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War hero returns to city

    Yang Yangzheng, the only living mainland resident among China's celebrated "800 heroes," returned yesterday to the scene of a history-making last stand in Shanghai during the Japanese attack in 1937.
    Accompanied by several family members, the 91-year-old war veteran visited the site most associated with this heroic group, the Sihang Warehouse, which stands along Suzhou Creek at Guangfu Road in Zhabei District.
    Yang's journey back to the city - after a 42-hour train ride from his home in Chongqinq - was his first since the battle. His trip was sponsored by a Chinese-language newspaper based in Shanghai and was part of this year's celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
    "Please don't call me a hero," Yang said during his visit to the warehouse.
    "I simply did what a soldier should do - obey orders and defend my country."
    Yang was one of the 450 soldiers led by Colonel Xie Jinyuan, who received an order on October 26, 1937, to hold off the Japanese until the main body of the Chinese army withdrew. The number of men under Xie's command was inflated to 800 in an attempt to fool the invaders.
    Xie's army retreated to Sihang Warehouse before dawn on October 27.
    Taking advantage of the building's thick walls, the soldiers succeeded in resisting an attack by tens of thousands of enemy troops for four days.
    Their bravery contributed greatly to the safe evacuation of 500,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians.
    After the evacuation, Xie's soldiers began to retreat but were captured. Yang and the other 30 Chinese soldiers who remained were sent to a prison in Baoshan District.
    They eventually ended up carrying coal in a labor camp in Anhui Province.
    "We managed to escape and join the Chinese troops a month after we reached the coal mine," Yang said. "I walked to Chongqing in 1944."
    On August 16, 1945, one day after Japan's surrender, Yang married a Chongqing girl, Zhao Xiaofang.
    Yang lost his left eye in a bomb blast during the 1937 battle, and his right failed later due to aging.
    "But I am gratified that the sacrifices made long ago have not been forgotten and the devotion to our country has been kept alive," he said.
    Li Dingxin, an 84-year-old resident of Taiwan, is the only other living member of the "800 heroes."

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