Killing Prisoners of War

Killing Prisoners of War

Policy to Take No Prisoners

Bodies left unburied along the Yangtze River. Photo taken by a Japanese soldier, Murase Moriyasu, of the 17th Motorized Company of the Meguro Supply and Transport Regiment.

Bodies left unburied along the Yangtze River. Photo taken by a Japanese soldier, Murase Moriyasu, of the 17th Motorized Company of the Meguro Supply and Transport Regiment.

“After that, we successively had a number of prisoners surrendering to us. It became a group of several thousands. The extremely enraged soldiers adversely reacted to the officers’ attempts to restrain them and butchered the captives one after another,” wrote Major General Sasaki Touichi, commander of the Sasaki Detachment of the 16th Division of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force, of the day his troops entered the city.

“Looking back at the last ten days of hardships and bloodshed that killed and wounded many of our buddies, though I am not a mere common soldier, I am in favor of saying, ‘Kill them all!’ We ran out of even a grain of rice and, though maybe there are some in the city, I am certain that our Army wouldn’t have any extra to feed the prisoners.” [66]

The next day, on December 14, Sasaki officially commanded his troops not to take any prisoners unless ordered to do so. [67]

In the past two decades in Japan, voluminous evidence of the Nanking Atrocities was unearthed and collected by many historians, some journalists and war veterans. But, surprisingly, one of the most dramatic episodes of the discoveries did not concern any researcher or journalist.

In the late 1980s a chemical factory worker, Ono Kenji, who prefers to be called a “laborer,” began investigating what had become of the Chinese prisoners of war captured by the Yamada Detachment of the 13th Division. Most officers and men of the unit came from Fukushima Prefecture where Ono’s hometown is located.

For the next seven years Ono interviewed about 200 war veterans and collected 24 wartime diaries and other historical materials.

His work not only revealed how possibly the largest mass executions of POWs in the Nanking Atrocities took place near Mufu Mountain, but also showed how ordinary men were dragged into war and were transformed into numb-minded killers. [68]

Bodies on the Yangtze bank. Photo taken by Murase.

Bodies on the Yangtze bank. Photo taken by Murase.

Another dramatic and perhaps the most significant contribution to the explication of the Nanking Atrocities came to pass when a war veterans’ organization, Kaikosha, asked its 18,000-odd members for any information relating to the Battle of Nanjing for its newsletter, Kaiko, in the mid-1980s.

The campaign was initially intended to refute the myth of the Nanjing Massacre, but ironically the organization received mounting evidence that incriminated the Japanese troops.

“There is no excuse for this mass illegal disposition [of the prisoners of war],” said war veteran Katogawa Kotaro, one of the chief editors of the publication, in the last issue of the 11-part series. “As a person relating to the Imperial Army, I can do nothing but apologize to the Chinese people. It was cruel. I am sincerely sorry.” [69]

Indeed, the accumulated evidence, namely wartime diaries, memoirs, field reports and official records of the military operations, all suggested that the upper echelons of the Imperial Army adopted a policy to “dispose of” – euphemism for “kill” – every captive. The commander of the 16th Division, Lieutenant General Nakajima Kesago, for instance, wrote in his diary on Dec. 13:

To begin with, it is our policy not to take prisoners, so we decided to get them out of the way. But when it became a group of one thousand, five thousand, and finally ten thousand, we couldn’t even disarm them all. We were safe simply because they had absolutely no will to fight back and followed us slovenly…. I have never imagined that we would have to deal with this large-scale disposition. The staff officers were extremely busy.

I later learned the Sasaki Detachment alone disposed of about fifteen thousand; the one company commander assigned to guard Taiping Gate disposed of about thirteen hundred; seven or eight thousand gathered near Xianhao Gate and many others are still coming to surrender one after another. In order to dispose of these seven or eight thousand people, we needed quite a large trench but were unable to find one. My plan is to divide them into groups of one or two hundred, lure them to proper places and dispose of them there. [70]

The adjutant to the commanding officer (Matsui Iwane) of the China Central Area Army (CCAA), Major Sumi Yoshiharu, told Kaiko that Lieutenant Colonel Cho Isamu, an information staff officer of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and a general staff of CCAA, ordered the killing of a great number of POWs held in Xiaguan. [71]

In his autobiography, Marquis Tokugawa Yoshichika wrote of an anecdote he heard from his friend to whom Cho himself apparently told the following story directly:

A crowd of fleeing civilians including women and children, as well as a number of Chinese soldiers, was surging along the banks of Yangtze. Letting go the Chinese soldiers would affect the course of the war. So Lieutenant Colonel Cho ordered the troops who were holding machine guns at the front to shoot them.

