A Reconsideration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident Author(s): James B.

Crowley Source: The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3 (May, 1963), pp. 277-291 Published by: Association for Asian Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2050187 . Accessed: 13/06/2011 13:15
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A Reconsideration the of Bridge Incident




I937 a handful of Chinese and Japanese soldiers exchanged rifle-fire in the vicinity of the Marco Polo Bridge about thirty miles from Peking. This minor fracas precipitateda sequence of events that soon propelled Japan into full-scale hostilities on the mainland-a war that was significantly to influence the course of Japanese-Americannegotiation in the fateful months leading up to the Pacific War. Many historians have portrayed the China incident as the consequence of a conspiracy by the Japanese military and as a repetition of a pattern of aggression identical with that of the Mukden Incident of i931.' With this approach, the Sino-Japanese war presents little apparent difficulty to our ascertaining why the fighting at the Marco Polo Bridge occasioned a major war. The culprit is the Japanesemilitary. Throughout the I930's, the influence of the Japanese military on the creation of Manchukuo, on the formulation of Japan's China policy, and on the responses of the Chinese nationalist government was clearly of paramount importance. The consistent expansion of Japanese power in north China and the growing intensity of Chinese nationalism provided a historical context which rendered some type of open conflict highly probable, if not inevitable. But granting the pervasive pressures of the Imperial Japanese army on Sino-Japaneserelations during the thirties, it need not necessarilyfollow that the China incident of I937 was itself caused by the Japanese army. This observation is offered mainly to emphasize that the following reappraisal is not designed to serve as a defense or rationalization of the policies and actions of the Japanese army during the 1931-37 period. The central concern is to recapitulate the events of July 1937 in order to clarify the role of the Japanese military in this crisis and, in the process, to indicate several reasons why this particular incident was not resolved peacefully. Because the narrative is based almost entirely on Japanese sources,the focus is inevitably on Japanesepolicy and actions. In addition, the material is structured to highlight two conclusions: the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was not caused by a conspiracyof Japanese army officers; and the resultant Sino-Japanesewar was caused mainly by the interaction of the official policies and acts of the Konoe

ONJuly 7,

JamesB. Crowley is AssistantProfessorof History at Amherst College. This article is based on research made possible by a three-year grant from the Ford Foundation. The author also wishes to express his deep appreciation to the following individuals for their recollections of the events of July-August I937: the Honorable Arita Hachiro; Ambassadors Hidaka and Kamimura; Generals Hashimoto Gun, Wachi Takagi, Inada Seijun, Imamura Hitoshi, Sato Kenryo, Colonel Nishiura Susumu; Admirals Fukudome Shigeru, Hasegawa Kiyoshi, Tomioka Sadatoshi and Takagi Sokichi; and to Mr. Hata Ikuhito who shared his notes based upon interviews with Generals Kawabe Torashiro and Ikeda Sumihisa. The author, of course, assumes all responsibilityfor the substance of the article. I For example, Yale Maxon, Control of JapaneseForeign Policy (Berkeley, I957), pp. I20-I24; and RichardStorry,The Double Patriots (London, I 957, pp. 215-223.




Cabinet and the Nationalist government. In order to develop these themes, it is appropriatefirst to review briefly the basic China policy of the Japanese government at the time of the 1937 China incident. Following the establishment of Manchukuo, the aggressive extension of Japanese control into north China was a constant element in Japan's China policy. Essentially, Japan sought to erect a buffer zone between Manchukuo and the Nationalist government in Nanking by supporting various "local"Mongolian and Chinese governments in north China. In June I935, this policy manifested itself in the Ho-Umezu and Chin-Doihara agreements which, in effect, excluded the political and military organs of the Kuomintang from north China.2 The primary objective of the Nationalist government then centered on the re-establishment of its control in these p-rovinces, while the Japanese government sought to attain hegemony over the entire country, preferablyby a comprehensive Sino-Japanesetreaty that would transform the Kuomintang into a dependency of the Imperial government. Throughout the fall of I935, both governments were engaged in intensive negotiations to achieve their conflicting aspirations.3Chiang Kai-shek, for example, expressed willingness to conclude a SinoJapanese Friendship Treaty, provided the Kuomintang was permitted to re-establish its control in north China.4 Although the Japanese Foreign Ministry seriously considered a quid pro quo-support for the Kuomintang in north China in return for a treaty that recognized at least the de facto existence of Manchukuo-strenuous objections from Japanese financial and military circles effectively squashed this idea.5 Neither government was able, therefore, to produce a mutually acceptabletreaty draft and, on January8, 1936, the negotiations were terminated.' After the abortive attempt at a modus vivendi, an outline of a Policy for Dealing with North China was prepared by the War Ministry on January I3, I936; which defined the ultimate objective as a "stable"north China under governments headed by Chinese who were not members of the Kuomintang.7 The Imperial General Staff also embraced a policy initially proposedby Morishima Morito, the Head of the Asian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry.8According to Morishima's plan, Japan would predicate its China policy on the assumptions that Chiang Kai-shek eventually would
2 The best treatments of these agreements are Hata Ikuhito, "Umezu Ka 6-kin kyotei keii" [Particulars of the Ho-Umezu Agreement], Azija kenkyui,IV (I957), 65-iI4; and Shimada Toshihiko, "Umezu Ka 0-kin ky6tei no seiritsu" [The Conclusion of the Umezu- Ho Ying-chin Agreement], Nihon gaik5shi pp. kenkyui: Sh5wa jidai [Study of Japanese Diplomatic History; the Showa Period] (Tokyo, I959), 50-70. 3 Archives of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Teikokuno taiShi seisaku kankei no ken [Concerning the China Policy of the Imperial Government], especially volumes IV, VI, and VIII. The author is particularly indebted to Mr. Kurihara Ken, the former head of the Archival Section, for his unfailing assistance in locating pertinent material. 4 Ibid., VI, "Hirota Daijin She Taishi Sh5 Kairoku dai ni kai" [Minutes of the Second Conversation between Foreign Minister Hirota and Chiang's Ambassador Chiang Tsuo-pin] September 7, I935, Top Secret. 5 Ibid., IV, "Sh5 Taishi dai niji kaidan ni tsuku suru daijin oshu shinan" [Summary of the Foreign Minister's Reply to the Second Conversationwith Chiang's Ambassador], September i8, I935, Top Secret. 6 Ibid., VIII, "Showa jfiichinen ichigatsu y5ka Gaimu Daijin heya ni okeru togi no kekka ni motozuku taiShi gaik5 shi-an" [Summary of Our China Policy Based Upon the Results of the Discussions in the Officeof the Foreign Minister, January 8, 1936], Top Secret. 7 InternationalMilitaryTribunal Far East (IMTFE), Document 1634, p. 3. 8 Teikoku taiShi . . . op. cit., VIII, "Nankin seiken no NiShi Nankin kaigi teian ni tai suru ken" [Concerning the Proposed Meeting in Nanking by the Nanking Political Authorities], Sanb6 Dainibu [G-2, Army General Staff], February 2, I936, Top Secret.



