Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze, Peter Harmsen

Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze, Peter Harmsen


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Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze, Peter Harmsen

Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze, Peter Harmsen

The battle for Shanghai in 1937 was one of the first major urban battles of the Twentieth Century, and a precursor of much that was come in the next decade. Japan and China had fought several times since Japan was forced out of her self imposed isolation, and in 1937 fighting had broken out once again, this time in the north of China. In previous conflicts the Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek had tried to avoid turning localised battles into a wider war, but by 1937 that approach was no longer sustainable. Chiang decided to expand the war by attacking the Japanese garrison at Shanghai (part of the International Settlement).

He hoped that this would force the Japanese to move troops from the north, attract the attention of the international community and give China a morale-boosting victory. Chiang's plan eventually backfired - the initial Chinese attack was repulsed. Japanese reinforcements arrived in increasing numbers, and eventually the battle was lost, the Chinese were forced to evacuate Shanghai and were unable to hold Nanjing. The sack of Nanjing was the first serious stain on the reputation of the Japanese army, and a warning of things to come. The fighting at Shanghai critically damaged Chiang's highest quality divisions, and left the Chinese army greatly weakened in the face of an increasingly aggressive Japanese invasion.

The battle for Shanghai was unusual in a number of ways, the most important of which was the international nature of the city. The International Settlement and the French Concession, where around 70,000 foreigners lived, were both relatively unaffected by the fighting, so the desperate urban battle took place within sight of a relatively peaceful city. The International press corps could visit the fighting then return to their safe hotels, and as a result every step of the fighting was reported around the world.

This is a compelling account of this major but often overlooked battle, told from both sides of the conflict and covering every level of the conflict, from the experiences of the private soldier to the problems faced by the senior commanders on both side as well as the eyewitnesses from the international community in the city. The text is supported by a series of maps that help illustrate the course of the battle, and by photographs that show the impact of urban warfare on one of Asia's most prosperous and cosmopolitan cities.

Chapters
1 - Three Corpses
2 - 'Black Saturday'
3 - Flesh against Steel
4 - 'Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!'
5 - Rivers of Blood
6 - Verdun on the East
7 - The 'Lost Battalion'
8 - Collapse
9 - Aftermath

Author: Peter Harmsen
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2013



The 1937 Battle of Shanghai Was Asia’s Stalingrad

WATCH HERE - Warrior Maven Video: USS Zumwalt Program Manager Capt. Smith Explains "Laser Weapons" and new "Lethality" for the new Stealthy Destroyer. How is the warship changing? Hear from Navy. Capt. ABOVE

By Kevin Knodell,War Is Boring

Today Shanghai is a hub of international trade and culture and one of the world’s great cities. But in 1937, it was a battlefield. Imperial Japanese troops fought the Chinese Nationalist army in the seaside metropolis in one of history’s most terrible battles.

Westerners watched from their neighborhoods as two ancient rivals fought a new kind of war. Soldiers turned homes and businesses into fighting positions. Aerial bombing and artillery smashed ancient neighborhoods. In the course of a few months the combatants leveled entire sections of the city.

In his book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, journalist Peter Harmsen chronicles what is, to outsiders, a largely forgotten battle. Harmsen spent two years as a foreign correspondent in East Asia, including as bureau chief for Agence France-Presse.

In Western minds, World War II began with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. But for the people of East Asia, the war began two years earlier with the Japanese invasion of China — and would continue after Germany’s surrender in May 1945.

Only the Russian front could rival the Chinese front in terms of raw bloodshed. And only the Russian front’s apocalyptic Battle of Stalingrad could match the intensity and brutality of the Shanghai fighting.

At top — Chinese troops guard an intersection from behind fortified positions. Above — Japanese marines move through the rubble of Shanghai. Photos via Wikipedia

Tokyo expected to quickly seize Shanghai. But the Chinese proved much more resilient than the Japanese expected. The battle lasted for months, killing thousands of soldiers and untold numbers of civilians.

Though the Chinese army lost the battle, it showed Japan’s leaders that they would pay a high price for every inch of China territory seized.

Harmsen recounts the battle from several perspectives. He cites the accounts of Chinese and Japanese soldiers and civilians and Western observers. The breadth of primary sources indicates a staggering amount of detective work on the author’s part.

But Shanghai 1937 isn’t just exhaustive. It’s actually … fun. Harmsen invests the story with propulsive urgency.

The story begins like a murder mystery, explaining how the deaths of three Japanese marines and a man wearing a Chinese uniform sparked the battle. The murders help to illustrate the complex politics of pre-war Shanghai and the role crooked politicians and gangsters played in events. But intrigue soon escalates into open warfare.

The scenes of battle are vivid and visceral. But they also clearly explicate the strategic and tactical factors that determined the battle’s outcome.

The Japanese had a distinct technological advantage. But they ultimately underestimated the creativity and resolve of the Chinese infantry as the Chinese transformed the rubble into a labyrinth of traps and ambushes.

The book also delves into some of the stranger aspects of the war’s early days, such as the involvement of German advisers on the Chinese side. Other odd characters include duplicitous warlords and gruff war correspondents.

Shanghai 1937 is a superb examination of an important battle that many have all but forgotten.


