Sun Li-jen

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Sun.
Sun Li-jen
孫立人
Sun Liren.jpg
Sun Li-jen
Nickname(s) "Rommel of the East"
Born (1900-12-08)December 8, 1900
Jinnu, Lujiang, Chaohu, Anhui
Died November 19, 1990(1990-11-19) (aged 89)
Taichung, Taiwan
Allegiance  Republic of China
Service/branch Republic of China Army Flag.svg National Revolutionary Army
Years of service 1927–1955
Rank General Second Class rank insignia (ROC).jpgGeneral Second Class
Commands held Tax Police Regiment
New 38th Division
200th Division
New First Army
Republic of China Army
Battles/wars
Awards

Order of the Cloud and Banner 4th.gifOrder of the Cloud and Banner with Special Cravat
Order of the British Empire military ribbon.gifKnight Commander, Order of the British Empire (U.K.)
Us legion of merit officer rib.pngOfficer, Legion of Merit (U.S.)

Order of Blue Sky and White Sun with Grand Cordon ribbon.png Order of Blue Sky and White Sun
Other work Politician

Sun Li-jen (traditional Chinese: 孫立人; simplified Chinese: 孙立人; pinyin: Sūn Lìrén) (December 8, 1900–November 19, 1990) was a Chinese Nationalist (KMT) General, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, best known for his leadership in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. His achievements earned him the laudatory nickname "Rommel of the East". His New First Army was known as the "1st [Best] Army under heaven" and credited with effectively confronting Japanese troops in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai and in the Burma Campaign, 1943-1944.

Perhaps because of his foreign training, he did not have the full confidence of Chiang Kai-shek. Sun was relieved of battle command in the Chinese Civil War in 1946, and although he was made Commander in Chief in 1950 after the retreat of the Nationalist government to Taiwan, he was given only ceremonial roles. He was charged with conspiracy in 1955 and spent his last thirty years under virtual house arrest.

He was also known as Sun Chung-neng (孫仲能, Sūn Zhòngnéng) and had the courtesy name Sun Fu-min (孫撫民, Sūn Fǔmín).

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Sun Li-jen was born in Jinnu, Lujiang, Chaohu, Anhui, with ancestry in Shucheng County. During the May Fourth Movement, he was part of the Scouts in the march at Tiananmen Square. In the same year (1919) he married Gong Xitao (龔夕濤) and was admitted in 1920 to Tsinghua University to study civil engineering. Sun played basketball at Tsinghua, becoming a star. He led the Chinese team to a gold medal at the 1921 Far Eastern Championship Games. [1]

With a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship, he transferred to Purdue University in the United States to complete his senior year in 1923, where he graduated in 1924. But patriotism motivated him to change vocations and pursue a military career instead. China was in the middle of a nationalist drive to unite the divided country and to protect the nation against imperialists. Sun decided that he could better serve his divided nation as a soldier rather than an engineer.

He applied to the Virginia Military Institute, lying about his age by four years so that he would appear young enough to meet the school's admissions requirements. After he graduated from VMI in 1927 Sun toured Europe and Japan to see the latest military organization and strategic thinking, then returned to China and became a corporal in the National Revolutionary Army and the Central Political Institute. He was then given command of the National Salt Gabelle Brigade, organized by Finance Minister T.V. Soong, which he made the KMT's best trained and equipped troops. Four of the regiments later became the New 38th Division. His training center was located in Duyun, in Guizhou province.[1]

With Stilwell in Burma

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

Sun led his troops fighting the Japanese during the Battle of Shanghai in 1937 and was badly wounded by mine fragments. After recovering, Sun led his troops back to the front line. After two years training, Sun's New 38th Division was sent by Chiang Kai-shek into Burma to protect the Burma Road under General Du Yuming. Sun led Chinese units through difficult terrain to relieve 7,000 British forces trapped by the Japanese in the Battle of Yenangyaung. Although unable to stop the Japanese from cutting the Burma Road, Sun gained the respect of General William Slim, the Commander of the British 14th Army. Sun and his division retreated into India, while those of Du, against Sun's advice, retreated back into China and were badly mauled both by nature and by the Japanese.[1]

Early in 1943, after the successful retreat into India, Sun's division was incorporated in the New First Army, and became a part of 'X Force', the Chinese force under the command of Joseph Stilwell, the American commander of all American and Chinese troops in the "China Burma India Theater". The battle discipline of Sun's division reaffirmed Stilwell's respect for the Chinese soldier. His troops spearheaded the Burma Campaign, Stilwell's 1943 drive to reconquer North Burma and re-establish the land route to China by the Ledo Road. In 1945, at the invitation of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sun toured the battlefields of Europe. He returned to China to lead the New First Army to Canton to accept the Japanese surrender.[2]

Chinese Civil War[edit]

