52: Shanghai


While the Japanese invasion of northern China continued, further south the first major battle of the war was about to begin in the streets of Shanghai.



  • The Place of Chinese Disunity in Japanese Army Strategy During 1931 by Donald A. Jordan
  • Effects of Attrition on National War Effort: The Japanese Army Experience China, 1937-1938 by Alvin d. Coox (1968)
  • Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 by Rana Mitter
  • German Mediation in the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-38 by James T.C. Liu (1949)
  • Japan and the Axis, 1937-38: Recognition of the Franco Regime and Manchukuo by Florentino Rodao
  • Memory on Trial: Constructing and Contesting the ‘Rape of Nanking’ at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-1948 by James Burnham Sedgwick
  • The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography Edited by Joshua A. Fogel
  • Isolating Knowledge of the Unpleasant: The Rape of Nanking in Japanese High-School Textbooks by Christopher Barnard
  • Convergence or Divergence? Recent Historical Writings on the Rape of Nanjing by Daqing Yang (1999)
  • A Reconsideration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident by James B. Crowley (1963)
  • Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze by Peter Harmsen
  • Shanghai and Nanjing 1937: Massacre on the Yangtze by Benjamin Lai
  • The Japanese Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War by S.C.M. Paine
  • The Tokyo Judgment and the Rape of Nanking by Timothy Brook
  • The Tragedy of Wuhan, 1938 by Stephen MacKinnon
  • The 1934 Anglo-Japanese Nonaggression Pact by Chihiro Hosoya
  • Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941 by Michael A. Barnhart
  • The Rape Of Nanking by Iris Chang
  • The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 Edited by Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans Van De Ven
  • The Nanking Atrocity 1937-38: Complicating the Picture Edited by Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi
  • China’s Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894-1949 by Philip Jowett


Hello everyone and welcome to History of the Great War Episode 52 - The Second Sino-Japanese War Part 3 - Shanghai. This week a big thank you goes out to Gunnar, Azra, Scott, Anton, and Rick who have chosen to support this podcast on Patreon, where they now get access to ad free versions of all of the podcast’s episodes plus special Patreon episodes released roughly every month. If that sounds interesting to you head on over to historyofthesecondworldwar.com/members to find out more information. For three months, starting in Mid-August 1937, one of the largest battles of the Second Sino-Japanese war would rage in and around Shanghai. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would eventually be involved in fighting that would start inside the city before spilling out into the surrounding countryside. They would use all the modern tools of warfare, aerial bombardment, artillery, tanks, and naval fire support and in the process turn Shanghai into a street fighting hell. It would be one of the early examples of the kind of urban warfare that would become far too common just a few years later, with two large armies with plenty of weapons and ammunition trying to slowly grind out the battle, leaving little but death and destruction behind them. This battle will be the focus of our next three episodes, starting today where we will lay the ground work before discussing how the fighting started, then the next two episodes will be all about escalation as both sides commit more and more resources to the fighting in the city.

During the 1930s Shanghai was, in almost every way, a modern city. It was the second largest city in Asia, behind only Tokyo, with a population of around 3.5 million residents. It was also home to many foreign born individuals who had relocated to Shanghai, mostly for business reasons, living in an international district within the city. After 1927 it was also controlled by the central Chinese government under the control of Chiang Chai-Shek, who had taken the city in 1927 from its previous leaders, a group of local warlords. There was also two different worlds within the city, there were the business leaders and the foreigners, who lived a life with modern conveniences and luxuries and then there was everybody else. These lower class Chinese worked incredibly long hours for very little pay and lived in tiny and cramped apartments, which was all they could afford. These workers, along with Shanghai’s access to foreign markets through its port facilities made the city one of if not the most important economic and business center in China. Along with these economic activities, 1937 would not be the first time that Japanese and Chinese soldiers would be fighting within the city. In January 1932 a group of Japanese officers paid a Chinese gang to attack a group of Japanese priests, which gave the Japanese officers an excuse to send an expedition of Japanese marines out of Shanghai’s international district on a mission of vengeance. These Japanese troops were met with small weapons fire from Chinese soldiers and other gang members, but were mostly undeterred from their mission. More Japanese troops would arrive in the city, along with more Chinese forces as well, and the fighting would begin which would last for over a month as the two sides clashed, mostly in the Zhabei district. Eventually the Japanese would land an additional division of troops in northern Shanghai and the fighting would end in early March, by that point the dislocation of people within the city had reached half a million, often those that were least able to afford such problems.