Since there were many civilians in the crowd along with some soldiers, the Japanese troops were hesitant and couldn’t do it. Cho lost his temper. “You want to know how to kill people! Like this!” He slashed one of his troops down from the shoulder with his sword. Stunned at Cho, the other troops snapped and opened fire. That’s how the massacre started. [72]

A Chinese soldier captured by Japanese troops.

A Chinese soldier captured by Japanese troops.

In Nanjing, the remnants of the defeated army, whether they voluntarily surrendered or whether they got captured as they straggled, were mercilessly killed in the name of “mopping-up” operations.

As observed by the foreign journalists and many Japanese journalists, the Japanese troops also conducted intensive searches for plain-clothes soldiers in the refugee camps.

They looked into one house after another, assembled every able-bodied man and inspected each one for any sign of having been a soldier such as a helmet mark on the forehead, an imprint of a machine-gun strap on the shoulders or calluses on the hands.

Through this arbitrary procedure, many civilians who were not even remotely connected to the Chinese Army were also selected and marched off to execution sites in many parts of the city and outside the walls.

A naval officer, Okumiya Masatake, looked around Nanking on December 25 and 27 in search of dead bodies of missing navy pilots and saw “countless bodies of Chinese” discarded along the shore of the Xuanwu Lake near the Xuanwu Gate. On both days he also witnessed Army troops executing a number of Chinese people at the Xiaguan execution site.

Wondering how they managed to bring so many POWs to the area without much difficulty, he asked a nearby soldier about the trick.

Unburied bodies along the Yangtze. Photo taken by Murase.

Unburied bodies along the Yangtze. Photo taken by Murase.

According to Okumiya’s book, he replied, “We say, ‘If you are hungry, raise your hands!’ to the Chinese whom we forced to clean up the battle site inside the city walls. Then get those who raised their hands on a truck as if we would take them to a place to eat.” [73]

Executing POWs without any kind of military trial was already a violation of the Hague Regulations of 1902. But, at any rate, most Japanese troops did not have any intention to protect any human rights of the captives.

Some soldiers, if not many, also wreaked their resentments on the prisoners. That was typically embodied in the brutal tortures before executions.

Sergeant Masuda Rokusuke of the 20th Infantry Regiment of the 16th Division wrote in his memoirs:

On the 14th, I went to the refugee camps organized by the International Committee to sweep the place…. Each platoon ransacked its assigned area house to house and checked every single man. Sergeant Maeda of the 2nd Platoon found a few hundreds of stragglers shedding their uniforms and donning civilian clothes inside a big building.

I entered the building right away and saw a crowd of stragglers, a heap of Chinese swords and other weapons…. We dragged them out, striped them naked, inspected their possessions, and bundled them with an electric wire we picked up in the street….

“You made us suffer!”… “You made us sacrifice our buddies!”… “You made Japanese people cry!” “You, little brat!” We kicked, whipped, and beat the heads, backs and other parts of the captives to give vent to our frustration. There were at least 300 of them….

In the evening, we led nearly 600 stragglers to the Xuanwu Gate and mowed them down at one go. [74]

Go back to: Table of Contents

[References]

