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19 November 1899 – 19 November 1990
Nickname "Rommel of the East"
Awards Order of Clouds and Banners 4th Class
Legion of Merit (U.S.)
Sun Li-jen (Traditional Chinese: 孫立人; Hanyu Pinyin: Sūn Lìrén) (November 19, 1899–November 19, 1990) was a Kuomintang general, best known for his leadership in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. His achievements earned him the laudatory nickname "Rommel of the East". His New 1st Army was reputed as the "1st [Best] Army under the heaven" and credited with defeating the most Japanese troops. He was also known as Sun Chung-neng (孫仲能, Sūn Zhòngnéng) and had the courtesy name Sun Fu-min (孫撫民, Sūn Fǔmín).
Sun Li-jen was born in Jinnu Town, Lujiang County, Anhui province, with ancestry in Shucheng County. During the May Fourth Movement, he was part of the Scouts in the march at Tiananmen Square. In the same year (1919) he married Gong Xitao (龔夕濤) and was admitted in 1920 to Tsinghua University to study civil engineering. He transferred to Purdue University in the United States to complete his senior year in 1923, where he graduated in 1925. But in the United States, ideological zeal motivated him to dramatically change vocations and pursue a military career instead. China was in the middle of civil war, and Soviet and Japanese invaders seemed poised to devour China. Sun decided that he could better serve his divided nation as a soldier rather than an engineer.
He applied to the Virginia Military Institute, also in the United States, lying about his age by four years so that he would appear young enough to meet the school's admissions requirements. He graduated from VMI in 1927 and joined Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the Northern Expedition against the warlord generals of the Beiyang Army. During the Northern Expedition and the latter war against the Chinese Communists in the Chinese Civil War, Sun Li-jen became a highly effective field officer and valued subordinate to Chiang Kai-shek.
Second Sino-Japanese War
Sun's New 38th Division was part of the forces Chiang Kai-shek sent into Burma to protect the Burma Road.Although unable to stop the Japanese from cutting the Burma Road, Sun gained the respect of General William Slim, the Commander of the British 14th Army for his competence. Sun and his division retreated into India and became a part of 'X Force', the Chinese forces under the command of Joseph Stilwell, the American commander of all American and Chinese forces deployed in the "China-Burma-Indian Theatre". Sun's division spearheaded Stilwell's 1943 drive to reconquer North Burma and re-establish the land route to China by the Ledo Road.