with basic War,Naval,and FinanceMinistries,10 the sole functionof preparing that for It economic political and policies northChina. was alsoagreed the policies decided to armyin northChina.In orderto wouldbe adhered by the Japanese of fromthe control garrison removed was achieve objective, Peking-Tientsin this the underthe command the Kwantung Army,and a NorthChinaArmywas created largely officers by fromthe of General headquarters staffed was Tashiro."1 Tashiro's WarMinistry General whowerefamiliar sympathetic theplanning with and Staff and of theCommittee theCurrent Situation. on formulated fundamental a this After four monthsof negotiations, committee of independence objectives: the eventual (i) policyguidewhichset the following development north of government; theeconomic (2) northChina fromtheNanking in China conjunction the exploitation Manchurian resources; the promoof with (3) tion of a "Mongolia Mongolians" for of movement; (4) the renewal negotiaand axiom."2 August On based anti-Soviet tionswiththeKuomintang upona pro-Japanese this part formally approved policyandfourdayslaterit became 7, the InnerCabinet of the Fundamental by of Policydecided the HirotaCabinet.'8 Principles National As a parallel ruledthat the armymust avoidany independent move,the cabinet of and ministry the implementation this in military activities mustassistthe foreign
by policy.'4The cabinetdecisionwas supplemented the GeneralStaff'sSecondAd-

negotiate a Sino-JapaneseFriendship Treaty, accept the status quo in north China, reorganize the Kuomintang to suit Japanesedesires, and adopt a foreign policy which would link China's destiny with that of Japan.9Within this framework of ideas, the Japanese army was willing to concentrate on the economic development of Manchukuo, to rely on political and economic infiltration in the existing governments of north China, and to allow the Foreign Ministry to assume control over all negotiations with the Nanking government. In the spring of I936, Premier Hirota secretly organized a Committee on the of CurrentSituation (jityoku i-inkai) composedof importantofficials the Foreign,

ministrative government was NorthChina.15 Henceforth, Japanese the Policy toward military intervention in with of to prepared, the concurrence the army, forgodirect pressures theexisting on on and north China favor a reliance political economic in of political organizations thoseprovinces. in Thispolicy, intrigues, duein large was the of military especially avoidance further being within to of development formulated measure thefive-year programs industrial the of the war and finance Theseplansenvisioned integration the reministries.'6
9 Ibid. 10 IMTFE, Document 2446. Also, personal conversation with the Honorable Arita Hachiro, the Japanese Foreign Minister in 1936; and with General Hashimoto Gun, the representative of the War Ministry in the organization of the committee. 11 According to Generals Hashimoto, Katakura, Sat5, and Colonel Nishiura in conversations with the author. 12 Teikoku no taiShi . . . op. cit., VIII, Cable 1387 from the Foreign Minister to all representatives in China and Manchukuo,August ii, 1936, Top Secret.Also, IMTFE,Exhibit 2I6. 13 ITFE, Exhibit 979. 14 Ibid., p. 3. 15 IMTFE, Exhibit 213. 16 Detailed information on this economic planning is difficult to locate but some clues as to its significance are developed by Katakura Chii, "Ugaki naikaku ryuizansu" [Abortion of the Ugaki Cabinet], Himeraretash5washi [A Secret History of the Showa Period] (Tokyo, I956), pp. I6I-I62; and Ishiwatari



