It was the winter of 1934, shortly after the beginning of the Long March.
The Red Army’s 25th army had been struggling to shake off the pursuit of heavy enemy forces for 10 days. Outgunned and outnumbered, the army was eventually trapped in a misty forest. As they prepared for a desperate final assault, all seemed lost. But Wu Huanxian, the army’s commissar, rallied the soldiers and led them on a charge forcing the enemy into hand-to-hand combat.
Inspired by Wu, the soldiers fought bravely and gained a hard-earned victory, and the 25th Army marched on.
During the Long March, the Red Army suffered grave casualties and many of the army corps were totally decimated. But under Wu’s command, the 25th Army not only survived, but also expanded as Wu won trust with his inspirational character and respectful manner.
When the army was passing through Hui communities, made up of Chinese ethnic Muslim groups, Wu gave strict orders and specific instructions to his soldiers demanding that they respect the religious beliefs of the locals. Grateful for his courtesy, the Hui people offered the army food and shelter, and a good number of young herdsmen even gave up their possessions to join the ranks of the Red Army.
On August 21, 1935, the 25th Army traveled to Gansu Province in northwest China. As the soldiers crossed a river, a regiment of enemy cavalry caught up with their rear. Wu and his troops destroyed the enemy forces, but although the battle was won, Wu took a bullet in the chest and died.
Wu was buried near the same river, but the 25th Army carried on his legacy and became the first to arrive at the destination of the Long March.