Shanghai 1937

At its height, the Battle of Shanghai involved nearly a million Chinese and Japanese soldiers while sucking in three million civilians as unwilling spectators—and often victims. It turned what had been a Japanese imperialist adventure in China into a general war between the two oldest and proudest civilizations of the Far East. Ultimately, it led to Pearl Harbor and to seven decades of tumultuous history in Asia. The Battle of Shanghai was a pivotal event that helped define and shape the modern world.

In its sheer scale, the struggle for China’s largest city was a sinister forewarning of what was in store only a few years later in theaters around the world. It demonstrated how technology had given rise to new forms of warfare and had made old forms even more lethal. Amphibious landings, tank assaults, aerial dogfights, and—most important—urban combat all happened in Shanghai in 1937. It was a dress rehearsal for World War II—or, perhaps more correctly, it was the inaugural act in the war, the first major battle in the global conflict.

Actors from a variety of nations were present in Shanghai during the three fateful autumn months when the battle raged. The rich cast included China’s ascetic Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Japanese adversary, General Matsui Iwane, who wanted Asia to rise from disunity, but ultimately pushed the continent toward its deadliest conflict ever. Claire Chennault, later of “Flying Tiger” fame, was among the figures emerging in the course of the campaign, as was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In an ironic twist, Alexander von Falkenhausen, a stern German veteran of the Great War, abandoned his role as a mere advisor to the Chinese army and led it into battle against the Japanese invaders.

Shanghai 1937 fills a gaping chasm in our understanding of the War of Resistance and the Second World War.


Description

This deeply researched book describes one of the great forgotten battles of the 20th century. At its height, it involved nearly a million Chinese and Japanese soldiers, while sucking in three million civilians as unwilling spectators—and often victims. It turned what had been a Japanese adventure in China into a general war between the two oldest and proudest civilizations of the Far East. Ultimately, it led to Pearl Harbor and to seven decades of tumultuous history in Asia. The Battle of Shanghai was a pivotal event that helped define and shape the modern world.

In its sheer scale, the struggle for China’s largest city was a sinister forewarning of what was in store for the rest of mankind only a few years hence in theaters around the world. It demonstrated how technology had given rise to new forms of warfare, or had made old forms even more lethal. Amphibious landings, tank assaults, aerial dogfights, and—most importantly—urban combat all happened in Shanghai in 1937. It was a dress rehearsal for World War II—or, perhaps more correctly, it was the inaugural act in the war—the first major battle in the global conflict.

Actors from a variety of nations were present in Shanghai during the three fateful autumn months when the battle raged. The rich cast included China’s ascetic Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Japanese adversary, General Matsui Iwane, who wanted Asia to rise from disunity, but ultimately pushed the continent toward its deadliest conflict ever. Claire Chennault, later of “Flying Tiger” fame, was among the figures emerging in the course of the campaign, as was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In an ironic twist, Alexander von Falkenhausen, a stern German veteran of the Great War, abandoned his role as a mere advisor to the Chinese army and led it into battle against the Japanese invaders.

Shanghai 1937 fills a gaping chasm in our understanding of the Second World War.

Advance Praise

"Harmsen crisply narrates the battle, weaving together large unit movements and personal vignettes from mid-ranking officers and enlisted men. Clear maps illustrate each phase of the fighting, as do many fine photographs." --Journal of Military History, July 2015

"More original than many works in Chinese, while also being much more readable. A moving and fluent narrative which describes a desperate and bitter battle in vivid prose." --Journal of Research of China's Resistance War Against Japan, June 2014

"Mr Harmsen is an excellent writer. The book rattles along like a modern techno-thriller." --The Wargamer

"'Shanghai 1937' has all the elements of a fabulous historical novel. Comparisons by online reviewers to Antony Beevor, author of 'Stalingrad' and 'Berlin,' are justly deserved." --Taiwan Today

"Harmsen crisply narrates the battle, weaving together large unit movements and personal vignettes from mid-ranking officers and enlisted men. Clear maps illustrate each phase of the fighting, as do.


This deeply researched book describes one of the great forgotten battles of the 20th century. At its height it involved nearly a million Chinese and Japanese soldiers, while sucking in three million civilians as unwilling spectators and, often, victims. It turned what had been a Japanese adventure in China into a general war between the two oldest and proudest civilizations of the Far East. Ultimately, it led to Pearl Harbor and to seven decades of tumultuous history in Asia. The Battle of Shanghai was a pivotal event that helped define and shape the modern world.

In its sheer scale, the struggle for China's largest city was a sinister forewarning of what was in store for the rest of mankind only a few years hence, in theaters around the world. It demonstrated how technology had given rise to new forms of warfare, or had made old forms even more lethal. Amphibious landings, tank assaults, aerial dogfights and most importantly, urban combat, all happened in Shanghai in 1937. It was a dress rehearsal for World War II-or perhaps more correctly it was the inaugural act in the war-the first major battle in the global conflict.

Actors from a variety of nations were present in Shanghai during the three fateful autumn months when the battle raged. The rich cast included China's ascetic Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Japanese adversary, General Matsui Iwane, who wanted Asia to rise from disunity, but ultimately pushed the continent toward its deadliest conflict ever. Claire Chennault, later of"Flying Tiger" fame, was among the figures emerging in the course of the campaign, as was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In an ironic twist, Alexander von Falkenhausen, a stern German veteran of the Great War, abandoned his role as a mere advisor to the Chinese army and led it into battle against the Japanese invaders.