  1. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu I [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing I], 272.
  2. Ibid., 439.
  3. Kenji Ono, et al., comp. Nanking Daigyakusatsu o Kirokushita Kogun Heishitach [Imperial Army Soldiers Who Recorded the Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, Otsuki Shoten, 1996). See also Ono, “Gyakusatsu ka Kaihou ka: Yamada Shitai Horyo Yaku Niman no Yukue” [Massacre or Discharge? Fate of the About 20,000 Prisoners of War Captured by the Yamada Detachment],” in Nanking Jiken Chosa Kenkyukai [The Nanjing Incident Research Group], Nanking Daigyakusatsu Hiteiron 13 no Uso [Thirteen lies in the Nanjing Massacre Deniers’ Claims] (Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobo, 1999), 140-156.
  4. Hata Ikuhiko, Showashi no Nazo wo Ou (Jo) [Chasing Down the Mysteries of Showa History (1)] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunji, 1993), 133-134.
  5. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu I [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing I], 220.
  6. Ibid., 652-653.
  7. Quoted in Yutaka Yoshida, Tenno no Guntai to Nanking Jiken [The Emperor’s Military and the Nanjing Incident], 109.
  8. Masatake Okumiya, Watashi no Mita Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident That I Saw] (Tokyo: PHP Kenkyujo, 1997), 33-39.
  9. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu I [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing I], 416.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.

Japanese Soldiers' Diaries

Japanese Soldiers’ Diaries

Prisoners of War at Mufu Mountain

Charred bodies on the Yangtze bank. Photo taken by Murase.

Charred bodies on the Yangtze bank. Photo taken by Murase.

A correspondent for Asahi Newspaper reported that on December 13 and 14, 1937, the Morozumi Unit (the 65th Infantry Regiment of the Yamada Detachment in the 13th Division) took prisoners of 14,777 Chinese soldiers in the vicinity of the artillery fort of Wulong Mountain and Mufu Mountain that lay at the south bank of the Yangtze River.

However, there had been no further follow-up report since then and for decades it was unknown what had become of those prisoners of war.

In Japan one theory told that half of them were released, a quarter of them escaped and the rest started a riot and consequently got killed.

Another theory told that all of the captives were dragged to the banks of the Yangtze and executed.

In the late 1980s, as stated earlier, a chemical factory worker in Japan, Ono Kenji, investigated the incident by interviewing 200 or so war veterans and gathering 24 wartime diaries and other historical materials. [75]

Ono collected 24 wartime diaries in the course of his investigation.

Ono collected 24 wartime diaries in the course of his investigation.

Ono’s research made it clear that the 15,000 captives and additional 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners taken after the 14th were all massacred by military order.

The mass executions of those POWs are possibly the largest in the Nanking Atrocities. They were conducted in two days on the banks of the Yangtze near Mufu Mountain.

The dead bodies were quickly covered with gasoline and burnt. And many corpses were later thrown into the Yangtze River.

Following are some quotes from the confessions Ono videotaped and the diaries he collected.

Upon his and his interviewees’ request, they are all assigned pseudonyms.

Private Kurosu Tadanobu (Pseudonym):

Japanese troops throwing bodies into the Yangtze River. Photo taken by Murase.

Japanese troops throwing bodies into the Yangtze River. Photo taken by Murase.

[Interview on the videotape] I joined the Army two days after I got the draft paper. I was determined to fight, but couldn’t possibly tell my wife that I would most likely die. So I simply told her to keep our house intact. Those drafted for the first time were delighted to serve their country and the Emperor, but I knew that going to the front meant facing death. When I got on the train, I kept thinking that it was the last time to see my brothers and others. I couldn’t help crying. [76]

[His diary on November 25, 1937] Upon arriving the quarters we killed two big pigs. And now we are eating them. War is such fun. Those who like drinking could drink as much as they want. The weather has been, finally, pleasant for the last few days and so is our mind. [77]

[His diary on December 16] We took about 5,000 prisoners of war, some of those we captured a couple of days ago, to the bank of the Yangtze and mowed them down by machine guns. Then we stabbed them with bayonets to our satisfaction. I probably bayoneted 30-odd hateful Chinese soldiers. Climbing up the heap of dead bodies and bayoneting them gave me a courage, which made me feel I could even vanquish ogres. I stabbed them with all my might while hearing them groan. There were some old ones and kids. I killed them all. I even borrowed a sword and severed a head. It was the most unusual experience I’ve ever had. [78]

[Interview on the videotape] The next day there was another call [for an execution] but I wasn’t assigned for it. I did it only once. I believe we killed all the prisoners of war our unit captured. I heard that we had some 20,000 in total… Before I crossed the river [to go to another front in China], I was shocked to see a long stretch of hundreds of charred bodies on the banks. Then I was sure we killed tens of thousands…. It [the Nanjing Massacre] is true, indeed. It is not a lie…. To be honest, I wanted the war to end in Nanking. I really wanted to come back [to Japan]. [79]

Private Kawata Senji (Pseudonym):

[Interview on the videotape] I heard they [the captives] were conscripted soldiers. I saw various prisoners, from younger ones to really old ones…. There were 20,000 of them. We took them out to the bank of the Yangtze River and machine-gunned them. It took us two nights to finish it off. We threw the bodies into the river later on, but the stream was so slow that many of them didn’t float right away.

