translated by Martin Merz
‘My Experiences in the Korean War’ was first published in Chinese several years ago in the now privately distributed magazine Wangshi. Liu’s memoirs stirred up a huge controversy on the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War in 2010 after they were widely posted on the Internet.
The following passages are excerpted from the ‘The Hunger Chapter’.
I LIVED THROUGH the fifth campaign of the Korean War. It lasted for fifty days, from 22 April to 10 June in 1951. During that time we were only issued marching rations once, which meant that for thirty-six days we were short of food. How did we survive? Some say it was the awesome power of the Chinese army’s political indoctrination. I say that people on the brink of starvation have the instinct to survive.
I was a teacher, but on the battlefield I was assigned to manage the porters attached to Mr Lu’s mobile pharmacy because I couldn’t shoot a gun and I didn’t know how to dress a wound. Ten porters balanced two crates each at the end of poles – those twenty crates contained pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and rolls of gauze for dressings. Mr Lu was responsible for keeping the medicines and instruments ready for whenever they were needed. I was put in charge of burying the dead. All the wounded who died in the field hospital were buried by porters under my supervision.
The porters were soldiers who had received light sentences from the military courts. Some were recaptured deserters, some had caused injuries when they accidentally discharged their guns and some were rapists. They were all assigned to hard labour in lieu of incarceration. The political instructor and Mr Lu warned me that these liberated soldiers – former Nationalist soldiers captured during the civil war – had committed crimes but had not yet undergone ideological reform. I was to be constantly vigilant, they said, against breaches of discipline among the porters...
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