Political scientists who study international relations often seek to discern patterns of state behavior from history and to formulate theories or typologies to explain that behavior. Such an approach can contribute to our understanding of why states behave as they do, but human action never wholly conforms to neat formulas.
The Second World War actually began on 7 July 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge southwest of Beijing, when Imperial Japanese troops clashed with Nationalist Chinese forces. Japan had annexed Manchuria in 1931, but Chinese forces did not fight back then; instead, China’s leaders appealed in vain to the League of Nations. Six years later, after another Japanese-manufactured “incident”, China would fight back.
They say that armchair generals discuss tactics but real generals discuss logistics. So here’s something different. Dawn of Victory is an account of World War I focused entirely on logistics. Jim Maultsaid enlisted at the outbreak of the war in 1914 and was immediately sent to the front where he was badly wounded on the first day of the Somme offensive. He survived, but was permanently disabled. Rather than being demobilized, he was packed off to officer candidate school and then sent back to France as a Lieutenant in charge of one platoon of the 96,000 Chinese labourers recruited to help with the war effort. His were from Shandong. Dawn of Victory is the story of the platoon’s day-to-day struggle to keep the frontline troops supplied with food, ammunition and fuel.
The prolific British historian Niall Ferguson contends that the Second World War began in July 1937, when, after an “incident” at the Marco Polo Bridge on the outskirts of Beijing, Japan sent five divisions to Northern and coastal China. By the end of the year, more than 800,000 Japanese troops occupied 150,000 square miles of Chinese territory, and the Chinese capital of Nanking had been literally raped and pillaged by Japanese forces.