After the fighting in 1932, Shanghai would be relatively peaceful until August 1937. By that time the situation in Northern China had developed in important ways which we discussed last episode. These changes had put a growing pressure on Chiang to find a way to resist the continued expansion of Japanese power within China. He had been yielding a lot of territory and control to the Japanese in the belief that it was better to wait until China was as prepared as possible before initiating a larger conflict. By July 1937 it seemed that he was ready to make that commitment, and on July 16th, at a meeting of 150 Chinese leaders he would discuss his future strategy and his belief that Shanghai would very likely be the place where the first real battle of the upcoming war would take place. Chiang in many ways could dictate where such a battle occurred because of his control over specific parts of the Chinese military. On paper the forces available to the Chinese leaders seemed massive, with a total of 176 divisions with a paper strength of 10,000 soldiers each during peacetime. However, only about 20 of these divisions were actually at full strength, and instead almost all of them hovered around 5,000 him. Equipment was also a major problem for most Chinese formations, both the amount of it available and its overall quality. There was an important exception to this rule though, and it was part of why Chiang had so much agency in how the future developed in a Sino-Japanese war, because within his control were 20 divisions of troops which were maintained at full strength and into which had been poured large sums of month both for training and for equipment, both of which had been provided by Germany. These divisions were considered to be equal to the Japanese units that they would be facing. Chiang could dictate where the real fighting would begin by where he decided to commit these troops, because they would have to be used somewhere that would be made important by their very presence. They had not be used in Northern China, but they would be in the field in Shanghai. The goals of preparing to defend Shanghai with all possible resources was not just to keep the city in Chinese hands, but also to force a greater commitment of Japanese resources into the area, and away from Northern China where their advances continued unchecked.

The major reason that Chiang was so certain that fighting would soon begin in Shanghai was due to the continued Japanese military presence in the city, a presence dictated by the settlement from 1932. This made Shanghai a very tense area as the overall situation throughout China moved closer and closer to open war in the years following 1932. Which brings us to August 10th, 1937, a date on which an event would occur that would trigger the beginning of the battle of Shanghai. First, lets talk about what we know for certain, which is that on August 10th the bodies of Sub-Lieutenant Oyama Isao and First Class Seaman Saito Yozo were found near Zhabei and near the Shanghai airport. This being the same Zhabei which had been the center of fighting 1932, fighting that had left physical scars on the buildings and which had left mental scars on everybody who had lived in the area. So just to review, what we know is that two Japanese soldiers were found dead on August 10th, 1037, but the fuzzy bit comes in when we try to determine the exact scenario and events which resulted in their deaths. According to the Chinese the wo men, in a vehicle, had tried to force their way through a gate near the airport, they were signaled by Chinese security forces to stop, and they did so. However they then turned the vehicle around and shot at the Chinese using an automatic pistol. According to the Japanese, the fault was squarely at the feet of the Chinese. The Japanese would claim that the men had been driving a car on a road near the airport, they were then stopped and surrounded by Chinese paramilitary forces, who then shot up the vehicle with rifles and machine guns. As with many such incidents, it is both almost impossible to determine what the exact truth was while simultaneously the truth very rapidly did not matter. Both sides now had the excuse that they needed to expand the fighting as they saw fit, and they would both take advantage of this very rapidly.

