The Second Sino-Japanese War began in July 1937 and eventually became part of the Pacific theater of World War II. Not long after the war, with Japan advancing into China, retreating Chinese troops left a blockade across Shanghai’s Whampoo River. Japan announced they were going to bomb it on August 28, 1937, and news teams gathered to capture the event.
The planes arrived at 4:00 PM. Most of the reporters had left after hearing that the raid was postponed, so only one cameraman was waiting. The bombers didn’t hit the Chinese defenses. They hit the city’s train station—which housed 1,800 civilians waiting for evacuation, mostly women and children. The Japanese aircrews had mistaken them for troops. In total, 1,500 died.
The photographer, H.S. Wong, saw a man rescuing children from the tracks. The man placed the first young child on the platform edge before returning to help another—and that is the picture Wong took.
The injured, helpless child sitting among such devastation went on to be seen by over 130 million people around the world within a month and a half. It was key in turning international opinion against the Japanese, and Wong had to be evacuated to Hong Kong under British protection when the Japanese put a price on his head. (x)