Written by Peter Harmsen, a foreign correspondent in East Asia for two decades, and currently bureau chief in Taiwan for the French news agency AFP, Shanghai 1937 fills a gaping chasm in our understanding of the Second World War.
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Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze Paperback – 11 mei 2015

" a compelling account of this major but often overlooked battle, told from both sides of the conflict and covering every level of the conflict, from the experiences of the private soldier to the problems faced by the senior commanders on both side as well as the eyewitnesses from the international community in the city. The text is supported by a series of maps that help illustrate the course of the battle, and by photographs that show the impact of urban warfare on one of Asia's most prosperous and cosmopolitan cities."-- "History of War"

". rattles along like a modern techno-thriller and moves gracefully between descriptions of the tactical battlefield and the impact on the company, platoon or individual to the strategic machinations of the "top brass" and the movement of armies and divisions. Whilst the book piqued my interest in the pre Second World War Sino-Japanese conflict it stands very successfully as an excellent piece of military writing in its own right. One only has to be interested in warfare to appreciate this book.It is supported as is usual by a centre of black and white pictures showing Shanghai in the thirties and scenes from the conflict. . Also there are a number of maps to allow you to follow the general course of the action.Overall this book is highly recommended. For wargamers it has got all the makings of an excellent campaign or demonstration game - naval gunnery support, tanks, direct tactical air support, two evenly matched forces, Marines, the what if scenario of conflict spreading into the International Settlement (other colonial powers had troops and naval forces in Shanghai), German military advisors and of course a cavalry charge! For military historians it is an interesting insight into the development of the tactical use of military technology in the lead up to the Second World War. And, finally, it is damn good read!"-- "Wargamer"

". succeeds in describing the experiences and perceptions of officers and soldiers on both the Chinese and Japanese side, the suffering of the common people, the war in the eyes of the westerners, and the German advisors' role, presenting a complete, multi-faceted and objective vista of the war. Shanghai 1937 excels at describing the events from the point of view of the common people, using their diaries and letters to describe the war as seen from the ground level, how it began and evolved, and how it affected their lives and spirits. In this respect, it is more original than many works in Chinese, while also being much more readable. A moving and fluent narrative which describes a desperate and bitter battle in vivid prose."-- "Journal of Studies of China's Resistance War Against Japan"

". an arrow straight account of the pyrrhic battle for much of the city. challenges the notion that the Second World War began in 1939 and he has a point. I am pleased to have read it. If you are looking to expand your world knowledge to the Middle Kingdom, have a look at this book. If the advance of the Japanese interests you it might make a nice change not to read about endless embarrassing retreats of colonial armies for a while."-- "War in History"

". enhances the bare facts with material gleaned from multiple diaries, reports, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and other accounts from combatants and civilians of all nationalities. In addition to on-the-spot impressions from a surprising number of Chinese and Japanese foot soldiers, the book also features eyewitness reports from and about foreigners living and working in the cosmopolitan city at the time. As the author notes, the battle of Shanghai was front page news throughout much of the world, and numbers of journalists from around the globe covered the fighting from both sides of the line while crossing in and out of the safety and comfort of the international concessions. Besides using many contemporary documents as sources, Harmsen has chosen to illustrate the book with an especially noteworthy selection of very striking wartime photographs. . engaging account of a little-known battle. . practically nothing else in English tackles this topic at this level. ..-- "Stone & Stone Second World War Books"

". has all the elements of a fabulous historical novel. . Yet from another angle it is a historical minefield. he seamless way in which Harmsen weaves Chiang's international political maneuvering into battlefield strategy, combining the perspectives of regular privates and commanding generals, along with civilians and combatants, suggests his narrative was of long gestation. one of the really remarkable features of "Shanghai 1937" is the huge collection of high-quality photographs, all of them in-period and directly relevant to the action, in three 16-page inserts. Also, one cannot help noticing that many of them are credited to the "author's collection.".. few who have read the book have failed to be gripped by the narrative."-- "Taiwan Today"

". presents a gripping chronology of two sides locked in a horrific death dance. genuinely shines by interlacing the chronology with plenty of personal anecdotes and quotidian details. an important reminder between Champagne brunches, art openings and fashion shows--rivers of blood once flowed beneath our feet."-- "City Weekend Shanghai"

"All through the 1930s an extremely bloody war was fought in China. It was a war that involved great power interests, clashing ideologies and local interests. This entire complex and bloody jigsaw is the topic of China expert Peter Harmsen's book on the battle of Shanghai in 1937. There are not very many books on this topic and this period, which has been a neglected chapter in western history writing. Therefore, Peter Harmsen has written an important book. It's about events that happened more than 70 years ago, but it's relevant for the present age because the same great power interests are at work today. The book is extremely readable and deserves praise for telling the story of a forgotten aspect of the global showdown of the 1930s"-- "Politiken"

"Harmsen, a two-decade veteran of east Asia, demonstrates a breathtaking command of the battle itself--from the 10,000 meter, panoramic view of the terrain and history, down to the platoon level--Japanese and Chinese grunts fighting, bleeding, starving and dying, and the types of knots that the Japanese used to tie their helmets on."-- "Asian Review of Books"