As more troops were brought into the area, Chiang would send in his best, the 87th and 88th divisions. The goal was for these troops to be used for two reasons, there was the obvious reason of holding onto Shanghai against the Japanese troops which were already in the city and the reinforcements which were almost certainly on their way, but there was also a second reason, to make a good showing of themselves. The Chinese army had done little except surrender and retreat in the face of Japanese aggression for the better part of a decade, and so Chiang believed it was crucial that when hey decided to stand against the Japanese the troops that they sent acquit themselves well, if only to show to the rest of the Chinese nation and the world at large that they could do so. The two divisions had been prepared for just such a purpose, with better equipment and many of their officers had been sent through the Chinese military academy in the years before 1937. At the academy many of those officers would meet their eventual commander during the Battle of Shanghai, General Zhang Zhizhong. Zhang had been the commandant of the military academy before the war and he would be selected by Chiang to command the left wing of the Chinese defense, which included the Shanghai city center where the fighting would likely begin. He was not a bad choice, his personal relationships with the commanders of the 87th and 88th divisions was certainly a positive, but there was a problem, he was very sick. He had taken a leave of absence just months before for health reasons, and that was from the far less stressful job as commandant of the academy. When he was called on to command the troops to face the new round of Japanese aggression in the summer of 1937 he had in fact been preparing to leave the country for a period to convalesce internationally. He would not get his break though, and while his heart may have been in it, during the coming battle there would be many reports that he was on the brink of complete mental and physical breakdown. The other commander would be General Zhang Fakui, who would command the 8th Army group on the right wing of the Chinese positions. Zhang Fakui would go on to have a long and illustrious career in the Nationalist Army, and will reappear in our story several times in the coming years. While these command arrangements were being made, and Chinese troops rapidly began to move into the area, there were still some attempts at negotiating out of further fighting. During this process the Japanese side of the negotiations were handled by the Navy, who had made an arrangement with the Army which meant that the Army had control in Northern China, but the Navy had control in and around Shanghai. This created an interesting situation where the Army, always looking to expand Japanese power in Northern China was actually just in favor of abandoning Shanghai altogether. The Navy was not willing to go that far, but they were willing to continue some level of negotiations even though it appeared that the situation was rapidly spiraling out of control. Zhang Zhizhong would receive orders on August 12th to begin moving his troops into Shanghai, which was essentially the end of any possibility of a negotiated settlement, if there was any possible of that ever happening. It is more likely that the negotiations were just a cover, with both sides wanting to be able to claim that they were the ones that had wanted to negotiate, and it had been the other side that had abandoned such attempts. The public Japanese demand was for the Chinese to withdraw all paramilitary forces from the city, the same police force that was involved in the incident that started these events. To Chinese leaders this seemed to make to clear, and hopefully to anybody else watching, that what the Japanese wanted was simply to expand their control in Shanghai, which was felt to be enough of a cause for the Chinese to resort to direct action. Within Shanghai itself, with small skirmishes already occurring, thousands of people began to leave their homes. Some tried to find refuse in the International Settlement, which many believed quite correctly, would be free of the worst of the fighting, at least initially. Others simply took to the countryside in an effort to escape the violence.

The real battle would begin on August 13th, with the general frontline, although that word is used very roughly on the 13th, being near the International settlement. On the 13th, a Friday, local Chinese units would begin to send out patrols which would do some probing attacks against the Japanese defenses. At the same time the Japanese units, who were becoming outnumbered by the hour, also tried to expand their zone of control, in the hopes of finding and holding a few key positions that would assist them when the coming offensive, which seemed almost certain, was launched. As with most urban fighting there was a tendency for fighting to coalesce around a few specific locations. For example on the western end of the fighting within Shanghai the focus would be drawn to the headquarters building of the Japanese marines, which was essentially a fortress. The building took up two city blocks, was four stories high, could hold thousands of troops, and was made of reinforce concrete. This completely dominated the local rea, and became a key point which the 88th division had to prepare positions around, both to contain the Japanese troops and also to prepare for a possible attack. Often the positions on the 13th were not a clear and concise, and both sides were cautiously working their way forward to try and determine where the enemy really was, and also where the enemy was not. This led to interesting moments, for example when a patrol from the 87th division made its way entirely through the Japanese lines and even got eyes on the Japanese preparations to make a temporary airfield on the gold course by the Huangpu river. This was far from the front lines that were established in the surrounding areas, they just happened to get lucky and found a way though. Not all of the events were free from violence, and there were small clashes, sometimes very short with just a few shots, and some lasting for hours as they groups came to grips with one another. Later in the day two Japanese ships would come into position on the Huangpu river, a destroyer the Kuri and a gunboat the Seta, and they would begin to fire shells into the Chinese districts to the north. Theoretically these shells were to assist the Japanese defenders against the attacks of the 87th division, but their aim was questionable and also not really a priority.

