Last Chinese War Hero Suffers Destitution and Insult

February 2, 2011 2:31 pm Last Updated: February 2, 2011 6:25 pm

China’s last surviving soldier, a war hero of the famous 1937 Battle of Shanghai, is destitute and without medical care or pension. A local official once told him to ask for benefits from Taiwan as the war he fought in predates communist rule.

Ninety-one year old Yang Genkui lives in Sichuan Province. His right eye is almost blind. He said it was damaged by tear gas from the Japanese army during the Sihang battle. When asked what kind of benefits he has received all these years, Yang said “none.”

Yang once asked for financial help from officials in Jintang County, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, and was told to “go to Taiwan and ask the Kuomintang [party] for benefits.”

The official was implying that since the battle Yang fought in was between the National Revolutionary Army and the Japanese–predating the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) take-over–Yang was not eligible to receive a pension or medical benefits from the CCP.

The Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, were ruling China at the time. Later, in 1949, they lost China to the communists and fled to Taiwan where they became a major political party, called Kuomintang.

Yang told the official: “It was for our country [not a particular party] that I fought the Japanese!”

Yang was born in March 1921 into a family of three generations of blacksmiths. He joined the military in February 1936. After winning the war against Japan, he returned home and became a blacksmith again, according to the Yangcheng Evening News.

People in his village knew that he was a nationalist soldier but no one knew that he was one of the heroes of the famous battle of Shanghai.

Last of the ‘800 Warriors’

The Battle of Shanghai was one of China’s most heroic battles to fend off the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War. The aim of this battle was to delay the Japanese invasion into China. The nationalist soldiers would rather die than surrender, and they completely defeated Japan’s plan to conquer China within three months.

Of the Battle of Shanghai, the most well-known and heroic fight was the safeguarding of the Sihang warehouse.

During the night of Oct. 26, 1937, the 500,000 nationalist soldiers were ordered to withdraw from Shanghai to prepare for a prolonged resistance war, because several vital towns in the area had already been lost.

However, Chiang Kai-shek ordered one battalion of 397 soldiers under the command of Xie Jinyuan to remain behind to defend the strategic Sihang warehouse on the northern bank of the Suzhou Creek, and to give Chinese troops more time to retreat.

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