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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Wednesday 16 October 2013

Shanghai 1937

My reading has drifted a bit from the original Russo-Japanese project to the earlier conflict in China. This includes Peter Harmsen's, 'Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze'.

In 1937, this battle was front page news across the world, largely because it was possible to report on the battle from the relative safety of the international settlement in Shanghai. The Japanese decided to push out of their enclave as part of their strategic goal of expanding in China. The Chinese leadership decided to resist here and moved some of their best divisions into the city and the surrounding area.

Before reading this book, I was under the impression that Chinese troops of the period were uniformly bad, based on later WW2 performance. However, in 1937 the Chinese army included a number of German trained divisions that performed very well against the Japanese. They were well equipped and trained, but badly led. This was the main frustration for the German advisors, several of whom were Jewish and therefore not welcome in the new German army back home.

The Japanese, while out numbered, had several important advantages. Huge firepower, with their fleet providing heavy artillery support and total control of the air. This enabled them to interdict Chinese supply and reinforcement. Chinese artillery was poorly deployed as a consequence and this resulted in huge casualties from frontal assaults. They also had the strategic advantage of being able to land troops at almost any spot on the coast. It was  this that finally enabled them to hit the Chinese flanks, forcing a general withdrawal. 

None the less, it was far from a walkover for the Japanese, who were forced to call up reservists and divert troops from a planned offensive in North China.

This is a well written narrative of the campaign. So much so that I just had to order some of the absolutely fabulous Eureka Miniatures Chinese infantry. Great detail although ridiculously pricey. 


  1. It is indeed a well written book that does subject to a battle that previously could only be glimpsed at in biographies of the Generalissimo and non-military histories of the war (i.e. those focused on issues pertaining to collaboration and social change). I do take issue with the subtitle though, as the Stalingrad analogy would have been better applied to Taierzhuang, another fiercely-fought urban battle where the Chinese actually managed to stem the tide.

    Can't wait to see you get the figures painted up! It's a shame no one does any proper Japanese for this stage of the war though. Not that it'll matter in 15mm.

  2. Absolutely right about the sub-title. Most of the serious fighting was also outside the city. Paddy fields were as much a problem for the Japanese as buildings. I am reading Rana Mitter's book and just finished the chapter on Taierzhuang.