On this day in 1934 the “Long March,” a tactical retreat of Mao Zedong and 60,000 Communist supporters, commences. The embattled Communists had broken through Nationalist enemy lines and began an epic flight from their hopeless siege which lasted 368 days, covered 6,000 miles, and saw Mao reascend to worshipful master status among his people.
After enduring starvation, aerial bombardment, and almost daily skirmishes with Nationalist forces, Mao halted his columns at the foot of the Great Wall of China on October 20, 1935. Waiting for them were five machine-gun- and red-flag-bearing horsemen. “Welcome, Chairman Mao,” one said. “We represent the Provincial Soviet of Northern Shensi. We have been waiting for you anxiously. All that we have is at your disposal!” The Long March was over.
When he and his forces finished fighting the Japanese invaders for a decade, Mao’s Chinese Civil War resumed in 1945. Four years later, the Nationalists were defeated, and Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China.
He served as chairman until his death in 1976.