Recounting a Soldier’s Reaction on Being Sent to the Frontline

“Private Xu Xiangyao joined the PLA in his village in Hebei on March 19, 1984. After a few weeks of intensive training, he was assigned to an infantry company in the Thirteenth Army.

That summer, his regiment moved south by train. Inside their boxcar, one of twenty-one, no one talked. “We were so nervous and scared,” Xu recalled of his ride in the number 9 car.

After three days on the train, their worries about going to the Sino-Vietnamese border were confirmed when the train stopped at Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province.

About 120 CA-10 trucks picked up thousands of men at the station and took them to the border. Many recruits cried on the road.

The next morning, a mass rally replaced the daily drill. “Comrades, you are going to the Lao Son front,” a deputy commander of the Thirteenth Army told the newly arrived regiment. “It’s time for you to shed blood for your country. The entire country is watching you. Our people depend on you.” Before he finished his speech, cries of lamentation rose. Some of the men screamed, “Mom, Dad!” Xu was shocked and did not shed any tears. The commanders obviously were used to these reactions.

They walked down from the platform, shaking hands and saying to the men, “Go ahead, cry! You can cry now, but no more crying later in battle.” Xu joined the crowd and cried. He asked his friends to tell his parents if he should fall.

“I really regretted joining the army at that point,” Xu said.” Li, 2007, p.260-261).

Reference

Li, X. (2007) A History of the Modern Chinese Army. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.

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