Gao Ke and his fellow comrades in the Northeast Democratic Legion found this Japanese-made Type 97 medium tank in No. 918 Factory (originally the repair factory of tanks under Japan’s Kwantung Army) in Shenyang in November 1945. Gao Ke, Sun San and some others broke through Kuomintang’s barriers and drove this tank to the Northeast Artillery Command. Afterwards, the Northeast Tank Brigade was established, and it became the first tank in the PLA’s armored force. It played an important role in the battles of suppressing bandits at the Suifen River area and in the three battles fought south to the Songhua River. The tankmen called lovingly the tank “Old Man”, for its long service and old parts. The Northeast Tank Brigade participated in a large-scale attack against the heavily fortified positions for the first time when the PLA tried to seize Shenyang in the Liaoshen Campaign in 1948. “Old Man” and other three tanks gave cover for the infantry who tried to break through Kuomintang’s fortifications in the old town of Shenyang. In the battle, the other three were attacked and fell into the river, thus they couldn’t continue to fight. The “Old Man” then rushed into the enemy’s position alone, and got hit five times. Dong Fulai, the tankman climbed out of the tank in the fierce gunfires and repaired the machine before driving on. The tankmen eliminated with tank guns the enemy’s firing points, removing the barriers for the infantry. The “Old Man” finally rushed to the Kuomintang Command in Shenyang. Under its fierce fires, the Kuomintang army waved the white flag. After the war, the command and political department of the Fourth Field Army named this tank “Merit” and the tank team was awarded with Third-class Collective Award of Merit. The tankman Dong Fulai and the machine gunner Wu Peilong were awarded with the First-class Award of Merit.
Upon the victory of the Liaoshen Campaing, the “Merit” went southwards with the Fourth Field Army and took part in the Pingjin Campaign. It won glory again in the Battle of Tianjin. Afterwards, the tank and the war vehicle regiment it belonged to were on the ceremony for celebrating the PLA’s entry into Beiping (today’s Beijing) and the military review held in the Western Garden Airport.
The “Merit” also drove as the leading vehicle of the ceremonial parade on the founding ceremony for the People’s Republic of China and accepted inspection by Party and state leaders.