Dark days

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident marked the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The bridge is 16km southwest of Beijing and was built in 1192.

Known in Chinese as Lugou Bridge, it was given its western name after it was praised by the Venetian traveller during his visit to China in the 13th century

Late June, 1937: Japanese soldiers start engaging in drills at west end of bridge under watch of nationalist forces stationed in nearby town of Wanping

July 7, dawn: Japanese army telegraphs nationalist forces saying a soldier is missing and believed to be inside town. Japanese demand to be able to enter town to conduct search, but nationalists deny request

Evening: Japanese issue ultimatum that troops must be allowed into town or it will be fired upon. Artillery already aimed at town when ultimatum sent

Midnight: Japanese artillery units start bombarding town while infantry and tanks later cross bridge

July 9: Nationalist forces, after reinforcement from nearby units, outnumber Japanese and retake bridge. Japanese halt attack and offer to negotiate, but remain concentrated at west end of bridge

Mid-July: General Zhang Zizhong sent to Tianjin to negotiate with local commander of Japanese forces, General Hashimoto. After inconclusive talks, Zhang heads to Beijing and bridge and Wanping fall three days late

July 29-30: Beijing and Tianjin fall, leaving northern China helpless against Japanese invasion