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.
Well researched and written, a great feat by the author to combine the two skills. The narration is top notch. Note: This is a factual account that includes occasional descriptions of wartime atrocities against combatants and civilians. It is not for the squeamish or easily traumatized.
Much isn't known about the Jappo Sino war of 1937. The Japanese don't talk much about it and China has been in Communist naughty boys club. The Eastern Front of WWII was known for it lack of clarity but this theatre took the prize. I am trying to work out why the Japanese military was so evil to POWs and civilian of occupied territory and I think the story really starts in Shanghai. George Backman is a little dry to listen to and the Chinese names a little hard to separate from each other but the book does show how Shanghai was very much like the Stalingrad on the Yangtze. A good book but not a great book.