt. Paektu; the units under the 19th Division of the Japanese army in Korea also crossed the Amnok; the Japanese\and Manchukuo police units\and the puppet Manchukuo “punitive” troops thronged around us. The police sub-stations were increased in great numbers along the Amnok. Checkpoints were posted at various places\and telephone lines were laid across the river. rom this time onwards the enemy forced the wives of policemen to take shooting practice. The wheels of cannons\and carts carrying military supplies rolled along the lanes in the backwoods of Mt. Paektu, which ox-carts, sleighs\and horse-carts travelled on with difficulty,\and disorderly footprints of warhorses were marked in various places in forests.


From the early winter of that year “punitive” troops spread all over the forest of Mt. Paektu. The enemy searched thoroughly the forests of Mt. Paektu, saying that “these ‘punitive’ operations constituted the final actions to establish public peace.” A fresh decisive campaign between the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army\and the Japanese aggressor army was near at hand at the foot of Mt. Paektu.

The odds were against us. First of all the enemy was incomparably superior in strength. Worse still, its main force comprised crack troops supported by the air force. The enemy was mobilizing administrative, economic, police\and all other efforts, while we had nothing to enlist in our support, apart rom secret aid rom the people.

In the light of military common sense\and experience, an attack was inconceivable in such a situation. However, we put the enemy on the defensive by deploying a new strategy of our own, based on attacks far beyond the established practice\and common sense. In November 1936 we convened a meeting of military\and political cadres of the KPRA in the Heixiazigou Secret Camp to review the KPRA’s military\and political activities after the Nanhutou meeting\and discuss ways of frustrating the enemy’s “large-scale winter punitive operations”\and consolidating the Paektusan Base.

Our basic strategy revolved around the following: To defeat the enemy’s numerical\and technical superiority by means of our ideological\and tactical superiority.

Exploiting the highly elevated ideological preparedness of the soldiers, we applied positive\and active tactics of allurement\and ambush, surprise attack, impregnable defence, cutting off the enemy’s retreat to crush its forces piecemeal,\and appropriately combining large unit\and small unit operations. In this way we won every battle.

Confronted by our adroit military operations, the enemy suffered heavily rom the very first stage of the “punitive” operations. In the early days, when units of the KPRA launched into areas on the Amnok River, the enemy estimated that we would be unable to pass the winter there, as the other Chinese anti-Manchukuo forces had failed to do so. But this was a pure miscalculation. The more they intensified “punitive” operations, the deeper we went into the forests without flinching,\and the brisker the military\and political activities we conducted around Mt. Paektu\and the border area on the Amnok, by deploying elusive tactics. We thereby put the enemy on the defensive\and consolidated the newly-built Paektusan Base.


The battles at the edge of Heixiazigou, Hongtoushan, Taoquanli\and Limingshui are perfect examples of the numerous battles we fought that winter, when we gave the enemy a terrible blow.

At the entrance to Heixiazigou we fought a defensive battle forestalling the enemy’s raid on our secret camp.

After tasting the bitterness of failure at the outset of its “large-scale winter punitive operations”, the enemy stepped up military operations\and also sent a large number of spies to track down our Headquarters.

When the enemy’s “winter punitive operations” began, I could be found mostly in the Heixiazigou Secret Camp in command of the main force.

 

One day O Jung Hup, who had been on guard duty at an outpost with a few of his men, returned to the camp with suspicious characters in peasant clothing. We examined them\and discovered that they were enemy spies. They had been approaching our secret camp, stealing their way through the woods, only to be captured by our men who had been watching their movements. Assuming an air of innocence, they had claimed they were coming to the revolutionary army, unable to endure Japanese repression\and had asked to see me. Their appearance was so suspicious that we conducted body searches, only to discover a sharp-edged, small axe in one of the men’s trousers. The axe was a lethal weapon made by the enemy’s secret service. The investigation revealed that one of them was a confirmed spy, who had served the enemy for some years under the guise of a peddler while the other was an innocent peasant who had acted as a guide under pressure. They had set out to ascertain our exact location\and give a signal to the “punitive” forces, following in their wake, combing the forest. The spy confessed that the enemy had\organized a combined “punitive” force of Japanese\and Manchukuo troops, with one body approaching Heixiazigou rom Erdaogang\and the other advancing towards the guerrilla camp via the northwestern part of Majiazi, Shiliudaogou,\and that they planned to launch an attack immediately, when they were given a sound signal. He also said that their attack would receive air support rom Hoeryong. His confession confirmed information collected by our reconnaissance party. However, the enemy had not yet completely encircled us. Ascertaining the location of Headquarters through its spy, the enemy planned to send the Japanese “punitive” force rom the Ranam 19th Division\and the puppet Manchukuo army “punitive” force rom Erdaogang to Heixiazigou to surprise our Headquarters\and main force\and eradicate the “source of its anxiety”.