"In the voluminous literature on World War II, few books treat the Sino-Japanese War, and few of those are accessible to non-specialists. Thankfully, seasoned East Asian correspondent Peter Harmsen has written an engrossing study that goes far to fill the gap in the historiography of a neglected theater of operations and the first large-scale urban battle of the war. Historians of this battle do have certain advantages. Since Shanghai was a cosmopolitan city with a large contingent of foreign residents that stayed for the duration, scholars possess an additional source of primary documents and valuable eyewitness accounts. Harmsen takes full advantage of these. . a compelling, quite detailed. narrative history of an understudied war. . gives easy entry into the secondary literature on the Sino-Japanese War.-- "Michigan War Studies Review"

"It is not often that one discovers a great significant event in history that is both overlooked and underwritten. The battle of Shanghai in the summer and fall 1937 is one such event. In "Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangzte," by Peter Harmsen, he takes the casual reader as well as the avid military history enthusiast on a horrific journey down the blood-soaked alleys and war-ravaged suburbs of one of China's greatest cities. well-written. It has a treasure trove of rare photos of the battle and is exhaustively researched. Harmsen has earned his stripes in uncovering this event from an academic military standpoint. Along with accurately placing units in their order of battle, he also succeeds in humanizing these units with individual stories. "Shanghai 1937" is a must-read for anyone interested in military history or a genuine fascination of the nationalist era in Chinese history. "-- "SAMPAN"

"Japan attacked China in 1931 but the Sino-Japanese War did not begin proper until 1937 and is a period or subject which historians rarely visit. The author of this work not only takes on the complicated task but does it in a masterly manner. Pre-war China is often seen as undeveloped but in this work the city of Shanghai is painted as a vibrant, cosmopolitan place thriving with banks and commerce. The Japanese attack changed all that and the brutality which came in the wake of the attack is described here. The Chinese tried valiantly in some cases to defend their country but to no avail and the price they paid was high. This is a great narrative and will expand the understanding of war in the Far East"-- "GunMart"

"Largely ignored in the West, Japan and China fought a horrible large-scale battle for the city of Shanghai from July to November 1937. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze relates the story of this awful months-long battle and its effect on later events. This book is meticulously researched, and vignettes are included from generals and privates alike. Civilian accounts, the bulk of them from residents of the International Settlement, abound. Most of the sources are translated Chinese works. The author weaves them together in a way that gives a sense of the battle's breadth and horror. Readers interested in the history of the Sino-Japanese fighting of the 1930s will find this book a valuable addition to their libraries."-- "Military Heritage"

"One of the most sobering things about reading history is realizing the ease with which the deaths of a millions can be forgotten in only a few decades. I am currently reading Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, by Peter Harmsen. I recommend it heartily. Even if you thought you knew all there was to know about the Second World War, if you haven't read up on the Sino-Japanese conflict, you've missed one of its principal roots. The Japanese were in real danger of losing the Battle of Shanghai, in part because the Chinese Army was advised by German officers, some of whom were Jewish and fleeing from Hitler."-- "The Belmont Club"

"Peter Harmsen judiciously narrates the 1937 Battle of Shanghai, employing numerous Chinese and Japanese memoirs. Harmsen argues plausibly that this bloody three-month battle, pitting 750,000 Chinese against 250,000 Japanese, cemented the transformation from localized "incidents" to international war. Harmsen crisply narrates the battle, weaving together large unit movements and personal vignettes from mid-ranking officers and enlisted men. Clear maps illustrate each phase of the fighting, as do many fine photographs."-- "Journal of Military History"

"Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze and Nanjing 1937: Battle For a Doomed City are not only meticulously researched, but are gripping reads as well. And if we are fortunate, Harmsen will continue writing these histories. A golden age of Chinese military history is still far away, but if books like Harmsen's continue to be published, a golden age of China's World War II history may be just around the corner."-- "The Strategy Bridge"

"The author has processed a huge number of original Chinese and Japanese sources, interviewed survivors and collected an impressive number of photos and a large array of useful maps. This gives the narrative substance and credibility. At the same time, it's also a very objective and nuanced account. With his book, Peter Harmsen fills a huge historiographical void. The story is told in a highly riveting manner. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze is almost impossible to put aside once you have started, and even harder to put aside after you have finished the last page."-- "Weekendavisen"

"There is no doubt that one of the most important historical accounts of the year is Peter Harmsen's book about the war between China and Japan. It's an original and thorough work which turns the prevailing consensus of the past generations upside down and questions what many historians have so far taken for granted. It's impossible not to become more knowledgeable from reading Harmsen's book. The complicated strategic material is reinforced with contemporary testimony and anecdotes throughout."-- "Kristeligt Dagblad"

"This is not traditional war history, but an extremely dramatic documentary thriller. It's based on facts, collected in meticulous and time-consuming fashion from diaries, newspaper articles, books and memoirs, but in contrast to much other war literature, you get so close to the actors, from generals to Chinese and Japanese privates and civilians, that as a reader you have to constantly remind yourself that this was real, involved a million soldiers, and was to lead to the global changes of the next ten years. Peter Harmsen has written a book that has many qualities and extremely high information and entertainment value. It's about time that we reach a better understanding of the causes of World War Two, a chain of events where the battle of Shanghai had a much bigger impact than military historians in the west have realized so far. Shanghai 1937. is not only an invaluable piece of military history, but also a book with formidable powers of empathy that at times make the reader feel like an actual participant in the bloody events."-- "Jyllands-Posten"

