The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945

By Falk, Stanley L. | Army, June 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945


Falk, Stanley L., Army


Varied Fare The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. Mark Peattie, Edward Orea and Hans van de Ven, editors. Stanford University Press. 664 pages; maps; black-and-white photographs; index; $65.

Few Americans are really familiar with the punishing eight-year war in China that dragged on from 19371945. It took the lives of more than 400,000 Japanese, with twice as many wounded. Chinese military casualties may have been as high as 10 million, with at least as many, if not double, civilian deaths. The war had tragic consequences for both countries and left an indelible mark on the shape of postwar Asia.

Yet Westerners knowledgeable about America's World War II struggle against Japan have all but overlooked the bloody conflict in China. They have tended to focus on the operations of GEN Douglas MacArthur in the southwest Pacific and ADM Chester Nimitz in the central Pacific, with perhaps a nod to GEN Joseph Stilwell and Merrill's Marauders in Burma and the China-based Flying Tigers. Japan's effort to subjugate China and China's desperate struggle to defend itself are relatively unreported in most western histories of the war.

The Battle for China, an excellent collection of more than a dozen essays by nearly a score of American, British, Chinese and Japanese scholars, is the first full English-language account of the Sino-Japanese war. Its unique description and analysis of military operations should please both the general reader and the specialist.

The war grew almost by accident out of a minor clash of arms at the Marco Polo Bridge in northeast China in July 1937. Neither China nor Japan anticipated the major conflict that followed. The Japanese hoped to wrap things up in short order, but found themselves quickly involved in an unending struggle, fighting a series of ad hoc military campaigns and never able to determine a general strategic objective. The drawn-out conflict made increasing demands on Japan's limited resources and was a continuing burden on the national economy. The Chinese, in turn, set out to trade space for time in hopes that Japanese exhaustion or fears of a war with the Soviet Union might force Japan to seek a quick agreement to end hostilities. Furthermore, despite tremendous casualties, the Chinese were also willing to initiate offensive operations to disrupt Japanese efforts and drain Japanese strength.

The struggle continued for eight bloody years. The Japanese eventually occupied large parts of China and major cities, but were never able to bring the war to a decisive end.

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