During the night between the 13th and 14th orders would be sent first to Zhang Zhizhong from Nanking and then down to the units in the field that an all out assault would be launched against Japanese positions the next day. There was an important caveat though, these attacks would try to avoid the International Settlement as much as possible. There were Japanese troops within the settlement, and their positions were very important, but it was felt to be too much of a political liability for the Chinese units to begin shooting up an area which held many international individuals and groups. This completely compromised the entire Chinese position, and left a bastion of Japanese strength unaccounted for, but it also meant that the only place to attack the Japanese was in the Hongkou area, which was the most heavily fortified position in Shanghai. This included the Marine headquarters that I mentioned earlier and throughout the entire area the Japanese had constructed barbed wire, concrete, and sandbag emplacements for machine guns. Many of these positions were impervious to the heaviest Chinese artillery, which was in the form of 150mm howitzers, and the more common smaller artillery pieces did basically nothing. There was also no possibility of outflanking or working around these positions given the small geographical areas that they occupied, and the inability to attack into the International settlement. Preparations for the attack would continue for most of the day until late in the afternoon it would begin, and it was a massacre. The bravery of the Chinese officers and men can not be questioned, they executed the frontal attacks as well as could be expected, but that meant very little. Casualty rates were high, especially among the officers, and hundreds would die very quickly. Remember, these were some of China’s best troops, well trained and well equipped, and they were accomplishing nothing while trying to attack an entrenched foe in well prepared positions. The results were so unsatisfactory that further attacks were called off, with Chiang telling Zhang to hold off until further orders were received.

While the 88th division was planning to launch its attack into the Hongkou area, in the skies the first major bombing of the city would occur, when at around 11AM Chinese planes appeared over the city. There target was the river, and the Japanese naval vessels that were shelling Chinese areas of the city. Over the course of the day six separate groups of Chinese bombers would appear over the city, all aiming for the same target, and the results would be disastrous. By all accounts it was a horrible day for flying, but the air attacks were still launched, and the mostly inexperience Chinese pilots would have a rough time. Their limited experience had trained them to bomb from a particular altitude and speed, and most had not seen real anti-aircraft fire. On August 14th, instead of bombing from 7,500 feet they were instead doing so at 1,500 due to cloud cover, and as soon as they began to approach their targets the Japanese vessels unleashed clouds of anti-aircraft fire. Their changes of hitting the ships was small, and they would in fact not do so. The problem was that the ships were close to a very large city, and the bombs did not just disappear because they missed their targets. The first sortie came close, hitting wharfs near the ships and destroying some buildings and port facilities. But later sorties had their bombs impact far further afield, some directly into the International Settlement. Buildings were destroyed, hundreds were killed and wounded, exact numbers are soft but later reports made by French officials who were in Shanghai at the time of the attacks put the number at 150 dead and 675 wounded, although at the time this number would be reported at massively inflated numbers, as high as 5,000. It was a public relations disaster for China, causing the very same political problems that they hoped to avoid by not attacking the International settlement to begin with. It would go down in history as Black Saturday, or Bloody Saturday. On August 15th the Japanese would launch air strikes that they had planned to launch the day before but had delayed due to the weather, G3M twin engine bombers would target air bases near Nanking from their home bases on Kyushu. While these planes were in the air the Japanese Cabinet would begin the process of sending army reinforcements to Shanghai to reinforce the Marines that were already stationed there, and soon the 3rd and 11th Divisions were on their way. The belief was that these two divisions would be more than enough to bring the situation into hand, even though the divisions were primarily made up of reservists, some of which were over a decade away from their last active duty. As would often be the case this underestimation of the Chinese would result in a slow and disorganized piecemeal approach to escalating the Japanese commitment to Shanghai, which would cause the fighting to be longer and far more bloody than it might otherwise have been.