sources of Manchukuo and north China with the industrial complex of Japan. However, in June I937, according to Tojo Hideki, the Kwantung Army concluded that, with the exception of east Hopei, the resources of north China were not essential to the current long-range plans for national defense.17Moreover, the Kwantung Army felt it was inadvisable to retard the exploitation of Manchukuo by diverting resources to augment Japanese economic development in north China. The leaders of the Japanesearmy were intensely concerned with building a powerful military establishment in preparationfor a possible war with the Soviet Union; and they believed it was imperative to concentrate on the economic development of Manchukuo in order to refurbish the army with the latest types of armament and supplies. It was against this long range program that the General Staff, in the spring of I937, stipulated that the military forces stationed in north China should avoid any incidents which might complicate the international situation and thereby hinder the implementation of the five-year programs.18 This policy orientation within the Japanesearmy enabled the Hayashi Cabinet on April i6, I937, to adopt a policy which clearly precluded any type of military intrigues in north China.'9 The basic axiom of excluding the Kuomintang from north China remained unchallenged, however, and this was subject to modification only if the Nanking government was prepared to accept a comprehensive program of Japanese military, political, and economic assistance, or in other words, Japanese control. From the Japanese viewpoint, the existing situation was eminently satisfactory. North China was, in effect, a buffer zone between Manchukuo and the Nationalist government. The Japanese army had excluded the Kuomintang from these provinces, established the East Hopei Autonomous Council, and forced Chiang Kai-shek to organize the Hopei-Chahar Council under General Sung Che-yuan. Since the maturing five-year programs did not absolutely require the resourcesof these provinces, the Japanesegovernment could conceivably permit the Nationalist government to reestablish its control in this region. The price, of course, would be a Sino-JapaneseFriendship Treaty that would, in effect, make the Nationalist government a satellite of Imperial Japan. This was the background of the reactions and policies of the Konoe Cabinet during the crisis engendered by the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Since the following narrative concentrates on the policies and actions within the Japanese army, it may also help to review briefly a few developments within the military that will place the behavior of various army officers during July I937 in a more intelligible framework. Mention has been made of the creation of the North China Army as an integral part of the decision to concentrate on political and economic subversionin north China. This decision was related to the domestic, economic, and political programs being formulated by the newly established Cabinet Research Agency (Naikakt ch5sakai).`2 More particularly, the War Ministry established a
of Sitaro denki [Biography Ishiwatari Sotaro] (Tokyo, I954), pp. I93-204. Also, IMTFE, Exhibit 842 and Document 715. 17 Teikokuno taiShi . . . op. cit., VII, "Horinouchi jikan oyobi 6a-T6akyokuch6 to T6jo kantogun sanb6cho kaigi yoryo [Gist of the Conference of Vice-Minister Horinouchi and Heads of European and East Asian Bureauswith the Chief of Staff, Kwantung Army, T6jo], June i6, I937. 18IMTFE, Proceedings, p. 2I979. 19 IMTFE, Exhibit 2I9. Also, the Tribunal conclusion that in the spring of I937 the military planning of the Imperial Army "was not directed wholly or principally toward the conquest of China." judgment, p. i68. 20 Aritake Shuji, Okada Keisuke denki [Biography of Admiral Okada Keisuke] (Tokyo, I956), pp.



Military Affairs Department (Gunmuka)in August I936 under Colonel Shibayama.' Members of this department represented the army in the Cabinet Research Agency and were actively concerned with long-range political and economic planning. In particular, they appreciated the hazards which any China war would create to the realization of the initial five-year programs. Thus, the behavior of Colonel Shibayama during July I937 should be seen against the background of his professional responsibilities. Parallel with the establishment of the Military Affairs department, there was also a crucial reorganization within the General Staff.22In August 1936, the responsibility for the preparation of mobilization plans was transferred from the General Affairs Bureau (S&mubu) the Operations Section (Sakusenka);and, in December, a new to War Ieadership Section (Senso shida-ka) under Colonel Kawabe Torashiro was established. Both of these sections were under the Operations Division (Dainibu) headed by General Ishiwara Kanji. Operational planning had previously been restricted to the strategy of potential military operations but, through the responsibilities inherent in mobilization and war leadership, Ishiwara introduced a basic innovation: the coordination of strategic military planning with the various plans dealing with economic growth, and the general mobilization of men and industries. In particular, Ishiwara ardently believed that the strategic enemy was the Soviet Union, and, accordingly, that Japan should avoid any China entanglement. Moreover, through the War Leadership Section, the Operations Division advanced its own five-year economic programs. A bitter rivalry was engendered between the War Ministry and the General Staff over which agency should be responsible for this type of planning. This factional strafe ended in October I937, when Ishiwara was transferredto the Kwantung Army and the War Leadership Section was abolished. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that during the crisis of July I937, the Operations Division of the General Staff subscribed to a broad concept of operational planning, especially the conviction of the primacy of economic planning in order to strengthen the military for a war with the Soviet Union and the necessity to avoid any extensive operations in China. With this observation, it is appropriateto undertake a narrative of the events

of July I937The details of the initial fighting between the Chinese and Japanese troops stationed in the environs of the Marco Polo Bridge have been lost in the darkness which enveloped this fracas and in the passions of a bitter Sino-Japanesewar. The testimony of Chinese and Japanese officers presented at the Tokyo International Military Tribunal, however, agree that around midnight of July 7, Colonel Matsui of the Japanese army reported the occurrence of a brief skirmish to the Mayor of Peking, General Chin Teh-chin, and requested permission for a company of Japaneseto search the town of Wanping for an allegedly missing soldier.23General Chin, instead, proposed sending a joint investigating commission and ordered the local Chinese commander at Wanping to resist any Japaneseattempt to enter the town. Colonel Matsui

Naikakaseido shichijiinen-shi [Seventy Year History of the Cabinet System] (Tokyo,


and Ishiwatari ... op. cit., pp. 193-202. Conversationswith GeneralsKatakuraChuiand Sato Kenryo. 22 The information in ths paragraphwas supplied by General Sato; General Inada Seijun, an original member of the War Leadership Section; and Colonel Nishiura Susumu. Mr. Hata Ikuhito kindly shared his notes based upon interviews with General Kawabe Torashiro. 23 IMTFE, Document I 750 (Deposition of General Ching Teh-chin); Document I790 (Deposition of GeneralWang Leu-ch'ai; Defense Document 973 (Deposition of GeneralHashimoto Gun).
I27-I40, 21



