Liberation of Yixian: The First Shot of Liaoshen Campaign

  In the spring of 1948, under the strong offensive of our army, the Kuomintang troops in Northeast China retreated to three isolated areas: Changchun, Shenyang and Jinzhou. On September 20th of the same year, the Third Column, the Fifth Division of the Second Column and the First Division of the Artillery Corps of the Northeast People’s Liberation Army quickly and covertly attacked Yixian from Liaoyuan, Dongfeng and Siping areas, unexpectedly compressed and surrounded more than 12,000 enemy troops on the defensive, including the 20th Division of the Kuomintang 93rd Army, local teams and landlord armed forces, and cut off their retreat to Jinzhou, thus opening the prelude to the Liaoshen campaign. Recently, the reporter interviewed several veterans who participated in the first shot of this magnificent war.

  There is only one goal for the army and the people.

  Yixiang County is the hub leading to the railway intersection of Jinzhou, Chengde and Shenyang. Nearly 6 square kilometers of the county seat has an ancient city wall with a height of 10 meters and a width of 3.5 meters. There is a moat with a width of 4 meters and a depth of 22 meters outside the wall. Since ancient times, it has been the throat of entering and leaving the customs, and it is a battleground for military strategists.

  At that time, Liu Yongzhi was the operational staff of the Northeast People’s Liberation Army (later served as the head of a artillery regiment stationed in Jinzhou). Although he is now an octogenarian, he still remembers the experience at that time. He said that the provisional 20th Division of the 93rd Army of the Kuomintang (KMT) defending the enemy in Yixian was a semi-American mechanical equipment unit trained by an American advisory group, with a total strength of more than 7,000 people, three quarters of whom were veterans, and had never been hit hard in the past. Major General Wang Shigao and Deputy Major General Runzhen Han are quite conceited about their troops. In addition, there are more than 5,000 local teams and landlords in the city. The enemy troops on the defensive are not only strong in Ma Zhuang, with excellent weapons and sufficient ammunition, but also build a large number of light machine gun positions with single bunkers on the periphery of Chengguan, build bunker groups and minefields by using independent villages and cemeteries on the periphery, transform Chengguan buildings into hidden castles, set up a large number of barbed wire, plum blossom piles, tripping ropes, etc., and dig out moats with a depth of 3 meters and a large number of light and dark shelters based on the ancient city wall, forming a vast and deep three-dimensional defense.

  After the Northeast People’s Liberation Army completed the siege of Yixian with superior forces, in order to find out the enemy’s defense situation, it sent a small number of troops to spy on the enemy’s troops, weapons and deployment. At the same time, various departments of our army launched a powerful political offensive against the enemy on the defensive, such as shouting, distributing leaflets and sending publicity materials through various channels. "Luo Youkun, the platoon leader of the 6th Company and 3rd platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Battalion on the defensive, is a young man with a sense of justice. He is extremely dissatisfied with the Kuomintang army’s rampage and oppression of the people in the county town. After carefully reading the propaganda materials of our army, he secretly got in touch with our army in the frontier position. Just a few days before the siege, he led the infantry platoon and the heavy machine gun platoon to surrender, and our army took over his position, which provided convenient conditions for liberating the county town." Liu Yongzhi said.

  According to the information we have, our generals have made a comprehensive analysis of the war situation. Everyone agrees that there is a natural barrier of Daling River in the northwest, and the terrain in the northeast is too narrow to deploy troops. The terrain in the south of the city is open and blocked by a moat, but the terrain in the southwest is high, which is easy to observe. Although the southwest is the defense area with the strongest defensive firepower, our army can rely on the railway subgrade as a position, exert the powerful power of various artillery, and hit the defensive enemy with lightning speed. So, on September 26th, the generals decided to strengthen pre-war training and preparation while besieging and harassing the enemy on the defensive. On October 1st, they concentrated their fire on breaking through the enemy’s defense from the southwest of the city!

  At this time, Comrade Mao Zedong issued the "Operational Policy on Liaoshen Campaign" by electrifying the whole army, which greatly boosted the morale of the commanders and fighters. While carrying out actual combat drills in specific division of labor, various units began to dig trenches one after another. The 2nd vertical and 5th divisions dug all the way from the east of Songjiatun in the west of the city to the Yugoslav capital, with a total length of more than 7,300 meters. The 3rd vertical and 8th divisions and the 9th divisions dug all the way from the enemy’s southernmost bunker group to the wall, which provided a reliable guarantee for the troops to transfer, contact and break through in combat.

  In the pre-war preparations, the people also took active actions. In the PLA station, people steamed dry food and sent military shoes everywhere. Ma Zhancai, an old veteran of Liulonggou Township in Yixian who participated in this campaign, recalled: "At that time, more than 3,000 peasant children signed up to join the army in five days in four mountainous areas in the west of Yixian, and a new corps was formed, which could be added to the army at any time. Liulonggou donated 1.2 million Jin of rations overnight, and organized more than 3,000 stretchers to be transported with the army. Li Jingxin and other poor people in the south of the city actively took the initiative to be guides and draw maps for the siege troops … "The deep affection of the military and civilians, fish and water, flooded the land filled with smoke, and the military and civilians were united in one mind, with only one goal: to liberate Yi County and capture Wang Shigao alive!