[Interview on the videotape] At the time I didn’t think it was wrong. I was ordered to do so. After the war this story [of the mass executions by the Yamada Detachment] came up occasionally. Then I started asking myself, “Did I do something wrong?” [80]

Second Lieutenant Endo Takaaki (Pseudonym):

[His diary on Dec. 16] The prisoners of war amounted to 17,025. In the evening received military order, took out one third of them to the banks and the 1st Battalion shot them. [81]

[His diary on Dec. 17] At night sent out five soldiers for the execution of the 10,000-odd remaining prisoners. [82]

Second Lieutenant Takayanagi Shinichi (Pseudonym):

A cenotaph to those massacred near Mufu Mountain. These kinds of memorials can be found at major execution sites in today's Nanking.

A cenotaph to those massacred near Mufu Mountain. These kinds of memorials can be found at major execution sites in today’s Nanking.

[Interview on the videotape] We tied them [the captives] up and began dragging them [to the execution site] in the morning…. It took all day to get them there. Then at night we machine-gunned them all…. There was corpse after corpse. Had it been in the daylight, I don’t think I could have faced the scene straight. I went back there to dispose of the bodies the next day. They were all charred and smelled awful. Even now I remember the smell.

[Interview on the videotape] The order to ‘do it’ came through all the way from the top…. Those high-rankings don’t know what it was like. They just order and never come to the scene…. I don’t know how they could talk about it. They haven’t even seen it. We, noncommissioned officers and men, were the ones who actually carried it out…. I wonder who on earth are those people to claim that such a miserable incident was “fabrication”…. Well, those “professional Army officers” were always behind the scene. [83]

Sergeant Kawashima Noriyasu (Pseudonym):

[Interview on the videotape] I had experienced so much combat before Nanking. Compared with those, the Battle of Nanking was nothing. The Chinese soldiers were gone out of sight pretty quickly…. They [prisoners of war] were not all soldiers. I don’t remember clearly but I might have seen a few women, even…. Of course it was an order from above [to execute all the captives]. It wasn’t like five or ten captives…. I was not in a position to know the whole picture, but it was an official order. [84]

Private Hayashi Junzo (Pseudonym):

[Interview on the videotape] I made the pedestals to mount the machine guns. It was about one meter [3 feet 4 inches] high…. I did it [killed the prisoners] on the second day at the foot of Mufu Mountain…. I fired some 200 bullets in about ten minutes and that was it. I was allowed to go back and was lucky enough not to be assigned to dispose of the dead bodies. [85]

Private Taniguchi Toshimitsu (Pseudonym):

[Interview on the videotape] Many groups of 100 or 200 Chinese soldiers came from here and there to surrender while hanging out a white cloth or something of that kind. I didn’t count them by myself, but I heard we had about 18,000 to 20,000…. I am sure that other units, like the 6th Division, have done the same…. I don’t think it could be 300,000. I guess it was probably about 80,000 to 100,000.

[Interview on the videotape] Well, in retrospect we were crazy. When I was taking them [to the execution site], I knew I was going to kill them. But I didn’t feel any guilt. Of course I can’t imagine doing it now. [86]

Noncommissioned officer Yamazaki Kohei (Exact title not to be revealed / Pseudonym):

[Interview on the videotape] There were many prisoners of war who survived the machine-gunning. So we bayoneted those who were moving…. Some screamed like mad men when I stabbed them. It was so loud. Their voices haunted me for a week since then…. I heard that there were a few female prisoners of war. But I don’t think there was any elderly or children. They were all soldiers…. We just did what our superiors told us to do…. We burnt the bodies and they stank so badly…. I didn’t think much about it [the cruelty] at the time. I just thought war was like that. [87]

Interview: Ono Kenji [88]

"If you read his [Mr. Kurosu's] diary, you know it is something that you can't easily talk about," says Ono. Interview by author on March 11, 2000.

