Their avowed objective was the Japanese flagship "Idzumo," then lying moored to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha wharf close to the Japanese Consulate General, just east of the mouth of Soochow Creek, but bombs were dropped into the Whangpoo not far from The Bund opposite the Shanghai Club, which is fully half a mile from the Japanese Consulate building, opposite the big Customs Building and opposite Peking Road, while another landed on a wharf beyond the "Idzumo," killing a number of civilians.
Little did anyone in Shanghai on that fateful morning of August's realize the full significance of those mis-directed bombs. This was that the most powerful and deadly weapons of destruction that modern science has been able to devise had been placed in altogether inexperienced and - to a considerable extent - irresponsible hands, and that the first use being made of them was an attempt to blow up a war vessel loaded with munitions and lying close to the very heart of one of the world's biggest cities and ports, whose streets and foreshore at the time were packed tight with a mass of refugees from the Chinese area of Chapei and Kiangwan seeking safety in the International Settlement.
But the afternoon of the same day was to bring home, as never before, to the Shanghai people, who have many times during the past two decades seen it at their very doors, what modern warfare really means.
At half past four, three more Chinese bombers flew over the downtown area of the International Settlement heading from west to east for the "Idziumo." They were met with heavy anti-aircraft fire. The pilot of the leading aeroplane loosed off two bombs just as he was over the point where Nanking Road joins The Bund, as the Settlement river-front is called, not less than a quarter of a mile away from the "Idzumo." One of the deadly missiles struck the Palace Hotel, demolishing the upper stories and killing a large number of Chinese there, the other landing in Nanking Road between the Palace Hotel and the Cathay Hotel, dealing out death and destruction amongst the crowds of Chinese refugees, largely women and children, blowing out the windows of the sumptuous shops that line the street ih this area, and setting fire to numerous motor cars. Several foreigners also were killed and others injured at this spot.
One of the other Chinese bombers, apparently hit by shrapnel from the anti-aircraft guns, turned back and proceeded in a north-westerly direction. When it was over the junction of Tibet Road with Avenue Edward VII, at all times Shanghai's most crowded corner and particularly so at this moment with the huge influx of refugees, spectators were horrified to see two bombs released. These fell almost exactly in the centre of the big street crossing, the first striking the ground and tearing a huge hole, the other detonating in mid-air a few feet above ground. The result was a scene of slaughter that has probably never before been witnessed by man. In less than a second over a thousand people had received their death blows, many being torn to pieces by the terrible blast that swept the square, others mutilated beyond recognition, arms, legs and even heads being scattered about in all directions.
Dozens of motor cars were reduced to scrap-iron, riddled with flying fragments from the bombs or set on fire, their occupants charred to cinders. Overhead electrical cables, broken by the explosions, whipped about causing further destruction. Besides those killed on the spot hundreds of people were injured, many of them crawling away to die in side alleys. Several more foreigners were killed here.
Opinions differ as to just how these bombs came to be loosed over this crowded area, the Chinese official statement being that the bomb-rack had been damaged by anti-aircraft fire. The general opinion of competent observers of the tragic happening seems to be that the pilot, hit by shrapnel, lost his head and released the bombs in an endeavour to get rid of them, apparently trying to drop them on the open space of the nearby Race Course. He subsequently succeeded in landing his damaged machine in Chinese occupied territory, where it is reported to have pancaked on landing, so that it will never be known whether or not its bomb-rack really was damaged.
The total number of killed by the bombs dropped on Shanghai on what has come to be known as "Bloody Saturday" was over 1,200, the wounded numbering 300 to 400.
Thus was Shanghai rudely awakened to the fact that the undeclared war between Japan and China had spread to its midst.
After the first stupefying effects of this unbelievably appalling tragedy had worn off, panic seized the city. Shops were closed and their fronts boarded up. Business came to a complete standstill. Both food and money were almost unprocurable. The authorities of various foreign countries, led by the British and American, whose Governments could have prevented this horror had they but chosen to act in time, also went into a panic and began the task of evacuating the women and children amongst their nationals and later such men as desired to leave this city.