accepted the Chinese proposaland appointed Lt. Colonel Morita as the Japaneserepresentative on the joint commission. While this investigating body was being organized, Japanese troops forcibly tried to breach the Wanping defenses and were readily repulsed. Directly after this second skirmish, both sides rushed a battalion of men to the scene and, by the morning of July 8, a tense situation had arisen. Although the town of Wanping was an important railway junction, there is no evidence indicating that the Japanese intended to seize or control it. On July 7, the entire infantry brigade stationed in north China, with the exception of fifty men in Peking and Major Ichiki's battalion at Fengtai, was engaged in field maneuvers.24 The First Infantry Regiment was deployed at Tsingchow and the Second Infantry Regiment at Nantassu, south of Shanhaikwan. Because these exercises had been in progress since June 6, the bulk of the Japanese troops was not in a position suitable for operations in the vicinity of Wanping. The deployment of the main body of Japanese troops, plus the basic policy of Army Central Headquarters which specifically forbade any "incident,"is strong evidence that the events of July 7 were not part of a prearrangedplan of aggression.25This is further substantiatedby the behavior of the responsiblefield officersof the North China Army. Two weeks before the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, General Tashiro, the senior Japanese officer in north China, suffered a serious heart attack. General Hashimoto Gun, Chief of Staff of the North China Army, was in de facto command of all Japanese troops. During the morning of July 8 General Hashimoto verbally ordered Major Ichiki, the commanding officer of the battalion which had been sent to Wanping, to avoid any operations pending an official investigation of the situation.28 On the same morning, Hashimoto also informed General Kawabe Shozo, the commanding officer of the North China Infantry Brigade, of the intention to effect a prompt settlement of the matter.27However, when Kawabe arrived at Wanping at 3:00 P.M. that day, he, significantly allowed Major Ichiki the convenient loophole of attacking if his company was fired upon by Chinese troops. During the early hours of the morning of July 9, Major Ichiki prepared to assault the Chinese position and, when Lt. Colonel Morita tried to intervene, Ichiki used Kawabe's verbal orders as sufficient justification for his decision to attack. He promptly led an unsuccessful charge against the Chinese defenders. The situation in Peking was quite different. Colonel Matsui and Major Imai conferred with responsible Chinese military officials in a Takeo, the Peking attachM, sincere effort to dispose of the matter quickly.28 Parallel with these negotiations, Hashimoto dispatched Colonel Wachi to Tokyo for "consultations," and received orders from the General Staff to effect a local settlement of the situation.29On the afternoon of July 9, Hashimoto flew from Tientsin to Peking, joined Matsui and Imai, and presented to General Ching the following terms: (i) a Chinese apology for the
24 IMTFE, Exhibit 2479 (Deposition of Gencral Kawabe Shozo). 25 Sec also FrancisC. Jones,Japan'sNew Orderin East Asia (London, I954), pp. 3I-33. 26 IMTFE, Defense Document 973. 27 IMTFE, Defense Document 970 (Deposition of GeneralKawabe Shozo), p. 4.

IMTFE, Document 1750; and conversationwith Imai Takeo. R. Storry suggests that Wachi's trip to Tokyo was part of a conspiracy similar to the Mukden Incident of I93I. Op. Cit., pp. 22I-222. However, all of the individuals interviewed by the author, including Wachi, agreed that his trip to Tokyo was deliberately arranged by his superiors in order to neutralize his aggressive behavior and attitude towards the Chinese army stationed in the Peking region.

28 29



incident; (2) punishment of the officersresponsiblefor the difficulty; (3) replacement of the troops in the Wanping area by men of the Peace Preservation Corps; and (4) a rigid control of the Communist element in the region.30Because these conditions did not raise a political issue, a point which had immediately plagued the Chinese, General Ching accepted the terms as the basis of a settlement. On July ii, at ii :oo A.M., representativesof both armies signed a local agreement which embodied the abovementioned terms.31 With the single exception of Major Ichiki's attack on July 9, the North China Army, under the leadership of General Hashimoto, Colonel Matsui, Lt. Colonel Morita, and Major Imai, had followed the orders of the General Staff. There were other currents, however, complicating the achievements of the field armies-developments much deeper than General Kawabe's attitude and powerful enough to transform the Marco Polo Bridge Incident into the China War. The first news of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was indifferently received in Tokyo. On July 8 Prince Kanin, the Chief of the General Staff, cabled routine orders to settle the matter locally, and the next morning he forwarded the terms to be included in the settlement.32Later that morning, Mr. Ishii Itar6, Chief of the East Asia Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, General Ushiroku Jun, Chief of the Bureau of Military Affairs, and Admiral Toyoda Soemu, Chief of the Bureau of Naval Affairs, held a routine conference and decided on a policy of "non-expansion"and "local settlement."33 In the afternoon, the Konoe Cabinet officially approved this recommendation. From the Nanking perspective, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was regarded as far more than a local problem. Parallel with the smooth negotiations going on in Peking, the Central Government presented a formal note to Hidaka Shinroku, the Japanese Consul, which requested that both armies withdraw to their original positions and which reserved the right to review any local settlement of the incident.34 The Nanking government also dispatched four army divisions to the Paoting valley in southern Hopei and ordered General Sung Che-yuan, the Chairman of the HopeiChahar Council, to proceed to Paoting pending a settlement of the matter by the Central Government.35 These moves were an understandablebut unfortunate reaction to the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. The Ho-Umezu agreement of I935 had barred the Nationalist Army from north China, and the fundamental policy of the Imperial Government demanded the continued exclusion of the Kuomintang from this region. Since the "local" settlement being negotiated in Peking included no political conditions, the dispatch of troops into north China by the Central Government, plus its insistence that it settle the affair, introduced grave and complicating factors. The dispatch of Nationalist troops to the Paoting region prompted the China
with Imai Takeo, Hashimoto Gun, and Wachi Takagi. Conversations IMTFE, Defense Document I169 is the text of this settlement. 32 IMTFE, Defense Document 971 (Deposition of GeneralKawabe Torashiro). 33 Ishii Itaro, Gaik6kan no issh6 [Life of a Diplomat] (Tokyo, 3950), p. 27I. 34 IMTFE, Defense Document 2148 (Deposition of Hidaka Shinrokuro); and in a personal talk with Mr. Hidaka. 35 General Ching stipulated that "repeatedtelegrams from our Supreme Commander (Chiang Kai-shek) ordered General Sung . .. to proceed to Paoting and to direct operations from there." IMTFE, Document 1750.