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As the fighting spread throughout Shanghai the number of people trying to leave the city continued to increase, it was not just the Chinese people who were leaving either, but also foreigners and Japanese who were beginning to consider the city too dangerous. Throughout the city the destruction caused by the battle continued to mount, not just from the fighting but also from the widespread looting that would follow. The number of destroyed buildings would also continue to rise as the Japanese put in place their tactic for dealing with Chinese held buildings, which was to basically burn them to the ground. In this environment the Chinese would plan their next large set of attacks for August 17th, which would prove to be their last major attacks in Shanghai. After the failure of these attacks the fighting would begin to spread to the north of Shanghai, with Japanese forces launching two amphibious operations. This would eventually result in a lull in the fighting within the city center, with Chinese resources needed to meet those landings being taken at least partially from units within the city, and the Japanese choosing to place their reinforcements outside the city in hopes that they could be used more lucratively in the more open areas around Shanghai.

While the Chinese attacks that had started on August 14th were very costly, and had not achieved their goals, they had put in an incredible amount of pressure on the Japanese forces that had been in Shanghai when the fighting started. These Japanese marines, under the command of Rear Admiral Okawachi Denshichi were stretched thin, and during the 16th there would be several messages sent back to Japan asking for reinforcements. Each of these messages made the situation sound more and more desperate, with units being hastily thrown together and all resources being used to hold onto positions. The messages would prompt a reaction, and after the second message, sent at 7PM, 500 marines were ordered to prepare to go to Shanghai, but then a third telegram arrived and these plans were expanded with 1,400 Marines, which were already in Manchuria, ordered to board ships immediately so that they could be moved south. These reinforcements, which would arrive within a matter of days, added to the much larger number of Army reinforcements which were also on their way, although they would take a bit longer, put a clock on the ability of the Chinese to push the Japanese out of Shanghai before substantial numbers of Japanese reinforcements arrived.

There was an understanding on the side of the Chinese that Japanese reinforcements would be on their way at some point, but with the complete failure of most of the attacks on the first 3 days of the battle this just resulted in an increased level of desperation. As a reminder, during those early days the Chinese had been throwing infantry against well prepared and protected Japanese positions, and it was a bloodbath. They were constrained by political necessity in these attacks, they felt that they had to avoid active fighting within the International Settlement so as not to anger any foreign parties. These constraints would remain for the upcoming set of attacks on August 17th, even though there was growing concern that it was the constraints that were at least partially contributing to the Chinese failures. This concern came both from some Chinese officers as well as from several of their German advisors. These German advisors had come to China to help train the Chinese troops, and they were far from concerned about the international response to actions against the International Settlement. They advocated for an attack directly against the Japanese in the settlement as the best way to compromise the position of the rest of the Japanese forces in Shanghai. As I mentioned though, Chiang would continue to impose the constraints on the large attack that was ordered for August 17th. Rather dramatically this would be named Operation Iron Fist, and it would start off with an intensive artillery bombardment. Then, while there would be attacks all along the front, the greatest hope was placed in a small group of well armed and well trained men with the goal of pushing this spearhead through the Japanese lines, where they would sow chaos behind the Japanese defenses to open up the rest of their line to further attack. For the attack there would be additional troops available, with the new arrival of the 98th Infantry Division which had entered the city on August 15th. Some of these fresh troops would be added to the beat up troops of the 87th Division for the attack. It would kick off at 5AM on the 17th, but the result would be mostly the same, the Japanese defenses proved to simply be too strong for the Chinese to make any real headway in direct assaults, no matter how motivated or trained the attacking units were.

