This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. We believe it is important to remember the close bond between Americans and Chinese during WWII, which was based on a common desire for peace, justice and freedom.
2. The Mukden Incident (九一八事变)
For Americans, WWII started on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. However, China’s war with Japan started more than 10 years earlier when the Japanese Kwantung Army engineered the Mukden Incident on the night of September 18th, 1931as a pretext for the Japanese invasion of northeastern China, known as Manchuria.
At the time, China was militarily and economically inferior to Japan. Therefore, Chiang Kai-shek tried his best to avoid an all-out war with Japan, and instead relied heavily on diplomacy and international pressure. However, Japan’s encroachment into China was non-stop. Serious battles along the Great Wall occurred and stopped short of Peking (Beijing) when a truce was arranged. Under the terms of the truce, Chinese troops were barred from the areas of northern China occupied by Japanese armies.
3. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident (七七事变)
A full scale war with Japan was avoided for six years. During that period China built up her industrial bases, modernized her armed forces and unified her people. Japan's hardline military leaders felt that they needed to accelerate their pace of aggression before China became too strong to conquer. On July 7, 1937 they engineered another incident at the historical Marco Polo Bridge near Peking. Peking fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on August 8, 1937.
4. Battle of Shanghai (八一三淞沪会战)
The Japanese Army originally planned to attack from northern China to southern China, as it would be difficult for the poorly equipped Chinese army to defend against mechanized Japanese forces on flat land. General Chiang Kai-Shek decided to initiate another battle front in Shanghai on August 13, 1937 in order to divert the Japanese direction of attack and force them to attack from east to west, which would be more favorable to the Chinese defenders. The battle of Shanghai lasted three months and incurred about 200,000 Chinese and 70,000 Japanese casualties. Dogged Chinese resistance at Shanghai was aimed at stalling the rapid Japanese advance, giving much needed time for the Chinese government to move vital industries to the interior. The Chinese soldiers had to rely primarily on small-caliber weapons in their defense of Shanghai, against an overwhelming onslaught of air, naval, and armored striking power from Japan. In the end, Shanghai fell and China lost a significant portion of its best troops. The resistance put up by Chinese forces, however, came as a massive shock to the Japanese invaders.
5. The Chinese Air Force prior to 1941 (1941年前的中国空军)
The young Chinese air force fought bravely and brilliantly and incurred heavy losses on a much larger and more experienced Japanese air force in the first 6 months of the all-out war. However, as the war progressed the Chinese air force faced the loss of their most experienced fighter pilots and rapid depletion of their combat capable airplanes, as China didn’t manufacture any aircraft. At this critical moment the Soviet Union not only supplied aircraft to China but also sent a volunteer air group to fight secretly against Japan until they were withdrawn by the summer of 1940. In total, there were 237 Soviet airmen who died in China during this period.
September 13, 1940 was the darkest day for the Chinese air force when the Soviet made Chinese fighters first encountered the legendary Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. Within several minutes 13 Chinese fighters were shot down by Zeros, which suffered only one loss. From that time on, the Chinese air force was unable to put up any organized resistance against the indiscriminate Japanese bombing of Chinese cities. This dire situation lasted until the arrival of the Flying Tigers in December 1941.
6. First Air Raid on Japan (到日本空投传单)
The one rare bright moment was on May 20, 1938, when Captain Huansheng Hsu and Captain Yanbo Tong flew two U.S. made Martin B-10 bombers to execute a secret mission - to drop leaflets over major cities of Japan. These leaflets were “Open Letter to the Japanese People” to expose the war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in China. This mission was the very first air raid by the anti-fascism allied forces over Japan during WWII, almost 4 years before the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942.
7. Doolittle Tokyo Raid (杜立德空袭东京)
On April 18, 1942 sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China. Fifteen of the aircraft reached China, and the other one landed in the Soviet Union. All but three of the crew survived, but all the aircraft were lost.
After the raid, the Japanese Imperial Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, searching for the surviving American airmen and applying retribution on the Chinese who aided them, and killed many Chinese civilians.
The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it succeeded in its goal of raising American morale and contributed to Admiral Yamamoto's decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific—an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway.
8. Flying Tigers and 14th Air Force (飞虎和第14航空军)
As the Soviet Union completely withdrew her fighter and bomber squadrons from China by the summer of 1940, Chiang Kai-Shek asked for American combat aircraft and pilots. President Roosevelt realized an eventual conflict with Japan was unavoidable, and therefore, recognized the importance of helping China from being totally conquered by Japan. The American Volunteer Group, or flying tigers, was the result of a covert operation directed by Roosevelt. The main mission was to defend the Burma Road, the only lifeline to China at the time. The AVG was only active between December 20, 1941, and July 4, 1942. However, AVG pilots earned official credit for destroying 296 enemy aircraft, while losing only 14 pilots in combat. On July 4, 1942 the AVG was disbanded. It was replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force, which was later absorbed into the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force with General Chennault as commander.
9. The HUMP Airlift (驼峰空运)
Between the closing of the Burma Road in 1942 and its re-opening as the Ledo Road in 1945, foreign aid was largely limited to what could be flown in over "The Hump". The India-China ferrying operation was the largest and most extended strategic air bridge (in volume of cargo airlifted) in aviation history until exceeded in 1949 by the Berlin airlift. It played an invaluable role in sustaining China’s resistance against the aggression of Japan. Altogether, 2197 American airman died in China during the war.
10. CBI (中印缅战区)
CBI was an umbrella term, used by the United States military during World War II for the China and India-Burma (IBT) theaters. US forces in practice were usually overseen by General Joseph Stilwell, the Deputy Allied Commander in China. Well-known US (or joint Allied) units in the CBI included the Chinese Expeditionary Force, the Flying Tigers, transport and bomber units flying the Hump, the 1st Air Commando Group, the engineers who built Ledo Road, and the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), popularly known as "Merrill's Marauders", to which the 75th Ranger Regiment traces its origin.
11. The Chinese Expeditionary Force (中国远征军)
The overland supply route from India to China had to go through Burma. Therefore, all major battles in northern Burma between 1942 and 1945 were centered on securing a land bridge to China. After the defeat of the First Chinese Expeditionary Force in 1942, some units went through a difficult retreat to India and were re-equipped and retrained by American advisors. The Chinese troops in India, called X Force, reached three divisions in strength, and launched a major offensive in March 1943 to cover the construction of the Ledo road, advanced from Ledo, through Myitkyina, and successfully met with the Chinese offensive forces on the Yunnan front (called Y Force) at Mangyou, Burma on Jan. 28, 1945.
12. Concluding Remarks (结语)
On August 14, 1945, after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, the Japanese emperor announced Japan’s acceptance of unconditional surrender as dictated by the terms the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration.
WWII was the most brutal war in human history. The United States suffered about 407,000 military deaths during the war. At least 18 generals were killed in combat related action. More than three million Chinese soldiers and over 20 million civilians perished in the war of resistance against Japan. Among them were 268 generals ranked above brigadier general. The service and sacrifice of the two countries allows us the freedom to live in peace with our neighbors. Today, we pay tribute to the heroes of both countries and to the families who sacrificed much. It is our hope that we will never again engage in another world conflict.