Section of the General Staff, headed by Colonel Nagatsu, to draft an intelligence estimate stressing the military dangers this move presented to the North China Army.86 The two officers in Central Headquarters with technical responsibility for implementing any mobilization program-Colonel Mut,, the Head of the Operation and Colonel Tanaka and Mobilization Section of the General Staff (Sakusenkacha) Shinichi, the Head of the Military Affairs Department (gunjikach&) of the War Ministry-used this intelligence estimate as the basis of their request for an immediate mobilization.87 Confronted by the strong stand of the Nanking government, the mobilization and dispatch of Chinese troops, and the recommendations of Muto and Tanaka, General Ishiwara reluctantly agreed at 6 P.M. on July io, to request the mobilization of three divisions within Japan.38Three hours later, War Minister Sugiyama phoned Premier Konoe and requested an emergency Cabinet meeting to decide on the mobilization request of the General Staff.39 Prince Konoe not only concurred with the necessity for general mobilization, but believed that the Imperial Government should at the same time issue a strong policy statement which would convince the Nanking government that it should refrain from interfering with the local settlement being negotiated by the field armies.40 The Konoe Cabinet met on Sunday morning, July ii, and promptly accepted the army's mobilization request and Konoe's proposition that the government take a public stand in support of a local settlement. In conjunction with the field settlement of July iI, the Japanese government announced its general mobilization plans. At the same time, it bluntly warned Nanking to avoid any interference with a local settlement.4' The next day, Prince Konoe assembled his full Cabinet and invited leading politicians and prominent journalists to a public press conference in which he issued a plea for nation-wide supportof the government's policy.42 This press conference stimulated jingoistic sentiment within Japan, created increased apprehension in Nanking, and, paradoxically,buried from the public eye the settlement which the field army had effected on July II.43 Moreover, the attempt of Premier Konoe to pressure the Nanking government into a passive role was not only extremely poor diplomacy,but also quite misleading. Konoe's press conference fostered the impression that the Japanese army and the Cabinet had definitely decided upon mobilization and the reinforcement of the North China Army. In fact, however, Ishiwara Kanji had cancelled the mobilization order during the evening of July ii because of the settlement reached by General Hashimoto in Peking.44 In lieu of
36 General Inada, General Sato, and Colonel Nishiura in conversationswith the author stated, without mentioning Nagatsu's name, that the "China Section" had emphasized the dangers created by the Nationalist Army. 37 Conversations with GeneralsSat5, Inada, Wachi, and Colonel Nishiura. 38IMTFE, Defense Document 97I, p. In. pp. 30-3I. 3a Kazami Akira, Konoe naikaku [The Konoe Cabinet] (Tokyo, I951), 40 Ibid., Kazami, however, declaresthat this suggestion was originally his idea. 41 Asahsi (Tokyo), July ii, 1937, p. i. This was a special Sunday edition. I am indebted to Mr. Kurihara for calling it to my attention. 42 Ishii Itaro, op. cit., p. 272. 43 For a blunt comment on this press conference, see Ikeda Sumihisa, Rikugun sogi i-in-cho [Head of the Funeral Commission of the Imperial Army] (Tokyo, 1953), pp. 27-28. Ambassador Grew noted on July I3, "There seems to be complete unanimity of opinion between the cabinet, the military, the Foreign Office, the press and the businessmen to resist any weakening of Japan's position in North China." Ten Y'earsin Japan (New York, 1944), p. 2II. 44 IMTFE, Defense Document 971, pp. II-I2.



general mobilization, the General Staff authorized preparations for the dispatch of two brigades from the Kwantung Army and one division from the Korean Army.45 This revised plan, despite the existence of the Cabinet's authorization of mobilization, was conveyed on July I4 to the Emperor. At this Imperial audience, Prince Kanin and War Minister Sugiyama advised the Emperor that Colonel Shibayama of the War Ministry would be sent to north China to prepare a first-hand evaluation of the situation.46Colonel Shibayama flew to Tientsin on the fifteenth and held a three-day conference with the responsible field officers-General Hashimoto, Colonel Matsui, Lt. Colonel Ikeda Sumihisa, and Major Imai Takeo. On the eighteenth, these officers agreed that the settlement of July ii should be implemented at all costs and that reinforcements were not to be sent to north China.47Although this decision would be of immediate importance to the planning of the General Staff, Shibayama did not cable his report directly to Tokyo. Perhaps because he feared the dire consequences of any distortion by a transmitting officer, he instead elected to fly back to Central Headquarters to deliver his evaluation in person. However, whether because of inclement weather or because of a side trip to the headquarters of the Korean Army, Shibayama did not arrive in Tokyo until July 20, a delay of more than forty-eight hours. Originally, Central Headquarters had intended to wait for Shibayama's evaluation before issuing any new orders. However, the reports of the military attaches in China confirmed that Nanking had ordered the mobilization of all troops north of the Yangtze River and had not halted the northward movement of the four divisions that were heading toward Paoting.48 These warnings, plus aggressive advice from the Kwantung Army, supplied Colonels Mut5 and Tanaka with sufficient ammunition to bombard the "lethargic" policy of General Ishiwara. Around midnight of July I5, Ishiwara bowed to the attack of Muto and Tanaka and informed the War Minister that it was absolutely imperative for General Sung, the Head of the HopeiChahar Council, to accept and implement the agreement of the eleventh within seventy-two hours.49 General Sugiyama promptly requested another emergency Cabinet meeting for the next morning and, at this session, emphasized that the Imperial Army could not assume responsibility for the protection of Japaneselives and property in north China unless a final settlement were reached by the nineteenth. Foreign Minister Hirota thought that a firm statement to the Nanking government would be the best way to promote a quick settlement.50The Cabinet concurred, and, on July I7, Consul Hidaka presented an aide memoir to the Chinese government which insisted that Nanking put an immediate stop to all provocative actions and refrain from impeding the implementation of the accordreachedby the local authorities.5'
45 Ibid. Also conversationswith GeneralsHashimoto, Inada, Imai, and Wachi. 46 Mr. Maxon asserts this conference was "almost an exact repetition of the situation which had occurred at the time of the Mukden Incident six years earlier: one of the conspirators, here Shibayama, being sent with ordersto stop an action, the continuanceof which he favored."Op. cit., p. I22. 47 Conversation with Generals Imai and Hashimoto. Also according to Mr. Hata's talks with Ikeda Sumihisa. 48 IMTFE, Defense Document 971, p. I2. 49 IMTFE, Defense Documient971, p. I3. 50 Ambassadors Hidaka and Kamimurain talks with the author. 51 IMTFE, Document 2146, p. 3.



