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Oyama Incident 1937

Discussion in 'War in the Pacific' started by USMCPrice, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    The Omaya Incident, the murder of Lt Isao Oyama, commander of the Western Detachment, Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force, is the incident that precipitated the Second Battle of Shanghai and the full scale escalation of war between Japan and the KMT in China.
    It is most commonly portrayed in the west as a deliberate attempt by Japan to provide a cause for Japan to invade central China, but was it?

    From The Timeline for the Second Battle of Shanghai
    "First Lt. Oyama Isao of the Japanese Naval Special Landing Forces attempted to enter the grounds of the Hungchiao Airport in Shanghai, a maneuver that he was not allowed to perform under terms of a 1932 ceasefire between the Japanese and Chinese. Oyama was fired upon by Chinese policemen and was killed."

    From World War II Database:
    "On 9 Aug, First Lieutenant Isao Oyama of the Japanese Naval Special Landing Forces attempted to enter the grounds of the Hungchiao Airport in Shanghai, which was illegal under the terms of the 1932 ceasefire at the end of the first Shanghai battle. Oyama was fired upon by Chinese policemen and was killed."

    "Japan's War: The Great Pacific Conflict", Edwin Palmer Hoyt
    "On 9 August, Lieutenant Isao Ōyama (大山勇夫) of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces came speeding in a car up to the gate of Hongqiao Airport. As he was stopped by a Chinese guard, the lieutenant attempted to drive past the gate. The guard stopped him again and Oyama shot and killed the guard. Other Chinese guards returned fire and Lieutenant Oyama was killed in the shootout.

    Many other sources give a similar depiction of the incident and speculate that it was a Japanese attempt to widen the war into Central China, but was it?

    1.) The Japanese already controlled most of North China. Chiang's National Revolutionary Army had all but abandoned operations in Hebei virtually ceding north China to the Japanese and the IJA was more concerned with the Soviet Union which they regarded as the primary military threat to north China and Manchukuo. The IJA had no desire at that time to expand the war into eastern and central China. They felt that there was no need to move into central China since they had a very low opinion of the capabilities of Chiang's forces and assumed he would be occupied with the internecine fighting between different Chinese factions that had been the case with the Chinese up to this time.

    2.) Chiang feared that Japan's next move would be to invade down the Peiping/Wuhan and Tientsin railways and then turn east trapping KMT forces between the Japanese moving east from Wuhan (a conglomeration of the three cities of Wuchang, Hankow, and Hanyang, a major industrial area and transportation hub) and the sea. The Chinese KMT forces lacked the ability to adequately defend central China horizontally against a Japanese attack coming from north China. His best bet would be to draw the Japanese forces into east and central China from the coast where he had defenses in depth and could fall back to the west and southwest. In fact the "Chinese Hindenburg Line", two defensive lines (the Wufu Line and the Xicheng Line) between Shanghai and Nanking had recently been completed with German military assistance.

    3.) Chiang hoped that a confrontation with the Japanese in Shanghai with it's large international community and significant foreign business interests, would engender sympathy and support for the Chinese cause.

    4.) There were 30,000 Japanese civilians in Shanghai and considerable business interests, including a large number of factories and warehouses. When the Oyama incident occurred there were only about 300 Japanese SNLF troops guarding the Japanese interests in the city, but Zhang Zhizhong had approximately 30,000 KMT troops outside of town. If you were Japan would you provoke an incident at this time or wait until you had more troops on the ground?

    5.) From Hyperwar:
    "At about 1830 on 9 August, Lt Isao Oyama, commander of the Western Detachment, Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force together with Seaman 1st Class Saito, the driver, were murdered by the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps while riding in an official car on the road outside Hung-Chiao Airfield in the western part of Shanghai. Diplomatic negotiations, as usual, made no progress. The incident was used as an excuse by both sides, however, and a sharp increase was made in the forces. Eventually this resulted in the clash in Shanghai.

    It was the consistent basic policy of the Japanese Government and the Navy to seek localization of the issue and to refrain to the utmost from acts which would incite the Chinese."

    Note that here Oyama was traveling on a road outside the airfield and not trying to enter.

