login   |    register
Osprey Publishing [ MORE REVIEWS ] [ WEBSITE ] [ NEW STORIES ]

Book Review
Chinese Soldier vs Japanese
Chinese Soldier vs Japanese Soldier China 1937–38
  • move

by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Before the Second World War, Japan forced China into a brutal war that neither country was ready for. China was a medieval disunified land of shiftless self-serving warlords and Communists, as much at war with the developing National Government as against the Japanese. Japan had devolved into a true military-industrial complex rancid with ultra-nationalists, insubordinate against even their feckless emperor. Perhaps World War II started two years earlier than generally accepted, when Japan instigated the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, an event that spiraled out of control and forced Japan to start seeking resources across Asia. This book examines three campaigns that pitted an archaic Chinese army against the industrialized Japanese invader. In some ways, this conflict was prophetical of Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

Modelers of the Pacific War in general, and specifically the Sino-Nippon War, should find the color illustrations and gallery of photographs to be a useful resource for modeling figures and equipment, and dioramas.

Chinese Soldier vs Japanese Soldier, China 1937-38 from Osprey Publishing LTD is a new addition to their series Combat. This 37th title of the series is authored by Benjamin Lai and illustrated by artist Johnny Shumate. Combat books are 80 pages of content and available in softcover, PDF, and ePUB formats. The softcover is catalogued with ISBN 9781472828200 and with Osprey’s short code CBT 37.

It was the legendary American Volunteer Group participation in the Sino-Nippon War that spawned my interest in military subjects that sustains my modeling hobby. I find it incredible how the war developed and begat the wider conflict, and have wondered why China’s defense against the Japanese was not more effective. And yet China was not a pushover, as this book reveals. As Osprey tells us:
    In July 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident sparked a bloody conflict between Chinese and Japanese forces that would rage across China and beyond for more than eight years.

    The two sides' forces brought very different strengths and limitations to the conflict. In 1937 China was divided into factions, each controlled by warlords with independent forces, and there was no unified Chinese army. In order to fight the Japanese Chiang Kai-shek, the nominal leader of Nationalist China, was compelled to do deals with these regional powers. For their part, the Japanese employed ground forces broadly comparable to those fielded by Western powers, including modern artillery and tanks. Featuring specially commissioned artwork and drawing upon an array of sources, this study investigates the origins, training, doctrine and armament of the Chinese and Japanese forces who fought in the opening stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Chinese Soldier vs Japanese Soldier is told through 80 pages of 10 chapters and sections:
    The Opposing Sides
      * Origins, recruitment and training
      * Doctrine, tactics and weapons
      * Command and control
      * Logistics and morale
    The Marco Polo Bridge Incident 7-30 July 1937
    Tai'Erzhuang 14 March-8 April 1938
    Wanjialing 23 July-17 October 1938
    Orders of Battle
    Further Reading

The book begins with a list of abbreviations and a key to military symbols. Next the author lays the foundation of Chinese Soldier vs Japanese Soldier with a brief history of tensions between China and Japan beginning in the 19th century, and foreign defeats of Chinese forces. The author visits China's factional governments and warlords, and Communists, and Chiang Kai-shek's attempt to unify the country. He then explains the beginning of the Second Sino-Nippon War in 1932, and the role of war-mongering radicals in Japan's military.

The sixteen pages presenting The Opposing Sides is fascinating. China had been colonized by Western countries and often, the various local Chinese military formations were equipped by European powers. Chinese troops were equipped with foreign weapons and homemade ones, giving Chinese soldiers a diverse outfitting of uniforms and weapons that should both thrill and fluster modelers of the subject. This chapter also examines the various traits that define an army, e.g., education, populous age, fitness, training, culture, conscription, staffing. Tactics used are explored and explained, as are the weapons (Japan employment of chemical weapons; Chinese use of huge scimitars) equipping the armies and employment thereof, within the doctrines of the two militaries. Command and control is also analyzed for both armies, as is the important characteristics of logistics and morale. Economics impacted the armies and "guns or butter" is briefly mentioned, i.e., in impoverished China, how a bullet's cost compared to a daily ration of rice.

