Shanghai's General Post Office: A battle to end all battles
Shanghai's General Post Office Building is one of the city's iconic buildings, but many are unaware of the fierce battle that took place there that led to Shanghai's liberation.
Completed in 1924, the building was once the center of China's postal system. Today part of the building houses the Shanghai Postal Museum, an interesting look into its vivid history.
A small part of the museum also features a section on the battle that took place there between the Kuomintang and the People's Liberation Army on May 25, 1949.
I went to the General Post Office Building myself to find out just what happened.
Check out the video below as I explore the building, the bridge, and the battle.
What went down there?
The Battle for the Liberation of Shanghai, a 16-day series of skirmishes that began in Baoshan District, came to a head on May 25 when the final push to oust the Kuomintang hit the banks of the Suzhou Creek.
The People’s Liberation Army attacked four bridges from the south of the creek where they needed to cross to the north, which is where many Kuomintang soldiers were holed up. The four-story General Post Office Building, considered a high-rise at the time and located directly at the northern end of bridge, became their stronghold.
I was lucky enough to be taken out onto the rooftop of the building by staff — it’s not open to the public — and was able to really appreciate just how valuable of a vantage point the building really was. Although the bridge is slightly curved, the entire deck is in range.
In order to keep Shanghai’s valuable infrastructure as undamaged as possible, the PLA vowed not to use artillery in the city center, but many PLA members were killed on the bridge while attempting to approach the post office. In the end they were forced to fight back in kind, and the Sichuan Road Bridge became the only place in the city center, during the entire Battle for the Liberation of Shanghai, where the People’s Liberation Army used artillery.
But it wasn’t firepower alone that brought the Kuomintang to their knees. Fourteen postal workers, who were members of the Communist Party of China, managed to mobilize 200 of their colleagues from within the post office. They eventually convinced the KMT to surrender, and by 4pm it was all over.
Surprisingly, not a single piece of mail was lost, and not a single piece of postal equipment was damaged.
The Battle for the Liberation of Shanghai was technically over on June 2, 1949, when the PLA took over Chongming Island. Months later, on October 1, Mao Zedong announced a new beginning, with the new People’s Republic of China.