Marco Polo Bridge Incident
|Marco Polo Bridge Incident|
|Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War|
Japanese forces bombarding Wanping, 1937
|Republic of China||Empire of Japan|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Song Zheyuan
Qin Dechun (Mayor of Beijing, general)
|Casualties and losses|
|All but 4 soldiers killed in action||Unknown|
|Japanese invasion of Manchuria||1931|
|Second Italo-Ethiopian War||1935–36|
|Remilitarization of the Rhineland||1936|
|Spanish Civil War||1936–39|
|Marco Polo Bridge Incident||1937|
|German occupation of Czechoslovakia||March 1939|
|British guarantee to Poland||March 1939|
|Pact of Steel||May 1939|
|Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact||August 1939|
|Invasion of Poland||September 1939|
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, also known as the Lugouqiao (Lugou Bridge) Incident (盧溝橋事變) or the July 7th Incident (七七事變), was a battle between the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army, often used as the marker for the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).
The battle is known by different names.
- In the West
- The Marco Polo Bridge Incident
- Battle of Lugou Bridge
- In China
- Incident of July 7 (七七事變/七七事变 pinyin: Qīqī Shìbiàn)
- Lugou Bridge Incident (盧溝橋事變/卢沟桥事变 Lúgōuqiáo Shìbiàn)
- July 7 Lugou Bridge Incident (七七盧溝橋事變/七七卢沟桥事变 Qīqī Lúgōuqiáo Shìbiàn)
- In Japan:
- Rokō Bridge Incident (盧溝橋事件 Rokōkyō Jiken?)
- In Korea:
- Incident of July 7 (칠칠사건 Chilchil sageon)
- Nogu Bridge Incident (노구교 사건 Nogugyo sageon)
Tensions between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had been fanned since the Invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and subsequent creation of a puppet state, Manchukuo, with Puyi, the last monarch of the Qing Dynasty, as its sovereign. Although the Kuomintang (KMT) government of China refused to recognize Manchukuo, a truce between Japan and Republican China had been negotiated in 1931. However, at the end of 1932 the Japanese Army invaded Rehe Province (Jehol Province). This was annexed into Manchukuo in 1933.
Under the terms of the Boxer Protocol of 7 September 1901, China had granted nations with legations in Beijing the right to station guards at twelve specific points along railways connecting Beijing with Tianjin. This was to ensure open communications between the capital and the port. By a supplementary agreement on 15 July 1902, these forces were allowed to conduct maneuvers without informing the authorities of other nations in China.
By July 1937, Japan had expanded to maintain forces estimated between 7000–15,000 men, mostly along the railways. This number of men and amount of material was several times the size of those detachments deployed by European powers, and greatly in excess of the limits set by the Boxer Protocol.
Japanese and Chinese forces outside the town of Wanping--a walled town southeast of Beiping--exchanged fire at approximately 23:00 on 7 July 1937. The exact cause of this incident still remains a mystery today. When a Japanese soldier Private Shimura Kikujiro failed to return to his post, Chinese regimental commander Ji Xingwen (219th Regiment, 37th Division, 29th Route Army) received a message from the Japanese demanding permission to enter Wanping to search for the missing soldier. The Chinese refused. Although Private Shimura returned to his unit, by this point both sides were mobilising.
Later in the night, a unit of Japanese infantry attempted to breach Wanping's defences and were repulsed. An ultimatum by the Japanese was issued two hours later. As a precautionary measure, Qin Dechun, the acting commander of the 29th Route Army, contacted 37th Divisional commander General Feng Zhian to place his troops on heightened alert.
At around 04:00 on the morning of 8 July 1937, reinforcements of both sides began to arrive. The Chinese also rushed an extra division of troops to the area. About an hour or so later the Japanese Army opened fire and attacked the Marco Polo Bridge, along with a modern railway bridge to the southeast of town.
Colonel Ji Xingwen led the Chinese defenses with about 100 men, with orders to hold the bridge at all costs. After furious fighting, the Chinese were able to hold the bridge with the help of reinforcements.  At this point in time, the Japanese military and members of the Foreign Service began negotiations in Beijing with the Chinese Nationalist government.
A verbal agreement with General Qin was reached, whereby an apology would be given to the Chinese; punishment would be dealt to those responsible; control of Wanping would be turned over to the Hopei civilian constabulary and not with the 219th Regiment; and better control of "communists" in the area. This was agreed upon, though Japanese Garrison Infantry Brigade commander General Masakazu Kawabe initially rejected the truce and, against his superiors' orders, continued to shell Wanping for the next three hours, until prevailed upon to cease and to move his forces to the northeast.