The Konoe Cabinet's official demand that Nanking exclude itself from the settlement of the crisis coincided with an opposite resolution by the Chinese government. On July i6, Consul Hidaka received another note from the Nanking government reiterating the earlier demands that it must sanction any local settlement and that both sides withdraw their troops to their original positions.52After receiving the Japanese aide memoir of the seventeenth which totally rejected these stipulations, the Chinese government appealed publicly to the signatories of the Nine Power Treaty for assistance in settling the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.53The next morning, in the official reply to the Japanese aide memoir, the Chinese government stated that it must continue its military preparations because of the Japanese decision to mobilize and to reinforce the North China Army.54In addition, it demanded again the right formally to approveany settlement negotiated by the field armies. This rejection of the Japanese solution was supplemented by Chiang Kai-shek's memorable address at Kuling in which the Generalissimo publicly listed four conditions for a peaceful solution of the incident: (i) no infringement of Chinese sovereignty; (2) no unlawful alteration of the Hopei-Chahar Council; (3) no removal of any official appointed by the Nanking government; (4) no restrictions on the stationing of the 2gth Army of General Sung. He concluded, "If we allow one inch more of our territory to be lost, we shall be guilty of an unpardonable crime against our race."55Publicly, and in official communications, the Nanking government had vividly conveyed its determination to take part in any settlement of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Ten days after the outbreak of the incident, Nanking and Tokyo had adopted contradictory policies. The Nationalist Government, fearing a new attempt to dismember part of China, proclaimed its determination to negotiate a solution which would not alter the status quo in north China; the Konoe Cabinet, committed to the basic policy of reducing the influence of the Kuomintang in north China, demanded a "local"settlement and adopted a sabre-rattlingpose designed to frighten the Chinese government into passivity. Ironically, the policy of the Imperial Army had been to negotiate a quick settlement which would avoid raising any political problems. General Sung Che-yuan, the Chairman of the Hopei-Chahar Committee, recognized the sincerity of the Japanese field officersand, on July I7, ignoring the repeated order of Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw to Paoting, attended the funeral of General Tashiro.56 Sung's gesture was appreciated by the staff of the North China Army, and, after the funeral services, General Hashimoto and Lt. Colonel Ikeda Sumihisa met informally with General Sung. Diuring their conversation, General Hashimoto conveyed the necessity for a new settlement in order to prevent complicating moves by the Imperial Army.57 The next morning, General Sung visited General Katsuki, the new Japanese Commanding Officer, and offered his personal apology for the

53 54 55

IMTFE, Defense Document 2148. Royal Institute of International Affairs, Survey of International Affairs,


(London, 3938), pp.


Conversationwith Hidaka Shinrokuro. Royal Instituteof InternationalAffairs, Survey ... op. cit., p. I87. 56 According to General Hashimoto, Sung attended the funeral alone and ". . . cried bitterly before the spirit of the dead over losing such a close friend." IMTFE, Proceedings, p. 206I9. 5 Ikeda Sumihisa, op. cit., p. 23. General Hashimoto, in a talk with the author, emphasized that he never presented Sung with an ultimatum.



Marco Polo Bridge Incident.58 In addition, Sung ordered the removal of all street barricadeswhich had been erected in Peking and began the withdrawal of the Chinese troops which had been involved in the fighting at Wanping.59 At the very moment when the two governments had reached an impasse over the problem, the field armies had again managed to eke out an apparentlysuccessful solution. The continued mobilization of Chinese troops north of the Yangtze could not be lightly treated by the Army General Staff. During the evening of July i8, Colonel Mut6 again demanded the adoption of an operational plan of action for the north China crisis and the mobilization of three divisions.60 Ishiwara, ignorant of Sung's latest steps and without the evaluation of Colonel Shibayama, authorized Mutb's plan.6' The following morning, before an emergency Cabinet session, Mr. Ishii, General Ushiroku, and Admiral Toyoda, as was the custom, met to hammer out a joint policy recommendation for the Cabinet. However, Ishii and Toyoda refused to sanction Ushiroku's demand for mobilization.62For the first time during the crises, an unresolved basic issue was referredto the Cabinet for a decision. Mr. Ishii was unusually persistent in his objections, and before the Cabinet meeting he handed Foreign Minister Hirota a written memo declaring the absolute opposition of his bureau to any mobilization request.63Despite the dissension evident at the meeting of the bureau chiefs, the Cabinet, according to Mr. Hirota, approved the army's plan "without any opposition."04But on July 20, Colonel Shibayama returned to Tokyo and presented a strong plea against reinforcing the North China Army."5Later that day, General Hashimoto cabled Ishiwara that reinforcementswere neither necessary nor desired because the Chinese were carrying out the agreement originally signed on July i i66 Fortified by this information, the mobilization order was cancelled again by Ishiwara on July 2I.67 This policy could not be indefinitely shelved unless the Nanking government cancelled the mobilization of its troops north of the Yangtze River and withdrew its divisions from the Paoting region. Some understanding with the Central Government was needed to realize these steps. General Ushiroku, the Chief of the Bureau of Military Affairs, personally requested the staff of the Foreign Ministry on July 23 to open direct negotiations with the Chinese Government.68Even the moderate Ishii, however, was not prepared to suggest a modification of the fundamental policy of the Konoe Cabinet. A "local"settlement was the sine qua non of Japan'sforeign policy. Hence, Chiang Kai-shek would have to swallow his Kuling address and accept the settlement of July i i, or recognize the grave consequences of undermining this settlement.

