“Nanking’s greatest fear, which explains the sudden evacuation of the capital despite the fact that the Japanese troops are still 110 miles east of the city gates, is looting by Chinese troops – not fear of bombardment from Japanese warships,” wrote a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, but, according to Time magazine (January 10, 1938), the dispatch was censored by the Chinese government led by Chiang Kai-shek.
It goes without saying that not only the Japanese government but also the Chinese government imposed a strict media blackout and carried on active propaganda against Japan throughout the Sino-Japanese War.
The above article, for instance, included the following sentences but they were all slashed out by the Chinese authorities.
Inside the Chinese lines the utmost confusion prevails…. Chinese troops have not been paid since August…. There is severe lack of food for front-line troops…. Demoralization had resulted from lack of attention for the Chinese wounded….
Then, too, might be added the strong resentment of the Chinese front-line troops at the fact that while they are under constant aerial bombings from Japanese bombers no Chinese bombers have appeared during daylight hours, although every Chinese soldier had been given to understand that Chiang Kai-shek’s chief threat to Japan consisted in his air force…. What now? Japan has succeeded in plunging China into chaos which will take several years, perhaps decades, to straighten out….
With China’s near collapse understood, neither Russia nor any other nation will feel desirous of giving China military assistance.
International Department of the Board of Information
“It was not necessary for the [Chinese] Ministry of Propaganda to tell the outside world about the Rape of Nanking,” wrote a member of the Special Defense Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice, William Daugherty, in 1942.
“It was the foreigners – Americans, British, Germans – who gave to the outside world the shocking account that they had been forced to witness.”
According to Daugherty, even the official Chinese Board of Information in Hankow (Chiang Kai-shek moved the military headquarters from Nanking to Hankow before the city was taken over by the Japanese) learned of the orgy of bloodshed from foreign sources in Shanghai. 
Once they found out about the atrocities, however, the Board of Information availed themselves of the golden opportunity to publicize their cause in the Second Sino-Japanese War to the world.
In the United States the Board was in close contact with numerous relief organizations and pressure groups that sympathized with China such as American Friends of the Chinese People, American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression, Associated Boards for Christian Colleges in China, United Council for Civilian Relief in China, and China Information Service led by Frank Price of the Theological Seminary at the University of Nanking, which was established in September 1938 in Washington D.C. 
Their propaganda efforts soon caused the stories of brutal Japanese conduct brought by those missionaries and others in Nanking to be widely circulated nationwide through newspapers, magazines and books.
The Board of Information was founded in November 1937 as an agency of the Nationalist Government of China.  Headed by Dr. Wang Shih-chieh, an official of ministerial rank, it was made up of two subdivisions, one for domestic propaganda and the other for foreign publicity.
Hollington K. Tong, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a famous journalist known as “Holly” among correspondents in China, became the head of the latter subdivision called the International Department of the Board of Information. Based in the new capital of Chungking, the International Department was engaged in various propaganda activities.
James L. Shen, or “Jimmy,” commanded the organization’s English section in Chungking with six other Chinese writers, all of whom graduated from American missionary institutions in China. They published a number of bulletins, special handouts, state documents, speeches by the Generalissimo for a monthly magazine in English, China at War.
Warren Lee, a former teacher in a Chinese School in Rangoon, was in charge of the photographic section. Frederick J. Chen, or “Freddy,” headed the business section. Along with the National Military Council, the Board also briefed their “news” at the regular weekly press conference in Chungking to foreign correspondents, visitors and embassy officials. 
Outside of China, the International Department established bureaus in London, Montreal, Sydney, Mexico City and Singapore and employed advisors for “intelligence,” “liaison” and “public relations” in those countries.  The Board hired Harold John Timperley, a China correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, and sent him to Europe. Earl H. Leaf, a former China correspondent and the Far Eastern Manager of the United Press, also worked for the Board, advising various China groups in New York.
Accounts of the Nanking Atrocities: Harold John Timperley and Hsü Shuhsi
Probably the first comprehensive description of the ruthlessness and inhumanity demonstrated by the Japanese soldiers in Nanking was compiled and edited by Timperley in a book titled What War Means (in America it was titled The Japanese Terror in China).
The book featured the official statements, protests and some private letters written by the members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. It was translated into other languages and published as early as July 1938 in London, New York, Calcutta, Paris and Hankow. 
