We’re excited to announce that Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yantze is now available from Casemate!
In order to learn more about this fascinating book, we asked author Peter Harmen a few questions:
How much research did you do for the book?
The Battle of Shanghai 1937 has interested me for at least a decade, and I have been actively collecting sources for about five years now. One of the best strategies for research is to broaden the search for resources, and be prepared to look in unlikely places. For example, who would have thought that probably the best single treatment of the battle was to be found in the German Military Archives in Freiburg? The Chinese army was aided by a corps of German advisors in the 1930s, and many of the Germans were active participants in the Battle for Shanghai. After they returned home, they put together an after-action report for the German High Command. The limited-circulation, confidential document was issued in August 1939, just prior to the onset of hostilities in Europe, and did not receive much attention.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book? Have you always been interested in history?
For World War II specifically, two aspects interest me. First, I find it amazing how different the world was at a time which remains within living history. Second, it is thought-provoking to consider how much was really hanging in the balance in the great clash between the Allies and the Axis. It is virtually impossible to imagine what the world would have been like today if the Axis powers had won. Would Europe under Nazi rule have become ever more radicalized and descended further and further into darkness? Would the peoples of Europe, many of whom had already tasted democracy, have submitted to tyranny in the long run? Could the Third Reich have survived the invention of the Internet?
Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?
First and foremost, I wanted this story to be known to a wider public. The Battle of Shanghai was a clash of nearly a million men, taking place in one of the world’s great cities. It was also crucial in turning what could have been a localized clash into a larger Sino-Japanese war, which eventually dragged in the United States and became a conflagration stretching from California to Madagascar. It is clear that the Battle of Shanghai was an event with enormous consequences, and it deserves to be a part of the public consciousness the way Stalingrad or El Alamein are.
What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?
Hopefully I have been able to give the battle a human face. I have focused on a relatively limited number of people – Chinese, Japanese, Americans, and Europeans – to represent the millions whose lives were impacted by the events. So I would recommend the book to people who like an exciting read, fiction or non-fiction. In addition, some readers may have to revise what they thought they knew about history after completing the book. For example, the terror bombing of civilians in Guernica during the Spanish Civil War is well-known, partly thanks to Picasso’s famous painting. But how many of us are aware that the civilian population of Shanghai was exposed to aerial attacks many times deadlier just months afterwards?
Pick up your own copy of Shanghai 1937 here or purchase the eBook at one of the following vendor sites: