The last man to be made a lieutenant general in 1955, in the most important round of promotions after the founding of the People’s Republic of China six years earlier, passed away at 5 pm on Sept 3.
Zhang Zhen’s death at the age of 101 came on the day China staged its victory parade for the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the World Anti-Fascist War.
Zhang, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, died in Beijing.
He was born in Pingjiang county, Hunan province, in October 1914. He joined the Chinese Communist Youth League in 1930, and became a Party member the same year in October.
In 1955 he was made a lieutenant general, and in 1988 he was promoted to general.
Zhang had long played a key role in the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army and made a great contribution to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.
Zhang participated in the fifth Counter-Campaign against “Encirclement and Suppression” in the Shaanxi-Gansu Soviet Area and as a young man went on the Long March (August 1934-October 1936).
During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, Zhang Zhen successively held the posts of chief of staff of the Sixth Detachment and the Fourth Division of the New Fourth Army. Zhang took part in and led several major battles, including the Huai-Hai Campaign (Nov 6, 1948-Jan 10, 1949) the second of three decisive campaigns in the War of Liberation (1946-49).
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang was vice-president, and later president, of PLA Nanjing Military Academy from 1957-66.
Next he held the posts of director of the PLA General Logistics Department, member of the Central Military Commission, and vice-chief of staff of the PLA General Staff Department.
Zhang was appointed as political commissar of the National Defense University PLA China in 1990, when he was already 76. He became the eldest general still in active service.
In 1992, Zhang Zhen and Liu Huaqing were elected as vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission of the PRC.
Zhang retired in 1998 and in 2003 he published his memoirs in which he recalled many stories of the revolutionary martyrs who shed blood and made sacrifices for China.
Zhang narrowly escaped death many times and was seriously wounded six times in battle.
In December 1953, Zhang had a severe headache during a meeting and was sent to hospital. Surgeons operated and found a bullet that had been embedded in his skull for 10 years.
Zhang made an academic report in 1958 on the meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the publishing of On Protracted War by the late Chairman Mao Zedong. The report’s manuscript was published recently in an official military magazine.