"What's special about this book is its comprehensiveness, shifting between Chinese, Japanese and foreign points of view to describe the causes of the battle, Chiang Kai-shek's strategy, the Chinese army's attack, the stalemate and the fall of Shanghai. The photos selected for the book also illustrate the operations on the two sides as well as the conditions endured by the people of Shanghai. . In addition to accounts by participants on both the Chinese and Japanese side as well as contemporary newspaper reports, the book also uses the memoirs of numerous foreigners. In this respect it is richer than a lot of works in the Chinese language."-- "Shenzhen Special Zone Daily"


Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze Hardcover – Geïllustreerd, 3 mei 2013

" a compelling account of this major but often overlooked battle, told from both sides of the conflict and covering every level of the conflict, from the experiences of the private soldier to the problems faced by the senior commanders on both side as well as the eyewitnesses from the international community in the city. The text is supported by a series of maps that help illustrate the course of the battle, and by photographs that show the impact of urban warfare on one of Asia's most prosperous and cosmopolitan cities."-- "History of War"

". rattles along like a modern techno-thriller and moves gracefully between descriptions of the tactical battlefield and the impact on the company, platoon or individual to the strategic machinations of the "top brass" and the movement of armies and divisions. Whilst the book piqued my interest in the pre Second World War Sino-Japanese conflict it stands very successfully as an excellent piece of military writing in its own right. One only has to be interested in warfare to appreciate this book.It is supported as is usual by a centre of black and white pictures showing Shanghai in the thirties and scenes from the conflict. . Also there are a number of maps to allow you to follow the general course of the action.Overall this book is highly recommended. For wargamers it has got all the makings of an excellent campaign or demonstration game - naval gunnery support, tanks, direct tactical air support, two evenly matched forces, Marines, the what if scenario of conflict spreading into the International Settlement (other colonial powers had troops and naval forces in Shanghai), German military advisors and of course a cavalry charge! For military historians it is an interesting insight into the development of the tactical use of military technology in the lead up to the Second World War. And, finally, it is damn good read!"-- "Wargamer"

". succeeds in describing the experiences and perceptions of officers and soldiers on both the Chinese and Japanese side, the suffering of the common people, the war in the eyes of the westerners, and the German advisors' role, presenting a complete, multi-faceted and objective vista of the war. Shanghai 1937 excels at describing the events from the point of view of the common people, using their diaries and letters to describe the war as seen from the ground level, how it began and evolved, and how it affected their lives and spirits. In this respect, it is more original than many works in Chinese, while also being much more readable. A moving and fluent narrative which describes a desperate and bitter battle in vivid prose."-- "Journal of Studies of China's Resistance War Against Japan"

". an arrow straight account of the pyrrhic battle for much of the city. challenges the notion that the Second World War began in 1939 and he has a point. I am pleased to have read it. If you are looking to expand your world knowledge to the Middle Kingdom, have a look at this book. If the advance of the Japanese interests you it might make a nice change not to read about endless embarrassing retreats of colonial armies for a while."-- "War in History"

". enhances the bare facts with material gleaned from multiple diaries, reports, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and other accounts from combatants and civilians of all nationalities. In addition to on-the-spot impressions from a surprising number of Chinese and Japanese foot soldiers, the book also features eyewitness reports from and about foreigners living and working in the cosmopolitan city at the time. As the author notes, the battle of Shanghai was front page news throughout much of the world, and numbers of journalists from around the globe covered the fighting from both sides of the line while crossing in and out of the safety and comfort of the international concessions. Besides using many contemporary documents as sources, Harmsen has chosen to illustrate the book with an especially noteworthy selection of very striking wartime photographs. . engaging account of a little-known battle. . practically nothing else in English tackles this topic at this level. ..-- "Stone & Stone Second World War Books"

". has all the elements of a fabulous historical novel. . Yet from another angle it is a historical minefield. he seamless way in which Harmsen weaves Chiang's international political maneuvering into battlefield strategy, combining the perspectives of regular privates and commanding generals, along with civilians and combatants, suggests his narrative was of long gestation. one of the really remarkable features of "Shanghai 1937" is the huge collection of high-quality photographs, all of them in-period and directly relevant to the action, in three 16-page inserts. Also, one cannot help noticing that many of them are credited to the "author's collection.".. few who have read the book have failed to be gripped by the narrative."-- "Taiwan Today"

". presents a gripping chronology of two sides locked in a horrific death dance. genuinely shines by interlacing the chronology with plenty of personal anecdotes and quotidian details. an important reminder between Champagne brunches, art openings and fashion shows--rivers of blood once flowed beneath our feet."-- "City Weekend Shanghai"

"All through the 1930s an extremely bloody war was fought in China. It was a war that involved great power interests, clashing ideologies and local interests. This entire complex and bloody jigsaw is the topic of China expert Peter Harmsen's book on the battle of Shanghai in 1937. There are not very many books on this topic and this period, which has been a neglected chapter in western history writing. Therefore, Peter Harmsen has written an important book. It's about events that happened more than 70 years ago, but it's relevant for the present age because the same great power interests are at work today. The book is extremely readable and deserves praise for telling the story of a forgotten aspect of the global showdown of the 1930s"-- "Politiken"