  Nearly 100 officers and men were left with only 17 people, and the "steel company" was born.

  After the enemy on the defensive was surrounded, Wang Shigao, the enemy commander, was like a cat on hot bricks, and he was in a state of panic. He repeatedly asked his boss in Jinzhou for reinforcements. On September 24th, Fan Hanjie, the leader of enemy troops on the defensive in Jinzhou and the deputy commander of the Kuomintang Northeast "Suppression General", mobilized more than 4,000 troops of the 93rd Army to help Yixian in the north, only to find that he was surrounded and annihilated by my 8th and 9th columns near Qilihe River, and the surviving remnants fled back to Jinzhou.

  Jinzhou had no choice but to send planes to bomb Yixian every day to cheer for the enemy. However, according to the command of the headquarters, our army sent a large number of small units to use the trench as a cover to attack enemy strongholds and bunkers day and night, scaring the enemy not to light up or sleep, and shooting at random at the slightest sign of trouble. Before the siege of our army started, the defensive troops were exhausted and the ammunition was running out.

  Yang Haitian, then the platoon leader and later the division commander of a certain department in shenyang military area command, recalled: "At 10 o’clock on the 28th, Fan Hanjie sent eight planes to airdrop ammunition for defending the enemy in Yixian, which was severely bombarded by our anti-aircraft artillery group. The planes did not dare to fly low, but only threw it blindly at high altitude. Most of the ammunition fell on our positions and few floated into the city."

  The "generosity" of the "Transport Battalion Chief" and the enemy’s defensive forces gave us all the support, which further inspired the morale of our army. The enemy’s peripheral positions were recovered inch by inch by our army, and Yixiang County was like an island, which was just around the corner. According to the general attack plan, our army must clear all the defensive positions on the periphery on the 29th and 30th. On the morning of 29th, a gap was opened in the main position south of the city by our army. A battalion commander on the defensive was killed, and the enemy was even more flustered, and it was a mess up and down …

  At the same time, our army’s battle to conquer the outlying strongholds is going on fiercely. Wujiaxiao Temple is an important stronghold of the enemy’s western Yugoslav capital. Here, there is a reinforced battalion for defending the enemy, equipped with heavy firepower such as heavy machine guns and 60 guns, and five big bunkers, 21 small bunkers and four shelters have been built in Fiona Fang, 50 meters away from the stronghold, which are connected by criss-crossing traffic trenches, and there are back channels leading to the city.

  The task of conquering and sticking to this strongest fortress fell on the shoulders of the officers and men of the 14 th regiment and the 10 th company of the second column of our army. This heroic company, which was awarded the title of "invincible", all the commanders and fighters were ready to go. Wang Qiang, an old veteran of Jinzhou who participated in this battle, recalled: "On the afternoon of September 30, under the cover of our army’s artillery fire, the 10th company’s blasting group blew up eight enemy bunkers in succession and controlled a large section of the wall in the southwest corner of the city. However, the enemy in the southeast corner of the bunker violently counterattacked our army, and the roaring artillery fire made people unable to look up. The deputy company commander immediately ordered Zhang Zuopei, a second class soldier and an expert in blasting, to’ blow it up!’" Zhang Zuopei, with two explosive barrels, rolled a few on the spot, detoured to the right side of the bunker’s fire port, and sounded the explosive barrel … The smoke that blew up the bunker had not been cleared, and the enemy suddenly began shelling. I lost more than half of my ten officers and soldiers, and all the platoon cadres died. In the case of losing the command of the platoon leader, the squad leader Wang Fengjiang bravely took responsibility and directed the soldiers to beat back the enemy’s six counterattacks with grenades and submachine guns. When the enemy came back for the seventh time, Wang Fengjiang and his comrades-in-arms had run out of bullets. At a critical moment, the cook Lao Gao climbed into the position with a box of 60 shells on his back. As soon as Wang Fengjiang saw it, he immediately opened the shell box, grabbed the shell and unscrewed the safety cap. He threw the shell at the enemy group, and his comrades-in-arms followed suit. The enemy left a body and fled back to the county seat. "In this battle, I even nearly 100 officers and men, only 17 people. After the war, eight people, including Wang Fengjiang, were each credited with great achievements, and the tenth company was named "Steel Company" by the column.

  At the same time, our army’s attack on the outlying strongholds such as Nanguan, Dongguan and the railway station has also been quite fierce. In the battle against the railway station, Wang Shigao, the enemy commander, personally supervised the battle, but the stubborn enemy defenders failed to escape the fate of failure. In just over two hours, our army wiped out more than 400 people on the defensive at the station and killed the chief of staff of the first defensive regiment.

