The Waibadu bridge, Shanghai.
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The Waibadu bridge, Shanghai.
During my trip to Shanghai, I made a point of visiting The Waibadu bridge.
Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
During the Battle of Shanghai, the Waibaidu bridge had an important role. On August 12, 1937, thousands of refugees, "a milling mass of humanity", from Greater Shanghai streamed into the foreign settlements through the Garden Bridge to escape the Japanese. Journalist Rhodes Farmer recorded:
Word had been passed back that barbed wire and Japanese sentries blocked all the approaches to Shanghai save Garden Bridge and the twenty-foot wide crossing that led to it over the stinking, garbage-filled [Suzhou] Creek. The mid-day sun scorched down pitilessly, for it was still the season of tahsu — the Great Heat ...the mass pressed on at snail's pace toward what was becoming the bridge of life."
At the end of August 1937, the Japanese military restricted foreigners from crossing the Garden Bridge: "There is much local criticism of the Japanese naval authorities who, still persist in their refusals to permit foreigners to cross the Garden Bridge." After August 1937 the Waibaidu Bridge was the de facto border between the International Settlement and Japanese occupied Hongkew (now Hongkou) and Zhabei.
As Mark Gayn recalls: "The creek became the boundary between two worlds. To the north was the world of fear, death, and the Japanese bayonet. To the south, law was still supreme and life remained as normal as it could be with bombs exploding....Of all the bridges, the Garden Bridge alone remained open to traffic, and on its narrow roadway the two hostile worlds met and glared at each other."
The west end of Garden Bridge, was guarded by members of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps.
Harold Rattenbury recalls: "Japanese and Scottish sentries face one another on the Garden Bridge. To the Japanese all Chinese must remove their hats; so I took pleasure in removing mine to our Scottish sentries also." Kemp Tolley indicates:
"A Japanese sentry stood on the Garden Bridge, over odoriferous Soochow Creek, which separated Honkew from the rest of the International Settlement. Foreigners were expected, on pain of a possible slap in the face, to bow gently from the waist when passing the sentry. Chinese coolies grunted, groaned and yei-hoed, pushing heavily loaded carts up the bridge's steep approaches. An occasional bayonet thrust into a bale or a prick in some tender part of a coolie's anatomy reminded everyone who was boss. Although Honkew was a part of the International Settlement, the Settlement taxis and rickshas were not allowed there. One had to hire a ramshackle vehicle especially licensed — or walk across the bridge, bowing en route, and pick up a conveyance in Japanese "territory."
Rickshaws were not permitted to pass the Japanese sentries on the Garden Bridge.
Japanese soldiers on both sides of the bridge would stop any Chinese, humiliate them and punish them if they hadn't shown proper respect.
Foreigners were also expected to bow to the Japanese sentries, with some men and women forced to strip to the waist.
Rena Krasno, a Jewish refugee remembered: "Everyone crossing the Garden Bridge is compelled to remove their hat and bow....The tram halted in front of the Japanese guards, all the passengers bowed and the bayonet-clasping soldiers waved us on with their free hand."
For the Japanese, "the sentry was the personification of the glory and power of the Japanese army, and woe befall those who did not pay proper respect to him."
According to Clark Lee, the sentries "considered themselves representatives of Emperor Hirohito, and many foreigners had been slapped or clubbed for 'disrespectfully' smoking in front of Imperial Representatives."
In August 1937 Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, Commander-in-Chief of the US Asiatic Fleet, was "deliberately and grossly insulted by Japanese naval sentries on the Garden bridge."
On 27 December 1937 Japanese authorities announced that foreigners would be permitted to cross the Garden Bridge without passes.
In late February 1938, the Garrison Commander of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces in China released a list of regulations and inducements to encourage foreigners to return to the Hongkou District to live, shop or do business: "Foreigners returning to districts North of the Creek are especially requested to respect the sentry on point duty at the Garden Bridge and at street corners by giving him a gentle bow, and wishing him 'GOOD MORNING.' Foreigners must realize that the Japanese soldier doing such duty represents the EMPEROR OF JAPAN."
