The Second Sino-Japanese War broke out on July 7, 1937, with a full-scale invasion of China from Manchuria as Imperial Japanese Army’s divisions captured Beijing and its port. The cause of this armed conflict was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, a Chinese region located in the Northeast of the country. In 1931, taking the chance that the Chinese were engaged in a vicious civil war, in which Chiang-Kai-Shek’s forces fought against warlords and communist guerrillas, the Imperial Japanese Army had invaded Manchuria, using as a pretext the Mukden incident; it was an orchestrated incident, in which Japanese Army officers blew up a track section of a railroad run by the South Manchuria Railway, a Japanese company operating in Manchuria since 1906, and accused a Chinese guerrilla group of carrying out this act of sabotage. As a result, Japan sent troops to Manchuria in September 1931. This was followed by low-intensity armed clashes between the Chinese and the Japanese forces in that region.
The Japanese invasion of China proper began on July 7 and 8, 1937, when Imperial Japanese Army’s units took Beijing, the capital, which lies in the Northeast. But the first major battle of the Sino-Japanese War was the Battle of Shanghai, which was captured, after two months of ferocious fighting, in late November 1937, by Imperial Japanese Navy’s marine divisions that had landed on the coast near Shanghai in August. In December 1937, the city of Nanjing also fell to the Japanese Army. In October 1938, the Rising Sun flag was raised in the city of Wuhan after heavy fighting between Japanese forces and the nationalist Chinese Army, under Chiang-Kai-Shek. In December 1938, the city of Guangzhou was also taken following a Japanese invasion of the Southeast coast involving the Special Naval Landing Force of the Imperial Japanese Navy, backed up by Army units. During 1938 and 1939, the Japanese Air Force carried out intense bombing raids of Chinese cities.
By 1940, despite stubborn Chinese resistance, Japan had conquered more than one third of Chinese territory. The United States and Great Britain would supply China with fighter aircraft, artillery pieces, and infantry weapons to fight against their enemy. Most of the war materiel provided by the Allies came into Southwest China through the Burma Road. However, the Japanese troops would remain in China until the end of the war, being finally withdrawn from that country in September 1945, following the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
Map showing the maximum advance of Japan in China. The red dots mark the Japanese positions
Historical footage of Japanese invasion of China