Zhang Yuhua, the retired major general and war hero, died early on Sunday in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, at age 101, reducing the number of generals who fought to establish the People’s Republic of China to 25.
Zhang became nationally known after he attended a military parade in September 2015 at Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, when he was seen by millions of Chinese TV spectators saluting with his right hand, which was wounded in war.
A native of Shandong province, Zhang was a primary school teacher before he enlisted in 1935 with a local armed force in Wendeng, Shandong province, led by the Communist Party of China.
In 1936, he took part in an armed uprising against the Japanese aggressors. Several battles ensued.
In the following years, Zhang fought Japanese invaders and then Kuomintang troops and suffered multiple injuries in combat. After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, he became the political commissar of the former 118th Infantry Division. Zhang also led soldiers through many fierce fights in the Korean War.
He was appointed deputy commander of the former 40th Group Army after returning from the peninsula and then became political commissar of the artillery unit of the former Shenyang Military Command. In 1964, he was promoted to the rank of major general.
Zhang was later named deputy political commissar of the former Wuhan and Nanjing military commands. He also had been a provincial leader in Hubei for two periods in the 1970s and 1980s.
After Zhang retired from active service in 1986, he dedicated himself to charities, and had donated nearly 1 million yuan ($154,000) and 100 metric tons of grain to the impoverished, Fan Chengjun, Zhang’s secretary, told Qilu Evening News, a newspaper in Shandong.
Fan said that all of Zhang’s money went to the poor people and he also volunteered to donate all of his organs for medical purposes after his death.
The People’s Liberation Army conferred a total of 1,614 officers with the rank of major general or above before 1965. All of them took part in wars before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and thus have been called “founding generals”.
By now, all of the 10 marshals, 10 senior generals, 57 generals and 177 lieutenant generals with the honorable title have passed away. There are only 25 out of 1,360 major generals in the list who are alive after Zhang’s passing.
Before Zhang, eight of the founding major generals died this year, including Xiang Shouzhi, who was commander of China’s strategic missile force and the former Nanjing Military Command. All were older than 100.