"Harmsen, a two-decade veteran of east Asia, demonstrates a breathtaking command of the battle itself--from the 10,000 meter, panoramic view of the terrain and history, down to the platoon level--Japanese and Chinese grunts fighting, bleeding, starving and dying, and the types of knots that the Japanese used to tie their helmets on."-- "Asian Review of Books"

"In the voluminous literature on World War II, few books treat the Sino-Japanese War, and few of those are accessible to non-specialists. Thankfully, seasoned East Asian correspondent Peter Harmsen has written an engrossing study that goes far to fill the gap in the historiography of a neglected theater of operations and the first large-scale urban battle of the war. Historians of this battle do have certain advantages. Since Shanghai was a cosmopolitan city with a large contingent of foreign residents that stayed for the duration, scholars possess an additional source of primary documents and valuable eyewitness accounts. Harmsen takes full advantage of these. . a compelling, quite detailed. narrative history of an understudied war. . gives easy entry into the secondary literature on the Sino-Japanese War.-- "Michigan War Studies Review"

"It is not often that one discovers a great significant event in history that is both overlooked and underwritten. The battle of Shanghai in the summer and fall 1937 is one such event. In "Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangzte," by Peter Harmsen, he takes the casual reader as well as the avid military history enthusiast on a horrific journey down the blood-soaked alleys and war-ravaged suburbs of one of China's greatest cities. well-written. It has a treasure trove of rare photos of the battle and is exhaustively researched. Harmsen has earned his stripes in uncovering this event from an academic military standpoint. Along with accurately placing units in their order of battle, he also succeeds in humanizing these units with individual stories. "Shanghai 1937" is a must-read for anyone interested in military history or a genuine fascination of the nationalist era in Chinese history. "-- "SAMPAN"

"Japan attacked China in 1931 but the Sino-Japanese War did not begin proper until 1937 and is a period or subject which historians rarely visit. The author of this work not only takes on the complicated task but does it in a masterly manner. Pre-war China is often seen as undeveloped but in this work the city of Shanghai is painted as a vibrant, cosmopolitan place thriving with banks and commerce. The Japanese attack changed all that and the brutality which came in the wake of the attack is described here. The Chinese tried valiantly in some cases to defend their country but to no avail and the price they paid was high. This is a great narrative and will expand the understanding of war in the Far East"-- "GunMart"

"Largely ignored in the West, Japan and China fought a horrible large-scale battle for the city of Shanghai from July to November 1937. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze relates the story of this awful months-long battle and its effect on later events. This book is meticulously researched, and vignettes are included from generals and privates alike. Civilian accounts, the bulk of them from residents of the International Settlement, abound. Most of the sources are translated Chinese works. The author weaves them together in a way that gives a sense of the battle's breadth and horror. Readers interested in the history of the Sino-Japanese fighting of the 1930s will find this book a valuable addition to their libraries."-- "Military Heritage"

"One of the most sobering things about reading history is realizing the ease with which the deaths of a millions can be forgotten in only a few decades. I am currently reading Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, by Peter Harmsen. I recommend it heartily. Even if you thought you knew all there was to know about the Second World War, if you haven't read up on the Sino-Japanese conflict, you've missed one of its principal roots. The Japanese were in real danger of losing the Battle of Shanghai, in part because the Chinese Army was advised by German officers, some of whom were Jewish and fleeing from Hitler."-- "The Belmont Club"

"Peter Harmsen judiciously narrates the 1937 Battle of Shanghai, employing numerous Chinese and Japanese memoirs. Harmsen argues plausibly that this bloody three-month battle, pitting 750,000 Chinese against 250,000 Japanese, cemented the transformation from localized "incidents" to international war. Harmsen crisply narrates the battle, weaving together large unit movements and personal vignettes from mid-ranking officers and enlisted men. Clear maps illustrate each phase of the fighting, as do many fine photographs."-- "Journal of Military History"

"Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze and Nanjing 1937: Battle For a Doomed City are not only meticulously researched, but are gripping reads as well. And if we are fortunate, Harmsen will continue writing these histories. A golden age of Chinese military history is still far away, but if books like Harmsen's continue to be published, a golden age of China's World War II history may be just around the corner."-- "The Strategy Bridge"

"The author has processed a huge number of original Chinese and Japanese sources, interviewed survivors and collected an impressive number of photos and a large array of useful maps. This gives the narrative substance and credibility. At the same time, it's also a very objective and nuanced account. With his book, Peter Harmsen fills a huge historiographical void. The story is told in a highly riveting manner. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze is almost impossible to put aside once you have started, and even harder to put aside after you have finished the last page."-- "Weekendavisen"

"There is no doubt that one of the most important historical accounts of the year is Peter Harmsen's book about the war between China and Japan. It's an original and thorough work which turns the prevailing consensus of the past generations upside down and questions what many historians have so far taken for granted. It's impossible not to become more knowledgeable from reading Harmsen's book. The complicated strategic material is reinforced with contemporary testimony and anecdotes throughout."-- "Kristeligt Dagblad"

"This is not traditional war history, but an extremely dramatic documentary thriller. It's based on facts, collected in meticulous and time-consuming fashion from diaries, newspaper articles, books and memoirs, but in contrast to much other war literature, you get so close to the actors, from generals to Chinese and Japanese privates and civilians, that as a reader you have to constantly remind yourself that this was real, involved a million soldiers, and was to lead to the global changes of the next ten years. Peter Harmsen has written a book that has many qualities and extremely high information and entertainment value. It's about time that we reach a better understanding of the causes of World War Two, a chain of events where the battle of Shanghai had a much bigger impact than military historians in the west have realized so far. Shanghai 1937. is not only an invaluable piece of military history, but also a book with formidable powers of empathy that at times make the reader feel like an actual participant in the bloody events."-- "Jyllands-Posten"

