Marco Polo Bridge, 7/7/1937

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 7/7/1937 (aka the Battle of Lugou Bridge, 7-7 Lugouqiao, RokĊ Bridge Incident).


The Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. This was their bid to get in on the colonialism bandwagon – if a bit late to the party. They formed the state of Manchukuo. The Kuomintang (nominal Chinese government at the time, also known as the KMT) did not recognize Manchukuo but did sign a peace treaty. That ended up being just ink on paper, as the Japanese then annexed Rehe province and added it to Manchukuo in 1933. A continuing process of Japanese creep into surrounding areas and treaties that forced China to recognize their control led to, in 1937 all areas North, East and West of Beijing being under control of Japan.

From Marco Polo Bridge April 2007

The importance of the Marco Polo Bridge is its location outside the walled town of Wanping, to the Southwest of Beijing. This area is a choke point on Pinghan Railway. Without it the Japanese could not take the Kuomintang controlled areas in the south. The Japanese tried everything they could to get it. They demanded the Kuomintang to withdraw. They tried to buy land for air fields. If the KMT had given in they would have been isolated in Beijing. The Japanese wanted total domination, so baring KMT submission it was going to come down to battle.

From Marco Polo Bridge April 2007

Starting in June, 1937 the Japanese began military exercises on their side of the bridge. They kept up activity and firing of weapons day and night. On July 7th, 1937, a short firefight broke out across the river with Japanese and KMT trading shots. A Japanese soldier was reported missing and assumed captured by the KMT. Despite the fact that he was found shortly after being reported missing, the Japanese leadership sent a message over the bridge demanding the right to send a squad into Wanping to look for the soldier. Naturally since no soldier was seen by the Chinese guards they refused the request.

From Marco Polo Bridge April 2007

Things escalated and by 0330 hours on the 8th of July the Japanese sent investigators over to the Chinese side. At 0500 a preparatory attack was made with machine guns, soon followed by a two pronged attack with tanks and infantry at both the Marco Polo Bridge and a railroad trestle bridge nearby. The Japanese fell back at 0600 on 9 July after taking high casualties. The Japanese shelled Wanping for hours after that until a cease fire was agreed upon. Over the next few days the Japanese demonstrated and broke the cease fire. Finally a full scale attack on the 25th elsewhere drew off KMT forces putting Wanping firmly in the hands of the Japanese and forcing a KMT withdrawal.

This project depicts the first followup attack on Wanping. The Japanese are attempting to capture and shut down routes of reinforcements for the Chinese. The Chinese are trying to use their weight of numbers to make that impossible. The Japanese have armor assets and better tactical command and control plus artillery. They must capture 4 objectives in order to win. When initially run the game was played for 4 hours. The Japanese had to have a solid hold on the objectives within that amount of time. Once the objectives are achieved, they must not be contested by the end of the next turn. If so, then check each turn until either the win condition is present or the contested objectives are returned to KMT Control.

Greater Pacific War logo From Marco Polo Bridge April 2007

In the original version of the game I created the bridgehead area and a built up area. The bridgehead was shattered from artillery strikes. The built up area had some damaged buildings as well. I did research on what the buildings looked like with what was available for pictures at the time. Since then more photos have been made available. I realized that one hand drawn picture incorrectly had the buildings as reddish brown. They are actually grayish stone. I did get the swept back roofs though. See the terrain page for how these were made.

From Marco Polo Bridge April 2007

When I ran it originally I used Iron Ivan’s Disposable Heroes. Those rules worked great for this game. They lead to many interesting engagements and there was a clean resolution. When I re-do the scenario I want to use “Force on Force” by Ambush Alley Games. I’ll write articles as I progress towards getting the game run again. For the time being I need to catalogue the figures and vehicles I used for this game, document the terrain construction and get the photos up. Subscribe to the RSS feed as we complete this project!

Many thanks to Lee Clapp of PaintedArmies.com for the fine work he donated painting the Imperial Japanese Army for me.