The Japanese Army swept across North China after the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, capturing Beiping (北平) and Tianjin (天津) in quick succession on 29 July and 30 July. Before that, the Deputy Commander Tong Linge (佟麟閣) and Division Commander Zhao Dengyu (趙登禹) were sacrificed. On 13 August, Japan mobilised dozens of warships, and more than ten thousand troops to attack Shanghai (上海), China’s largest city of industry and commerce. This sparked off the Battle of Shanghai (also known as the August 13th Incident). This three-month-long combat (13 August to 12 November) was the first major battle in the Total War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
Shanghai’s centre region was the major battlefield in the first two weeks of the battle, with the Japanese forces bombarding the districts of Zhabei (閘北) and Jiangwan (江灣). The National Revolutionary Army (or NRA for short, an army commanded by the Chiang Kai-shek-led﹝蔣介石﹞Nationalist Government) engaged in a brutal and bloody fight with the Japanese forces, with both sides continuing to send more troops into the fray. As the battle continued, the NRA had a harder time to deal with Japan’s superior firepower and eventually transitioned tactics to defend and even retreat. To waylay the Japanese forces long enough for the NRA’s main force to retreat safely, Xie Jinyuan (謝晉元) led the “Eight Hundred Heroes” in the Defence of Sihang Warehouse (四行倉庫) that later became an overnight sensation. The NRA fully retreated on 12 November and Shanghai fell.
The battle cost more than 250,000 casualties from the 750,000 NRA soldiers when every single one of them fought to the death in the war. The tremendous number of lost brave warriors included two lieutenant generals Zhu Yaohua (朱耀華) and Wu Keren (吳克仁), and 14 major generals. Japan committed 300,000 soldiers to the fight and caused around 100,000 casualties. Although China lost the battle, it smashed Japan’s attempt to “conquer China in three months”.
The Japanese forces attacked Shanghai on 8 August 1937, and the Battle of Shanghai began. The photo shows a position of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces in downtown Shanghai that day.
The Japanese forces mobilised massive numbers of tanks, warships, and warplanes in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. They declared to conquer China in just three months as the weaponry, equipment, and resources of the NRA were no match to theirs.
The NRA struggled to resist the Japanese forces who were equipped with more superior firepower in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. Left: the NRA building a barricade at a strategically important intersection. Right: the NRA fighting in a circular fortification.
China deployed naval and air forces in the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. Although China’s naval and air forces were far inferior than that of Japan, it managed to strike a significant blow to the enemy. Left: Chinese warplanes deployed in the Battle of Shanghai. Right: A Japanese warship catching fire when the Chinese air force bombarded the Japanese naval force in Huangpu River (黃浦江) of Shanghai on 14 August.
The Japanese forces employed poison gas during the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. Left: the NRA donning gas masks and firing at the enemy. Right: the soldiers of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force fighting in the streets in downtown Shanghai with gas masks on.
The Chinese machine gun unit (left) and the Japanese machine gun unit (right) engaging in the Battle of Shanghai.
China deployed its elite army, including armoured troops, in the ferocious 1937 Battle of Shanghai. Left: the NRA armoured troop attacking a Japanese position. The Japanese troops used sandbags for cover and fired at the Chinese armoured vehicle. Right picture: the NRA firing at the Japanese troops.
After landing at Hangzhou Bay (杭州灣), the Japanese forces entered Jinshanwei (金山衛), a town in Shanghai, and outflanked Shanghai on 5 November. To prevent Shanghai from encirclement and extermination, Chiang Kai-shek had no choice but to order the NRA to retreat on 8 November, and Shanghai fell on 12 November. During the strenuous defence of Shanghai for three months in 1937, the NRA suffered unimaginable losses. Nonetheless, its perseverance smashed Japan’s ambition to conquer China in just three months.
Left: Xie Jinyuan, the commander who led the “Eight Hundred Heroes” to defend Sihang Warehouse. Middle: the national flag of the Republic of China flying atop Sihang Warehouse. Right: the photo of the girl scout Yang Huimin (楊惠敏) taken before she delivered the national flag to Sihang Warehouse.
Chinese civilians suffered greatly during the Japanese attack on Shanghai. The photos show the bomb-out Shanghai South Railway Station.
Sources of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe.