Nothing is known of the baby in the untitled photograph, often called "Bloody Saturday," which depicts a child crying in the ruins of a Shanghai train station in 1937. Because it remains unidentified, the baby serves as a symbol, representing, in utter hysteria, the atrocities committed against China by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai and throughout the protracted conflict between Japan and China during the conflict.
At the time, the Japanese transgressions committed against China were horrific – yet mostly underreported in the plethora of WWII horror stories circulated in the West. The "Bloody Saturday" photograph brought to light what China endured at the hands of the Japanese during this tumultuous time.
The "Bloody Saturday" photograph remains one of the most haunting images perpetrated against the Chinese during the conflict. The image of the small child crying in a pile of rubble tugs at the viewer's heart strings, and it stimulated Western outrage over the Japanese treatment of the Chinese during WWII. Even more intriguing: the photographer, H.S. Wong, never found out any information about his subject. However, the baby's mother lay lifeless nearby.
Within a short time, eyes around the globe had seen "Bloody Saturday," and it stoked anti-Japanese sentiment. Because of this, journalist Harold Isaacs once described the photo as "one of the most successful propaganda pieces of all time."
The conflict between Japan and China, the Second Sino-Japanese War, began July 7, 1937 and ended September 9, 1945, with the end of WWII and Japan's surrender to the United Nations. For decades, Japanese imperial control had been encroaching on China. During this time, the two countries fought in a myriad of small skirmishes.
The first major conflict, known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, began when the Chinese army initiated aggression on the Japanese army across the Marco Polo Bridge while trying to negotiate peace terms. The bridge incident is widely considered the direct beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
On August 14, 1937, more than 1,500 people lost their lives in Shanghai as a result of a Japanese aerial assault on the city. The people in these photos were survivors in what was, at the time, the worstt aerial aggression on a city to date.
The horrific incident perpetuated burgeoning anger and aggression towards Japan.
During the Nanking Massacre, which took place over the course of six weeks and began in December 1937, Japanese soldiers brutally took out an estimated 40,000-60,000 civilians after seizing Nanking. The Japanese soldiers were so ruthless, some even had a contest to see who could slay 100 people first.
An American missionary, John Magee, produced a film outlining the atrocities at Nanking, which can be viewed above.