The Battle of Luding Bridge
Mao Zehdong understood very early the value of the Long March as propaganda. Shortly after it ended he wrote "The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and his like, are impotent. The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation."
Mao was so successful in manipulating the image of the Long March that it very quickly became a common phrase in English. Our second programme starts at the Luding Bridge, the site of one of the most celebrated battles of the whole march. The legend has it that the Nationalists had removed all the planks leaving Mao's army stranded and cornered on one side of the high gorge. But Red Army volunteers, under heavy fire, went hand over hand along the chains to establish a bridge head on the other side saving the day. Edward Stourton talks to witnesses of the battle to find out if it lives up to its mythological status. He also hears more first hand accounts of the suffering of the marchers and the ruthless determination it took to survive. On some sections people were so hungry they gathered undigested grains from the faeces of those who'd gone before to wash and eat again. We'll also tell the story of Mao's secret daughter - his wife, like other women who gave birth on the March, was forced to leave her child behind - mystery still surrounds the fate of the little girl who was left with a peasant family.
Producer: Phil Pegum.