Wang Ke was born Wang Maoqing in August 1931 in Xiaoxian County, Jiangsu Province (later Anhui Province). In the early 1940s, this part of Jiangsu became an operating base for the New Fourth Army. With only an elementary school education, Wang joined the local unit of the New Fourth Army as a “young soldier” at the age of 13, serving as a communicator for the armed working team of Xiaoxian County. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commander of the local military subdistrict was Zhang Zhen, a future top People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer and powerful patron for Wang for the remainder of his career. Wang was reportedly personally trained by Zhang, who sent him first for additional education and tactics instruction.