In June 1938 an American physician Dr J.C. Thompson was slapped by Japanese sentries on the Garden Bridge.
In early July 1938 bombs were thrown at a Japanese sentry post on the Garden Bridge as part of a co-ordinated attack by Chinese resistance fighters on Japanese businesses.
From 20 July 1938, the bridge was again referred to as "The Bridge of Sighs", as a result of handing Jiang Haisheng, a nineteen-year-old student who had been apprehended with a grenade in the International Settlement, to Japanese military authorities at the Garden Bridge.
Later that month Miss Dorothea Lintihac was "rough housed" by Japanese sentries because she and her mother crossed the Garden Bridge on the wrong side of the street to avoid both dangerous traffic and barbwire entanglements. Subsequently they were arrested and detained later. The British Consul General Herbert Phillips protested the incident and the "increasingly belligerent attitude" of the Japanese sentries.
In the early hours of 8 December 1941, as Pearl Harbor was being attacked, the International Settlement was occupied by Japanese military forces. Now that "they controlled all of Shanghai, the Japanese removed the hut on the Garden Bridge that used to mark the border between Hongkew and the International Settlement."
Additionally, "there was now a barrier at the Garden Bridge over the Soochow Creek, sealing off the Japanese quarter from the rest of the Settlement. Barbed-wire barricades were set up throughout the city, and Japanese sentries posted at all bridges."
An American resident, Edna Lee Booker, recalls: "The arrogance and possessiveness of the Japanese began at the top with the Gendarmerie and the inquisitors, and carried down. The Garden Bridge, which leads north into Hongkew, was the scene of many slappings and strikings and jabbings by the Japanese guards."
Interesting post, nicely presented too. Thank you.
Currently working on several KZ related projects, including items for the USHMM, Groß-Rosen Museum and various private concerns and studies. Available as a guide to KZ sites, contact for details.
"maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"
Great information and photos!...
It's a wasted trip baby. Nobody said nothing about locking horns with no Tigers.
I'm Spartacus, not really i'm Paul!...
The bridge scene from "Empire of the sun" is this bridge.
That scene has always stuck with me, being one of my favourite films, I never thought I would ever walk across it in my life.
When the Japanese dropped the guise in 1941 and started on the foreign quarter of Shanghai, they weren't counting on a fight....
The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 is extremely well known, but far fewer people know that the Japanese also attacked British and US warships at Shanghai without declaring war. This took place on the same day, although it was 8 December in Shanghai because it was on the other side of the International Date Line.
Britain and the USA both then maintained small naval forces on the Yangtze River in order to protect their interests in China. These included the Shanghai International Settlement, an autonomous district of the city inhabited by Westerners. It was originally protected by British soldiers, US Marines and Royal Navy and United States Navy gunboats, but most of these had been withdrawn by December 1941.
Japan and China had been at war with each other since 1937, when China began to fully resist Japanese encroachments into her territory that had begun in 1931.
By 8 December 1941 the British and US military presence in Shanghai had been reduced to the gunboats HMS Peterel and the USS Wake, which both had skeleton crews as they were being used primarily as communications stations. Even at full strength they would have stood no chance against the Japanese forces present, which included the cruiser HIJMS Izumo;
The Wake displaced 350 tons, normally carried a crew of 59 and was armed with two 3″ guns and eight 0.3″ machine guns. On 8 December she had a crew of only 14, most of them reservist radiomen. Her captain was Lt Cdr Columbus D. Smith, USNR.
Peterel displaced 310 tons, normally carried a crew of 55 and was armed with two 3″ AA guns and eight machine guns. On 8 December she had a crew of only 21 British sailors, plus 19 Chinese locals. Her captain was Lieutenant Stephen Polkinghorn RNR, a 62 year old New Zealander. As an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, he would have been a merchant navy officer in peacetime.
