What happened at the Battle (or not?) of Luding Bridge, during the Long March of Chinese Communists in 1935?

I’ve just finished reading Mao: The Unknown Story by Chang and Halliday. She seems very biased against Mao and revels in accusing him of lying and manipulating. If this were to be taken as a serious historical study, rather than a biography, I’d say that her lack of objectivity is a serious failing.

Doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong about Mao however.

One particular item she mentions was the Battle of Luding Bridge, supposedly happening in May 1935.

On one side:

  • the bridge is heavily defended and brave soldiers of the Red army battle a Nationalist regiment to cross a burning bridge under heavy machine gun fire.

Wikipedia Red Army sources agree that the members of the force crawled over the bare iron chains of the bridge while under heavy Nationalist machine-gun fire from the opposite side.

Chang’s claims:

  • nothing very much happened. The bridge was undefended. Or might have been very lightly defended, as some of the Wikipedia details indicate.

This is the Wikepedia entry wiki/Battle_of_Luding_Bridge#The_battle_at_the_bridge and here’s an image of the bridge. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Luding_Bridge_June_07_350D_127.jpg

Some things that smell off to me:

  • in May the river would have been swollen by spring melts. That doesn’t look at all like a fordable river. I can understand a bridge getting captured by a quick assault on inattentive or insufficient troops. I can’t see any chance for success against machine gun fire on this bridge.

Quoting Wikipedia The controversial anti-Mao British-Chinese writer Jung Chang and her revisionist historian husband.

Now, I don’t have a problem with calling out Chang for being controversial. But revisionist is a term often used in Communist terminology, so it sticks out as a sore thumb regarding the objectivity of that particular paragraph criticizing Jung Chang.

Any idea of what actually happened on that day?

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