The situation was very critical\and not in our favour. As the enemy was closing in\and simultaneously carrying out searches, we decided to strike the enemy at a vantage point near the camp, slip away\and strike again on its way back, under cover of night at Sanpudong.


There was a deep valley in the south of Heixiazigou, with a bottleneck at the approach of the enemy’s main force. Both sides of the valley were so steep that even wild animals skilled in climbing cliffs could not get a grip. It was an ideal trap to catch the enemy\and destroy it.

I instructed the 2nd\and 4th Companies to lie in ambush on the heights in the northwest\and northeast\and arrange a decoy in the dead end of the valley. I placed several men there\and\ordered them to build fires\and make noises feigning the main force. Then, I dispatched a decoy party to harass the enemy in its position the whole night\and then withdraw at daybreak leaving the traces of a large force.

As dusk fell, the decoy party infiltrated the enemy’s position. It was biting cold that night. But I\ordered the ambushes not to create a fire lest their presence revealed.

To lure the enemy into the position of our main force, the decoy party climbed towards the decoy position, leaving disorderly footprints along the valley, as if a large unit had passed. A few minutes later, smokes rom several campfires coiled up rom the decoy position\and boisterous singing resounded. This was all a prearranged feint.

The attention of the enemy, which entered the valley in pursuit of the decoy party, was attracted to the noise\and fires in the decoy position. The advance party was a mounted patrol. The patrol halted for some time\and murmured over something looking at the decoy position,\and then, one of them on a black horse raced out down the valley. Two other horses followed suit.

About half an hour later the mounted patrol entered the valley again followed by long infantry columns. Each column was led by a mounted officer, wearing a long glittering sabre on his waist. They were rom the Ranam 19th Division. The officers of the Jingan army walked with the rank\and file. Pack-horses carrying disassembled mortars on their backs brought up the rear of the last column. The enemy was approaching rom another valley. They intended to form an encirclement. The enemy’s strength was at least five times as great as our force of 100 men.

One key to victory in this battle concerned the need to gain time. We had to strike the first heavy blow before the enemy completed its encirclement\and slip away to another position. We decided to deliver a preemptive attack, with the signal of the gunshot of executing the spy. With the signal shot, the enemy was instantly thrown into utter confusion. Most fell before the attack signal was given. Guns charged with shells were lying, scattered over the battlefield. The valley at the entrance to Heixiazigou turned into the enemy’s graveyard.

After searching the battlefield we slipped away under the cover of darkness. The reconnaissance party informed Headquarters of the movement of the enemy’s reinforcements which had been in pursuit, guided by the remnants. They were making preparations for camping at one place as dusk fell, just as we had anticipated. I\ordered O Jung Hup to raid the enemy’s camp at night. He\organized a raiding party of one platoon. The night raid did not require many men.

As he approached by stealth the enemy’s camp with the raiding party, he captured a sentry who was dozing under a tree\and interrogated him briefly, as they might harm peasants who were carrying loads under the enemy’s coercion, if they raided them hastily without full knowledge of enemy disposition in its camp. The prisoner had a loose tongue. He confessed that the Japanese troops occupied the centre of the camp\and the puppet Manchukuo army soldiers were sleeping around them, with the peasants located at the outermost circle, as they had been regarded as shields. He added that only puppet Manchukuo army soldiers stood guard\and that the Japanese soldiers rom Korea were fast asleep, with their wet shoes drying beside campfires.


O Jung Hup divided his party into three-man groups\and disguised them as patrolmen. They went deep into the middle of the camp passing the guards in safety, giving the countersign. Each group abruptly opened fire on the tents of the Japanese soldiers.

 

The enemy in the tents, awakened by the gunshots, ran helter-skelter; they had no time to put on their shoes. Many officers\and men fell, screaming at the bullets they shot blindly. The camp resembled a stirred hornet nest. The raiding party slipped out of the battlefield, exploiting the confusion of the enemy. The enemy exchanged fire among themselves throughout the night, causing wholesale death. Nearly all those who narrowly escaped froze to death. They could not endure the bitter cold of Mt. Paektu, running off without shoes\or fur coats.