"What's special about this book is its comprehensiveness, shifting between Chinese, Japanese and foreign points of view to describe the causes of the battle, Chiang Kai-shek's strategy, the Chinese army's attack, the stalemate and the fall of Shanghai. The photos selected for the book also illustrate the operations on the two sides as well as the conditions endured by the people of Shanghai. . In addition to accounts by participants on both the Chinese and Japanese side as well as contemporary newspaper reports, the book also uses the memoirs of numerous foreigners. In this respect it is richer than a lot of works in the Chinese language."-- "Shenzhen Special Zone Daily"


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ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK

This deeply researched book describes one of the great forgotten battles of the 20th century. At its height it involved nearly a million Chinese and Japanese soldiers, while sucking in three million civilians as unwilling spectators and, often, victims. It turned what had been a Japanese adventure in China into a general war between the two oldest and proudest civilizations of the Far East. Ultimately, it led to Pearl Harbor and to seven decades of tumultuous history in Asia. The Battle of Shanghai was a pivotal event that helped define and shape the modern world.

In its sheer scale, the struggle for China’s largest city was a sinister forewarning of what was in store for the rest of mankind only a few years hence, in theaters around the world. It demonstrated how technology had given rise to new forms of warfare, or had made old forms even more lethal. Amphibious landings, tank assaults, aerial dogfights and most importantly, urban combat, all happened in Shanghai in 1937. It was a dress rehearsal for World War II—or perhaps more correctly it was the inaugural act in the war—the first major battle in the global conflict.

Actors from a variety of nations were present in Shanghai during the three fateful autumn months when the battle raged. The rich cast included China's ascetic Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Japanese adversary, General Matsui Iwane, who wanted Asia to rise from disunity, but ultimately pushed the continent toward its deadliest conflict ever. Claire Chennault, later of “Flying Tiger” fame, was among the figures emerging in the course of the campaign, as was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In an ironic twist, Alexander von Falkenhausen, a stern German veteran of the Great War, abandoned his role as a mere advisor to the Chinese army and led it into battle against the Japanese invaders.

Written by Peter Harmsen, a foreign correspondent in East Asia for two decades, and currently bureau chief in Taiwan for the French news agency AFP, Shanghai 1937 fills a gaping chasm in our understanding of the Second World War.

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The 1937 Battle of Shanghai Was Asia’s Stalingrad

Open Road Media sponsored this post on March 23, 2016. Today Shanghai is a hub of international trade and culture and one of the.

Today Shanghai is a hub of international trade and culture and one of the world’s great cities. But in 1937, it was a battlefield. Imperial Japanese troops fought the Chinese Nationalist army in the seaside metropolis in one of history’s most terrible battles.

Westerners watched from their neighborhoods as two ancient rivals fought a new kind of war. Soldiers turned homes and businesses into fighting positions. Aerial bombing and artillery smashed ancient neighborhoods. In the course of a few months the combatants leveled entire sections of the city.

In his book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, journalist Peter Harmsen chronicles what is, to outsiders, a largely forgotten battle. Harmsen spent two years as a foreign correspondent in East Asia, including as bureau chief for Agence France-Presse.

In Western minds, World War II began with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. But for the people of East Asia, the war began two years earlier with the Japanese invasion of China — and would continue after Germany’s surrender in May 1945.

Only the Russian front could rival the Chinese front in terms of raw bloodshed. And only the Russian front’s apocalyptic Battle of Stalingrad could match the intensity and brutality of the Shanghai fighting.

At top — Chinese troops guard an intersection from behind fortified positions. Above — Japanese marines move through the rubble of Shanghai. Photos via Wikipedia

Tokyo expected to quickly seize Shanghai. But the Chinese proved much more resilient than the Japanese expected. The battle lasted for months, killing thousands of soldiers and untold numbers of civilians.

Though the Chinese army lost the battle, it showed Japan’s leaders that they would pay a high price for every inch of China territory seized.

Harmsen recounts the battle from several perspectives. He cites the accounts of Chinese and Japanese soldiers and civilians and Western observers. The breadth of primary sources indicates a staggering amount of detective work on the author’s part.

But Shanghai 1937 isn’t just exhaustive. It’s actually … fun. Harmsen invests the story with propulsive urgency.

The story begins like a murder mystery, explaining how the deaths of three Japanese marines and a man wearing a Chinese uniform sparked the battle. The murders help to illustrate the complex politics of pre-war Shanghai and the role crooked politicians and gangsters played in events. But intrigue soon escalates into open warfare.

The scenes of battle are vivid and visceral. But they also clearly explicate the strategic and tactical factors that determined the battle’s outcome.

The Japanese had a distinct technological advantage. But they ultimately underestimated the creativity and resolve of the Chinese infantry as the Chinese transformed the rubble into a labyrinth of traps and ambushes.

The book also delves into some of the stranger aspects of the war’s early days, such as the involvement of German advisers on the Chinese side. Other odd characters include duplicitous warlords and gruff war correspondents.

Shanghai 1937 is a superb examination of an important battle that many have all but forgotten.


