The dark valley
The year 1937 is often regarded as another critical point like 1931 on the road to total war. However, as Thomas Havens pointed out in his social history of the Second World War, civilians back home paid little attention to the clash at the Marco Polo Bridge, thinking it was just the latest in the series of skirmishes between Japanese and Chinese troops that had been taking place in north China since the late 1920s. After all, it was being reported simply as the ‘China Incident ’. The difference between 1931 and 1937 is that the 1937 confrontation was not perpetrated by the military, nor was it meant to be the fi rst step in an attempted takeover of all China. Certainly it was not expected to escalate into a war that would eventually cost the Japanese themselves nearly 3 million lives.