The survivors cut the heads of the dead soldiers\and took to flight, carrying them in sacks on horse-carts, as they could not carry hundreds of corpses scattered over the camp site.

After the battle at Heixiazigou we fought successful battles in several places near Amnok. On November 20 we raided the town of Shisidaogou in Changbai County, a base of the enemy’s “punitive” forces\and destroyed a few days later the enemy stationed in Shangcun in Taoquanli, Shisandaogou. Some small units conducted political\and military activities around Shiwudaogou\and Shijiudaogou.

The enemy was so frightened at the battle near Heixiazigou\and subsequent battles that it did not venture to approach our camp on Mt. Paektu for two\or three months. However, this did not mean that it had abandoned its efforts to effect “punitive” operations. It schemed to renew “punitive” operations by gaining time. We remained vigilant. The whole unit was put on the alert to prevent any infiltration by enemy spies. We also adopted new tactical measures to foil enemy moves. The situation at the foot of Mt. Paektu remained quiet for some time.


Around this time I called Ri Hun, district head of Shijiudaogou, to the camp\and taught him the directions\and methods of underground work; around this time I also had a talk with the people rom Shiqidaogou, who brought supplies to the secret camp. Interviews with Pak Tal\and Pak In Jin, the publication of the tentative regulations of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, rapid expansion of the ARF\organizations—all these events are still associated in my memory with the winter of late 1936—early 1937 in the Mt. Paektu area.

I recall fondly An Tok Hun, a peasant in Shijiudaogou, Changbai County. I met him around the time when mythological legends about me were widespread in the area of Changbai County. Everyone believed that if Kim Il Sung touched a pinecone, it would turn into a bullet.


An Tok Hun, displaying an unusual curiosity about such strange stories, showered us with perplexing questions as soon as we entered his house. Fortunately, he talked only to Kim Phyong who was sitting at the fireside as he had mistaken him for the unit commander. Therefore I had no need to involve myself in their conversation. Their conversation was extremely amusing.

“Is it true that the General can anticipate future events, much farther than three days ahead?” This was the first question An Tok Hun asked Kim Phyong.

“Yes, of course,” answered Kim Phyong with a blank face.


An Tok Hun nodded his head in satisfaction. Then he asked again, “The old men in the upper village say that he keeps his eyes open when he has something to do\and shuts them when there is nothing to do. May I believe it?” “Yes, you may. The General closes his eyes when there is nothing to do, but whenever he opens his eyes, a great event happens.”


“And is it true that he employs the art of compressing the distance?”


“Yes, it is. The General acts with supernatural swiftness\and flies freely everywhere, appearing now in the east\and then in the west.”

“Rumour has it that General Kim is Protean\and outshines legendary Hong Kil Tong18,\and that is true.”


Each question was absurd\and the answer was no less absurd, but as the host\and guest were so serious about their exchange I merely listened to their question-and-answer session without even thinking of stopping them. To my surprise, Kim Phyong, who was usually so candid\and simple, did not feel ashamed\or awkward about giving such absurd answers.


An Tok Hun asked him how many times he had met General Kim\and whether the General was staying in the village at that time.

He again answered immediately that he saw him frequently\and that the General was staying there at that very moment.

When the host left for a few minutes, I reproached Kim Phyong mildly for speaking such nonsense.

Kim Phyong said with a smile, “If the people believe in a legend, we must say that the legend is true. The people claim that there is a mysterious General sent rom Heaven to our Korea, owing to their desire to see a General who will win back their country. If they believe that such a General exists, they will be confident that the deprived country will be won back\and will turn out more courageously in the holy anti-Japanese war.

“Our compatriots have begun to think that our nation has a General, well-versed in the Divine art, no matter how the Japanese swagger about now, that they should not be scared by the Japanese brigands,\and that they can surely liberate Korea if they fight, following General Kim. This does not imply worship of you alone, Comrade Commander. This reflects absolute trust in\and expectation rom our Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. The people want this to be true, so why should we deny these facts\and thereby discourage them?”


Hearing Kim Phyong, I made up my mind to live up to the people’s expectations\and trust by conducting more audacious\and adroit military operations.

True to his words, the people gained great strength rom the legendary stories about us. Deriving their confidence rom the words that there was a General in Korea who put the Japanese into tight corners, a large number of sturdy young people vied with one another to join the People’s Revolutionary Army. To be candid, we benefited greatly rom those popular legends.

