In October 1937, China was in some seriously deep shit. The Imperial Japanese Army had invaded Manchuria back in 1931, but in July of '37 they declared war and immediately proceeded to fucking annihilate everything they came across, turning the poorly-trained and under-equipped Chinese National Army into target practice and conquering anything that happened to pass into their line-of-sight. It was in the midst of what was turning out to be one of the most epic ass-beatings in the history of warfare that the insane actions of a single group of heroes under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Xie Jinyuan found a way to inspire badassitude in their countrymen and give the Japanese invasion forces a giant swinging cock-slap right in their collective faces.
As I mentioned like two sentences ago, the Chinese Army had spent roughly two months getting their faces rocked off by the unstoppable juggernaut that was the Japanese war machine as it tore through the countryside crushing asses like Grave Digger. It wasn’t until 6 August that the Chinese commanders finally located their balls and decided to make a stand and defend the critical port city of Shanghai from the invaders. Through several weeks of hardcore bitter fighting that turned the majority of the city into a raging inferno of suck, the relentless Japanese assault busted through the Chinese lines like the Kool-Aid Man, capturing several crucial areas and putting the Chinese in an indefensible position in the city. Knowing that they were fucked worse than an over-the-hill porn star, Chinese high command ordered a complete withdrawal of all surviving civilian and military personnel still positioned in Shanghai. Only a small element of the badass Chinese 88th Infantry Division would be left behind to cover the retreat and slow down the Japanese Army so as many people could be evacuated as possible.
Colonel Xie Jinyuan ordered his battalion to fall back to the large, well-equipped six-story concrete warehouse that had been serving as Division HQ during the Battle of Shanghai. The area was stocked with equipment and supplies and was backed up against the Suzhou River, and since the other side of the river was a British-controlled Neutral Zone, Xie knew that he would only have to worry about defending the Sihang Warehouse from attacks on three sides. As his men began to trickle in, he ordered all the walls and windows reinforced with sandbags, he strategically positioned his guns throughout the structure, and he scoured nearby buildings for whatever food, medical supplies and ammunition as his men could carry. He cleared out any nearby structures that the Japanese soldiers could have used for cover, setting up choke points and kill zones wherever he could. The fortifications that could not be demolished were rigged with explosives and hilarious whoopee cushions.
On 27 October, the Japanese moved into the areas surrounding the warehouse and began their attempts to capture the stronghold. Hardcore balls-out fighting had already reduced Xie’s 800-man battalion down to around 450 men, but only 414 soldiers had actually made their way to the warehouse by the time the shit hit the fan for serious. His outfit was a mixture of grizzled old veterans weary from three months of near-constant fighting, and green, inexperienced recruits who could barely tell the difference between the trigger and the safety selector on their rifles. He had no heavy weapons, no anti-tank or anti-air guns, and no reinforcements, and now he was locked in a shitty warehouse, completely fucking surrounded by the elite Japanese 3rd Division – twenty thousand men with artillery, mortars and more armored vehicles than one of those shitty Japanese Mecha animes where blue-haired chicks fly around outer space in rocket ships shaped like giant phalluses.
Sihang Warehouse, seen here getting fucked up with bullets and explosions.
The Japanese immediately went on a full-on charge, eager to take the last bastion of Chinese control in the city and reduce it to firewood, but as they tried to approach the building they ran into a wall of fucking machine gun bullets, many of which managed to infect the enemy with severe cases of death. At one point the Japanese managed to set fire to the warehouse’s ammunition stores, but luckily Xie’s men were able to get the blaze extinguished before the gunpowder caught fire and turned the warehouse into a goddamned space shuttle. During the night the Chinese rebuilt their fortifications, and Xie attempted to rally his troops’ morale in the face of a grim situation. On the awesome side, the British troops across the river took an interest in the shitstorm that was going down at the warehouse and snuck over during the night to give the Chinese troops some extra supplies and evacuate wounded men.
