One of the most crucial and dramatic battles of the 20th century took place in Shanghai, in the autumn months of 1937. China’s largest city was engulfed in a deadly clash between Japanese invaders and forces commanded by the supreme Chinese leader of the time, Chiang Kai-shek. The battle, which involved hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides, marked the opening chapter in what was to become a protracted Sino-Japanese War. Therefore, it was also indirectly one of the main causes of America’s eventual entry into World War II.
Despite its enormous importance, the battle of Shanghai has been largely ignored in the west – until now. Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, the first book-length treatment in any language other than Chinese, will be published in April by Casemate. The author is Peter Harmsen, who has been a foreign correspondent in East Asia for the past 20 years and is currently bureau chief for the French news agency AFP in Taiwan. In his spare time, Peter runs a blog, www.shanghai1937.com, which is dedicated to not just various aspects of the Shanghai battle, but also the overall 1937-45 Sino-Japanese War in all its complexity and diversity. “In western historiography, China is the last major remaining unexplored area of World War II, undeservedly so. China was a pivotal player, for example by tying up enough Japanese soldiers to prevent the Japanese empire from ever seriously considering an attack on the Soviet Union from the east,” Peter says. “However, with the growing profile of China in contemporary affairs, the western public is gradually beginning to nurture an interest in the country’s role as a combatant in World War II. I hope my book will make a modest contribution to satisfying some of this emerging curiosity about what actually happened in this key theater.”
Peter is in the privileged position of being able to read Mandarin and also has access to important archival sources in Taiwan, the successor state of Nationalist China, which did much of the fighting against Japan. If there are certain aspects of the Sino-Japanese War that members of the New Jersey World War II Book Club would like to see covered on his blog, he would be very interested to hear from them. They can contact him either via his website www.shanghai1937.com or directly by email firstname.lastname@example.org. While he cannot guarantee that any request will result in a blog post, each email will receive a personal reply.