IMTFE, Proceedings, p. 206ig. 59 General Imai Takeo in a conversationwith the author.

60 According to General Inada Seijun in a conversation with the author. General Kawabe Torashir6 and General Tanaka Shinichi also informed Mr. Hata of this fact. 61 Ibid. 62 Ishii Itaro. op. cit., p. 275. 63 Ibid., p. 276. Mr. Kamimura,the Head of the China Section, also signed this memo. 64Ibid., p. 276. Kamimura and Ishii handed in a joint resignation in protest of Foreign Minister Hirota's failure to follow their recommendation.Also, Mr. Kamimura, in a talk with the author in I958. 65 Ishii Itaro, op. cit., p. 277. 66 Ibid., and personal conversationwith Hashimoto Gun. 67 Talks with General Inada and Colonel Nishiura. Also, IMTFE, Defense Document 97r, p. 14. 68 Ishii Itaro, op. cit., p. 277.



The stalemate between Tokyo and Nanking aggravated the north China situation and transferred the entire responsibility for avoiding hostilities to the field armies. Less prone to moderation than his staff, the new Commanding Officer, General Katsuki, on July 20, ordered the preparation of a plan of operations for the Wanping region and began to deploy his troops to advantageous positions.69On the Chinese side, General Hsiung Ping, the Vice-Chief of the Chinese Central Army, arrived in Peking on July 22, requested General Sung to retire to Paoting, and sought to instil a more positive policy in Sung's headquarters.70 The belligerent attitude of Generals Katsuki and Ping had its effect on the troops of both armies. During the night of July 25 and the next morning, brief skirmishes occurred at Langfang and at the southwest gate of Peking. General Katsuki, with the approvalof Central Headquarters, promptly forwarded a twenty-four hour ultimatum to General Sung calling for the complete withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Wanping region and the retirement of Sung's 37th Division to the right bank of the Yungting River.7' On July 27, before the twenty-four hour deadline, the Chinese troops at Wanping launched an attack, and bitter fighting developed in the vicinity of the Marco Polo Bridge.72 This was not however the opening of full-scale hostilities in China. The Chinese troops at Wanping were decisively beaten, and General Sung, preferring prudence to destruction, used a "free passage" guaranteed by the Japanese army to withdraw his army from Peking and across the Yungting River.73 Since General Katsuki's orders specifically prevented him from advancing beyond the Yungting River, the Peking-Tientsin area was quickly pacified. The General Staff vetoed any further operations because of a naive hope that the government would realize a political settlement of the north China problem. This would necessitate, of course, opening direct talks with Nanking, and Premier Konoe, on July 27, publicly called for a "fundamental solution of Sino-Japaneserelations."74On the same day, his Foreign Minister proclaimed, "Japanwants Chinese cooperation, not Chinese territory."75 This volte-face meant that the Konoe Cabinet was now preparedto seek a direct settlement with the Nanking government. The conditions upon which the Konoe Cabinet based its new approach were decided on August 7 by the Inner Cabinet.7"Essentially, the Japanese government proposed (i) a demilitarized zone in the Peking-Tientsin region; (2) a Nanking administration in north China, providing that it were headed by men sympathetic to a Sino-Japanesereconciliation; and (3) a definite promise from the Chinese government to negotiate a general treaty. In addition, the Inner Cabinet formulated a plan for the "Over-all Adjustment of Sino-JapaneseRelations."77According to this
Ibid. Conversationwith GeneralsHashimoto Gun and Imai Takeo. According to General Imai Takeo in his talk with the author. Also, Francis C. Jones, op. cit., p. 38. 71IMTFE, Proceedings, p. 20632. 72 General Wang Len-Ch'ai testified that on the 29th, "Being so cornered and pressed, our authorities (were) ordered to attack." IMTFE, Exhibit 248, p. 8. 73 Conversation with Generals Hashimoto, Imai and Wachi. Also, United States State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1937, (Washington I952), III, p. 298. 74IMTFE, Exhibit 6I7, p. i8. 75 Ibid., p. I7. This exhibit is the report of the League of Nations Sub Committee which investigated the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. 76 IMTFE, Document 2146. 77 IMTFE, Defense Document 2605.