Later An Tok Hun also joined the People’s Revolutionary Army. He fought as bravely as any other soldiers, but fell in battle in Mengjiang. Ri Chi Ho never forgot the heart-rending experience of burying him with fallen leaves\and snow.

In 1937 the enemy began to attack our secret camps again.


As the enemy’s attempts to stamp out the anti-Japanese armed forces, which were making frequent appearances in Manchuria\and the northern frontier of Korea proved abortive, the Japanese Emperor, in compliance with the requests of the military, dispatched Shidei, his aide-de-camp, as special envoy to inspect for a month the border areas on the Amnok River,\where their “peace maintenance” efforts had been ruffled by the brisk guerrilla activities of the revolutionary army\and, also discuss with Minami, Governor-General of Korea, Ueda, commander of the Kwantung Army,\and Koiso, commander of the Japanese army in Korea, the measures to intensify the “punitive” offensive against the People’s Revolutionary Army. By imperial\order, the aide-de-camp flew rom Tokyo to the region over the Amnok River. His trip led to an intensification of the enemy’s “punitive” operations.


The enemy’s surprise “punitive” operation against the Hongtoushan Secret Camp synchronized with Shidei’s inspection of the frontier region. The supply personnel of the revolutionary army were busy preparing for celebrations of the New Year’s Day of 1937 by the lunar calendar. Our main combat force was out in the Diyangxi\and Heixiazigou Secret Camps, advance operational bases,\and I was in the Hongtoushan Secret Camp with my guards. I left the camp two days before New Year’s Day for serious reasons.

First of all I\dropped in at the Duoguling Secret Camp, situated in a valley between Hongtoushan\and Hengshan, to console Kim Jong Bu,\and proceeded to the rearmost secret camp on Mt. Paektu,\where my interview with Kim Jong Bu took place, the interview reported by the magazine Samcholli.

The Hengshan Secret Camp, which was also called the rearmost camp on Mt. Paektu, included a log-hut,\where sick\and weak Children’s Corps members recuperated, a hospital with Ri Kye Sun, Pak Sun Il\and other infirm\and wounded people, under medical care, Pak Yong Sun’s weapons repair shop,\and Pak Su Hwan’s sewing unit. Wei Zheng-min, who was suffering rom a heart disease, was recuperating there. Around that time the personnel of the Secretariat, including “Tobacco Pipe”, were also working in that most distant site.

After acquainting myself with the work\and living conditions of the people in the secret camp\and taking appropriate measures, I held a meeting of the Party Committee of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, involving some military\and political cadres including Kim Phyong\and Kwon Yong Byok.

The meeting reviewed the military\and political activities of the KPRA’s main force after the meeting of the military\and political cadres at Heixiazigou\and discussed the immediate tasks for defeating outright the enemy’s “large winter punitive operations”. The meeting elaborated particularly on the matters of the combat units’ tactical\and strategic moves to the areas of Taoquanli, Limingshui\and Fusong\and the timing of operations to launch into the homeland. The matters were debated in greater detail at a meeting held in Xigang at a later date. The meeting went on to discuss the establishment of the\organizational system under the Party Committee of the KPRA\and\organized the Changbai County Party Committee with Kwon Yong Byok as its chairman\and Ri Je Sun as its vice-chairman,\and the ARF’s Changbai County Committee headed by Ri Je Sun.


The meeting was tremendously significant in thwarting the enemy’s “large winter punitive operations”, defending the Paektusan Base\and the history of party building in our country.

The meeting was also attended by Wei Zheng-min. The lunar New Year’s Day, celebrated on Hengshan, was very impressive. On that day Pak Yong Sun made noodle-press with cans\and made starch noodles for the festival. The sewing unit made dumplings\and the people in the hospital prepared hand-cut noodles. The people in Hengshan prepared a variety of rare dishes\and treated us to a sumptuous feast.

Later Wei Zheng-min often recalled the New Year’s Day of 1937, when he ate starch noodles with relish at Hengshan Secret Camp,\and praised Pak Yong Sun’s skill whenever he had the opportunity.

