Nov 012012

1st November 1937

In reality, it is likely that there were only somewhere between 414 and 453 defenders of the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai, but this only makes their story more remarkable.

The Sihang Warehouse after it's defence in the second Sino-Japanese War

The Sihang Warehouse after it’s defence in the second Sino-Japanese War

The Japanese have been consolidating their position in Shanghai for some time now. Chiang Kai-shek has decided it’s time to retreat and setup a new series of defenses.  The 1st Battalion, 524th Regiment, 88th Division is nominally 800 troops, but being severely depleted, it’s somewhere in the low to mid 400s by 26th October. During the defence, the commander didn’t want to give away his strength. Thinking that his communication might be intercepted, he had his staff write down all 800 original names from the battalion’s roster. A girl guide who has been carrying messages to and from the defenders brought the list out to the Shanghai chamber of commerce, who got in touch with the local and foreign press.

Just across the river from the foreign concessions in Shanghai, the warehouse is perfectly situated for Chaing Kai-shek’s goals.  In full view of the foreign powers, the Japanese didn’t dare use mustard gas.  It also protected the defenders from Japanese bombings or artillery, as they dared not provoke the Americans, British, Italians or any of the other European powers that held concessions, or trading posts, with a stray bomb or shell.  The most important thing for China though is that the foreigners are immune to the Japanese aggression and free to report the war to the world. The foreign powers have condemned Japan, but done little else beyond reports of British soldiers chucking packets of cigarettes into the warehouse, which must at least be of some little comfort to the Chinese inside.

The Japanese have hit the warehouse repeatedly, setting part of it on fire and occupying nearby buildings in an effort to get the upper hand.  The Chinese have defended staunchly, putting out the fire and using the better height offered by their building.  The warehouse was formerly the headquarters of the Chinese army in Shanghai, so it’s well supplied with ammunition and food, although the Japanese cut off the water and electricity days ago. The Japanese eventually petitioned the foreign powers to intervene. As they didn’t want fighting so close to the international concessions, they were happy to do so.  Chiang Kai-shek has achieved his delay, consolidating his forces, therefore agreed to abandon the warehouse on condition that the defenders be allowed safe passage into the foreign concessions. The Japanese agree and safe passage is granted.

The 4oo or so defenders held out for 6 days and killed over 200 Japanese for the loss of just 10 killed and 37 wounded.  The survivors are now safe across the river in the Italian concession, although they are essentially prisoners now. The Japanese have threatened to invade the foreign concessions if the warehouse defenders are allowed to rearm and leave.  The British arrested them and put them into the Italian concession as interns. It’s pretty much business as usual in the concessions for now, so they are relatively well looked after and civilian access is allowed to visit the soldiers.