Yang Chengwu was a People’s Liberation Army general who as a teenager participated in the Long March. Here he recalls the crossing of the Luding Bridge:
“The attack begun at four in the afternoon. The regimental commander and I directed it from the west end of the bridge. The buglers of the regiment gathered together to sound the chare, and we opened up with every weapon we had. The blare of the bugles, the firing and the shouts of the men reverberated through the valley.
The 22 heroes, led by Commander Liao, crept across on the swaying bridge chains in the teeth of intense enemy fire. Each man carried a tommy-gun or a pistol, a broadsword and 12 hand grenades. Behind them came the men of the Third Company, each carrying a plank in addition to full battle gear. They fought and laid planks at the same time.
Just as the assault party reached the bridgehead on the opposite side, huge flames sprang into the sky outside the town’s west gate. The enemy was trying to throw a fire barrier across our path. The blaze, reddening the sky, licked fiercely across the end of the bridge.
The outcome of the attack hung in the air… With the clarion call of the bugles, our assault party swiftly plunged into the flames. Commander Liao’s cap caught on fire. He threw it away and fought on. The others also dashed through the flames, closely behind Liao…
Our gallant men fought until all their bullets and grenades were spent. The Third Company came charging to their rescue. The regimental Commander Wang and I sped across the bridge with our reinforcements and entered the town… The enemy’s dream ended in smoke… Ours was a people’s army led by the Communist Party and Chairman Mao.”