Peng Dehuai

Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
General Peng Dehuai.jpg
Born October 24, 1898
Xiangtan, Hunan
Died November 29, 1974 (aged 76)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Allegiance  People's Republic of China
Service/branch People's Liberation Army Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg People's Liberation Army
Years of service 1916−1959
Rank Marshal of the People's Republic of China
Commands held Third corps commander
Deputy Commander in Chief, Eighth Route Army
Deputy Commander in Chief, PLA
Commander-in-Chief, Chinese People's Volunteer Army
Battles/wars Northern Expedition
Long March
Hundred Regiments Offensive
Chinese Civil War
Korean War
Awards Medal of August First, 1st Class
Medal of Independence and Freedom, 1st Class
Medal of Liberation, 1st Class
(People's Republic of China)
Hero of Democratic People's Republic of Korea
(Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
Other work Politician, writer

Peng Dehuai (simplified Chinese: 怀; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Péng Déhuái; Wade–Giles: P'eng Te-huai) (October 24, 1898 – November 29, 1974) was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War. He fell from favour after criticizing Mao's policies in the Great Leap Forward and suffered greatly through the Cultural Revolution, leading to his eventual death.


Early life

Peng was born in 1898 in Xiangtan County of Hunan Province. He was a rough-hewn man from very humble beginnings. Peng's parents died when he was nine years old, and he then lived with his grandmother, who was a beggar. Before joining the army at sixteen, he had worked in coal mines at the age of 13 and on dams of the Lake Dongting at the age of 15. He attended the Hunan Military Academy and served as a Nationalist officer. Until 1916, he was a day laborer and then a soldier in a warlord army for $5.50 a month. He soldiered the rest of his life, some 60 years.

Red Army commander

By the age of twenty-eight, he was a brigade commander in the Kuomintang Army and had begun a flirtation with radical politics. Peng was forced to flee Chiang Kai-shek's purge in 1927 and joined the Communist Party of China, participating in the Long March. He commanded the Third Army during the Long March.

His contributions to the CPC were highly praised and earned him the nickname "Great General Peng" (彭大将军). As a poem by Mao Zedong in remembrance of Peng's contributions in the Long March put it,

"[In] High mountains, dangerous roads, deep pits,
Troops ride lengthwise and crosswise, (Red Army circling around the Enemy, [Alternate translation.])
Who dares to [put the] glaive crosswise and draw the horse to a stop?
Only our [or my, depending on different interpretations] Great General Peng!"

Peng and Lin Biao were generally reckoned to be the Red Army's best battlefield commanders, in addition to Su Yu and Xu Xiangqian. They do not seem to have been rivals during the Long March. Both of them had supported Mao's rise to de facto leadership at Zunyi in January 1934. According to Harrison E. Salisbury's The Long March, by May 1935 Lin Biao was dissatisfied with Mao's strategy. He says of Mao's circlings to evade the armies of Chiang Kai-shek:

"The campaign had begun to look like one of Walt Disney's early cartoons in which Mickey Mouse again and again escaped the clutches of the huge, stupid cat." (Page 188, chapter 18.)

But according to Salisbury, Lin Biao in May 1934 tried to persuade Mao to turn over active command to Peng.

"A tough Red Army commander who looked a little like a bulldog and fought like one, Peng was a rough-hewn man with strong back and shoulders, from years of early labour... Peng got his first revolutionary spark from a great-uncle who fought with the Taipings in the rebellion of the 1850s. Then, said the uncle, the Taipings found food for everyone, the women unbound their feet, and the land was shared among the tillers...
"All his life Peng spoke frankly, bluntly, and he wrote in plain, vigorous Chinese, often at great length so that no one might doubt his meaning.
"The contrast between Mao's top field commanders [Peng and Lin Biao] could hardly have been more sharp, but on the Long March they worked well together, Lin specializing in feints, masked strategy, surprises, ambushes, flank attacks, pounces from the rear, and stratagems. Peng met the enemy head-on in frontal assaults and fought with such fury that again and again he wiped them out. Peng did not believe a battle well fought unless he managed to replenish--and more than replenish--any losses by seizure of enemy guns and converting prisoners of war to new and loyal recruits to the Red Army." (Ibid., pages 191-192)

Edgar Snow, who stayed for several days in 1936 Peng's compound in Yuwang, near the front lines in Ningxia, and had long conversations with him, has much more to say in his Red Star Over China about Peng than Lin. He gives Peng two whole chapters in his book, more than any individual apart from Mao.[1]

1937 to 1953

During World War II, Peng served as deputy commander-in-chief of the Communist forces and coordinated the Hundred Regiments Campaign. Peng went on to serve with distinction behind Japanese lines in North China. After the Japanese surrender, during the late stages of the Chinese Civil War he led the Chinese 1st Field Army in its conquest of Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, and Qinghai provinces.

