An 87-year-old Chinese man looked after a secret government air-raid shelter for 40 years completely unaware that his command had forgotten about him years ago.
He Wenxun carried out his duties faithfully for decades until his health made it impossible for him to continue. The officers in the People’s Armed Forces Department in Ceheng County, Guizhou Province were shocked when He, who Chinese media are calling the “forgotten guard,” came in to the office and requested relief from his duties, the China Daily reports.
For 41 years, He lived two lives. In one life, he raised a family and lived like an ordinary citizen. In the other, he watched over the air-raid shelter. Not only was the People’s Armed Forces Department unaware that He had never been relieved from his post, but there were not any records showing that the air-raid shelter even existed.
He was tasked with setting up an air-raid shelter by the head of the People’s Armed Forces Department in the 1970s. The work was carried out in secret, and the drawings and schematics were destroyed after its completion.
He completed the project in four months with around 100 people in his charge.
During the final years of the chaotic and disruptive Cultural Revolution, leadership was transferred, and the plans were lost. The project was abandoned, but no one remembered to let He know.
He lived in a small house on top of the air-raid shelter. He kept the defense structure a secret throughout his service, even from his children. His children tried to take care of their father by having him move in with them, but he refused to leave. His children never knew why.
“Now we finally know why he refused to move,” He Wenxun’s son told reporters, “My father just wanted stay with the shelter.”
He was born in 1929, distinguished himself during the campaigns against regional warlords and bandits in the late 1940s, and volunteered to fight in the Korean War.
He later left his hometown of Panxian to join up with the armed forces in Ceheng.
In 1973, the People’s Daily spread reports of Mao Zedong’s rather vague call for Chinese people to “dig deep, expand grain production, and avoid seeking hegemony.”
Shortly thereafter, He was tasked with his secret mission to build air defense infrastructure.
When officers from the People’s Armed Forces Department investigated the status of the air-raid shelter, they found it was in excellent condition.
For his service, He was honored in September, 2016.