“If you read his [Mr. Kurosu’s] diary, you know it is something that you can’t easily talk about,” says Ono.

“I think those former soldiers used to have racial hatred toward Chinese. Many war veterans I interviewed still unconsciously use the word, Chankoro [derogatory term in Japanese literally meaning, “Chinese brat”], or something of that kind. But at the same time, many of those who committed the massacre have been tormented by their consciences for more than 50 years….”

“I became really close to Mr. Kurosu (pseudonym) through my research. I visited his house quite often and talked a lot. He seemed deeply repentant…. I was really surprised and couldn’t say a word when he gave me his wartime diary, which, he’d been telling me, he ditched before he landed in Japan. It was one and a half years after we met and made friends! Then I realized how hard it was for him to come to terms with the past. If you read his diary, you know it is something that you can’t easily talk about….”

“These [former soldiers’] diaries are candidly describing how normal, average persons had developed their animosity through combat and how they became mentally anesthetized through slaughtering captives and looting houses on the way to Nanjing. Once those cruel acts became their daily lives, they no longer had inhibitions….”

“After all, they were following orders from the Army. Most of those who massacred Chinese were noncommissioned officers and common soldiers. For them the orders were absolute…. Of course I feel compassion for the victims. But now I know the perpetrators were also psychologically scarred….”

“A veteran told me that he couldn’t forget the face of one prisoner he killed in Shanghai. He executed thousands of POWs on the banks of the Yangtze River later on, but those victims were already faceless for him. But the one he killed in Shanghai for the first time, he still dreams of the face once in a while. I think it really tells something about the psychological state of the soldiers in the Yamada Detachment in Nanjing.”

Go back to: Table of Contents

[References]

  1. Ono, “Gyakusatsu ka Kaihou ka: Yamada Shitai Horyo Yaku Niman no Yukue” [Massacre or Discharge? Fate of the About 20,000 Prisoners of War Captured by the Yamada Detachment],” 140-156.
  2. Tadanobu Kurosu (pseudonym), interview by Kenji Ono, 4 June 1994.
  3. Ono, Nanking Daigyakusatsu o Kirokushita Kogun Heishitach [Imperial Army Soldiers Who Recorded the Nanjing Massacre], 346.
  4. Ibid., 350-351.
  5. Kurosu (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 4 June 1994.
  6. Senji Kawata (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 12 June 1994.
  7. Ono, Nanking Daigyakusatsu o Kirokushita Kogun Heishitach [Imperial Army Soldiers Who Recorded the Nanjing Massacre], 219.
  8. Ibid., 220.
  9. Shinichi Takayanagi (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 11 June 1994.
  10. Noriyasu Kawashima (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 21 August 1994.
  11. Junzo Hayashi (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 26 June 1994.
  12. Toshimitsu Taniguchi (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 5 June 1994.
  13. Kohei Yamazaki (pseudonym), interview by Ono, 11 June 1994.
  14. Kenji Ono, interview by author, Iwaki (Fukushima Prefecture), Japan, 11 March 2000.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.

Rape and Pillage

Rape and Pillage

Policy to Take No Prisoners

"Pregnant with her first child, this 19-year-old woman was bayoneted when she sought to resist raping at the hands of a Japanese soldier. When admitted to a refugee hospital, she was found to have no less than 23 wounds," noted an American Missionary, John Magee, in his film, China Invaded.

“Pregnant with her first child, this 19-year-old woman was bayoneted when she sought to resist raping at the hands of a Japanese soldier. When admitted to a refugee hospital, she was found to have no less than 23 wounds,” noted an American Missionary, John Magee, in his film, China Invaded.

“Women were the main victims, indeed…. We would pick some sunny place, like around a storehouse for example, then make a screen by hanging up branches with leaves,” answered Private Tadokoro Kozo of the 114th Division when interviewed by the Pacific War Research Group in 1971. “We would get a ticket called Sekken [Red Ticket], which had the company commander’s stamp on, to wait for our turn with our loincloth off.”

