Japan’s Impregnable Fortress

Japanese marines in Shanghai

Throughout the battle of Shanghai in the fall of 1937, the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force, the empire’s marines, was defending a narrow perimeter along the northern bank of the Huangpu River. This was the center of Japan’s economic interests in the city and the district where most of the Japanese nationals were living.

The marine’s main base was the Special Naval Landing Force’s headquarters, a building taking up two house blocks and capable of housing thousands of troops at a time. It is testimony to foreign powers’ ability to roam at will in Shanghai in the 1930s that the building was actually located outside the area legally considered foreign, inside sovereign Chinese territory.

Once the battle broke out in August 1937, the headquarters immediately became the focus of Chinese attacks. Especially China’s elite 88th Division, moving in from the district of Zhabei to the west, attempted to take it out. It was also assisted by Chinese airplanes, which, however, could do nothing against the building’s thick concrete roof.

The headquarters never fell, and wasn’t even seriously threatened, during the three months of battle in 1937. It remained a symbol of Japanese influence in Shanghai during eight years of occupation, and still stands today. Below see the photos juxtaposing it then and now. The modern photo is courtesy of M. Takehara.



Categories: Battle, Memory


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