As a teenager, I hated the sort of sedate travel book that celebrated a country’s beauty and colorful people. I much preferred adventure, truthful adventure, even better if it happened to be an ordeal—say, a shipwreck, a marooning, a kidnapping by Bedouins in the desert, or an attack by pirates in the China Seas. Richard Halliburton was more to my youthful taste. I read his books with enormous relish. I earned an “A” from Miss Kohns for a book report I did on his rollicking best seller, Royal Road to Romance.
Halliburton was a dare devil American author and adventurer during the ‘20s and ’30s whose unabashed, enthusiastic style rankled the critics and delighted his youthful admirers. He wrote about his own spectacular feats in various parts of the world, as he embarked on dangerous adventures such as following the legendary routes of Ulysses, Cortes and Alexander the Great. At the age of thirty-nine, he disappeared while attempting to sail his own Chinese junk, the Sea Dragon, from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
Shanghai, 1930s, was like, a mystery wrapped in an enigma—at once ancient and utterly up-to-date. A paradoxical crossroad of East and West.
A raffish, cosmopolitan China Coast city of decadent cultures and current, international intrigue.
That was the mystique of Shanghai. I had always found it alluring. However, the city as I envisioned it changed violently during my junior year, when waves of Japanese Mitsubishi bombers attacked the heart of Shanghai^ gutting the old districts along the Whangpoo River, and smashing into the famed International Settlement. In follow up action, a Japanese invasion force landed, eventually capturing the sprawling metropolis.
The attack was no surprise, Imperial Japans militaristic dream of a Rising Sun empire throughout Asia had been building for years. In 1931, Japanese armies had seized Manchuria. Worldwide condemnation followed, but Japan thumbed its nose at the rest of the world, set up a puppet state in Manchuria, and withdrew from the League of Nations.