In May 1935, Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek deployed a huge force to the north bank of the Dadu River with one aim: to eliminate the Red Army.
Luding Bridge was the only path for soldiers to cross the river, so securing it was vital for the Red Army. The task to seize and protect the 90-meter-long walkway fell to troops under the command of 34-year-old Huang Kaixiang.
On the afternoon of May 29, 22 warriors crawled along the bridge, which consisted of 13 heavy iron chains with most of the wooden planks removed by the enemy. Facing a massive assault from the other bank, Huang deployed all the mortars and machine guns at his disposal.
When the army was partway across the bridge, the enemy poured kerosene on the iron chains and set them ablaze. But Huang led the charge forward and after half an hour of fierce fighting finally took control of the bridge.
And in September 1935, under Huang’s leadership, the Lazikou mountain pass was seized, carving out a route for the army to march toward Shaanxi Province.
The soldiers celebrated their successful reunion with other forces in Shaanxi in October 1935, but Huang died just one month later.
Huang joined the Communist Party in 1926. He was a supply department official initially, but insisted on fighting on the front line. He was so famous for his use of an axe as a weapon that he was dubbed the “Axe General” by Mao Zedong.