Shang gan ling (Battle on Shangganling Mountain) (1965)
Directors: Shan Lin and Meng Sha.
Starring: Baocheng Gao (Zhang Zhongfa), Lei Liu (Chen Dehou), Linge Xu (Meng Degui), Liang Zhang (Yang Decai).
Chinese film of the Battle of Triangle Hill (Operation Showdown), October 1952
October 14. The American aggressors bring the war to a larger scale, endangering peace. After they refused the peace talk in Banmendian, at 6:15 this morning, they launched a large-scale attack on our two bastions at Shangganling Mountain.
October 18. The American offensive puts us in a passive, disadvantageous position. The battle is terrible and furious. Today is the fifth day.
The Captain of the 7th Company speaks to the Battalion Commander. He turns the phone over to the company's Political Instructor Meng. They have beaten off the fourteenth assault. They have only a platoon left. The fifteenth assault begins. The Political Instructor shouts to his troops to hold on! A bomb lands not far away from him and he is hit in the left eye.
The Division Commander wants to know their situation. The Third Battalion reports that the enemy has eight companies and launched an attack on the 3rd, 6th and 7th companies. The District Commander says they will launch a general attack at 7 a.m. on the peak of Shangganling Mountain. The 7th company must hold their ground until dawn. The 8th company commander Zhang Zhongfa reports in to the District Commander. His company is to relieve the 7th company on the mountain. The 8th company must hold on or the Allies will attack their main bastion on Wushengshan Mountain.
The District Commander gets a call from Col. Li Si of the People's Army of Korea . He says that they have attacked the enemy on Xifangshan Mountain against the American 7th Division. The 8th company must hold on for twenty-four hours.
The 7th company is ecstatic to see the arrival of the 8th company. Political Instructor Meng meets Zhang Zhongfa. Meng's eyes are bandaged, but he still wants to stay and help. But Zhang insists that he seek more medical attention.
Heavy artillery fire and aerial bombardment falls over the mountain peak. American troops and tanks rush up the mountain slope. All of a sudden Chinese artillery opens up on them. The 8th company soldiers are very happy to see the destruction of American soldiers. The American soldiers want to retreat but a American machine gunner opens fire on the soldiers killing some. The others head up the slope. The Chinese machine guns mow down many of the American soldiers. The Americans flee down the mountain.
There is hand to hand fighting in the battle. The Americans use flame throwers and laugh at the burning Chinese soldiers. The 8th company commander himself fires a machine gun into the American lines.
October 19. The 8th company has beaten off 23 consecutive assaults. An order arrives that the 8th company, as well as other companies, are to withdraw their troops from the bastions and place them in the tunnels. With the troops withdrawn, the Americans are able to capture the peak. Zhang is disgusted at having to withdraw. The Political Instructors scolds Zhang for having given up the bastion. The unit has lost face, so the men ask their company commander to lead them back to the peak. Zhang says he can't because they received a director order to stay in the tunnels.
But Zhang is bothered by losing the peak. He asks Chen Dehou, first platoon leader, how many men they have left. They have only thirty-two fighting soldiers. And there are a number of wounded soldiers. Now the men learn that the 8th company will be sent to the rear. But Zhang plots his own counter-attack.
Wang Lan is the nurse who takes care of the wounded. Zhang meets her and wants her to go back But Wang Lan doesn't want to go back. She wants to do something to make a difference.
Yang Decai is the radioman. He is sent back to give details of their situation to the Battalion Commander. Macocai is ordered to help the nurse. She will be his boss for the time being. Decai gets through to the Battalion commander, who has given his consent to their staying where they are.
A squirrel comes into the tunnel. All the men start chasing it, but Zhang is the one who actually catches it. The squirrel becomes a pet of the unit.
The American are bombing Wushengshan Mountain and their troops are moving toward it. Eighth company starts firing on the enemy from one of the two entrances to their tunnel. They kill quite a lot of American soldiers. The troops are thrown into chaos and on the mountain side they look like a bunch of ants running around after their ant hill has been disturbed. The companies from their tunnels kill so many Americans that the enemy has to retreat.