The lunar New Year’s Day of 1937 reminds me of Qiao Bang-xin, a guardsman of Chinese nationality. On that day Qiao ate two bowls of noodle, on top of 15 dumplings. The five brothers of Qiao had joined the guerrillas on the same day in Diyangxi. He was the youngest. Therefore we always called him “Xiaowuzi” (the fifth). “Xiaowuzi” had once been wounded in his hand. At that time I had conducted a surgical operation on his hand with a razor. Although it may have been painful for him, as it was conducted without any special anesthetics, he endured it wonderfully. As the wound did not heal easily, he could not tighten his belt with his hands after paying a call of nature. Therefore I had had to help him each time. When his shoes got wet, I helped him take them off\and dried them by the fire. Once I had been to Wudaoyangcha, Antu County, with guardsmen to attend a meeting\and we had been encircled by the enemy owing to a betrayer. At that time Qiao fought bravely; one of his brothers had been killed during the battle to our sorrow.


After enjoying New Year’s Day at Hengshan, we returned to the Hongtoushan Secret Camp the next day. Not long after our return, gunshot was raised by our long-range observation post. The situation was very pressing\and the odds were against us. Some of Ri Tu Su’s company\and a machine-gun unit on guard duty for me were all we had. The enemy numbered at least 500. Worse still, the sentries at the observation post detected the enemy, when they had almost climbed up the height\where the post was situated, at a height\where they could overpower us.


I\ordered my men to occupy the southern ridge quickly. Then I\ordered Ri Tu Su, company commander, to remove the sentries rom the post to open the way for the enemy, ensuring that they withdraw along the knife ridge within sight of the enemy. The ridge was a narrow lane; slipping here meant falling down to the bottom of the valley\and into the deep snow. If we lured the enemy along the lane, one of our men could defeat 100\or 1,000 enemy soldiers without difficulty. The southern ridge of Hongtoushan was a strategic stronghold; on the ridge we could attack the enemy, enjoying a full view of them closing in along the knife ridge,\and annihilate them when they took to flight, by driving them into the valley under the ridge.

On my\orders, the sentries lured the enemy along the knife ridge. The valley between the southern ridge\and knife ridge became literally a “trap”. Another factor contributed to our victory; Ri Tu Su had, on my\orders, made the slope of the southern ridge icy. Owing to the layer of ice, not an enemy soldier could climb up the ridge occupied by us.

The battle of Hongtoushan went against a common military knowledge. Despite heavy odds, we virtually annihilated the enemy. On our side only Ri Tu Su was wounded by a bullet\and sent to hospital in the rear.

After the battle I sent a night raid party to the enemy’s camp\and also took measures to slip off towards Fusong, as the enemy, although it had withdrawn, would return with reinforcements at any time. It would not be advantageous to continue fighting there, as our force was too small. The best thing to be done in such a situation was to slip away. While discussing ways of pulling out, a bugle note of our guerrilla unit for a charge rang out down the valley, followed by loud rifle crackings. The unit led by O Jung Hup was attacking the enemy.

On hearing rom the people that the enemy’s “punitive” forces had moved towards Hongtoushan, he ran hurry-scurry to us, fearing for the safety of Headquarters. Along with the night raid party we had sent, he showered heavy fire upon the enemy’s camp\and annihilated to the last man the remnants of the enemy.

After wiping out the enemy, O Jung Hup sent Han Ik Su to me to ask whether he should lead his unit into Hongtoushan. I\ordered him to move as planned, now that the enemy’s raid had been completely frustrated. Even after receiving my\orders, he confirmed the safety of Headquarters before returning to Heixiazigou. O Jung Hup was truly faithful to me.

A peasant in Erdaogang, who had carried goods for the Japanese troops at the time of the Hongtoushan battle\and disposed of their dead bodies, said the following to a group of Korean visitors:

“In those days the Japanese soldiers drafted one man by force rom each household. Most of us, who had been forced to do the dirty work, had frost-bitten toes\and in the worst cases lost all their toes. When I was drafted for the first time, I was scared. Lying on the battlefield, I sweated all over. However, all the battles ended in the victory of the guerrillas. I was so glad that I forgot all my fatigue. When the enemy took flight, they told us to bring along those dirty corpses, a really disgusting job. At the time of Hongtoushan battle there were so many corpses that we could not carry them all on stretchers; so we unwrapped the puttees rom the dead, tied their necks\and dragged them.”


One day I received a Japanese press delegation visiting our country, which included a tall newspaperman. During the interview he silently took notes. However, during a luncheon he unlocked his heart. He said: “I thought you, President Kim, would be a ferocious man, as you had been known as the ‘tiger of Mt. Paektu’, but today I realize that you are a benevolent man. To tell the truth, I was second lieutenant of the Japanese army, who narrowly escaped rom destruction at the Hongtoushan battle. I survived your raid, because I was sent out to inspect the sentries at that time. My survival cost me a beating by the military police. I had a hard time of it. This incident induced me to abandon my military career\and I subsequently became a journalist.”