Neither ship could use her 3″ guns because their crews were small and consisted mostly of radiomen rather than gunners. They could fire the machines guns, but lacked the specialist training needed to operate the bigger guns.
Izumo, sometimes called Idzumo, was an elderly ship that had fought at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. She displaced 9,750 tons and in December 1941 was armed with four 8″ guns, eight 6″ guns, four 3″ guns and one 3″ AA gun.
The Japanese attacked Wake 2 hours after the start of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She had not been informed of events in Hawaii, so was taken by surprise and her crew captured.
Peterel was warned by the British Consulate of the attack on Pearl Harbor, so was at action stations. Polkinghorn had orders to scuttle her if the Japanese attempted to capture her, and she was rigged with demolition charges.
A launch full of Japanese Marines approached Peterel.
Polkinghorn, trying to win time in order to scuttle his ship and destroy his code books, allowed their officers on board and invited them to discuss matters.
They refused to talk and demanded he surrender, so he ordered them to ‘Get off my bloody ship!’
The Japanese did not like that!
The Japanese officers returned to their launch, and Izumo, other Japanese warships and shore batteries opened fire.
Peterel could return fire only with machine guns, but killed several Japanese, presumably in the launch. Her crew was ready to repel borders with pistols and cutlasses, in the style of Nelson’s navy.
Peterel was sunk, and her crew abandoned ship. Six were killed, some in the water, but 12 managed to get to a Norwegian officered and Panamanian flagged merchant ship, the SS Marizion. The Japanese took them off, and they became PoWs, along with two of the three crewmen who were ashore at the time. Two of the PoWs died in the appalling conditions of Japanese prison camps.
The third man, Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist James Cuming joined an American Chinese spy ring and remained at liberty for the rest of the war.
This account of the sinking of Peterel is based on an account on the website of the Children and Families of Far East Prisoners of War, a list of casualties and survivors given on the website of the Force Z Survivors Association and a newspaper obituary of Peterel’s last survivor, Able Seaman James Mariner, who died in 2009 at the age of 90. It describes him as being the first British serviceman to fire on the Japanese during WWII
Lt Polkinghorn was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross when he returned from captivity after the war. Other members of the crew may also have deserved medals, but the RN is not generous with gallantry awards, and often decorates the captain of a ship as a tribute to the entire crew. Britain has no award equivalent to a US Presidential Unit Citation.
Go Kiwi!! Ha ha.
Fantastic write up and the pic's just put it all into perspective.
I go to Shanghai once a year and I'm always looking for WW2 stuff.
99% of the places have a terrible history and all I can do is lay flowers and salute...
The Kempeitai’s torture of Britons in China and Japan, their systematic degrading of women prisoners and, even more sickeningly, their perverted scientific experiments on PoWs, including British soldiers.
The Kempeitai’s most extensive torture chambers were at Bridge House in Shanghai. The victims were mainly Chinese but Westerners were also rounded up when Japan entered the war.
At the time of the Japanese takeover of the International Settlement in Shanghai in 1941, there were about 6,000 British and 1,300 Americans living in the city, mostly businessmen, bankers or journalists and their families.
One British journalist named Elroy Healey, who had made anti-Japanese broadcasts on local radio, was so severely beaten that he was driven insane and died in agony, crippled by his injuries.
Even diplomats were not safe. Sixty Kempeitai troops forced their way into the British Embassy in Tokyo, beat up the ambassador and arrested the information officer Herbert Vere Redman on suspicion of espionage. He endured 600 hours of torture before the charges were dropped.
The Kempeitai had developed their own special forms of torture and even published an interrogator’s handbook. It advised that beatings should be followed by water torture, involving ramming a hosepipe down a prisoner’s throat and then jumping on his stomach. Unsurprisingly, many died. Other methods involved electric shocks and intense heat, usually hot irons applied to the genitals.