policy, Japan would liquidate the East Hopei political organizations and discuss the subjects of Suiyuan and Inner Mongolia without necessarily "excluding the influence of Nanking from these areas"; China, on her part, would (i) grant de facto recognition of Manchukuo, (2) conclude an anti-Communist pact, and (3) suppress all anti-Japaneseelements within China.78 Since Chiang Kai-shek had refused to recognize a "local" settlement which had not raised a single political demand, the likelihood of his accepting these conditions was undoubtedly a remote possibility. However, Foreign Minister Hirota, in conjunction with his cable to Ambassador Kawagoe explaining the terms, exclaimed, "The broad-minded policy of our government will probably be beyond the expectation of the Chinese themselves and (it) is worthy of winning the respect of the whole world for the fair and disinterested attitude of our Empire."79This evaluation proved to be somewhat in error, but the Japanese government still sincerely believed it was offering generous terms to a weak adversary. On August io, Ambassador Kawagoe outlined the policy of the Imperial government to Mr. Kao Tsung-wu of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. An official reply was never received because six days later hostilities broke out in Shanghai and the China Incident became a major war. This dramaticallyabrupt shift of the field of battle from north China to Shanghai was certainly not due to a conscious decision of the Konoe Cabinet, or to any conspiracy by the Japanese military. Without extensively reviewing the outbreak of the Shanghai hostilities, it is relevant to note that the Japanese government was at that moment seeking to open negotiations with Nanking and that the General Staff had confined the North China Army to the Yungting River in hopes that the incident might still be resolved by diplomatic negotiations. Moreover, the behavior of the Japanese in Shanghai was most circumspect. For example, following the killing of Naval Lt. Oyama, who presumably died while attempting single-handed to capture the Hunjao Airport on August 9, the Japanese Consul General in Shanghai apologized for Oyama's behavior; Japanese naval authorities promptly cancelled all night patrols in the International Settlement in order to prevent any unfortunate events.80 Western observers were impressed by the efforts of the Japaneseto avoid any recurrence of the Shanghai Incident of i93i and were, incidentally, visibly distressed by the arrival of Nationalist troops in the Shanghai area, especially in the "demilitarized zones" established in i932.81 On August I2, the Mayor of Shanghai acknowledged that he could no longer speak for the Chinese in the negotiations being conducted by the various European representativesto prevent hostilities.82This power now resided with the Nationalist Army and, on August I4, Chinese bombers flew over "neutral" territory-the foreign settlements-and bombed Japanese naval installations. That evening, Nanking announced, "China is duty bound to defend her territory and her national existence."83 The China war had begun in earnest. The failure of the Japanese army to anticipate this development, despite a similar occurrence in ig3i, is clearly reflected in its policies and attitudes before August I4. The General Staff, as mentioned previously, favored a prompt diplomatic solution

IMFE, Defense Document


79 IMTFE, Defense Document 2030. 80 U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations . . . op. cit., I937, 81 Ibid., p. 385. 82 Ibid., p. 386.

III, pp. 363-366.

Ibid., p.




to the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Even the strongest advocates of a blitzkreig in north China-General Tojo of the Kwantung Army and Colonels Muto and Tanaka in Central Headquarters-were confident that, once defeated in north China, Nanking would readily negotiate a settlement.84Moreover, on August I3, Admiral Hasegawa, who was responsible for the protection of the Japanesesettlement in Shanghai, requested the prompt dispatch of three army regiments to meet the increasingly explosive situation.85 That evening at an emergency meeting of the Inner Cabinet, Naval Minister Yonai demanded that three divisions be sent to Shanghai, but War Minister Sugiyama demurred by discounting the need for such extensive re-enforcements.86 The next morning, however, the Cabinet strongly supported Yonai's proposal and Sugiyama reluctantly agreed to send the 3rd and iith divisions to Shanghai and the I4th division to Tsingtao.87 Against this background-the Cabinet decision of August 6, the quarantine of operationsto the Peking environs, the reluctanceto re-enforcethe Shanghai garrisonit seems reasonable to conclude that the hostilities in Shanghai were technically provoked by the Nanking government rather than by a willful act of the Japanesearmy or the Konoe Cabinet. This of course does not imply that Nanking was responsible for the resultant war. Rather it should connote a peculiar set of circumstances, especially the indignity and humiliations endured over a decade, plus the determination to resist any additional encroachment on Chinese soil, that led the Nationalist government to launch operations in Shanghai as a calculated but desperate gamble designed to thwart the relentlessJapanesepressurein north China. Until Chinese sources are available, it is difficult precisely to delineate the basic policy of the Nationalist government during this period. There is good reason to believe, however, that it had decided before July 7 to wage an all-out war if Japan again attempted to dismember north China by means of a military incident and a local settlement similar to those imposed in I935.88 A crucial element in transforming the skirmish at the Marco Polo Bridge into a major crisis was the strong reaction of the Nationalist government in terms of its previous attitudes-e.g., the demand that General Sung implement a previously agreed upon plan of operations calling for the withdrawal of his army from Peking to the Paoting area; the prompt demand that it approve any local settlement; the immediate general mobilization and the dispatch of Nationalists troops into north China; the Kuling address of Chiang Kai-shek; and the influence of General Ping of the Nationalist Army on the local Chinese army in Peking during late July. Perhaps these responses were inspired by the belief that the Japanese army was, in reality, about to establish an "autonomous" north China. It is also conceivable that the Nationalist government had sufficient confidence in its
84 According to Generals Inada, Katakura, Sato, Wachi and Colonel Nishiura in conversations with the author. See also Shigemitsu Mamoru,Japanand Her Destiny, (New York, I958), p. I4I. 85 Conversation with Admiral Hasegawa. 86 Gunreibu [Naval General Staff], TaiheiyJ senso kaigen senshi [The Naval History of the Pacific War], I, p. i6. This volume is undated but was written approximately in I942. As far as I know only the first volume was published. One copy is available at the Zaidan Shiryo Ch5sakai. [Documentary Research Organization], Tokyo. The author is indebted to Vice Admiral Tomioka Sadatoshi for permission to use the records collected at this institute. 87 Kazami Akira states that War Minister Sugiyama, after this Cabinet meeting, labeled the civilian Cabinetmembers who favored operationsin CentralChina as foolish men. Op. cit., p. 46. 88 F. F. Liu, A MilitaryHistory of Modern China I924-I 949 (Princeton, I956), p. II4.



new German-trained divisions to rely upon a field of battle in Shanghai as one way to check Japan's imperial policy. Without an accurate knowledge of the Chinese elements in the process of events connected with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, it is virtually impossible to document a narrative incorporating the necessary perspective. Nevertheless it would seem safe to conclude that this incident was not caused by any "conspiracy"of Japanese army officers, and that the Japanese military was not primarily responsible for the steady drift towards war. Paradoxically, the Chinese and Japanese field armies displayed greater tact, understanding, and moderation than either government; and within the Japanese government, the strongest counsel of caution originated in the Army General Staff. The tragedy is that the interaction of confficting national policies and aspirations transformed an incident into a war from which neither government was to derive substantial benefit.

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