“One day I was assigned a leader to kidnap women. When we showed up, all the women frantically ran off. It was hard to chase and catch them because we couldn’t kill them yet.”

“There wasn’t any soldier who didn’t rape. After things were done, usually we killed them. We’d let the women go, they’d run off, and we’d shoot them from the back. We didn’t want to leave any trouble behind. If the gendarmes found out, we would be tried by court-martial. So, although we didn’t really want to kill them, we did it – though, in fact, there was hardly any gendarme in Nanjing. I served in Nanjing for about two months.” [89]

Unlike the relentless mopping-up operations and the executions of the POWs that were in some cases recorded as a part of official military operations, the cases of rape naturally did not leave any documented evidence.

As observed by the foreigners in the Safety Zone, however, without doubt many Japanese soldiers abducted Chinese women, sexually assaulted them and in many cases, in order to leave no evidence, they killed the victims after the acts.

A poster to advertise Ianjo, or official brothels, on the North Chung Shan Road. "Chinese Beauties" "Designated by the Base Camp Authorities" "House of restful consolation" "At the No. 4 Hall for Japan-China friendship" "600 meters ahead from here along the bank of the stream"

A poster to advertise Ianjo, or official brothels, on the North Chung Shan Road. “Chinese Beauties” “Designated by the Base Camp Authorities” “House of restful consolation” “At the No. 4 Hall for Japan-China friendship” “600 meters ahead from here along the bank of the stream”

Although many former soldiers of the Imperial Army came forward to admit butchering Chinese captives and civilians in Nanking, many fewer veterans were willing to talk about their perpetration of rapes.

In China many survivors of rapes began telling of their painful past in the last two decades, but probably a lot of rape victims have already passed away in the last 60 years, if not killed right after being molested.

Theses conditions altogether make it rather hard today to grasp the scale of the violations of women committed by Japanese troops.

However, the establishment of Ianjo, or official brothels (literally, “house of restful consolation,”) in as early as late December 1937 by the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and the 10th Army, clearly indicates how desperate the Japanese government was to keep its troops away from raping and spreading venereal diseases among themselves.

Today more than ten such institutions were known to have operated under the Japanese government in Nanking although the idea seemed to have had little effect in stopping the rape criminals for the first several weeks. [90]

Looting

On the day the Japanese troops entered Nanjing, the wholesale looting that was initiated by the retreating Chinese troops significantly escalated to the level of what Tillman Durdin of the New York Times called “plundering of the entire city.”

Once gaining a control of a district, the Japanese soldiers broke into shops, houses and other buildings and took away anything they wanted. The commander of the 16th Division, Lieutenant General Nakajima Kesago, wrote in his diary on Dec. 19:

When we enter, the houses have generally been rummaged in by the Chinese troops, and many things are gone. Nevertheless, the army soldiers rush to break in and loot, whether it is their assigned district or not. This tendency is especially true about the houses in suburban areas. After all, those impudent gain the most….

Although the plate stated “Division Headquarters,” when I went into the building, every room had been ransacked including the government chairman’s office. They [Japanese soldiers] took away everything, even the old displays….

Supervising the privates wouldn’t be of much help since, to my surprise, even high-ranking officers are candidly being thieves. [91]

A scene from the U.S. propaganda documentary, Frank Capra's The Battle of China (1944).

A scene from the U.S. propaganda documentary, Frank Capra’s The Battle of China (1944).

Nakajima himself was not at all the exception. Apparently he did not have any guilt about looting Chinese property. On January 23, 1938, when asked about the furniture in the Nationalist Government Building by Matsui Iwane, the commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, Nakajima replied, “What is the matter of taking furniture when we are taking over a country and taking away people’s lives? No one is going to be pleased even though we leave it there.” [92]

Nakajima was later found stealing Chiang Kai-shek’s treasures such as rugs and paintings and sending them to Kyoto in 23 boxes when he was serving as the commander of the 4th Army in Manchuria. [93]

As typified by Nakajima’s attitude toward plundering, even commissioned officers joined the lower ranking soldiers to ransack every building in Nanking. No one tried to abide by the international law on wartime requisition, according to which one had to pay in military currency or leave a kind of promissory note when commandeering any article that could be later exchanged into real currency.