Although a ceasefire had been installed, further efforts to defuse the escalating conflict failed, largely due to actions by the Japanese China Garrison Army commanders and militarists within the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. Wanping was shelled on 20 July and full scale fighting erupted at Langfang on 25 July. After launching a bitter and bloody attack on the Japanese lines on the 27 July, General Sung was defeated and forced to retreat behind the Yongding River by the next day.
The Japanese gave Sung and his troops "free passage", then moved in to pacify areas surrounding Beijing and Tianjin. However, the Japanese Army had been given orders not to advance further than the Yongding River. In a sudden volte-face, the Konoe government's foreign minister opened negotiations with Chiang Kai-Shek's government in Nanjing and stated: "Japan wants Chinese cooperation, not Chinese land." Nevertheless, negotiations failed to move further than preparation as, on 9 August 1937, a Japanese naval officer was shot in Shanghai, instigating the war proper.
The 29th Army's resistance (and poor equipment) inspired the 1937 "Sword March", which—with slightly reworked lyrics—became the National Revolutionary Army's standard marching cadence and popularized the racial epithet guizi to describe the Japanese invaders.
The heightened tensions of the Marco Polo bridge incident led directly to full-scale war between the Empire of Japan and China, with the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin at the end of July and the Battle of Shanghai in August.
In 1937, the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang notified the Chinese government that he was prepared to lead his army into battle against the Japanese during the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin. Immediately after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Bufang arranged for a cavalry division under the Muslim General Ma Biao to be sent east to battle the Japanese.
There are some disputes among historians over the incident. Some historians believe the incident was an unintentional accident. Some believe that the incident may have been fabricated by the Japanese Army to provide a pretext for the invasion of China—a thesis supported by the expansionist colonial ambitions of Japan at the time. This reflected a sentiment felt by many Japanese at the time that "Asia should be ruled by Asians," replacing European colonial rulers with Japanese rulers throughout Asia.
One far-right Japanese historian has alleged that the incident was staged by the Chinese Communist Party, who hoped that the incident would lead to a war of attrition between the Japanese army and the Kuomintang (Guomingdang).
Order of battle
In comparison to their Japanese counterparts, the 29th Route Army, and generally all of the NRA for that matter, was poorly equipped and under-trained. Most soldiers were armed only with a rifle and a dadao (a single-edged Chinese sword similar to a machete). Moreover, the Chinese garrison in the Lugouqiao area was completely outnumbered and outgunned; it consisted only of about 100 soldiers. To make things worse, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was reluctant to provide assistance as he had grudges with the 29th Route Army commander, Song Zhe-Yuan.
|Name||Military Post(s)||Non-Military Post(s)|
|General Song Zheyuan
(宋哲元; Wade-Giles: Sung Che-yuan)
|Commander of 29th Route Army||Chairman of Hopeh Legislative Committee
Head of Peking security forces
|General Qin Dechun
(秦德純; Wade-Giles: Chin Teh-chun)
|Vice-Commander of 29th Army||Mayor of Peking|
|General Tong Lin'ge
|Vice-Commander of 29th Army|
|General Liu Ruming
|Commander of the 143rd Division||Chairman of Chahar Province|
|General Feng Zhian
|Commander of the 37th Division||Chairman of Hopeh Province|
|General Zhao Dengyu
(趙登禹; Wade-Giles: Chao Teng-yu)
|Commander of the 132nd Division|
|General Zhang Zizhong
(張自忠; Wade-Giles: Chang Tze-chung)
|Commander of the 38th Division||Mayor of Tientsin|
|Colonel Ji Xingwen
|Commander of the 219th Regiment
under the 110th Brigade of the 37th Division
The Japanese China Garrison Army was a combined force of infantry, tanks, mechanized forces, artillery and cavalry, which had been stationed in China since the time of the Boxer Rebellion. Its headquarters and bulk for its forces were in Tianjin, with a major detachment in Beijing to protect the Japanese embassy.
|Lieutenant General Kanichiro Tashiro
|Commander China Garrison Army||Tientsin|
|Major General Masakazu Kawabe
|Commander China Garrison Infantry Brigade||Peking|
|Colonel Renya Mutaguchi
|Commander 1st Infantry Regiment||Peking|
|Major Kiyonao Ichiki
|Commander, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment||W of Marco Polo Bridge, 510 men|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marco Polo Bridge Incident.|
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- Japanese War History library (Senshi-sousyo) No.86 [Sino-incident army operations 1 until 1938 Jan.] Page138
- HyperWar: International Military Tribunal for the Far East [Chapter 5]
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- Dryburgh, North China and Japanese Expansion 1933–1937. pp147
- Prehistory to the Nanking Incident
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