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Military veteran kept his war heroics hidden


Jiang Cheng, a member of the Communist Party of China, was a hero of the war but his exploits were unknown for more than three decades until an unclaimed letter was opened and revealed his courageous efforts.

China DailyUpdated: March 22, 2021

"Valiantly and spiritedly, we cross the Yalu River," the elderly man repeatedly sang when he was recently visited by reporters in his village home in Chongqing.

Army veteran Jiang Cheng at his home in Chongqing's Hechuan district. [Photo by Deng Rui/China Daily]

Military veteran Jiang Cheng, 93, has cerebral atrophy, a degenerative brain condition, and is barely able to recognize his family members any more.

However, he does remember the line from the March of the Chinese People's Volunteers, a popular song about the Chinese military efforts in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53).

Jiang, a member of the Communist Party of China, was a hero of the war but his exploits were unknown for more than three decades until an unclaimed letter was opened and revealed his courageous efforts.

With the CPC celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the bravery and humility of the model Party member from Guangfu village, Longxing township in Hechuan district, has again thrust him into the spotlight.

"I was proud to serve the people and there is nothing to brag about," family members recall Jiang saying before his dementia worsened. "I just fulfilled the duty of a Party member."

After the war, Jiang had lived a modest life as a farmer, until mail from 35 years earlier revealed his military past.

In 1988, an unclaimed letter containing a military meritorious service award was noticed by a county archivist in Hechuan. The letter was jointly sent by the headquarters and political department of the Chinese People's Volunteers army in 1953. However, it was wrongly addressed to a Jiang Cheng in Xinglong township instead of Longxing and sent to the county archives.

A local official opened the letter, which read, "You Comrade Jiang Cheng, with bravery and good marksmanship, led your battalion to break through the enemy's blockades and wiped out more than 400 enemies, destroyed an enemy heavy machine gun and shot down an enemy aircraft, holding ground firmly despite a serious injury, and have cooperated with the infantry to complete the task which played an important role in the victory of the Battle of Shangganling."

It was easy to trace Jiang as there were only two or three veterans from the Korean engagement still living in Longxing. Jiang was 60 years old and those around him, even close family members, only saw him as a farmer and silkworm breeder as he had never disclosed his combat achievements.

A certificate of the meritorious service award given to Jiang by the Chinese People's Volunteers army. [Photo by Deng Rui/China Daily]

Battalion leader

Born into a poor family in Hechuan in 1928 he joined the army at the age of 21, he later told his family. He was a machine-gunner during the Korean war and later appointed a battalion leader. Jiang joined the CPC in June 1952.

In October 1952, the Battle of Shangganling, or Triangle Hill, broke out. CPV troops were ordered to hold the position, which was under heavy artillery and air strikes by the United States military. Jiang led his battalion to help hold out the US soldiers.

During the battle, Jiang was badly injured by fragments from a bomb dropped by a US aircraft. He suffered major stomach wounds, but continued fighting until he lost consciousness, he told relatives.

He underwent 10 surgeries to repair the damage and has a large scar on his stomach.

In 1954, Jiang and his comrades returned to China and participated in the construction of barracks in Jiangshan, Zhejiang province, which earned him more military awards for his outstanding contributions.

In February 1955, he was discharged from the army and returned to his hometown. However, he locked his medals in an iron box and never spoke about his war experiences, his relatives said.

"I only saw those medals once when he opened that box to wipe the dust away. Few family members had seen them," Jiang Qipeng, his younger brother, said.

Jiang Cheng told his brother, "I just want to fight more enemies. That's my purpose of serving the people."

A retirement pledge written in his military record reads, "I'll work wherever my country needs me."

Jiang Cheng never used his military honors to ask for preferential treatment in the civilian world. The man of few words also did arduous construction work on the Chengdu-Chongqing Railway for nine years, and bred silk worms for 24 years before he retired.

Anti-poverty work

He also tried his best to help his village out of poverty. In the 1980s, he applied for a large loan and used it to lead construction of roads in the village. "This is probably the only thing my father left me," his youngest son Jiang Minghui said. "I took eight years to pay off the debt."

Jiang Cheng's eldest son Jiang Renjun, also a retired soldier, recalled his father's words before he went into the army, "Be ready to sacrifice, be strict with yourself and don't make trouble for the country."

In 2015, at age 87, Jiang Cheng transferred the right to use his family's land to a company for olive plant cultivation, and volunteered to encourage villagers to embrace agricultural innovations.

"My father seldom talked about that war before," Jiang Minghui said. "But in the last two years he would often go on about a battle even though he could hardly speak cogently or recognize his family members."