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Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze Hardcover – 13 Jun 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Casemate Books (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161200167X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612001678
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 17.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"'Shanghai 1937' has all the elements of a fabulous historical novel... Comparisons by online reviewers to Antony Beevor, author of 'Stalingrad' and 'Berlin,' are justly deserved... One of the really remarkable features of 'Shanghai 1937' is the huge collection of high-quality photographs, all of them in-period and directly relevant to the action, in three 16-page inserts." --Taiwan Today

"Mr Harmsen is an excellent writer. The book rattles along like a modern techno-thriller and moves gracefully between descriptions of the tactical battlefield and the impact on the company, platoon or individual to the strategic machinations of the top brass and the movement of armies and divisions. Whilst the book piqued my interest in the pre Second World War Sino-Japanese conflict it stands very successfully as an excellent piece of military writing in its own right. One only has to be interested in warfare to appreciate this book." --The Wargamer


"Enhances the bare facts with material gleaned from multiple diaries, reports, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and other accounts from combatants and civilians of all nationalities. In addition to on-the-spot impressions from a surprising number of Chinese and Japanese foot soldiers, the book also features eyewitness reports from and about foreigners living and working in the cosmopolitan city at the time... Engaging account of a little-known battle... Practically nothing else in English tackles this topic at this level." --Stone and Stone

"Maybe more attention should have been paid by the West to what happened in Shanghai in 1937." --Britain at War

About the Author

Peter Harmsen, has been a foreign correspondent in East Asia for two decades. His reports have appeared in the Financial Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He has also worked for Bloomberg, the Economist Intelligence Unit and French news agency AFP. His previous book, Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, has been translated into Romanian and Chinese.


Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Peter Harmsen's excellent new book about the battle for Shangai - the first book solely on this subject outside of China, apparently - really puts flesh and blood (and a lot of the latter) on the bones of certain events I've only very recently read about, in Rana Mitter's equally excellent but very different book, China's War with Japan. Mitter gave us a splendid overview of the whole Sino-Japanese conflict but, despite his work being just a little shy of a hefty 500 pages, in covering the entire colossal struggle he didn't give that much space over to specific detail. Harmsen's book supplies exactly that, zooming in on one relatively short campaign in what was the longest contested theatre of war during WWII, and relating it very vividly.

Rather than only sending troops to Manchuria, where the Japanese were busily expanding their Manchukuo puppet state, and thereby allowing Japan to continue casting events there as an isolated incident, China's nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek decided to open a 'second front', in Shanghai. After years of prevaricating and concessions (Japan had annexed Manchuria in 1931), basically because China wasn't really ready for war, the Marco Polo bridge incident finally precipitated a decision to respond unequivocally to Japan's aggressive encroachments. But by drawing Japan into conflict in a new and more southerly theatre, rather than simply responding locally, China was able to surprise and unbalance their enemy at the same time as revealing Japanese belligerence and imperial ambitions for what they were. But the stakes were high, as this meant risking the loss of a major city in the heartland of the country, not far from the capital, Nanjing.
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By Gisli Jokull Gislason VINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally there is a good book on World War 2 in China.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been much literature to expand on the eastern front in Europe as our attention here in the West has understandably been on the exploits of the Western powers against Germany and to a lesser extent Japan and Italy. But until now the conflict of Japan and China has been a dark black hole outside China and even there it has just recently emerged as a serious study since the efforts of Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists was downplayed after the communist victory at the end of 1949.

This book goes a long way. It tells of the start of the official war between the Nationalist and Japan. Ironically assisted by German advisors Chiang Kai-Shek decided to bring Japan to war on his terms, not in north China, still controled by warlords and hardly under unified China but to the international city of Shanghai. It gives good insight into the difficulties of the Chinese Army and the brutal conflict that followed. As for the battle there is a detailed narrative and good account, much more than in almost any other book you will find. At the same time you are given an account of the bigger picture and the aftermath.

The book includes good maps and interesting photos.

This is an excellent start into the most neglected part of World War 2 and hopefully a begining of a new area.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to reading this book. In the UK we have an almost shameful Eurocentric view of the Second World War. How it started in 1939, and so on. It is fitting to argue that the war started some time before that, in the Pacific, and that, after Russia, China was the worst hit country of the entire conflict.
However, this book just did not hold my interest. I found almost too much detail, day to day events, but little interpretation. I also had problems with the style, just didn't work for me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am sure it helps I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Shanghai in the last few years on two occasions, so a lot I could visualise. The description of the atrocities of the Japanese at that time was almost too much to cope with, so I didn't know if I would get to the end of the book, pleased I did. It also helped I had previously read Empire of the Sun based on the English author's childhood experiences. Until my travels I had known very little about China but increased reading including the dreadful experiences during the time of Mao, as always, it is the man in the street who suffers most. By comparison, China must now seem very peaceful & I wish I could afford to go back again as I greatly enjoyed the experience.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shanghai 1937 is an interesting account of an important yet forgotten battle. The book is an easy read and is well written. Military and political narrative are well interwoven. You got a fair idea of where, why, and how the battle developed. It is very important book in this aspect.

There are some annoying parts too... often Mister Hamsen forgot to put ranks before the name of military people. This detracts from the narrative. Much more annoying is his tendency to slip in the anecdotal in several instance and mixing history with stories that does not add to the narrative and at times looks spurious (Chiang ordering female nurses out from the hospitals? Well the NRA has women nurses anyway and there were female police officers in China at the time anyway... yes Mister Hamsen points out that the nurses were girls from the city entertainment industry, but if they were dressed as nurses and working as nurses probably they had been hired as that... I doubt Chiang would been able to order them out...). too often he excuses NRA bad behavior on ground of expediency while highlighting similar cases on the other side, certainly the account seems a bit biased.

Yet the two real problems are a certain fascination with the German advisors and their supposed superior knowledge of tactics (but sadly Mister Hamsen is not up to date to late WW1 infantry tactics). Stoss tactics were neither that revolutionary nor that effective without proper firepower (and they also emphasized mobile firepower). And his constant Monday quarterbacking on command decision. Yes the NRA could have cut through the international settlement, but that would have olnyl added the international troops to the battle on the Japanese side.
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