Most soldiers just looted things and robbed people without a word. As observed by foreign journalists and missionaries, many times the Japanese troops shot the Chinese who tried to stop the plundering or resisted while being robbed. Some soldiers left the notes supplied by the Army, but as an accounting officer of the 9th Division recalled, those notes were written with no faith, having such false names as “Commander of the Retreating Unit, Chiang Kai-shek,” or simply stating, “Idiot!” [94]

As a consequence, when the Chinese refugees who survived the most intensive reign of terror for weeks finally went back home, there was absolutely nothing left for them to start over their normal lives again.

It is recorded that as early as the beginning of January 1938, the Japanese Army encouraged Chinese people to start business, trade money and produce food as a way to restore order in the city, but they had no stock to begin with, no money to spend, and no livestock or grain to grow. [95]

Interview: Wang Weixing [96]

"We should put our emotional feelings aside when discussing the Nanjing Massacre between the two nations," says Wang Weixing. Interview by author on March 30, 2000.

“We should put our emotional feelings aside when discussing the Nanjing Massacre between the two nations,” says Wang Weixing.

Wang Weixing is a historian at the Jiangsu Academy of Social Sciences. He is also a member of the Research Center of Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Aggressors located in Nanjing Normal University. He has recently published an essay on the psychological backgrounds of the Japanese troops in Nanking.

“There are four aspects we should always look at to understand why Japanese soldiers went on the rampage in Nanjing.”

“First, they were vindictive towards Chinese because of the large number of casualties in Shanghai and other places in China. They carried out reprisals against even ordinary citizens. For instance, one diary of a former soldier tells us that he avenged his brother’s death in Northern China by killing many Chinese.”

“Second, they had to give absolute obedience. To Japanese soldiers it was a holy war. They were fighting for the Emperor. So they did whatever they were told to do. Considering that the massacres took place in many parts of the city during the same period of time by different groups or units of the Japanese troops, there must have been an order from the higher echelon of the Japanese Army.”

“Third, as a national policy, Japan was trying to be on a par with Europe and openly contemptuous of Asian countries. Their chauvinism as the Yamato race took a great role in their attitudes toward Chinese. They probably thought they could do whatever they want because they are superior to Chinese.”

“Lastly, it was an unexpectedly long war for Japanese soldiers. Japan took it for granted that the war in Shanghai would end soon. But in fact the war was long and drawn out. That made many soldiers mentally unstable. They were fierce, homesick, anxious and worn out. The only comfort and joy they could find was to murder prisoners of war and to rape women. It may sound strange but in a sense those criminal acts became their amusement….”

“But it should be noted that although killing prisoners of war was an order, the way to kill them depended solely on individual soldiers. I am against the idea to emphasize the insanity of the Japanese troops by pointing out grotesque ways of murder such as eating up internal organs, etc. There is no evidence to prove such things happened, at least not in Nanjing.”

Go back to: Table of Contents

[References]

  1. Taiheiyou Senso Kenkyukai, “Nanking Gyakusatsu de Tairitsu suru Shougenshatachi [Conflicting eye-witness accounts of the Nanjing Massacre],” in Mokugekisha ga Kataru Showashi 5: Nichi Chu Senso [Showa History Told by Witnesses 5: Sino-Japanese War], 75-76.
  2. Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Jugun Ianfu [Comfort Women], (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995), 22-25; Fumiko Kawata, “Nanking Senryo Chokugo ni Hajimatta Ianjo Setchi [The Establishment of Consolation Houses Started Right After the Capture of Nanjing],” Kinyobi 8.9 (10 March 2000): 39-41.
  3. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu I [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing I] (Tokyo: Kaiko, 1989), 226.
  4. Ibid., 247-248.
  5. Yutaka Yoshida, Tenno no Guntai to Nanking Jiken [The Emperor’s Military and the Nanjing Incident], 153.
  6. Fujiwara, Nanking no Nihongun [The Japanese Army in Nanjing], 110.
  7. See for example, James McCallum’s letter to his family on January 6 in American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre, 1937-1938, 42.
  8. Wang Weixing, interview by author, Nanjing, China, 30 March 2000.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.