Battle of Shanghai:
The Prequel to the Rape of Nanking
Shanghai, known as the Pearl of the Orient, had always been an international center in China was near-total destruction during the Sino-Japanese War. Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, the Japanese headed for its goal, the capital of China, Nanking. Shanghai was a key battleground before they were able to reach the capital of China, which brought on the “Stalingrad on the Yangtze.” As a leader of the Nationalist Government, Chiang Kai-Shek would lead the Kuomintang (“KMT”) Army into preparing the city to repel the oncoming smaller, yet technologically superior and more experienced Kwantung Army under the combat-experienced and graduate of Japan’s elite war college, General Iwane Matsui.
Initially, the Imperial Japanese Army had estimated the battle to be over within three days due to their military superiority. However, the Japanese would become engaged in three months, one month, and six days with KMT’s best-trained divisions in one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese would be forced into close combat urban warfare, which is similar to the rat warfare between the Germans and Russians during the Battle of Stalingrad five years later, allowing many historians to name the Battle of Shanghai as “the Stalingrad of the Yangtze.” Special Japanese forces also used chemical weapons against the entrenched KMT soldiers. Only after the KMT military had run entirely out of ammunition, food, and water, were they forced to surrender or flee from the city which had been turned from a populated metropolitan town to a city of rubble and ashes.
The city of Shanghai also housed a large Jewish refugee population and foreign settlement, which housed mostly Americans and British civilians. During the battle, many lost their homes and were forced to be squeezed into small districts. After the battle, many foreigners chose to stay and live among the Japanese as the Japanese also used their communities as their military bases or headquarters. Due to the neutrality between Japan and the Western nations, the foreign communities did not face the same punishments as the Chinese who were forced to remain in Shanghai.