Case after case of plundering, rape and mass executions in the book not only confirmed the news stories formerly reported by Tillman Durdin of the New York Times and Archibald Steele of the Chicago Daily News but also provided more vivid imagery of what actually happened after all the foreign correspondents had left Nanking.
Although Timperley was working as an advisor to the Chiang Kai-shek’s propaganda organization, it seemed he was motivated by his strong conviction against war rather than his personal sympathy with Chinese.
In fact, Timperley took the trouble to pay homage to his two anonymous Japanese friends in the forward of What War Means. One of the two Japanese, a friend who was of “rare fineness of intellect and feeling,”  Matsumoto Shigeharu, the Shanghai bureau chief of Domei News Agency, recalled Timperley talking about the publication of the book with scruples to those Japanese who deserve “admiration and respect.” 
After the publication of the book, Timperley actively wrote essays and articles whose themes were to make sense of Japan’s “indigenous chauvinism” and “the generation of an aggressive military spirit.”  In his works such as “Yoshida Shoin Martyred Prophet of Japanese Expansionism,” an essay for Far Eastern Quarterly, and Japan: A World Problem, he advocated drastic internal reforms in Japan and international peacekeeping arrangements for the Far East. 
According to his obituary in the Times (London) and the Manchester Guardian, in 1943 Timperley started seven years of service with the United Nations and its specialized organizations including UNRRA and UNESCO. 
A political scientist and advisor to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hsü Shuhsi, also had an access to the reports and letters sent from Westerners in Nanking. On behalf of the Council of International Affairs, an officially subsidized association operating in Chungking, Hsü published The War Conduct of the Japanese in 1938 which featured some documents of the Safety Zone such as the report written by Miner Searle Bates on December 15  that described “grim tales of massacre, looting and rape during Nanking’s capture.” 
The following year, he compiled the records of the International Committee’s work in a book titled Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone. The book contained numerous accounts of the atrocities written by the foreign witnesses and provided more substantial evidence in volume than Timperley’s What War Means. It was widely distributed in the United States through Chinese governmental organizations and their sympathizers to arouse international support. 
As a demonstration that these organizations succeeded, the library of the University of Missouri-Columbia where Hollington K. Tong, the head of the International Department of the Board of Information, graduated from holds copies of the above two books as well as A New Digest of Japanese War Conduct written by Hsü in 1941.
Of the three books, the first two were given by the Council of International Affairs to the University and the other by China Information Service, the organization headed by Frank Price of the Theological Seminary at the University of Nanking.
Propaganda and Resistance in Nanking
The atrocities committed by the Imperial Army naturally resulted in widespread resentment and fierce defiance toward the Japanese soldiers by Chinese citizens. Inside the walled city and its vicinity, thousands of peasants voluntarily formed organizations called “Red Spear Society” and ambushed the enemy soldiers.
A certain group of resisters secretly printed leaflets that called for strong patriotism, some of which read “Show your conscience, fellow countrymen,” or “The National Army will attack Nanking in a few days and kill all the Japanese devils and [Chinese] traitors.” Those leaflets were distributed in schools, movie theaters and buses in Nanking.
The Nationalist Government and the Communist Party also covertly, and sometimes overtly, established, instructed, and armed anti-Japan organizations inside and outside of the city. Once in a while those armed groups struck the Japanese troops occupying the city. Especially some underground communist rebels and the New Fourth Army were effectively deployed and fought against the invaders throughout the city’s occupation. 
Even in the early days, there were unprompted subversive activities in the Safety Zone by Chinese soldiers in hiding. For example, the New York Times reported the following incident with the headline, “Ex-Chinese Officers Among U. S. Refugees; Colonel and His Aides Admit Blaming the Japanese for Crimes in Nanking,” on January 4, 1938:
SHANGHAI, Jan. 3 – American professors remaining at Ginling College in Nanking as foreign members of the Refugee Welfare Committee were seriously embarrassed to discover that they had been harboring a deserted Chinese Army colonel and six of his subordinate officers. The professors had, in fact, made the colonel second in authority at the refugee camp.
The officers, who had doffed their uniforms during the Chinese retreat from Nanking, were discovered living in one of the college buildings. They confessed their identity after Japanese Army searchers found they had hidden six rifles, five revolvers, a dismounted machine gun and ammunition in the building.
The ex-Chinese officers in the presence of Americans and other foreigners confessed looting in Nanking and also that one night they dragged girls from the refugee camp into the darkness and the next day blamed Japanese soldiers for the attacks. The ex-officers were arrested and will be punished under martial law and probably executed. 
