Rape of Nanking (1937-38)
Naking was a priority target for Japan as it was the Nationalist capital. Japan took the key Chinese port city of Shanghai in early November 1937. The Japanese Imperial Army was supported by a rolling carpet of aerial bombardment moved up the Yangtze River valley toward the Natioanlist capital at Nanjing. Chiang abandoned his capital on December 8. Finally on December 13, 1937 entered Nanking. The resulting orgy of mindless killing ranks among the most horendous attrocities of modern times. American public opinion was somewhat diverted by the attack on the gunboat Panay on December 12. The intensity of the Japanese killing wasell reported by several European observers at the time. Even the then Japanese Foreign Minister reported after an inspection trip in January of 1938 that the “Japanese Army behaved … in [a] fashion reminiscent [of] Attila [and] his Huns. [Not] less than 300,000 Chinese civilians slaughtered, many cases [in] cold blood.” [Koki as quote in Chang] The population of Nanking was about 0.60-0.70 million, including about 0.15 million soldiers. Some Chinese managed to flee the city, but about 0.50 remained in the city when the Japanese seized it. The Japanese proceeded to kill about 0.09 million soldiers and 0.20 million civilians. These are only estimates, some believe even more were killed.
The Japanese began with the soldiers and the military command specifically ordered the execution of POWs. As many of the poorly led and disorganized soliders had discarded their uniforms, the Japanese simoly rounded up men of military age. Companmy commanders were ordered to meet to discuss the best way of doing this. One suggestion was to offer the POWs fair treatment and to then divide them in to “groups of 50”. An Imperial Army officer advised that once they consented to having their arms bound “the rest was easy”. [Chang] Killing methods varied. Officers used their swords to cut off heads. Enlisted men used bayonets, often on men tied up in batches. In fact one officer explained that this was a good training device to harden soldiers. This officer wrote after using his sword to sever a priosioners head, “I felt something change inside of me. I don’t know how to describe it, but I gained strength somewhere in my gut.” [Shogo] Photographs from Nanking shows rows of severed heads. [Yin and Young]
Next came the civilians. Japanese soldiers as a reward for taking a cHinese town were normally given 3 days to do as they please, including rape and pillage. In the case of Nanking the rape, killing, and pilaging of the civilian population continued for nearly 2 months. The Japanese soldiers proceeded to shoot thousands down in the street, incliding the elderly, women and children. Shop keepers were ordered to open their shops which were then looted and the owner killed. Japanese soldiers used both living and dead Chinese soldiers and civilians for bayonet practice. They mutilated, tortured, and maimed untold Chinese. These were not all assembly-line, dispassionate murders. Reports indicate that the Japanese hung Chinese by their tongues and threw some in acid. The Japanese dismembered victimes, used grenades. Others were impaled, and flayed. [Chang] No one knows how many rapes occurred. One estimate suggests that 80,000 women were raped. [Yin and Young] Soldiers collected women by the truck load. They were then allocated to groups of soldiers for gang raping after which they were normally mutilated or shot. [Kozo] One American woman wrote, “There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night–one of the girls was but 12 years old. … Tonight a truck passed in which there were 8 or 10 girls, and as it passed they called out “Ging ming! Ging ming!”–save our lives.” [Vautrin] One victim who was 8-years old at the time described her experiences. First her grandparents and parents were shot in front of her. Then her older sisters were killed. She was bayonetted three times and left for dead. Thousands of children were in fact bayonetted. [Shuqin] Children not killed outright when the women were collected often died from abandobnment and starvation. So many men, women and children with machetes that the soldiers often tired and to rest. Many Chinese shot or butchered, but not yet dead were burried alive. [Mills] The news stories flowing out of Nanking to the international press caused the Japanese Army to estanlish brothels which were staffed with women seized from occupied countries, initially Korea. These were the so called comfort women. European diplomats tried to stem the killing. A NAZI official was ekected to lead this group. He even appealed to Hitler to interceed with the Japanese Government. Rabe wrote. " During their attrocities, no difference was made between adults and children. There were girls under the age of 8 and women over the age of 70 who were raped and then, in the most brutal way possible, knocked down and beat up. We found corpses of women on beer glasses and others who had been lanced by bamboo shoots." [Rabe] While these brave men and women saved individual Chinese, mostly women, they had little impact on the overall wave of saveget directed at the Chinese.
Today in Japan deny that these events ever took place. [Yin and Young] A typical example of work by Japanese historians or researchers is Iris Chang’s Errors: “Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking is a book that fails to heal but rather sears all efforts for good international relations because it prioritizes passion at the cost of basic historical facts. We cannot ignore the book’s inability and refusal, as witnessed by the usage of numerous doctored photos, to differentiate between fact and war-time propaganda.” One of the articles quoted is by Shudo Higashinakano, Professor of Intellectual History, Asia University, Tokyo who denies the Nanking attrocities and typically turns the discussion to the atom bomb and the view that Japan was a victim not an instigator of war. [Higashinakano] Another assessment by Higashinakano Shudo says this message was written by Harold Timperley, “an advisor to the Chinese intelligence service”, not Koki. Timperley was in fact a journalist reporting to the Manchester Guardian. Like most foreign journalists in China at the time, he was sympathetic to the Chinese because of the outrages perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Arnmy.