The Kempeitai’s terror regime held sway all across occupied Asia. A Malaysian resistance member, Catholic mother Sylvia Kathigasu, gave evidence at a British War Crimes trial in 1946. She had been held for three months, enduring water torture, burning with red-hot irons and severe beatings. Metal slivers were hammered beneath her fingernails but still she would not divulge information.
Her torturer, Kempeitai Sergeant Ekio Yoshimura, had her young daughter captured and hung over a roaring fire, threatening to cut her down into the flames unless Mrs Kathigasu confessed.
The pair refused to talk and Mrs Kathigasu was sentenced to death although this was later commuted. She survived the war and was reunited with her daughter.
The Japanese military regarded women as little more than sex slaves. They charged the Kempeitai with rounding up women and girls to fill custom-built brothels throughout the occupied areas. Euphemistically known as “comfort women”, they were initially recruited from the ranks of prostitutes but young women were later forcibly taken from prison camps.
In February 1944, a group of Dutch women at a civilian internment camp in Java were taken from their families and repeatedly raped for four months. One of them was 21-year-old Jan O’Hearne.
“They dragged us away one by one,” recalls O’Hearne, who married a British soldier and now lives in Australia. “I could hear screaming and this large, fat, bald Japanese officer appeared, grinning at me. I put up an enormous fight but he just dragged me to the bedroom. I never thought suffering could be that terrible.”
At 86, O’Hearne is still calling for an apology from the Japanese for the treatment received by the “comfort women”. The Japanese government, however, has consistently refused to admit that they were anything other than prostitutes working willingly for the state.
For any act of resistance, terrible retribution was taken by the Kempeitai against interned Allies and often civilians. Shrunken rotting heads were displayed on top of iron stakes outside the Cathay Building in Singapore as warnings.
SEVEN months after the fall of Singapore in 1942, a daring force of British and Australian commandoes infiltrated the port and sank or seriously damaged seven Japanese ships. The Kempeitai were sent in to exact reprisals.
Elizabeth Choy, a British Chinese model who was awarded an OBE for her efforts to save her fellow prisoners, was tortured for 193 days. She told a British post-war trial: “When my interrogators could not get any information out of me they dragged my husband from Outram Prison, tied him up and made him kneel beside me. Then, in his full view, they stripped me to the waist and applied electric currents to me.”
Perhaps the most horrifying example of the Kempeitai’s methods lies in the barely-documented story of one of their camps known only as Unit 731 at Pingfang in Manchuria, which ranks in evil alongside Belsen and Auschwitz. Manned by Japanese scientists, up to 12,000 PoWs, women and children are believed to have been murdered there. Victims were infected with germs and parasites, then dissected, sometimes while still alive and without anaesthetic.
Limbs were amputated, frozen and then re-attached to different parts of the body to study the effects of gangrene on live tissue. Giant centrifuges were built to test how much G-force the body could take. X-ray radiation was also administered in fatal doses.
Incredibly, after the war, the Americans protected many of the Japanese scientists, offering them jobs, visas and immunity from prosecution in return for their biological and chemical warfare know-how.
With the end of the war imminent the Kempeitai operated a “leave no survivors” policy and oversaw the notorious death marches of British and Australian PoWs. They were still beheading captured Allied pilots two weeks after the official surrender in August 1945.
The Kempeitai destroyed evidence to cover their tracks and most of them vanished. Few were brought to trial.
I have read some of the accounts of what happened at "731" and I can tell you as a father and a human being I was sickened to my core.
I am still haunted by the accounts.
I won't post any here due to graphic and heart wrenching content of it all.
I won't be going anywhere near Pingfang.
Picture is of Bridge house jail, Shanghai.
Great post. Only been to Shanghai once and that was many many years ago but a great city!
My greatest fear is that one day I will die and my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them
"Don't tell me these are investments if you never intend to sell anything" (Quote: Wife)
Yeah it's a cool place to visit.
It's always changing and there's always something to see and do.
Lots of history.
Beer is very cheap, if you like beer.......
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