Eight Hundred Heroes
China’s lost battalion and the fall of Shanghai
By Stephen Robinson
Published by Exisle Publishing
RRP $49.99 in hard back | ISBN 9781922539205
There are some books that this blog is unable to do justice to. I have to say this is one of them.
At first glance, historian Stephen Robinson’s account of the legendary last stand of a single battalion that stays behind to defend Sihang Warehouse against invading Japanese troops might seem straightforward.
It involves an heroic group of soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Xie Jinyuan who were later to become known as the ‘Eight Hundred Heroes’. The setting is Shanghai 1937. The warehouse: a six-storey concrete building and natural fortress.
The men repulsed waves of Japanese attacks with intense bravery as thousands of spectators looked on from the relative safety of the British Concession inside Shanghai’s International Settlement.
Western journalists with front row seats to the spectacle spread the story across the globe as the plight of the heroes captured the sympathy of the world. Their valour raised Chinese morale as did the actions of the heroine Yang Huimin, a Girl Guide who delivered a Chinese flag to the defenders that flew over Sihang Warehouse as a beacon of hope.
But Robinson, predictably, does not tell this story without providing the context of the political upheavals of the time.
From the rise of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek in 1926 to their defeat in 1949 by Mao Zedong during the Chinese Civil War, the incredible feat of heroism of the eight hundred was to become an enduring myth that persists in Taiwan to this day.
Chiang Kai-shek’s dream of a triumphant comeback, using Taiwan as a staging ground for an invasion of the mainland never materialising.
To understand a country, we must understand its history.
Books such as this help us turn our focus away from the history of European cultures to the history of the diverse cultures within our region.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Robinson studied Asian history and politics at the University of Western Sydney, graduating with First Class Honours. He has worked at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs researching British atomic weapons tests and as a policy officer in the Department of Defence. Stephen has graduated from Australian Command and Staff College, worked as an officer in the Australian Army Reserve and has served as an instructor at the Royal Military College.
Other books by Stephen Robinson:
False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II (Exisle, 2106)
Commander Hermann Balck: Germany’s Master Tactician (Exisle, 2019)
The Blind Strategist: John Boyd and the American Art of War (Exisle, 2021)