The next day the Japanese continued pouring fire into the building, but after several massive assaults they were still unable to penetrate Xie’s defenses. At this point the citizens of Shanghai were digging the fighting spirit of the 88thDivision and the banks of the British side of the river became crowded with spectators cheering on the defenders. They shouted encouragement to the men, sang pump-up music, smuggled materials and supplies into the fortress and even went so far as to write out Japanese troop movements on giant posters so Xie could see what the fuck was going on. I picture the scene kind of like looking like the crowd at WWE Raw or some shit. During the night, a large Chinese National Flag was brought to the defenders, and when dawn came up on the 29th it was flying proudly above the warehouse, serving as an inspiration to the denizens of the war-torn city and getting everyone who saw it super psyched up to kick some Japanese ass.
Now this really pissed off the Imperial 3rd Division, and they spent the next three days and nights fucking incessantly pummeling the shit out of the warehouse with everything from mortars to artillery to giant goat-launching catapults. As Xie had predicted, the enemy commanders didn’t dare attack the warehouse with air or naval bombardments out of fear of hitting the British concessions (and bringing the wrath of the Almighty Churchill on Japan), but pretty much anything else the Japanese could get their hands on was launched at the stronghold in a never-ending barrage of grenades, explosives, ninja stars and paper footballs. Endless waves of Imperial Stormtroopers, armored cars and tanks charged the defensive positions, and the Japanese were even able to break through into the warehouse and scale the structure’s walls a couple of times, but brutal hand-to-hand fighting proved that the Chinese Kung Fu was superior and the 3rd Division was kept at bay. Xie himself was mentioned as getting in on the action and choking some dude to death with his bare hands in the time that he wasn’t surveying the situation, encouraging his men, or firing his rifle at the onrushing hordes. At night, the Japanese would turn giant floodlights on to cover their troop movements and blind the Chinese defenders, and they even once tried to dig a tunnel underneath the building, but nothing was successful. Sihang Warehouse was locked up tighter than a Catholic School prom date.
Finally, after four days of constant fighting, and with the evacuation of Shanghai nearly complete, Xie was ordered to fall back and retreat to the British concession on the morning of 1 November. Originally he refused, saying he would fight the Japanese to the last man, but his superiors managed to convince him that getting his entire command killed for no reason didn’t really make a whole lot of sense so he began to make arrangements for the withdrawal. Twenty-seven of his men were too fucked up to evacuate, so Xie set them up with heavy machine guns and had them provide covering fire while the 376 survivors limped across the bridge to safety. For bullshit political reasons the Brits arrested the defenders and put them in a POW camp where they would stay imprisoned for three years, but Xie Jinyuan had become a national hero overnight, and during his entire tenure in the camp people from across China would flock to meet him. When the collaborationist Chinese government finally decided he was becoming too influential a figure, Xie was assassinated by traitors. His funeral was attended by over on hundred thousand mourners.
Xie Jinyuan is fucking badass as shit for taking a handful of inexperienced soldiers and turning them into a fighting force capable of holding back the advance of tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers, covering the retreat of the bulk of the Chinese National Army, and greatly contributing to the safe evacuation of five hundred thousand civilians from Shanghai. Considering that the Imperial Army slaughtered over three hundred thousand civilians after they captured Nanjing in December 1937, Xie’s actions probably saved many innocent lives as well. His valiant stand also served to bolster the fighting spirit of the resistance movement, proving to the Chinese people that the Japanese were not invincible, and it also proved to the British that the Chinese were willing to fight for their independence – a realization that would lead to a great deal of financial and military aid to the Chinese government. To this day, the story of the “800 Heroes” (Xie was feeding a campaign of misinformation and consistently reported the size of his force at 800 to make the Japanese believe that they were facing a much larger force) is a national legend among the people of China and Taiwan, and Xie Jinyuan is remembered by ally and enemy alike as being a total badass.
Colonel Xie looking pimp.
Defense of Sihang Warehouse
CCTV Article on Xie Jinyuan (The English translation here is a pretty rough)