Contents - Hirohito's War
3 Japan versus China: From Phoney War to Total War
[Map: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6]
Manchukuo, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident and the Start of the Second Sino-Japanese War [July 1937] (p 80) The Battles of Taiyuan and Shanghai  (p 82) The Rape of Nanking [November 1937–January 1938] (p 84) Cordell Hull and the US State Department’s Internecine Battles on Japan Policy (p 88) Franklin D. Roosevelt: From Isolation to Intervention [1933–September 1941] (p 93) The Battles of Nomonhan (Kahlkhin Gol) [May–September 1939] and the Soviet Threat to Japan (p 98) Prince Konoe and Japanese Domestic and International Politics [1937–July 1941] (p 101) The Japanese Occupation of Vietnam and the Tripartite Alliance [September 1940] (p 104) Operation BARBAROSSA, ‘Strike South’ and the Countdown to War in the Pacific [September 1940–December 1941] (p 107) Hirohito’s Role as Icon and Godhead in the Rise of Ultra-nationalism (p 109) Hirohito’s War Guilt Examined (p 111) Japan’s Empire  (p 121) The Power of MAGIC (p 122) Financial Freeze and Oil Embargo: America’s Precipitation of the War with Japan [July 1941] (p 123)
Manchukuo, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident and the Start of the Second Sino-Japanese War: [July 1937]: [Map: 3.1] [Map: 3.2] On 4 June 1937, Prince Konoe, the newly appointed prime minister, and his cabinet were sworn into office. Just over a month later, on 7 July, the Second Sino-Japanese War, a conflict that was to bring the deaths of an estimated 30 million people, started with an innocuous-seeming incident that took place at the Marco Polo Bridge.
Foreign powers with trade rights in Peking were entitled to station troops along the railway that linked the city with its port of Tianjin forty miles away. By the established local protocols foreign troops were required to give notice to their Chinese military counterparts if they intended to engage in training maneuvers. The local Japanese commander failed to give the due warning and when one of his soldiers went missing, shots were fired at the nearby Chinese garrison at Wanping, a town to the southwest of Peking, accessed by the Marco Polo Bridge. The start of the Second Sino-Japanese War was, unlike the Mukden Incident, an unplanned episode, but one that, nevertheless, characterized Japan’s gradual absorption of northern China.
It was a pattern of encroachment on China by Japanese forces, which had been in progress since the Mukden Incident of September 1931. The agent provocateur act of blowing up the railway from Port Arthur to Mukden had given the excuse for the occupation of Mukden by General Shigeru Honjo’s 10th Division followed by the invasion of southern Manchuria. The annexation of all Manchuria and Inner Mongolia had followed. The ‘independent’ state of Manchukuo was subsequently established on 18 February 1932 with the last Qing Dynasty Emperor, Aisin-Gioro Pu-yi, put in place as its puppet ruler in the new capital of Hsinking. Two years later Pu-yi was proclaimed Emperor of Manchukuo. The head of the Japanese Kwantung Army who, in addition to his military role, held the role of ambassador, effectively controlled the Emperor. Japanese Vice-Ministers were placed in Emperor Pu-yi’s Privy Council and over time they removed almost all his ‘Manchu’ advisers. The Chinese Legislative Council was merely window dressing with its sole function to rubber stamp Privy Council orders.
From Manchukuo, Japan expanded its regional authority southwards—much to the horror of Major-General Kanji Ishiwara, a convert to Nichiren Buddhism and one of the plotters instrumental in the Mukden Incident, who had dreamed of a Manchukuo under Japanese rule allied to a restored China. Manchukuo with Japan should, he believed,