The District Commander receives the latest news that the American troops are pulling back from the offensive. The District commander says it's a miracle. The success of the tunnel fighting gives the District Commander an idea. He says they can use the tunnels as a way to hold back the enemy. This will then buy them enough time for the counter-attack. Soon 8th company is working hard to shore up its tunnel. The nurse sings a song and the men join in.
Xia Yang praises the 8th company commander to the nurse. He says that the commander even met Chairman Mao. The nurse herself would like to be famous enough to meet Chairman Mao.
The enemy dynamites the other end of the tunnel. Then they try to use dynamite to close the end of the 8th company tunnel currently being used. They throw dynamite into the cave opening, but a Chinese soldier manages to grab it and throw it back.
Eighth company quickly learns that the Americans have built two blockhouses just above their tunnel entrance. At night Zhang sends out three men to destroy the block houses. The Americans have placed tin cans with rocks inside as an early warning system. So he has his soldiers throw out tin cans once every several minutes. The Americans shoot at the sound every time. But after hours of this they just ignore it. So now Zhang with one other soldier goes out himself. He is able to knock out both blockhouses.
Zhang gets reprimanded by a meeting of the party branch. They say he should not have risked his life blowing the blockhouses. But Zhang then gets a call from the District Commander who tells him basically: Good work! The District Commander will have all the tunnels do the same. The tunnel commander now launches various skirmishes with the Americans. The saying is that they will fight their way out of their passive position.
October 25. The tunnel tactic worked. It bought the Chinese more time. But the situation in the tunnels continues to become more difficult. Various delivery men are sent out to deliver supplies to the tunnel dwellers. Many of the delivery men are shot and killed by the enemy. The District Commander sends two apples to Zhang. Zhang offers to share the apples with all his fighting soldiers. The soldiers say they want the wounded to share the apples amongst themselves. The apples are given to the nurse for her patients. But the wounded send the apples back to the fighting men.
October 30. The situation in the tunnels is very black with the men suffering from hunger and thirst. Zhang sends out some men to get creek water. They are killed by the Americans. The soldiers start talking about different kinds of food.
The Political Instructor suddenly goes unconscious. This really worries the nurse. She gives him a little water and he revives. But then he tells the nurse not to waste precious water on him. After this he refuses to take any more water. A nearby company is able to get two water cans of creek water. One can is then given to 8th company. The Political Instructor passes out again, but still won't take water. He passes out again and this time he dies.
The long awaited supplies and troops arrive. The enemy blows a hole into the top of the tunnel. 8th company calls for artillery on the area of the hole. The shells start landing stopping any further action at the site of the hole.
The counter-attack is set to go. The company commanders are called back to talk with the District Commander. He tells the company commanders that they have given them the time to launch a counter-attack. The District Commander tells Zhang that he will be leading the attack to get the peak back. The attack will start at 6 a.m. and finish by 8 a.m.
In the morning a barrage of rockets and artillery fire hits the peak. The American start running for their lives. The men of 8th company wait in the tunnel for the attack. The attack begins. There is no resistance heading up to the peak, but when they get to the top they meet with strong resistance from a pill-box.
A number of attempts are made to knock out the pill-box but they fail. Yang Decai and Mao Shihai volunteer to destroy the pill-box. Yang Decai is able to push the long pipe bomb into the pill box . It explodes and destroys the site of the last American resistance on the peak. The peak is captured by 8 a.m.
Zhang turns the occupation of the peak over to the next company. The District Commander is there to thank the men and nurse of the 8th company. Following their triumph, the nurse releases the unit's pet squirrel on a tree.
November 11. Victory! The enemy will certainly now have to come back to Banmendian for the peace talks.
As an American, it's a little weird watching a Chinese film about killing Americans. At times the portrayal of the Americans was a little crazy. They made the Americans appear to have no leaders -- like ants in an ant hill after it has been disturbed. The USA would never have won any battles with such a complete lack of leadership. American war films emphasize a lot of camaraderie among the troops. But in this Chinese film, the emphasis is more on the pride in the unit as a whole. The war scenes themselves were not that great. In one scene representing hand-to-hand combat, it looked more like the guys were just walking through the scene with little aggressive energy. Is this anyway to fight a war?
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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