关于上海1932.1.28 Remembering the January 28th Incident and the Shanghai War in 1932

Japanese bombard civilians in Shanghai's

Chapei

(The world stood aghast only a few days ago to learn that, as in the days of the World War, bombs had been dropped from the air by airplanes on an open, defenseless city. This time it was Japanese airplanes which swept above Chapei, the Chinese section of Shanghai, and hurled destruction and death on the Chinese masses, crowded into the overpopulated area. Here is the story of the raid by an eye witness, Walter Brown, a Shanghai resident and special United Press correspondent).

SHANGHAI, Feb. 2, 1932 (UP) -- I watched last Friday the aerial bombardment, without warning, of an open and defenseless city, and saw how Japanese spectators on the same roof with me capered in joy, shouting,

"Banzai" (hurrah) and embracing each other as explosions spread fire and death in Chinese territory.

It was a terrible sight, this dropping of bombs on a crowded territory far down below, death and mangling were the fate of many Chinese, caught without a chance. There were 100 or more of us on the roof of the Japanese Club, a stone's throw from the Hongkew police station as the Japanese planes swung aloft with their bomb loads. To the Japanese sharing this vantage point, the whole spectacle seemed to be an outing.

The awesomeness and gruesomeness of the event did not appear to touch them. They seemed only to enjoy the horror, and I could not help but think of the imbecilic Nero who fiddled while old Rome burned.

Gutted buildings in Zhabei

Gutted buildings in Zhabei

For my own part, the sight was appalling, and their cheering and clapping only added to my sense of shock. An uncounted number of Chinese were killed or maimed by the bombardment and the ground fighting. Women and children suffered.

Once during all this havoc, I noted that the Chinese police cheered a group of planes high above the International Settlement-under the pathetic illusion that the planes were Chinese down from Nanking to beat off the invaders. Today, Chapei had a new baptism of fire, minus aerial bombs, piling up the ruin which was done in the first Japanese action. The Friday action left much waster territory, heaps of smoking brick and stone and wood, thousands of peaceful Chinese driven out to the cold shelter of adjacent territory, many in hospitals and others left to fill unmarked graves.

Chapei is a vivid monument to the effectiveness of modern war-with its disregard of the old rules of international law against fighting only those capable of defending themselves.

To get back to the main thread of my story:

On Friday morning the Japanese marines came ashore manifestly expecting a clear path thru Chapei. But they reckoned without their "hosts," the Chinese.

Forty of the occupiers were clipped off by Chinese soldiers and snipers, and from that moment the unfortified city was doomed.

No advance warning was given of Japan's intention to bomb the city.

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The first sign that the people had was when a Japanese bomber dropped a Very light over the Jukong road district. This lighted up the whole territory thereabouts, and gave the aviator a clear view of his target.

He let off a small "fixer." Then I could hear two high explosive bombs. Down below I could see houses and shops tumbling down, with those inside caught off guard. There still are bodies buried in those ruins.

The Japanese watchers were joyful.

Then their countrymen circled again and dropped another light. Just as before, he followed this up with more big bombs.

All morning a lot of wounded and dying were taken into St. Luke's Hospital. These were men, women and children, and some babies. They had no bombs or machine guns. The single bomber got aid later in the morning. At daylight six planes were over Chapei, each with a load of bombs. Every time they circled, they passed over the supposedly neutral settlement.

They swarmed over the new works of the Commercial Press, China's latest educational publishing institution, and let off some incendiary bombs. The plant soon was all afire.

From the roof of the club, I also could see how the flyers spotted the North station and made a spectacular drive on that. It seems that several units of the Chinese 19th route army had been defending the station from the Japanese, who regarded it as a strategic point in their occupation maneuver. The Chinese had put up a lot better fight than many had expected, and this surprised, and apparently angered the Japanese.

Fire in Zhabei

Fire in Zhabei

The Japanese circled about 1,000 feet up and then came down closer, evidently to make sure of not missing. The Chinese soldiers did what they could to drive off the planes, but rifle fire seemed like shooting at an elephant. Finally, the bombs came down on the station, and did a lot of damage to the building-and to some of the soldiers.

It doesn't take many bombs to tear up a railroad station, and smash down a lot of houses, and kill off residents. And once the bombs have started a fire in such a spot as Chapei, they have done their job. This was the case last Friday.

It was just as though somebody with a big torch had come down out of the air. The Commercial Press burned fast. The wind off the Whangpoo River spread the fire westward. Nothing could stop it. The less substantially built houses went up like kindling on a stove. Poor families ran out in a panic.

Chinese war refugees

Chinese war refugees

I can't tell you of the tragedy of these swarms. They grabbed what they could bear, mattresses, a handful of clothes, sometimes a bird cage, and with their loads on their backs and in wheelbarrows set out in a daze to find a shelter where bombs and fire would not follow them. Many of them went into the International Settlement, dumbly pleading for a corner to set down their humble belongings and shield themselves from the invader.

The Chapei fire brigade tried to stop the fire, but when they found the brigade was working, the Japanese sent their bombers up again-and new loads of explosives quickly stopped the firemen.

Chapei was left to its fate.

Today, the Japanese came back to finish Friday's unfinished work.

(Copyright 1932, by United Press)

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Photos from S C Young/Peta Catto collection