TIENTSIN, July 20, 1937 (UP) -- Twenty screaming Chinese nationalist students, stripped stark naked to emphasize their determination to die for their homeland, charged Japanese positions southwest of Peiping today and started general fighting which may herald the "showdown" between the Japanese and Chinese armies in North China, the Japanese Domei News Agency reported.
The students were armed with machine guns. While their fate was not reported, it was assumed they were annihilated by the superior force of veteran Japanese soldiers which they attacked.
Their action, the Japanese news agency said, was a signal for the Japanese army to open a formal punitive attack on the strategic railway area southwest of Peiping.
Chinese batteries on the right bank of the Yungting River west of Lukouchiao opened fire on the Japanese positions near Fengtai at 7 p. m., ending a short lull in the fighting. The Japanese replied, destroying two watch towers.
The Chinese barracks at Lukouchiao were in flames.
The artillery engagement near Fengtai lasted an hour. In addition to the watch towers, the Japanese fire destroyed the city gates at Lukouchiao. The Chinese guns finally were silenced.
A Japanese ultimatum demanding cessation of alleged Chinese troop attacks on Japanese expired at noon.
According to the Japanese, the attacks continued, with the Chinese sniping at Japanese troops.
Early in the afternoon a Japanese war plane droned high over Wanpinghsien. From it fluttered down hand bills warning residents in the vicinity of the town's walled castle to evacuate.
The hand bills said that the Japanese could no longer tolerate Chinese "provocation." The Japanese consulate advised all Japanese subjects in Nanking to prepare to evacuate at short notice.
At 2:30 p. m. Japanese infantry advanced from their lines along the Yungting River.
Guns in the Japanese batteries of field guns flashed and shells began exploding with a roar in the castle vicinity.
The Chinese batteries opened up from the lines of the 29th Chinese army and killed one Japanese soldier and wounded one.
Firing ceased after 30 minutes, reports said. But it was resumed and was continuing late in the afternoon.
Japanese authorities asserted that the Chinese were firing all day. A United Press correspondent visited the Japanese army field headquarters at Wulitien, one mile east of Wanpinghsien, immediately before the "punitive" firing started. He was told not to proceed to Wanpinghsien because of "sniping." He heard none, however.
There had been an atmosphere of electric tension all over northern China since the expiration of the army ultimatum, demanding immediate and complete cessation of alleged attacks on Japanese troops.