With the failure, the best chance to remove the Japanese from the city was probably lost, because on August 18th reinforcements began to arrive, with the first units being the Marines that had left Manchuria on August 16th. It would be the failure of the attack on the 17th and the arrival of new Japanese troops which would cause a shift in policy, and for the next set of attacks the International Settlement was now considered a valid target. They would focus on the Yangshupu district with an attack from the 36th Infantry division. The major goal of this attack was to march directly down one of the streets that led to the river, and to capture the wharf areas, which would hopefully cut off the Japanese from moving further reinforcements into the city by sea. The attack would begin early in the morning of August 19th, and it would very quickly run into a problem. Obviously, the Japanese knew that the worst thing that could happen was a capture of the wharf area, and so they had setup heavily fortified and well armed defensive positions around several of the intersections on the path to the river. This would make it far more difficult for the 36th division to make their attack. Capturing these intersections to allow for further advances was costly, but they would manage to do it, and they pushed through to the very last street before the wharf, Broadway, but when they reached the wharf they ran into a new problem. Around the wharf there was a high wall which made it a fantastic defensive position, which was now manned by the Japanese defenders. The Chinese units did not have any of the tools necessary to easily capture the positions on the wall, say some heavy artillery, and so they attempt some very old school tactics like scaling the wall, with a disastrous result. Much like in a medieval siege, trying to scale a wall that was defended mostly just resulted in death due to incoming fire from above. Another major problem, beyond the insurmountable wall, was that Japanese ships in the river were able to shell the Chinese troops that were stopped by the wall. This made some positions untenable, and caused some units to become hopelessly disorganized as they sought cover. Over the next 2 days the 36th division would continue the attack, trying various ways to make it into the wharfs, and they would manage a few small successes, like when they got a few tanks past the wall, only to then find that there were many more Japanese troops and defensive positions waiting for them on the other side. This usage of tanks was not the only time that Chinese tanks would be used during this early days of the battle, but for the most part they were often not used well. It was difficult to properly seal off the areas around the tank units, which meant that the Japanese were constantly able to outflank the tanks an then find ways to disable them, and it would cost the 87th division alone two full armored companies. During the 21st it became clear that there was simply nothing more that the 36th division could do, and they had to abandon their positions which they had shed so much blood to gain. With the failure of the 36th division it was soon very clear that the Chinese had lost their best, and what would turn out to be only, chance to push the Japanese into the river, such an opportunity would not present itself again. More Japanese reinforcements were on their way, and even some of the advantages that the Chinese had enjoyed during the early days, like relative air superiority, had rapidly vanished as more Japanese air units were allocated to the action and eventually the Chinese infantry units were forced to carry out any major movements strictly under the cover of darkness. It was also about to get much worse as the additional Japanese reinforcements which were on their way to the city were about to launch one of the largest amphibious assaults in history.

The grand plan for these landings would involve the two Japanese army divisions that had been dispatched from Japan, and they would land north of Shanghai on the Yangtze river. The 3rd division would send 3,500 men ashore six miles to the north of Shanghai while the 11th division would put 4,000 men ashore 18 miles north of the city. Obviously such numbers would drastically shift the situation in and around Shanghai, and the Chinese commanders were mostly ignorant of what the Japanese were planning. While they did not have specific information about Japanese plans, there was the general belief that if the Japanese did send large numbers of troops they would probably land them somewhere outside of the city. However, with no hard intelligence due to an overall lack of focus on aerial reconnaissance, the landings would be mostly be surprise. There were changes to the plan within the last 48 hours before landings, which had the danger of throwing things into confusion, for example originally the Japanese were going to execute only one landing instead of two. Along with this the commanders of the Army units were quite concerned about the risks inherent with the operation, especially one with so little planning, and so the navy would try and assuage some of these concerns with a unit of 500 marines, well versed in amphibious operations which would be in the first waves to go ashore. These Marines would actually come from Shanghai, which probably says something about the overall risks felt by the Japanese by August 22nd when they moved them out of the city. They would sail to the Saddle Islands near the mouth of the Yangtze where the rest of the troops involved in the operation were being transferred to the landing vessels after having arrived in larger troops transports. With everybody aboard their landing craft the flotilla started off to their landing zones, and just minutes before the landing all the vessels activated their searchlights in an effort to blind the Chinese defenders. Searchlights were also used to zero in on any Chinese defensive fortifications, and if a machine gun opened up it would almost instantly be on the receiving end of a naval bombardment directed by the lights. At 3AM the Marines went ashore and started to climb the dike which in some places was 15 feet high. What they found were Chinese defensive troops with little planning or organization, and while there was a brief bit of hand to hand fighting there was little doubt that the landing would be successful. It would take just 5 hours before the last units were ashore and the divisional headquarters was also in place, with a total cost of just 40 combined total casualties between the two divisions.