Two call-out boxes compare two commanders, Chinese general Ji Xing-wen, and Japanese general Mutaguchi Renya.

Thus the background is established for an unintended yet ferocious war, and explains how a Japanese force, outnumbered 12-to-1, inflicted 12-to-1 casualties to rout a Chinese military in the first months of the war. Three campaigns are detailed, The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, and the battles for Tai'Erzhuang, and Wanjialing. Those battlers comprise 41 pages of this book.

Finally, Analysis and Aftermath gestate the war and its blowback, offering a glimpse into its effect upon the Pacific War, and the ultimate Communist defeat of the National Government.

Osprey touts their Combat series as featuring "first-hand accounts." Perhaps I missed them but I found none in this book. There are a couple of anecdotes but nothing I consider to be a quote.

Regardless, this is an incredibly interesting treatise that sheds light on the origins and results of the early Sino-Nippon War.

Photographs, Artwork, and other Graphics
Modelers will find a fascinating gallery of black-and-white photographs supporting the text. Among other things they demonstrate the riot of uniforms and equipment of the Chinese forces, and even include two photos proving the Japanese Army used chemical weapons against China. Chinese soldiers with scimitars and a variety of kit are shown. (A boon for modelers!) Several color photos present firearms used by the adversaries. All of the photos are accompanied with captions or lengthier narratives.

Artist Johnny Shumate created several original artworks to show us what the camera missed, including split-screen illustrations that show a battle from both combatants' vantage points.

1. Private first class, 219th Infantry Regiment, Marco Polo Bridge, 7 July 1937: two views of a Chinese rifleman wielding a huge scimitar and his kit, keyed to 10 items.

2. Private first class, 1st Infantry Regiment, Marco Polo Bridge, 7 July 1937: two views of a Japanese light machine gunner and his kit, keyed to 10 items.

3. The Fight for Teng County: two-page illustration of Sichuan troops counter-attacking with scimitars the Japanese who breached the wall of Teng County.

4. Night Attack on Zhanggu Hill: two-page split-screen scene depicting the Chinese surprise attack on the Japanese 106th Division, trapped on a mountain top, from both he Japanese and Chinese views.


1. North-eastern China, 1937-38, depicting China and areas controlled by Japanese puppets.

2. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident 7-30 July 1937: this battle map is a two-page affair that presents a staff-style map with unit symbols, cities, towns, roads, railroads, and topography. It features a callout box with more detail for a key event of the battle, and is keyed to 14 narrated dates and times. Additionally, it is accompanied with Battlefield environment, which describes the characteristics of the physical arena of battle. The two following battle maps feature the same format and detail.

3. Tai'Erzhuang 14 March-8 April 1938: keyed to six narrated dates, times, and events.

4. Wanjialing 23 July-17 October 1938: keyed to seven events.

Orders of Battle
Three pages hold tables presenting the Chinese and Japanese Orders of Battle.

Osprey has published yet another engrossing book with Chinese Soldier vs Japanese Soldier, China 1937-38. Providing insight into, and answering questions about the Sino-Nippon War, it is an incredibly interesting treatise that sheds light on the origins and results of the conflict. A fine gallery of photographs support the concise text. Artwork supports the photographs and takes the reader into situations photographs did not capture. However, there are no first-hand quotes, just a couple of anecdotes.

I found this book to be an excellent explanation of the early war between Japan and China. It will support my modeling subjects. I recommend it to those interested in the Sino-Nippon wars, World War Two in Asia, and Imperial Japan.
Highs: Well composed text. Interesting and useful gallery of photographs, and excellent artwork.
Lows: There are a couple of anecdotes but nothing I consider to be a quote.
Verdict: An incredibly interesting treatise that sheds light on the origins and results of the early Sino-Nippon War.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: CBT 37, 9781472828
  PUBLISHED: May 08, 2019
  NATIONALITY: China / 简体

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View This Item  |  View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


What's Your Opinion?

Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move