"Many of the traits bitter American liaisons and attaches would attribute to Nationalist forces—their passivity, an unwillingness to commit to new offenses, Chiang Kai-shek’s penchant for having poorly trained warlord forces defend the most dangerous positions—were a direct consequence of the human capital lost in 1937 and 1938."

“Perhaps [China’s] biggest weakness,” Harmsen says in one of his rare assessments of the strategies each side employed, “was what Chinese commanders erroneously considered their biggest strength: a willingness to absorb losses that often defied imagination.”[14] While the loss of their best troops did not prevent the Chinese from seizing the occasional victory later in the war—most notably in Taierzhuang, fought only a few months after the Battle of Nanjing had ended—it did irreversibly change the types of operations the Nationalists could commit themselves to in the future. Many of the traits bitter American liaisons and attaches would attribute to Nationalist forces—their passivity, an unwillingness to commit to new offenses, Chiang Kai-shek’s penchant for having poorly trained warlord forces defend the most dangerous positions—were a direct consequence of the human capital lost in 1937 and 1938. Chiang Kai-shek simply did not have the reserve of well-trained, well-led, and fiercely committed troops in 1942 that he had in 1937. Those men were all dead, and he could not risk using squandering what little talent he had left on risky set-piece engagements.

Japanese soldiers stand atop the ruins of Zhongshan Gate on 13 Dec 1937, 'victorious' in the Battle of Nanjing. (Public Domain)

The Japanese also found themselves constrained by their victory in Nanjing. The war in China was not a conflict many in Japan wanted: the truly dangerous enemy, most Japanese agreed, was the Soviet Union, not the Nationalists.[15] With the capture of Nanjing they found themselves in control over a huge swathe of China’s economic heartland, and had to garrison it with thousands of troops, drawing ever larger number of soldiers thousands of miles away from the Soviet threat. This made the search for a decisive battle that might swiftly bring the war to a conclusion all the more pressing. The conquest of Nanjing was supposed to be that battle. It was not. In an ironic twist of fate, Japan’s search for decision through the battle actually made the termination of war more difficult. The Nationalists had been shaken by the fall of Shanghai when the Japanese sent the Chinese leaders their conditions for peace shortly after the city fell, the Chinese jumped to accept them. “If these and only these are the terms,” declared Bai Chongxi, the Guangxi Clique’s representative in Nationalist councils, “then why shouldn’t there be peace?”[16] The other Nationalist generals agreed, and Chiang assented to peace talks with Japan. The Japanese returned with different terms. Tokyo had learned of the Central China Area Army’s successful drive towards Nanjing, and wanted a more favorable peace settlement to match the new situation. Chiang refused. This became a pattern that defined Japanese operations in China: The Japanese army would win another ‘decisive’ victory in an effort to end the war, but would then demand even harsher terms from the Chinese in return for peace, hoping to justify the cost of each new campaign to the Japanese people with a greater payout at the end. That payout never came. Instead the Japanese were trapped in a vicious cycle that only drove the Japanese deeper into the Chinese quagmire.[17] The Japanese had conquered Nanjing—and with it, had ensured the ruin of their empire.

T. Greer is a writer and analyst currently based out of Taipei. His research focuses on the evolution of East Asian strategic thought from the time of Sunzi to today. He blogs at The Scholar’s Stage, and can be followed on twitter at @Scholars_Stage.

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Notes:

[3] These numbers are calculated from the figures given in Yang Tianshi, “Chiang Kai-shek and the battles of Shanghai and Nanjing,” in Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans Van de Ven, eds., The Battle For China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 143-158.

[4] Quoted in Peter Harmsen, Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze (Oxford: Casemate Publishers, 2013), Kindle Location 47-48.

[5] Ibid., Kindle Locations 975-984.

[7] Hattori Satoshi and Edward Drea, “Japanese Operations From July to December 1937,” in Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans Van de Ven, eds., The Battle For China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 175 Harmsen, Shanghai 1937, Kindle Locations 3315-3316.

[8] See, for example, Lloyd Eastman, “Nationalist China During the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945,” The Nationalist Era in China, 1927-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 121.

[9] Quoted in Harmsen, Shanghai 1937, Kindle Locations 532-534.

[10] Yang Tianshi, “Chiang Kai-shek,” 149-153 Van, War and Nationalism, 196-203 Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), Kindle Locations 1670-1735 S.C.M. Paine, The Wars For Asia: 1911-1905 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 131-133

[11] On paper a Chinese division had 10,000 men each. Most of these had less in reality than they had on paper, but the 87th and 88th divisions, which had been engaged in the Battle of Shanghai, had been resupplied with fresh men several times over the preceding five months, meaning that their total losses would have been well over 10,000 men each. See Harmsen, Nanjing 1937: Battle for A Doomed City (Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2015), 240.

[12] Paine, Wars For Asia, 133.

[13] Eastman, “Nationalist China,” 140, 143.

[14] Harmsen, Nanjing 1937, 108.

[15] Paine, Wars For Asia, 13-39 Edward Drea, “The Japanese Army on the Eve of the War,” in Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans Van de Ven, eds., The Battle For China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 106-111 Michael A. Barnhart, Japan Prepares For Total War: The Search For Economic Security, 1919-1941 (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1988).


Watch the video: Shanghai in 1973, part 1 上海40年前