News of the landings would arrive back at Zhang Zhizhong’s headquarters at 5:30 AM, about two and a half hours after they started, at this time the only information available was that the Japanese had landed in one area, but the size of their forces was completely unknown. Then by 9AM more concrete information arrived, including news of the second landing further up the river, along with a better estimate of the total size of the Japanese force. Immediately Chinese units were shifted to meet the new threat, with half of the 87th division and a regiment from the Training Brigade, which had just arrived in Shanghai sent north to meet the Japanese. The Training Brigade was a unit that had been created two years earlier at the suggestion of one of the German Advisors, General Hans von Seekct. The idea was that it would be used as a training unit with a special emphasis on the training of new officers as well as the re-training of older officers who would rotate through on a schedule to get refreshers on tactics and technology as they both continued to evolve. This was a goo idea, and the plan was to use the Training Brigade as the engine that will fill out the officer corps of a new modern Chinese army that would have 60 fully modern and well trained divisions at its core. However, this would not be the course for the brigade, and instead with the fighting starting the training Brigade would be thrown into the fighting around Shanghai. From a long term perspective this was an absolutely terrible idea, but the Brigade did represent a very highly trained and skilled unit, and with casualties mounting around the city, and then the landings as well, a sense of desperation would prompt the unit to be committed to battle. It would prove to be every bit as well trained and disciplined as expected, and would serve as an example to other units, getting chewed up just like every other unit in the process. Along with the 87th and Training brigade the 98th and 11th division, which had only very recently arrived in Shanghai were detailed to move into the path of the Japanese advance. The 11th division would be given the specific objective of moving to and securing the town of Luodian. Luodian would be an important village because it sat on or near two roads, one between the Japanese landing sites and the town of Dachang on the way to Shanghai and the other led west and towards the important Chinese railways that were supporting the troops in Shanghai. Even with the 11th Infantry Division rapidly dispatched to defend the village, the Japanese would arrive first, with both sides understanding how important it was to hold the area. In their haste the Japanese had dispatched only a small unit to capture the town, with the hope that they would be able to take and defend it until more reinforcements could arrive. They would do the first quite well, capturing the town against very little resistance. This boosted Japanese confidence, and resulted in the Japanese units not exactly dedicating themselves to construction of defenses. This meant that when the Chinese 11th division arrived during the afternoon, and immediately went over to the attack, their much greater numbers were able to push the Japanese out of the town. They would then start setting up defensive positions to defend what they had gained, and planned ambushes along the routes that the Japanese would use to attack. The Japanese were going to attack again, and they would mass a force before they started their next advance, which would then be slowed by Chinese defenses. They would still push forward and even enter the town, but this time there was much harder fighting, and the close quarters street fighting would continue into the night. Eventually the Japanese would be repulsed, with the 11th division proving that within the tight confines of urban fighting they were quite able to match the Japanese units they were facing.

