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When the Japanese surrendered, Birch led a routine mission to discover how far south the Chinese Communists had penetrated. His group bumped into a Chinese Communist force. As the scene has been reconstructed, Birch argued violently with the Communist officer who wanted to disarm him. Birch was seized and shot after his hands had been tied. The Communists then bayoneted him at least 15 times and tossed his body on a heap of junk and garbage.
"In the confusing situation," said Krause last week, "my instructions were to act with diplomacy. Birch made the Communist lieutenant lose face before his own men. Militarily, John Birch brought about his own death."
Thus, in his lifetime, John Birch was a legitimate hero. But in both his life and his death he was almost as controversial as the organization that has been named after him.