The enemy involved in the Hongtoushan battle was a composite “punitive” force made up of Japanese\and puppet Manchukuo troops. On the whole Japanese soldiers were killed; few Manchukuo troops died.

The Japanese officers beat\and kicked the Manchukuo officers, saying, “How can you return alive when all the Imperial Army soldiers were killed in the battle? Have the guerrillas’ bullets been magnetized to trace only Japanese soldiers? There is no such bullet. Your survival is proof positive that you doubtlessly maintain secret relations with the guerrillas.”

What is the main reason behind our victory in the battle of Hongtoushan, fought against overwhelming numerical strength? It can be attributed to the strong mental power of our men.

The conviction of sure victory, an unbreakable fighting spirit, the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance\and fortitude, devotion\and self-sacrificing spirit—these qualities are now called in our country the “revolutionary spirit of Paektu”.

We emerged victorious in every battle with the enemy at all times\and in all places, because we were full of confidence in victory,\and maintained an indefatigable fighting\and self-sacrificing spirit without losing our composure\and hope, even in confrontation with an enemy force, which was dozens of times stronger in number.

Many examples prove our anti-Japanese guerrillas’ unfailing confidence in victory\and their indomitable fighting spirit.

Ri Tu Su spent hard days with a few sick\and wounded guerrillas, including Ri Kye Sun\and Pak Sun Il, in a hospital located in a cave, under the treatment of doctor Song. It was a hospital in name only; it had no proper medicines, syringes\and scalpels. However, this ill-equipped hospital brimmed over with the “revolutionary spirit of Paektu”.

Pak Sun Il, head of the munitions section of the 2nd Division, fell seriously ill; gangrene set in his foot as he had not received treatment in time.

Immediately after the battle of Pochonbo I sent to those in hospital medicines, canned food, summer uniforms, shoes\and other goods captured at the battle\and provisions with a letter wishing them a speedy recovery, so that they could join us on the battlefield.

On receiving the letter, Pak Sun Il produced a saw he had made personally with an empty can\and declared that he would amputate his gangrened foot with his own hands.

All his comrades, including doctor Song, dissuaded him, advising him to seek out another path.

Nevertheless, Pak Sun Il remained determined; he reproached his comrades for being passive in their sympathy for him. He said, “I’ve already decided to amputate my foot with my hands. I need only a little help rom you to put my determination into effect. Please hold my foot. I want to recover as soon as possible\and return to my revolutionary post.”

I heard that he amputated his gangrened foot on his own with a pliant tin saw, singing revolutionary songs for six whole days\and falling unconscious only after the operation. Fortunately the wound healed up without causing further trouble.

In the early winter of that year they moved deeper into the mountain, built a grass hut\and lived there. However, as bad luck would have it, the hut was detected by the enemy’s “punitive” forces.

Spotting the enemy before anybody else, Pak Sun Il grabbed an enemy soldier who was flying at him to capture him alive,\and tumbled down a cliff with him with only one aim in mind: to save his comrades. He shouted, “The punitive forces!” Although he had preserved his life by amputating his foot for the revolution, he laid down his life without hesitation for his comrades. Such people lived on Mt. Paektu\and fought there.

Thanks to his cries, Ri Tu Su who had been away rom the hut to collect firewood, could easily escape. However, Ri Kye Sun\and a few others were captured. The rest were all killed.

Left alone on the mountain without his comrades, provisions\and hut, Ri Tu Su suffered severely. He went hungry without seeing a grain of cereals for six whole days. Then he found two bowlfuls of beans Ri Kye Sun had saved grain by grain when preparing meals. After eating the beans, he subsisted on grass, which wild boars are said to graze. He had to live in the open like a primitive man with a piece of threadbare sack on his body in the bitter cold of Mt. Paektu, as his clothes had been worn out. How can I describe all his sufferings in those days? Crows flew in every day\and perched on the tree branches around him, croaking noisily. At times they would fly low by turns\and flap his face with their wings.

 

Ri Tu Su himself thought that he would be better off dead, as even the embers he had been keeping with so much care in the ashes had died out.

But, just when he had decided to give up his life, he was reminded of my wish to meet again on the battlefield after full recovery\and the last moments of Pak Sun Il, who had tumbled down a cliff to save his comrades.