The British Consulate General staff cleared out of its buildings on The Bund to what were believed to be safer quarters in Hamilton House a few blocks from the water front. This created a very unfavourable impression amongst the terror-stricken Chinese inhabitants of Shanghai, who immediately assumed that the British were running away. All the big banks situated along The Bund closed their doors as they deemed it unsafe for their customers and the members of their staffs to continue business in The Bund area.
In spite, however, of the removal of the British Consular staff from The Bund and the closing of the banks, orders were issued by the British authorities responsible for the evacuation of women and children to the effect that all those desiring to evacuate should gather in the Shanghai Club building, which also is situated on The Bund - it is true a full half-mile from the "Idzumo," the main objective of all Chinese aerial attacks at the time, but none the safer for that!
In the days that followed, shipload after shipload of foreign refugees left Shanghai for Hongkong, Manila and Japan, and, even as we write, every ship that leaves this port takes with it its quota of evacuees. Some 18,000 to 20,000 Europeans and Amencans have been evacuated from Shanghai, with possibly a corresponding number of Japanese.
But these figures pale into insignificance when compared with those of the Chinese, of whom it has been estimated that well over a million have poured into the International Settlement and French Concession since the trouble started, while already hundreds of thousands have passed out through the western boundaries into the country beyond, or have been carried away on trains for Nanking and Hangehow, or by ships to Ningpo, Canton and other ports in South-east and South China.
This immense influx into an already heavily congested area of Chinese refugees, whose condition is piteous beyond describing, has produced many acute problems, such as those of feeding, housing and caring for the sick, but the Municipal Councils of the International Settlement and French Concession have risen to the occasion and are successfully coping with the unprecedented situation. In this they are being splendidly supported by various associations, Chinese guilds and the public generally. Public utility organizations, such as the Shanghai Waterworks and the Shanghai Power Company, have maintained their services under most trying conditions, the plants of these two companies being situated well within the area covered by the hostilities.
Thanks to all this public-spirited effort the early panic and chaos was assuaged, and Shanghai once more began to assume its normal appearance, with shops opening and business resuming, when pandemonium again broke loose.
Horror was heaped on horror when at about one o'clock on August 23 an as yet unidentified aeroplane, flying at an altitude of some I 5,000 feet, according to expert observers, dropped two bombs on the central district of the International Settlement. One, landing on a warehouse behind Hamilton House, failed to detonate, but broke to pieces without doing much damage. The other struck one of two big department stores facing each other on Nanking Road at another of Shanghai's busiest street crossings, duplicating on a smaller scale the carnage of the Tibet Road and Avenue Edward VII crossing on August 4. The killed in this further tragedy numbered 173 and the wounded 459, according to official figures issued.
Responsibility for this grizzly holocaust has not yet been, and may never be, established. Both the Japanese and Chinese experts who examined tile fragments of the bomb dropped near Hamilton House deny ownership, while both military commands state that they had no bombers in the air in this area at the time of the bombing.
Consensus of opinion amongst foreign observers seems to be that the aeroplane which dropped the bombs was Chinese. For one thing, the aeroplane flying high over the Settlement at the time was observed by experts to be a monoplane, whereas all Japanese craft used in this area are known to be bi-planes. However, nobody suggests that the dropping of the bombs on such congested areas in the International Settlement was anything but another case of misdirection of missiles aimed at some object from a height too great to ensure an accurate aim.
It only serves to emphasize the extreme danger to innocent life of aeroplanes flying over densely populated areas when loaded with bombs; and in this respect we cannot condemn too strongly the action of those who sent Chinese bombers over the International Settlement and French Concession. At their doors primarily lies the responsibility for these terrible catastrophes and wholesale slaughter of Chinese and foreign non-combatants. A hundred Japanese flagships blown to smithereens would not have been worth such a sacrifice of innocent lives.
In extenuation of Chinese bombers for these costly blunders, it should be pointed out that up to the present hostilities they have had practically no experience in this dreadful form of warfare. Japanese bombing of civilians, on the other hand, has been deliberate.
