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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Who Will Care for the Orphans? Women’s Contributions during China’s War against Japan (1937-1945)


On July 7, 1939 Japan’s Imperial Army sparked an 8-year war against China with a battle at Lugouqiao (Marco Polo Bridge) near Beiping. The Japanese army then began invading cities all along the eastern coast of China, and by December 1937 the capital Nanjing fell. The first provisional capital, Wuhan, fell in October 1938. The Nationalist Government then moved further inland to the city of Chongqing in Sichuan province [show maps & explain strategic location]. For the remainder of the war, Chongqing was subject to a total of 268 air raids from Japanese bombers, which targeted civilian residences, business districts, schools, and hospitals. There is no conclusive tally of the numbers of people killed and wounded in Chongqing throughout the war, but the existing records are staggering.

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