I remember when I was a boy studying for the Cambridge GCE O levels. I remember reading this description on my “History of The Modern Word” By Dr Nicholas Tate about the Macro Polo Bridge Incident. Today I manage to dig up the old textbook and this is the description
” The Japanese accused the Chinese of having fired on one of their night patrols. This provided an excuse for a full scale Japanese attack.”

As a boy I was thinking to myself “How could 1 patrol soldier clause the entire war?” It seems to me that no history books ever recorded which private or corporal is this solder that was suspected to be fired on. But we all know the consequences of this incident. It led to a full scale Sino Japanese war, and following the incident, China lost Tianjin and Beijing to Japan in a matter of weeks.

So I decided to take a look at the Wikipedia, and I found that the incident is actually very well documented. Hence, I would like to take the emotions out of this incident, and just record down what happened

1. Jun 1937: There was a notice from the Japanese army that they would like to carry out an intensive military training maneuver. The Chinese government request that advance notice be given so that the local populace will not be disturbed by it.

2. 7 July 1937: Japanese army proceeded with the maneuver without the notice. Alarming the Chinese troops. which led to the Chinese army firing a few ineffectual shots. The Japanese hearing it, had a brief exchange of fire with the Chinese troops at 23:00 Hrs

3. 7 July 1937: After that, there was a sentry solider who did not return to his post, his company commander (Maj Koyonao Ichiki) thinking that he was captured by the Chinese. Informed His Regimental Commander, which called the Chinese Regimental Commander (Ji Xingwen) demanding permission to enter Wanping (A Chinese controlled area) to search for the missing solder

4. 7 July 1937: This soldier returned safely, but the commanders of both fraction did not know it.

5. 7 July 1937 23:40 Hrs: the Chinese General Qin Dechun, received the same demand from the Japanese military intelligence with the same demand. General Qin said that the Japanese should not have conducted the maneuvers without advance notice. He refused for the Wanping to be searched, but said that he would order his troops to search the town.

6. 8 July 1937 0240: Japanese were not satisfied with the answer, issued a ultimatum to search the town. The Chinese troops are placed on Heighten Alert.

7. 8 July 1937 0300: Japanese reinforcement for 4 Mountain guns, and a company of machine gunners came to Fengtai town.

8. 8 July 1937 04:50: 2 Japanese investigators were allowed to the town of Wanping.

9. 8 July 1937 05:00: The Japanese machine gunners open fire at the Macro Polo Bridge, and backed by Armored vehicles they attacked Macro Polo Bridge

10: 8 July 1937 Afternoon: Japanese partially overrun the Macro Polo Bridge while the defenders, numbering to about 1000 Chinese troop fight to defend the bridge

11: 09 July 1937 6:00 : The Chinese was able to retake the bridge with the help of the mist and rain. At the same time, the Japanese Military Intelligence had reach a verbal agreement with General Qin that Wanping will be left with a civilian constabulary and not his division.

12: 09 July 1937: However the Japanese ground officer (Gen Masakazu Kawabe) did not comply and shelled Wanping for the next 3 hours until he is order to move

13, 09 July 1937 Midnight : Japanese troops started to violate the ceasefire and continue their buildup of reinforcements

14. 12 July 1937: LT Gen Tashiro of the Japanese China Garrison died, at this time, the officers of the North China Area Army are militarisitic in nature. They took advantage of the situation and efforts made to the by the civilian government to avoid war with china failed

15. Wanping is shelled again on 14 July, full scale fighting in Lang Fang on 25 July. Chinese retreated to the Yung Ding River by 28 July, leaving Macro Polo Bridge and Wanping securely in Japanese hand.

16. Few days later, Beijing and Tianjin both fell to Japanese forces.

As we can see in this story, it is more then the night patrol that was attacked that lead to the war. It is not even that one little petty soldier who failed to return post that lead to the war.

We can also see that the Japanese officers did not even know that the “soldier” that they were searching is back, and the did things like issuing ultimatum and firing on the bridge. The change in the high ranking officers also help to speed up the process of the war.

So what can businesses learn from this?
1. Management should learn to gather information about their business by themselves, and usually the news that are sent to their ears are mainly half correct, as no one ever bother to give the real picture.

In this example the generals spend too much time discussing over the problem of one missing soldier without trying to find out whether he is really missing. They spend all the days making demands to each other, and not even understanding whether the problem is resolved or not.

2. The people on the ground are usually clueless about the verbal agreements the management made with the customers or each other. Sometimes orders are deliberately ignored

In this example, the Japanese troops continue to shell Wanping for 3 hours dispite of the verbal agreement of Truce between the 2 armies. On July 9 Midnight, the soldiers began violating the ceasefire often. It is unsure if the problem is because of mis-communications or blindly follow orders.

3. Unnecessary escalation of problems usually helps to butterfly effect the problem and making the problems looks very big. This often leads to lots of email floating around and unnecessary demands made to various parties, that could escalate to full scale war.

If the company commander did his best to search for the soldier without escalating it to his regimental commander. Perhaps this issue will not have been blown out of proportion and the remaining story would have change drastically.

It is hope that through this passage, we can all understand the following
1. Importance of simple communication in work
2. The futility of escalating simple problems to the management
3. Orders could be ignored if the people refuse to accept it.

Recent Update In 2017 Feburary

Apparently the name of the infamous soldier was found. He is known as
Private Shimura Kikujiro.

According to this article