The inexperience of Chinese airmen was once more demonstrated on August 30 when bombs were aimed by a Chinese 'plane at the "President Hoover," monster Dollar Company luxury Trans-Pacific liner, as she approached Woosung on her way to Shanghai from Hongkong. One of the bombs struck so near the ship that seven members of the crew and two passengers were injured, one of the former since dying from his wounds. The Chinese Government, which immediately assumed full responsibility for this untoward incident, stated that it was an accident, the bomber having believed the "President Hoover" to be a Japanese transport carrying troops to Shanghai.
The big ship, which was due to carry away a large number of American evacuees from Shanghai, immediately changed its course for Japan, while the "President McKinley," on its way to Shanghai, was also ordered to avoid this port.
The British cruiser H.M.S. "Cumberland" was also bombed by Chinese aircraft when approaching Woosung on August 14, apparently being mistaken for a Japanese war vessel.
In the meanwhile, large Chinese forces, which launched their first attacks on the Japanese naval landing party, numbering about 4,000, in the Hongkew and Yangtszepoo sections of the International Settlement to the north and east of the Soochow Creek on August 12, have continued their attacks with increasing vigour, several times threatening the Japanese forces with extinction.
Chinese and Japanese shell fire and bombing operations during the past few weeks have reduced large sections of these districts as well as of neighbouring Chapei and Kiangwan to ruins. Nightly the whole sky has been lit up with the red glow of fires, while,by day, dense clouds of smoke have hung ominously over the stricken area. Large numbers of civilians have been killed in these districts, their bodies, lying for days out in the hot sun, creating a serious menace to the living.
Here is evidence that many of these hapless people were deliberately shot down by Japanese machine-gunners.
The Chinese attack was undoubtedly precipitated by the arrival on August I I at Woosung, at the mouth of the Whangpoo River, where it enters the Yangtze Estuary of a fleet of 21 Japanese warships, including four cruisers, an aeroplane carrier and 16 destroyers. If Japan's avowed intentions to maintain peace and avoid provocation to the Chinese are to be believed, then the despatching of this fleet to Woosung at such a critical period must be looked upon as a blunder of the greatest magnitude, so great, indeed, that it is hard to believe it was merely a piece of crass stupidity. Rather it has all the appearance of being a deliberate act of provocation.
It could hardly have had anything to do with the shooting on August 9 by members of the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps (Pao An Tui) on Hungjao Road in the extreme western outskirts of the International Settlement of a Japanese officer and a seaman, who were in a car at the time and failed to stop when challenged by the Pao An Tui sentry, since the attempt to arrive at a peaceful settlement of this incident did not reach an impasse till the very day the Japanese ships arrived.
The Chinese military command obviously could only assume that the arrival of this large fleet at Woosung, with two of the cruisers and several destroyers steaming up the Whangpoo, indicated the impending landing of strong Japanese forces and the commencement of an invasion of China at this her most vulnerable and vital point.
Since then, Japan has despatched to this area division after division of troops of her regular army, with light and heavy artillery, tanks, motor trucks, aeroplanes, ammunition and supplies, the troops, under cover of barrages from the warships, effecting a landing at Woosung and several points northward along the coast, while the Chinese forces, increased to something like 150,000, have fought desperately to oppose their establishing a foothold and a base for major operations against Nanking.
Chinese forces in the Pootung area, which lies across the Whangpoo from the French Concession and International Settlement, have several times attacked the Japanese warships lying in this river below the mouth of the Soochow Creek. These have replied by pouring broadside after broadside point blank into the numerous wharf buildings, warehouses and factories, many of them belonging to foreign interests, on the Pootung side of the river, resulting in numerous huge fires and untold destruction. Thus the greater part of Shanghai's industrial areas have been to a considerable cxtent destroyed. Japanese air forces have also inaugurated a systematic bombing of Chinese territory all round the French Concession and International Settlement from close up to the boundaries far into the interior in their alleged attempts to break up Chinese troop concentrations.