“I have no right to die. Death would be treachery to the comrades who saved me at the cost of their lives. The Commander\ordered me to survive\and come to the battlefield again. I have no right to disobey such an\order.”

He made desperate efforts to survive. Living alone for three months\and 20 days on the mountain, which was no better than an isolated island, without any food\and clothes, he miraculously preserved his life. Like him, Pak Sun Il, Ri Kye Sun\and all the other comrades-in-arms were undying men, who had cherished spirits as high as the peaks of Paektu, even when sacrificing their lives.


After the battle of Hongtoushan, we fought at Taoquanli\and Limingshui successively.

Soon after the battle of Hongtoushan I led the main force to the Xiagangqu area in Changbai County. As the enemy concentrated again large forces in the area surrounding Mt. Paektu\and conducted an extensive search, it was necessary to attract their attention to another place, in\order to unfold a fresh military operation. Our main unit’s move to that area constituted a tactical move to crush the enemy’s “winter punitive operations” once\and for all, after dispersing their forces\and throwing them into confusion. We had\originally planned to meet the comrades rom southern Manchuria after the lunar New Year’s Day.


When the unit arrived at a village near Yaofangzi, I\ordered it to billet there\and sent out a scout party to Taoquanli. On their way to the village the scouts came across a member of the underground\organization in Taoquanli who was coming to our small unit with information of the enemy’s movements. He reported that a Jingan army unit, which had gone here\and there to no avail all winter, tricked by our tactics of combining large\and small units’ activities, was roaming in search of our Headquarters to fight to the finish.


To reach Taoquanli\or Choeryonggam valley rom Yaofangzi, we had to pass through a long lane between birch trees, brambles, reeds taller than a man,\and entanglements of purple eulalia. We went to the upper village in Taoquanli along that lane; at that time Choe Kum San, my\orderly, stepped in the shrubbery\and had his eye prickled by a thorn, raising a fuss.

If we drew the enemy in that 12-kilometre-long lane, they would have to march in one line\and our main force could lie in ambush at important points behind fallen trees to vanquish them piecemeal without great difficulty.

Deciding to make the enemy dog-tired via enticement by a small unit,\and annihilate them to the last man via the ambush of a large force, I called O Jung Hup to Headquarters. I instructed him to lure the enemy into the lane of the plateau\and beat them piecemeal. When the enemy’s marching column appeared, the decoy party opened surprise fire at the head of column\and then quickly ran away to the plateau, full of thornbush\where our men were lying in ambush. The duped enemy chased them rashly.

The decoy party entered the lane tangled with thornbush. The thornbush resembled a barrier, just like a wire entanglement, to an enemy who had not been accustomed to mountain life. Owing to the thornbush, the enemy force was naturally cut into pieces. The men in ambush unleashed a shower of bullets here\and there on the enemy’s column. The enemy ran pell-mell up\and down the valley\and then fell bleeding on the snow. Hundreds of the enemy were smashed by our tactics of piecemeal annihilation. When dusk began to set, the enemy fled to Taoquanli, leaving a large number of those killed\and wounded in the battlefield.


The underground\organization in Taoquanli informed us that the enemy seemed to return to their base that night. Apparently they were making haste out of fear of a night raid.

More than two hours were needed for our unit to go rom our assembly place to the road in front of Taoquanli. We needed to delay the time of the enemy’s departure in\order to gain time for our advance along the road. So I gave the underground\organization the directive to delay the preparations of their supper.

The\organization delayed the preparation of supper deliberately to enable our unit to climb down the plateau\and occupy the ambush position. The enemy, in a fever of fretfulness, urged that supper be served quickly, but Jong Tong Chol, the village head\and a member of the underground\organization, dragged on the preparations of the meal by killing chickens\and hulling rice as if giving a feast, saying that he could not slight the treat of the Jingan army soldiers, who had come all the way to his village. Consequently, the enemy left the village almost at midnight. By that time we had already prepared the ambush on both sides of the road\and had been awaiting them for almost half an hour.


In this ambush we completely annihilated the Jingan army unit. The corpses of the enemy were spread over the plateau covered with purple eulalia. The guerrillas disarmed the corpses\and evacuated quietly. I was told that 24 oxen had been needed to carry those corpses to Shisandaogou, each sleigh carrying nine corpses. rom that day the people felt delighted at the enemy’s defeat, saying, “What does a sleighful load of 9 corpses by 24 make?”