With General Eisenhower in Europe 1945

The end of the war with Japan did not bring peace to China. Sun's New First Army was deployed to Manchuria, where the Soviet armies left the Communist forces in control of strategic areas and the Nationalists could find support only by enlisting local bandits and surrendered Japanese troops. On May 20, 1946, Sun's troops defeated the People's Liberation Army to take a key railroad junction in the Battle of Siping, but only after a month of fighting. Sun said that the PLA opposing the Nationalist army was like "flied attacking a tiger," but when the PLA had a growing series of local victories, Chiang Kai-shek replaced Sun with a general who he considered more loyal and returned Sun to a command post in Nanjing.[2] The American Consul General in Mukden at that time, O. Edmund Clubb, later recalled that because of his American education Sun was regarded as an outsider: "personal loyalty was counted by the Nationalist regime as being more important than competence, and when you establish a standard like that you run into danger."[3]

In Taiwan[edit]

As the commander of the Army Training Command and deputy commander of the Republic of China Army in 1947, Sun moved one training facility to Taiwan, independent from the ongoing civil war. Sun trained new officers and troops for the Nationalist government, hoping to change the tide of the civil war. The effort was too little, too late in comparison with the massive numbers of troops defeated, but one of the divisions he trained (201 Division of the 80th Army) was sent to Quemoy to help fend off the communist invasion in 1949. It was the front line defense force.

In 1950, Sun was named Commander in Chief of the Republic of China Army, while also serving as commander of the Taiwan Defense Command and the Army Training Command. Because Sun was well respected by the Americans and rumors had it that the Americans would like to help him into power to replace Chiang Kai-Shek, Chiang and his son Chiang Ching-kuo were eager to remove him from power.

Sun Li-jen with the popular army elephant Lin Wang

First, Sun was reassigned as the ceremonial chief military adviser to Chiang Kai-Shek in June 1954, preventing him from directly controlling any troops. In 1950, Chiang Ching-kuo became director of his father's secret police, a position he held until 1965.[4] Chiang Ching-kuo, educated in the Soviet Union, initiated Soviet style military structure, reorganizing and Sovietizing the officer corps, instituting surveillance. Sun Li-jen, who was educated at the American Virginia Military Institute, opposed this system.[5] Chiang Ching-kuo orchestrated the arrest and court-martial of Sun in August 1955, alleging that Sun was plotting a coup d'état with the American CIA against his father. The CIA allegedly wanted to help Sun take control of Taiwan and declare its independence.[6][7] Sun, in addition to the charge of collaborating with the American C.I.A., was also accused of negligence when one of his subordinates was tried for conspiring with a communist agent. One source suggests that the "plot" may simply have been a plan to present a petition to Generalissimo Chiang to do away with the army system of political commissars.[2]

Sun remained under house arrest for more than three decades: he was not released until March 20, 1988, shortly after the death of Chiang Ching-kuo. He died in his Taichung home at the age of 89 (91 according to the Chinese calendar). His funeral was conducted with full military honors and with the presence of the Secretary of Defense.

In 2001, Sun's reputation was cleared after a government investigation into the purported coup attempt. In January 2011, President Ma Ying-jeou formally apologized to Sun Li-jen's family and Sun's house in Taichung was opened as a memorial hall and museum.[8]

Family[edit]

General Sun was survived by his two sons Sun Tien-ping (孫天平) and Sun Ane-pin (孫安平), daughters Sun Chung-ping (孫中平) and Sun Tai-ping (孫太平), and sister Sun Pi-jen (孫璧人).[9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Boorman (1970), pp. 166.
  2. ^ a b c Boorman (1970), pp. 167.
  3. ^ Oral History Interview with O. Edmund Clubb, p. 40. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (June 26, 1974). Accessed May 3, 2015
  4. ^ Peter R. Moody (1977). Opposition and dissent in contemporary China. Hoover Press. p. 302. ISBN 0-8179-6771-0. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  5. ^ Jay Taylor (2000). The Generalissimo's son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the revolutions in China and Taiwan. Harvard University Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-674-00287-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  6. ^ Peter R. Moody (1977). Opposition and dissent in contemporary China. Hoover Press. p. 302. ISBN 0-8179-6771-0. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  7. ^ Nançy Bernkopf Tucker (1983). Patterns in the dust: Chinese-American relations and the recognition controversy, 1949-1950. Columbia University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0-231-05362-2. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  8. ^ Belated justice for Taiwanese war hero. Jan 23, 2011
  9. ^ Ma visit to war hero's former residence stirs gratitude, regret. The China Post. January 23, 2011

References and further reading[edit]

  • Sun Li-jen," in Boorman, Howard L., et al., eds (1970). Biographical Dictionary of Republican China Vol III. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231045581. ,pp. 165-167

External links[edit]