The start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 resulted in some of the most dramatic footage of the 1930s. The belligerent parties, and especially the Japanese, took great care to document the hostilities with the help of film, understanding perfectly well the importance that this relatively new medium had in terms of boosting support for the war effort at home.
Much has been lost, and what is left is of mixed quality. Sometimes the old newsreels are grainy and blurred, marked by the passage of nearly 80 years. But at other times, they are as crisp as much television footage from the 1970s. An example is this footage from the battle of Shanghai in the fall of 1937, which gives the distant events an immediacy no other media can approach:
Highlights of the footage:
00:04: Izumo, the old cruiser from the turn of the century, which was moored in the harbor for most the battle and provided vital support to Japanese forces fighting in the city.
00:15: Close-up of Admiral Hasegawa Kiyoshi, commander of the Third Fleet, moored in Shanghai Harbor.
00:37: Impact of naval artillery on Chinese positions onshore.
1:05: Disembarkation of what appear to be member of the Special Naval Landing Force, which could mean this is footage from the landing operation made near Wusong north of Shanghai in late August.
2:16 and again at 4:40: Ruins of the Railway Bureau near the North Train Station, a part of Shanghai where some of the most intense fighting too place.
3:49: Silhouette of British sentry against the background of massive fires in parts of Shanghai outside the International Settlement.
4:41: Japanese victory parade after the end of hostilities in Shanghai, cheered on by members of the city’s Japanese community