While fighting flared up along the entire length of the Japanese landings, in Shanghai things became very quiet. The Chinese rapidly went over to the defensive in the city, as they had larger issues elsewhere, and all of the Japanese reinforcements had been with the landings, so the Japanese marines in the city were in no condition to move over to the offensive. The 15th Army Group, and its commander General Chen Cheng, would take over some of the units defending Shanghai on August 24th, and would pull as many troops as possible out of Shanghai to bolster the Chinese counter attacks against the new Japanese arrivals to the north. All that was left in Shanghai was the 88th division, half of the 36th, and then an independent brigade, all of which had seen heavy fighting since the beginning of the battle, which is part of the reason that they were left in the city. This was a required move because if the Chinese had any hope of destroying the Japanese bridgehead they had to do it quickly. By the 24th the Japanese controlled an area 15 kilometers wide and 8 kilometers deep. The only thing that kept it from expanding even further was that a few key Chinese held positions continued to resist Japanese attacks, like the troops at Luodian. However, in most of these areas there was a growing concern that the Chinese troops that were holding the line might fall apart at any moment, in Luodian the troops that had taken the town on August 23rd would remain in the town for several days, which wore them down. With such a tenuous defensive position it was challenging, bordering on impossible, to mount any offensive operations, and from the Chinese point of view this was allowing the Japanese to become more and more secure in their positions by the day. From the Japanese perspective there were serious problems with the landings. The first was that they had not been as successful as hoped, and Chinese resistance had materialized faster than expected. The second was a problem familiar to almost every large amphibious operation, things were simply not getting ashore as quickly as hoped. The most immediate concern was the supplies, which were just taking a long time to move from supply ships, to landing craft, and then to shore. This forced the Japanese forces that were ashore to start to live off the land and requisition anything that they could from the surrounding countryside. Along with supplies not coming ashore there were also problems getting more men ashore as well, with the rate at which the follow on units were making landfall being much slower than the Japanese had planned, and much slower than the Chinese feared. Both of these problems caused the concern among Japanese leaders that they were about to enter into a full stalemate on both landing sites, with both divisions becoming stuck in costly positional fighting. The difference maker would eventually be the Japanese navy, who would provide greater fire support in the form of naval bombardment and air attacks against Chinese positions on August 28th. This additional assistance allowed the 11th division to finally take and hold Luodian, while the 3rd division was able to capture the village of Yinghang, which had been holding up further advances just like Luodian. With these two achievements the number of problematic areas of Chinese defense was greatly reduced.

Even though these two objectives had finally fallen, it did not mean that they were done with the fighting and in fact at the end of August more reinforcements were requested from Tokyo, with a total of five divisions, or three more than were already present, being requested. While this request was made and they were waiting for a response, back on the ground focus turned to the Wusong fort. Wusong was in the area where the 11th and 3rd Japanese divisions met, and it was critical that it be taken before any advances were made further inland. However, it would not be until August 31st that it would be directly attacked, with both the 3rd and 11th divisions contributing forces and attacking from opposite directions. It was a slow process and it would take several days to even reach the fort, with the areas around the town taken on September 1st, before the final assault was made on September 2nd. When the assault was made, it was far easier than expected, and was actually complete by 10AM. As it happened, the defenders were not nearly as strong or prepared as the Japanese had feared. On September 2nd Chiang would send out a message to all of the units around Shanghai, stating “The enemy’s weakness is that they are turning a minor front into their major front. Their tactics are reactive; they are being pushed into action. Our strategy must be to focus on making it difficult for our enemy to advance farther. He will then face a dilemma of whether to advance or retreat. We can use our capacities of endurance to achieve our goal in a protracted battle.” While it presented an avenue for victory, it was not exactly the most inspiring piece of text I have read. Wusong was one of the two areas that were preventing full control of the river from the far northern landings all the way to Shanghai. The other areas was Baoshan. The unit that was holding Baoshan, a battalion of the 89th Division, had been given explicit orders directly from Chiang Kai-Shek to hold the town at any cost. In this endeavor the defenders had the advantage of a thick city wall that had been built centuries before, to defend the town from other enemies. The Japanese troops who were sent to take Baoshan did not have any real plan for dealing with this wall, and so much like the Chinese troops in Shanghai they resorted back to the simplest of tactics, scaling the wall, which was a costly tactic and one that would be once again unsuccessful. The Japanese attacks were still greatly aided by the massive advantage that Japanese units had when it came to fire support. The defenders were bombed from both the air and the sea on September 5th, which would eventually allow the Japanese to make their way into the city. The commander of the defense, Lieutenant Colonel Yao Ziqing would only get two messages out before the end, one requesting further support and the other stating that his unit would find to the death.

The defenders would last for the rest of September 5th, but by nightfall they had been pushed into a tiny area and there were only 100 of them left, Baoshan would fall completely into Japanese hands. While successes were being made on the ground, back in Tokyo the decision was finally made to answer the call for larger reinforcements. With more troops on the way the battle of Shanghai, which had already expanded outside the bounds of the city, was about to enter its third and final phase, and one that would see the battle continue to expand both in geographic and numerical scope.