After the battle at Taoquanli our unit moved to the valley of Fuhoushui. There we met comrades rom southern Manchuria\and, in joint operations with them, fought another victorious battle. It was the conclusive battle, putting an end to the enemy’s “large winter punitive operations”.

Thanks to the defeat of the “punitive” operations which the enemy had planned to the best of their ability\and the successive victories of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, the Changbai area had completely become our world.  The  Japanese  imperialists  desperately  schemed  to  check  the revolutionary army’s advance into the homeland by overpowering the KPRA with military strength, but only suffered defeat at every battle. They resorted to every  means,  calling  me  “boss of  the bandits” \and “ringleader of  the communist bandits”, in\order to ruin me politically\and entomb me morally, but to no avail. So they trembled with fear, describing our guerrilla tactics as protean\and elusive.

The Japanese\and Manchukuo army\and police were driven into a tight corner by our ever-changing tactics. The enemy most feared “net tactics”. They repeatedly emphasized through their publications\and internal directives that one should not be trapped in the net tactics in mountainous areas. They all feared that once caught in the net, they would be unable to escape. “Net tactics” is a name they gave to the ambush, the most typical guerrilla tactics of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. Net here means encirclement\or pit with no wayout.


After defeat in the “punitive” operations rom late 1936 to early 1937, the enemy spoke in great detail about their experiences in those operations, the hard times they had faced, trapped in our “net tactics”.


The May 1937 issue of Tiexin, the magazine of the puppet Manchukuo police, carried the writings of Ishizawa, the Japanese military instructor of the Composite Brigade, entitled On the Raid of Kim Il Sung’s Guerrillas\and Impressions of the Recent Punitive Operations\and later his article in the form of an interview, entitled, My Experience of the Punitive Operations. In these writings he acknowledged the tactical perfectness of the “net tactics”, adding, “Throughout the period of recent ‘punitive’ operations we can see that the guerrillas mainly employ ‘net tactics’. They resort to such stereotyped tactics not only when their force is smaller than ours but also when it is bigger. In February this year all our soldiers fought bravely in an encounter with Kim Il Sung’s guerrillas near Dajiapigou southwest of the Fusong county town but died honourable deaths in their defeat, failing mainly because they were trapped in the ‘net tactics’ of the guerrillas.” Confessing that there were many such examples, he once again warned of the need to be wary of the nets.


Apparently Comintern schools paid attention to our guerrilla tactics. Pak Kwang Son, an anti-Japanese revolutionary veteran, recalled whenever he had the occasion, that the school teachers had frequently mentioned the guerrilla tactics of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. The Comintern ran schools in the Soviet\union; the communists in Manchuria in those days called them Comintern schools\or Comintern universities. These schools gave political\and military education to the students\and communists, who had come there on the recommendations of revolutionary\organizations in various countries in the world. Pak Kwang Son studied in one of them for some years.

The gun reports, raised by the KPRA in the Changbai area, struck terror into the hearts of the top hierarchies of the Government-General of Korea, the Japanese army\and police in Korea,\and the politicians, warlords\and capitalists in Japan.\whereas the aggressors\and reactionaries were struck silent by the gun reports, our people were delighted.

The daring military operations we carried on with credit in Changbai opened up the way to enable the KPRA to advance into the homeland. These operations made the status of our revolutionary army the indisputable main force of the Korean revolution.

I do not think that the battles we fought in Changbai are world-breaking, great battles. In the world history of war, there are a great number of well-publicized campaigns\and decisive battles, which led to thousands, tens of thousands\and even hundreds of thousands of casualties. Our operations involved only hundreds of our troops, while the enemy’s casualties numbered only hundreds\or thousands.

However, we look back on these battles with great pride. We treasure the spirit of the revolutionary army displayed in the arduous struggle. The willpower of the people’s revolutionary army overpowered the enemy. It is a law that victory is inevitably won when a man overpowers the enemy mentally.

Consequently we treasure the traces of the bloody battles we fought in Changbai.



 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 5. The Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  2. In the Dear Walled Town

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  4. The Women’s Company

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  5. The Secret Camp on Mt. Paektu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  6. Patriotic Landowner Kim Jong Bu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  1. West Jiandao

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  2. The Sound of the Watermill

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  3. Ri Je Sun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  4. With the Comrades-in-Arms in Southern Manchuria

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  5. Samil Wolgan

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 2. Homeland Party Working Committee



   

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