    6.) Now a contemporary account from "Travels in China",Claude Farrere,1938

    "Apparently Oyama sustained fatal wounds from bullets that entered the back of his head, and died instantly. After his death, the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps inflicted further injuries: “His head was split in two, half of his face had been obliterated, and his intestines were protruding".

    The Japanese soldiers maintained a surprising degree of calmness. They followed the example set by the Roman police force — the best in the world. Not one of the Japanese laid a hand on either the automobile or the bodies. They summoned the Chinese mayor of Shanghai, and the British, French, and American police authorities, who arrived promptly.The authorities began their investigation. A Chinese soldier had been killed, and his body was lying on the road about 100 paces away. The unanimous conclusion reached after the on-site inspection was as follows.The unfortunate Chinese soldier had been shot in the back with an automatic pistol by one of his comrades. His body was then dragged to a location where it would create the impression that there had been a confrontation, setting the stage for the assassination of the Japanese."

    7.) Now this from WWII Database:

    "In Moscow, Russia, however, Soviet Union (USSR) leader Joseph Stalin had a different design for the short term. He wanted to expand the Second Sino-Japanese War as quickly as possible in order to mire the Japanese Army in the vast Chinese interior, thus reducing the chance that Japan could divert its resources to attack Russia. Through the 1930s, USSR had been planting agents in China, and what Chiang did not know was that Zhang Zhizhong was among them. To Chiang Kaishek, Shanghai was strategically important, for it guarded the mouth of the Yangtze River, upstream of which lay the capital city Nanjing, and it was a major industrial center. Chiang's first attempt at safeguarding this city was to prevent the war from escalating to that location. Stalin, however, ordered the opposite, demanding Zhang to provoke the Japanese. Obeying Stalin's orders, Zhang repeatedly sent Chiang plans for invasions into the Japanese zone in Shanghai, which was guarded by only 300 Special Naval Landing Forces troops with no sign of being reinforced in the future. Chiang rejected every request, and Zhang knew that the only way to achieve his orders from Moscow was to create a situation in which the Japanese would fire the first shot, so that he could advance without disobeying Chiang's orders."

    8.) "Mao: The Unknown Story" Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, 2005
    "..Zhang staged an incident outside Shanghai airport, where a Chinese army unit,which he himself specially stationed there, shot dead a Japanese marine lieutenant and a private. A Chinese prisoner under sentence of death was then dressed in Chinese uniform and shot dead at the airport gate, to make it seemed the Japanese had fired first."

    Where does the truth lay?
     
    green slime, lwd, LRusso216 and 2 others like this.
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    Interesting analysis, Bob. You certainly have put together a variety of sources that cause one to think. The truth? I'm not sure we'll ever know what really happened. Each item had a unique vision of Oyama's intent. The further away we get from his death, the more unlikely it becomes that we will ever be able to assign motive for either side. Did he try to enter the airport or was he traveling on the road outside? Sources can be found to support either contention (as you have ably pointed out). Intent died with Oyama. Despite all the material written, I don't believe we'll ever be able to divine what he was thinking.
    Thanks for making us think.
     
  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Thank you Lou, that is high praise coming from you!
     
  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    I'm not sure I deserve praise. You did all the hard work. I just responded. I wish that all posts were as thought-provoking. Your analysis of the situation was spot-on.
     
  5. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    You may not remember but, years ago when I first joined the forum I got really angry at someone and posted something that was ill advised and you sent me to the cooler. After a couple of days you removed the suspension and I don't remember the exact words you used, but basically it was that you didn't think I had intended to be as inflammatory as I had been, you understood my anger but my reaction was inappropriate and you were giving me a second chance, don't make me regret it. I have since tried to never let you down. I've never met you but, hold you in very high regards. Thank you and I hope I never do "let you down".
     
  6. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    I don't remember the incident, but your remembering it is awesome. In all the years since, your posts have been thoughtful and thought provoking. You obviously are informed and your posts are well thought out. Far from "letting me down" I consider you to be one of the finest Rogues here. Thank you kindly for your remarks.
     
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  7. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Awesome OP!

    Claude Farrère, was the pseudonym of Frédéric-Charles Bargone (27 April 1876, – 21 June 1957).

    The guy lived an extraordinary life, and wrote many books.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  8. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Thank you for that tidbit. I was not aware, I'll look more into him.
     

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