These air raids have resulted in an enormous loss of civilian life and destruction of property of no military importance whatsoever. Many undefended cities, devoid of all troops, have been mercilessly bombed. The most flagrant case of this massacring of Chinese non-combatants took place on August 18, when Japanese aeroplanes deliberately bombed Shanghai South Station at a time when it was crowded with refugees waiting for a train to take them to Hangchow. About 170 people were killed, mostly women and children, and a many more wounded. Reputable foreign newspaper correspondents, who had watched the bombing and were on the spot shortly after it took place, aver that there were no Chinese soldiers in evidence and none amongst the killed.
Foreign medical men in the hospitals which received the wounded also testify that there were no soldiers amongst them, and that they were mostly women and children. Thus the statement issued by the Japanese military spokesman that those killed and wounded in this bombing were nearly all soldiers must be branded as a pure fabrication, designed to mislead the world as to the real activities of Japanese bombers.
Another flagrant instance of Japanese airmen's attacks on non-combatants was the machine-gunning and bombing of the British Ambassador's motor car by a Japanese 'plane while he and his party were proceeding from Nanking to Shanghai by road on August 26. The Japanese Government appears to be seeking to avoid responsibility for this outrage by suggesting that it was not committed by a Japanese but by a Chinese machine; but there is too much reliable evidence to the contrary.
According to the victims of this greatly-to-be-deplored incident Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to China, and two British companions in a car with the Union Jack spread over its hood so as to be plainly discernible from the air, were suddenly fired upon by a machine gun from a Japanese aeroplane which swooped down upon them when about 18 miles from Shanghai, the British Ambassador receiving a severe wound, and that subsequently bombs were dropped in such close proximity to the Ambassador's car as to blow his two companions, who had alighted, off their feet. According to the victims of this dastardly attack, there were no Chinese soldiers in the vicinity, nor did they encounter any for an hour after leaving the spot where it occurred.
One more case of ruthless bombing by Japanese aeroplanes of non-combatants may well be cited. This was the aerial attack on Nan-tung-chou Christian Hospital on the morning of August 17, when eight Japanese aircraft dropped nine bombs, some of them incendiary, on the hospital, completely demolishing it, besides killing five patients and 18 members of the staff.
A more recent atrocity of this nature was the bombing of a train full of Chinese refugees at Sungkiang Station near Shanghai at noon on September 8 by Japanese aeroplanes. Three hundred civilians, many of them women and children, are reported to have been killed and about 400 injured. There can be no possible excuse for such action, and it strongly suggests that the aim of the Japanese High Command is to create a reign of terror amongst the civilian population in China.
What the Japanese air force is doing in this part of China is worse than anything that has yet been done in any of the wars of the present century, and a cry goes out to the rest of the world in the name of humanity to do something to put a stop to this insensate and barbarous slaughter of harmless people.
Repeated air raids on Nanking by Japanese bombers so far are reported to have done but little damage, the capital apparently being well defended by anti-aircraft guns and fast fighting 'planes. In fairness to China's air force it should be stated that, while its bombing operations have up to the present proved more disastreus to the Chinese populace than to the enemy, Chinese airmen have shown themselves to be daring and resourceful when it comes to engaging the latter in aerial combats.
At the time of writing (September 9) a grand scale Japanese offensive against the Chinese forces is momentarily expected to commence. What its result will be to Shanghai is unpredictable, beyond the fact that this whole area must remain in an extremely precarious position till the Chinese forces have either retired over a wide front for many miles westward, or have succeeded in driving the Japanese forces back into the sea, whence they came. If the conflict should develop into a war of attrition with the two opposing forces entrenched in this area, then will Shanghai's plight be a bad one indeed.
It should here be stated that the Chinese resistance to the Japanese forces in this whole area has been remarkably good, and must have come as a most unpleasant surprise to the latter, who, if their official spokesman is to be believed, confidently expected to expel the Chinese forces within a week or two of the commencement of operations.
Whatever may be the outcome of these hostilities - and it must be admitted that this is extremely doubtful - China's soldiers have won the respect, not only of their enemies, but of the whole world.