Dr. Robert Wilson, medical doctor at the University of Nanking, jotted down the circumstances in his diary when Japanese soldiers found buried weapons in a refugee camp. From December 30, 1937, the diary read:
Today some poor fool who was annoyed at the man in charge of one of the refugee camps in the Sericulture building brought some Japanese soldiers around and showed them where a half a dozen rifles had been buried on the grounds. There was an unholy row and four men were taken away, one being charged with the heinous crime of being a colonel in the Chinese Army. 
Interview: Kasahara Tokushi 
Kasahara Tokushi is a professor of History at Tsuru University. He has published various books and articles on the Nanking Atrocities (see Works Cited). He has also served as a visiting professor at Nanjing Normal University where the Research Center of Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Aggressors is located.
“Of course there were propaganda activities and some resistance in Nanjing against Japanese troops. Japan invaded their land, killed their loved ones and took away their properties. Without doubt there were some Chinese who sought an opportunity to give the Japanese troops a blow.”
“But it was not systematic enough to threaten the Imperial Army. There was rather sporadic resistance. At any rate, it does not give any excuse for illegal executions, let alone rape, looting and other atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese troops….”
“Some ‘deniers’ argue that Nanjing was much more peaceful than we generally think. They always show some photographs with Chinese refugees selling some food in the street or Chinese people smiling in the camps. They are forgetting about Japanese propaganda. The Imperial Army imposed strict censorship. Any photographs with dead bodies couldn’t get through. So photographers had to remove all the bodies before taking pictures of streets and buildings in the city….”
“Vautrin [Minnie Vautrin] wrote of an occasion when a photographer told Chinese people to smile. Another member of the International Committee for the [Nanking] Safety Zone recorded that one day the Army gave out candies to kids before they took photos. Even if the photos weren’t staged, the refugees had no choice but to fawn on the Japanese soldiers. Acting otherwise meant their deaths….”
“I am certain that there were Chinese vendors in the street and even some thieves who stole things they needed. We shouldn’t forget that the refugees were struggling to survive no matter what. Had it not been for Japanese invasion, they wouldn’t have needed to go through such a horrible period in the first place.”
Go back to: Table of Contents
- William E. Daugherty, “China’s Official Publicity in The United States,” Public Opinion Quarterly 6.1 (Spring 1942): 73.
- Ibid.; Paul A. Varg, Missionaries, Chinese, and Diplomats: The American Protestant Missionary Movement in China, 1890-1952 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1958), 260.
- Minoru Kitamura, “‘Nanking Daigyakusatsu’ Kenkyu Josetsu (Jo) [An Introduction to the Research on ‘The Nanjing Massacre’ (1)],” Toa 388 (October 1999): 36.
- Daugherty, 78-80.
- Joseph P. Selden, review of Japan: A World Problem, by H. J. Timperley, The Far Eastern Quarterly 2.4 (August 1943): 389; Kitamura, 34-37; Daugherty, 83.
- Ikuhiko Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 9-10.
- H. J. Timperley, Japanese Terror in China (New York: Modern Age Books, 1938), 10.
- Matsumoto, 249-250.
- H. J. Timperley, “Yoshida Shoin Martyred Prophet of Japanese Expansionism,” Far Eastern Quarterly 1.4 (August 1942): 347.
- Ibid., 337-347; Timperley, Japan: A World Problem (New York: The John Day Company, 1942).
- The Times (London), 29 November 1954 and the Manchester Guardian, 29 November 1954.
- See American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre, 1937-1938, 13-15.
- Hsü Shuhsi, The War Conduct of the Japanese (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1938), 95-98.
- Timothy Brook, “Introduction: Documenting the Rape of Nanking,” in Documents of the Rape of Nanking, 12.
- Sun Zhaiwei, “Resistance by Citizen and Soldiers of Nanjing in the Nanjing Massacre,” in Nihongun ha Chugoku de Nani wo Shitaka [What the Imperial Army of Japan Did in China], ed. and trans. Kiyoshi Inoue and Tadashi Hiroshima (Tokyo: Aki Shobo, 1994), 82-86.
- The New York Times, 4 January, 1938.
- Documents of the Rape of Nanking, 231.
- Tokushi Kasahara, interview by author, Tokyo, Japan, 4 March 2000.
©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.