  On the 30th, the fierce battle to wipe out the peripheral enemy troops on the defensive lasted more than 4 hours and ended successfully. Enemy at the Gates, an army of all stripes, has become a turtle on the defensive.

  At 11 o’clock this evening, the enemy commander Wang Shigao called a meeting of all officers at or above the regimental level, and finally decided to lead the remnants to break through in the Chaoyang direction after dark on October 1, then turned to Suizhong and Xingcheng, and then moved closer to Jinzhou …

  After more than five hours of fierce fighting, the ancient city of Yixian was conquered.

  On the morning of October 1, 1948, in the general headquarters of the Northeast People’s Liberation Army on the mound south of Yixian County, the artillery commander Zhu Rui, the commander of the third column Han Xianchu and the political commissar of the column Luo Shunchu all waited quietly for the arrival of the general attack.

  Liu Yongzhi, then the staff officer of the three vertical operations, recalled that at 9 o’clock sharp, Han Xianchu raised his telescope and observed the uneven ground for a while, took out his pocket watch and turned his head to say to Zhu Rui, "Time is up." At Zhu Rui’s command, cannons of various calibers roared, and 100,000 rounds of artillery shells exploded in enemy positions, fortifications, artillery towers and city walls with revenge anger. In an instant, the city wall in the southwest of the city was "torn" to open a gap more than 40 meters wide. General Zhu Rui was very excited to see this scene in the telescope and ordered the artillery to extend and shoot. At this time, the troops ambushing in the west, south and east of the city stormed the city like tigers coming down the mountain. With the cover of the corner, streets and planes, the enemy concentrated all their firepower and fought fiercely with the enemy. The eighth company of the ninth division and the seventh company of the fifth division, in order for the troops to pass through the moat smoothly, the second class of the eighth company took the initiative to undertake the task of bridging the bridge. When the bridge was just about to be completed several times, it was destroyed by the enemy, but the soldiers became more and more brave and did not flinch. The soldier Wu Xi Road was shot 13 times, and he still insisted on fighting and loudly encouraged his comrades. The soldier Liu Manchang was shot in the abdomen and his small intestine was exposed. He still threw the last Grenade in his hand at the enemy group. Xie Laitang, a soldier, was stabbed by the enemy when climbing the city. He grabbed the bloody bayonet and climbed the city wall, and put a red flag on the top of the city … In the east of the city, the soldiers of the first battalion of our army went straight to the Hujia compound where the enemy’s third regiment command post was stationed, and beat back the enemy armored vehicles several times.

  At 12 noon, our army attacked the vicinity of the Bell and Drum Tower, and was resisted by more than 200 remnants of the enemy’s division command post. Zhang Feng, head of the 13th regiment of the Fifth Division (later commander of Lanzhou Military Region), ordered the Fourth Company and the Sixth Company to detour from both sides. The two companies threw smoke bombs and grenades into the courtyard of the enemy command post to blast the courtyard wall, and the soldiers rushed into the hospital at the same time, all of them annihilated the enemy.

  However, among more than 1,000 prisoners of war, Wang Shigao, the enemy commander, was not seen. Zhang Tuanchang ordered the search. Finally, Wang Shigao and Runzhen Han, the deputy commander, were taken out of a hidden bomb shelter by five soldiers. Wang Shigao, who has always been arrogant and arrogant, was unkempt, dusty and disheartened …

  At about 1: 30 pm, after fierce street fighting and hand-to-hand combat, our army captured the enemy county government, the last stronghold in the city. After more than five hours of fierce fighting, the whole battle in Yixian County finally ended successfully.

  In the tough battle in Yixian, more than 1,100 warriors of our army left their lives on this land forever. General Zhu Rui was one of the generals who died in this battle. He was the highest-ranking general of our army who died in the war of liberation.

  Liu Yongzhi recalled: "On October 1, the general attack on Yixian began. General Zhu Rui was very excited to see that the artillery he had created was playing so well in this tough battle. He said to commander Han Xianchu and political commissar Luo Shunchu,’ I’ll go to the front and have a look.’ Korea’s commander, luo commissar with one voice don’t let go. Zhu Rui said:’ I want to see how thick the city wall is, how many shells can be used to blast it, how to beat this ancient city wall better, and how many problems still exist at the impact point.’ The two leaders reluctantly acquiesced, but repeatedly told to pay attention to safety. When other generals of the artillery headquarters saw that Commander Zhu was going to the front, they all followed him. At this time, most of the siege troops entered the city, and the street fighting was in full swing. They came out from the headquarters and walked along a ditch. At this time, there was a remnant enemy shooting at them at the Laoye Temple in Nanguan. To prevent accidents, they went down to the bottom of the ditch and walked along both sides of the carriage road. General Zhu Rui unfortunately stepped on the mines buried by the enemy and died at the age of 43 … "

Editor: Li Yongchao