Warfare History Network
Some forgotten–but important–history.
On October 27, 1937, the Zhabei district of Shanghai began to burn, an enormous conflagration that stretched for five miles and filled the northern horizon from end to end, almost as far as the eye could see. The orange-yellow flames greedily consumed buildings and their contents, finishing the destruction already begun after three months of intense fighting between the Chinese and Japanese armies. Thick coils of smoke reached 3,000 feet into the air, obscuring the skies of central China. It was a spectacle never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it—the funeral pyre of a great city.
Some of the fires came from the fighting, but most had been deliberately set to cover the Chinese Army’s retreat. The outnumbered Chinese had resisted gallantly, but many units now were reduced to mere shadows of themselves. When word came that the Japanese had gained ground outside the city and were threatening the Chinese flank, there was no other choice but to withdraw.
One unit was deliberately left behind, entrenched around a concrete warehouse just opposite the International Settlement. The officers and men of the 524th Regiment, 88th Division, knew only too well that their mission was suicidal, that they were being sacrificed to showcase Chinese courage, but they accepted their fate stoically. Their ordeal, which had started on October 26, would continue for another four days of brutal fighting, and the defense of Sihang Warehouse would rivet the attention of the world, with the American press quickly dubbing it “the Chinese Alamo.”
The Impromptu Sino-Japanese War of 1937