This book will be published just in time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Long March--the 6,000-mile long retreat-cum-offense, led for the most part by Mao Tse-tung, that set the stage for Mao's ultimate triumph over Chiang-Kai Shek only 14 years later. Salisbury has become something of an expert on China since Richard Nixon opened the door to the Middle Kingdom in 1972. As such, he has managed to insinuate himself into the good graces of the powers-that-be in Peking, and thus been allowed access to never-before-seen documents concerning the Long March. He narrates a tale of bravery that is unduplicated in the annals of history. Starting out with some 86,000 men on October 16, 1934, in southern China, Man led a scant 4,000 men into northern Shaanxi on October 29, 1935. Decimated by treacherous cliffs, hepatitis, and the bombs of the Kuomintang, these 4,000 survivors formed the backbone of what was to come in the next 14 years. Whether the Long March was good fortune or military genius remains difficult to tell. But Mao, through a variety of deceptions, zig-zag marches, and river battles, managed to outwit Chiang, even when for a time the Soviets, concerned about a bellicose Japan, sought a Soviet-Nationalist rapproachment. Salisbury does not investigate Mao's politics in this volume, which strictly is a chronicle of the military operation. But his personal interviews with old veterans of the March bring the narrative alive. The sadness is that some dozen years ago the Gang of Four, which included Mao's wife, managed to take advantage of Mao's age and infirmity by bringing down his wrath on many of those veterans of the epic March who played important roles. Many were tortured and murdered for nonexistent acts of treason. Salisbury's honest chronicle of their sad end is the epilogue of this important work.