An exhibition of legends
Photos of China’s “800 heroes” are now on exhibition for the first time at the Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial in Shanghai as part of the commemorative efforts for the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Songhu (also known as the Battle of Shanghai), the largest battle waged during the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
Shot by American photographer Hyland Lyon, who was then working for the Associated Press, the photos are a rare documentation of the 420-strong Chinese battalion (which claimed to have 800 men) led by Xie Jinyuan and its fight against the Japanese.
From August 13 to November 11, 1937, Shanghai and its adjacent areas were turned into a bloody battlefield that claimed the lives of about 300,000 Chinese and 100,000 Japanese. Between October 26 and 31, 1937, these “800 heroes” used the Sihang Warehouse as a fortified base. Besieged by the enemy, Xie’s men repelled the attacks of the Japanese soldiers and were later ordered to withdraw to the international settlement located one river away. The troops were detained by British soldiers in the settlement while some were sent to hospitals for treatment.
After the Pacific War broke out, the Japanese entered the international settlement and sent the remaining soldiers to become coolies, said Ma Youjiong, who helped with the founding of the Sihang Warehouse Memorial. Xie was later assassinated by the puppet government of Wang Jingwei in April 1941.
At an auction in Beijing earlier this year, the Sihang Warehouse Memorial successfully won two sets of Lyon’s historic photos documenting the fight at the warehouse and how Xie’s battalion entered the settlement, which remained neutral until the Pearl Harbor incident in 1941.
The commemorative activities across the city have attracted veterans who fought in Shanghai during World War II.
“So many of our soldiers and generals died here,” said Xie Tianyou, 90, who joined the army at the age of 12 as a radio man.
“I was taught that my country is my home. My family was rich, but we were willing to give up our wealth and our lives to fight the Japanese invaders,” said Zeng Xiangao, 94, when visiting the Songhu Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall in Shanghai.
Shot by American photographer Hyland Lyon, photos of the Sihang Warehouse Battle are on exhibition to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the battle.