On October 8, 1950, he was made the supreme commander of the People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War and served in that position until the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. During that same time, Peng also serving as the Defense Minister and as a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. He was made a marshal of the People's Liberation Army in 1955 after the war's end. However, his treatment of returning Chinese POW's from the Korean war was heavily criticized later.

Based on People's Volunteer Army sources, not made public until the late 1990s, the Chinese armies in Korea from October 1950 to June 1951, partook in five major offensives, inflicted 230,000 combined South Korean/UN/USA casualties, including 36,835 POWs, and captured 187 tanks, 4,954 trucks, five armored cars, 10 aircraft, 3,133 artillery pieces, 45,000 rifles and machine guns while suffering a combined total of 528,000 casualties.[2] Strategic mistakes that led to heavy losses in the Chinese divisions in Korea as well as the American destruction of one Chinese division (the 180th Division) that resulted in the loss of over 5,000 men in 1951 also led to disfavor in the party. He was to have many clashes with Marshal Lin Biao over military policy, and won most of them.

Fall from power

After touring his native Hunan Province in 1959 and realising the extent of the problems that the Great Leap Forward had created, he tried to tell Chairman Mao at the Lushan Conference that it was a dramatic mistake. Neither Mao nor Peng wanted a split but once Mao initiated the break with Peng, the whole Politburo and the Central Committee were bound to support Mao. They all quarreled with Peng, with Lin Biao leading the attacks.

He was disgraced in 1959, in part because of his criticisms of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward that went beyond what Mao considered legitimate. Mao accepted that there had been mistakes, including the 'backyard furnaces', but still saw the process as generally positive. Mao had even suggested that Peng write a criticism - whether this was a trap or whether Peng went too far is moot. Definitely, Mao started treating him as an enemy. As a consequence, he was removed from all posts and placed under constant supervision and house arrest in Chengdu, Sichuan; Lin Biao took over the post of Minister of Defense. Peng was eventually exiled, and shunned for the next 16 years of house arrest.

There were other major issues in the 1959 dispute. Peng had made the army more professional and less political, changes reversed when Lin Biao replaced him. He had also shown signs of not liking the break with Moscow. He may also have been blamed for the unsuccessful confrontation over Taiwan the previous year (which had been ordered by Mao Zedong in order to garnish financial and technological aide from the USSR by forcing the US to make a threat to defend Taiwan even with nuclear arms):

"On Sept. 17 [1959] Peking announced that Marshal Lin Piao [Lin Biao] had succeeded Marshal Peng Teh-huai as defence minister…
Marshal Lin Biao was commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army which conquered the whole of mainland China in 1948-49, but owing to a breakdown of health he was inactive for many years. His return to health and to official activity was indicated when, in 1958, he was appointed a member of the Politburo. Marshal Peng, whose fame was not enhanced by the failure of the Quemoy operation in 1958, remained a deputy prime minister." (Britannica Book of the year 1960).

Persecution, death, and exoneration

In the early 1960s, he was put in charge of establishing the "Third Front", a planned strategic base in China's south-west that would have been a fall-back position if China were invaded. But he was arrested in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution and put in the hands of violent Red Guard torturers, beaten 130 times [3] until his internal organs were crushed and his back splintered.[4] During interrogations he shouted denials to the Red Guards who beat him, and it is reputed that he pounded the table so hard the cell walls shook. Red Guards took him several times to "Peng Dehuai struggle rallies", where he was publicly beaten. He died of cancer on November 29, 1974, still loyal to his own version of communist ideals, which diverged radically from those of Mao.

The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held in 1978, reexamined Marshal Peng's case and reversed the judgment that had been imposed on him. It exonerated him of all charges and reaffirmed his contributions to the Chinese Revolution.

Internet video

See also


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of National Defense
Succeeded by
Lin Biao

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  • Peng Dehuai — en 1958 Naissance 24 octobre 1899 Xiangtan, Hunan, Chine …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Peng Dehuai — /peng du hwuy / 1898 1974, Chinese Communist military leader: defense minister 1954 59. Also, P eng Te huai /pung du hwuy / …   Useful english dictionary

  • Peng De-huai — Peng Dehuai (chin. 彭德懷 / 彭德怀, Péng Déhuái, W. G. P eng Te huai; * 1898 in Hunan; † 29. November 1974) war einer der wichtigsten militärischen Führer der chinesischen Volksbefreiungsarmee sowie ab 1954 der erste Verteidigungsminister der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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