Segments in this Video

Introduction—Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began (01:47)


World War II began at different times for Europeans, Americans, and Chinese. In 1937, China began fighting against Japanese militarism.

Shanghai, China (04:55)

In the 1930s, Shanghai was a modern western city dominated by foreigners. The Americans, French, British, and Japanese controlled the economy and held privileged positions; many Chinese citizens lived in poverty. Stateless Jews also took refuge in Shanghai.

Japanese Occupation (04:50)

Japanese military forces began occupying northern China in 1931. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurred in 1937. Chinese Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-Shek and Communist Party leader Mao Zedong united to fight the occupation. Thousands of Chinese sought refuge in Shanghai.

Battle of Shanghai (07:52)

The death of a Japanese naval officer triggered Japanese reinforcement in Shanghai. On August 13, 1937 Chang Kai-Shek ordered offensive operations. The Japanese retaliated, shelling Chinese neighborhoods and railroads. Thousands of Chinese sought refuge in Shanghai; friendly fire killed over 800 civilians.

Japan's War on China (02:13)

Brutality was commonplace for four years after the Battle of Shanghai. Japanese Imperial bombers led transoceanic bombing missions. The war received international coverage; Japan refused to acknowledge it was a war.

Defense Fortifications (05:41)

Thousands of Imperial Army troops led by Lt. Gen. Matsui Iwane supported Japan's navy. In the countryside, troops encountered Chinese resistance. Some residents in Shanghai's foreign enclaves decided to evacuate; the Japanese shelled the USS Augusta.

Revenge and Warfare (05:20)

Shanghai events motivated Chinese soldiers, but they were continually at a disadvantage. Japanese troops suffered casualties and vented frustrations on Chinese civilians. Neither side was willing to compromise and Communist-led forces engaged in guerilla warfare.

Military Leaders and Refugees (07:01)

Iwane was rigid and ineffective; Chiang Kai-Shek was uncertain but took personal command of his armies. Chinese troops withdrew north of Suzhou Creek and made a stand at the Sihang Warehouse. Robert Jacquinot de Besange established a safe haven to help the refugee crisis in Shanghai.

Japanese Military Advance (05:08)

Chinese forces moved toward Suzhou and Shanghai's mayor declared the city lost; amateur filmmakers and residents assessed the damage. The Japanese Army targeted Nanjing and the capital fell; soldiers committed brutal acts.

Enemy Nationals (02:36)

America wanted no part of war; President Roosevelt announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. In Shanghai, foreigners were forced into civilian prison camps; Chinese civilians faced worse brutalities.

End of WWII (02:45)

America's financial aid to China arrived late in the war. After Japan's surrender, Allies held a victory parade in Shanghai. The Communist Party introduced a new consciousness in China and foreigners were unwelcome.

Leading Shanghai Figures (02:32)

Defeated Nationalists, including Chiang Kai-Shek, fled to Taiwan. Iwane was sentenced to death for war crimes. Lt. Col. Xie Jinyuan was assassinated. Minnie Vautrin committed suicide. Gen. Zhang Zizhong remained in service. Claire Lee Chennault commanded the Flying Tigers.

Shanghai's Refugees and Prosperity (03:19)

A museum in Shanghai tells the story of Jewish refugees. Liliane Willens went to the U.S.; she later returned to surprising sights in Shanghai. The Battle of Shanghai shaped Chinese attitudes and beliefs; Shanghai has become successful.

Credits: Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began (00:47)

Credits: Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began

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Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began

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When did World War II begin? Americans might say December 7, 1941. For Europeans, it was September 1, 1939. In China, people will tell you August 13, 1937. That day, after a century of humiliation and six years of repeated “Incidents” initiated by the Japanese military, China finally “stood up.” This act of defiance took place in Shanghai, the most international city in Asia. The Battle of Shanghai has been described as the last battle of World War I and the first of World War II. At its heart, this is a story of shattered lives and enduring dreams.

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL194660

ISBN: 978-1-64623-564-3

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

"Key figures in the Battle of Shanghai, how the battle unfolded over a three-month period and the years of war that followed, and the recollections of the men and women who experienced these events as foreign children living in Shanghai." NJTV

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