What Japanese Journalists Witnessed

What Japanese Journalists Witnessed

Executions After Executions

Persons executed by Japanese soldiers in Ku Ling Temple. Photo taken by an American missionary, Ernest Forster.

Persons executed by Japanese soldiers in Ku Ling Temple. Photo taken by an American missionary, Ernest Forster.

Due to the Imperial Army’s media censorship, though there were over 100 Japanese journalists in Nanking when the city was captured, those journalists did not dare to write anything “unfavorable” about their countrymen. [41]

Knowing that any atrocity story wouldn’t make news in Japan, the journalists instead described how “valorous” the Imperial troops were in combat inside and outside the walled city.

Accordingly the newspaper articles during and after the siege of Nanking were full of tales of the Japanese soldier’s heroic exploits. [42]

After the war, however, some of the journalists confided what they had witnessed. A special correspondent for Tokyo Asahi, Imai Masatake, for instance, reported only about the “majestic and soul-stirring” ceremony of the triumphal entry of General Matsui Iwane, the commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, and his troops into the city on December 17, 1937. But two days before the victory parade, he revealed in 1956, he witnessed a mass execution of 400 to 500 Chinese men near Tokyo Asahi’s Nanking office.

That evening Imai and his colleague also saw a “long, long” procession of hundreds or even thousands of Chinese people being led to the banks of the Yangtze near Xiaguan (Hsiakwan) riverfront. Convinced that all of them were going to be killed, they tried to follow the procession but were stopped by a sentry. Imai recalled a conversation he had with his partner while hearing the sound of bullets ricocheting nearby. A part of the article he wrote for a magazine years later read:

“While we saw what they were doing near the bureau, there was a car passing through,” said Nakamura.

“Yeah, I saw some foreigners on it.”

“I guess they were from China’s Red Swastika Society. This news will leak out to Geneva for sure.”

“I wish I could write about it.”

“Someday we will, but not for the time being. But we sure saw it.”

“Let’s go take a look again, with our own eyes.”

With that, two of us got up. The sound of gunfire had ceased by then. [43]

Chinese prisoners of war being led by Japanese troops.

Chinese prisoners of war being led by Japanese troops.

Although the reporter apparently mistook the Red Swastika Society for an organization somehow related to the Red Cross, they guessed right about the news circulating around the world.

Another Tokyo Asahi reporter, Adachi Kazuo, also saw a mass murder near the paper’s branch office with his colleague, Moriyama Yoshio. “The ‘plain-clothes soldiers’ were shot to death one after another, right in front of their wives and children, who were weeping and screaming,” wrote Adachi in 1975 in a memorial on Moriyama’s death.

“Our hearts were trembling with anger and grief while people in Japan were probably rejoicing over the collapse of Nanking.” Adachi also quoted Moriyama as saying at the scene, “With this, Japan has lost the right to win the war.” [44]

A correspondent for Tokyo Nichi Nichi, Suzuki Jiro, encountered a few execution scenes and later wrote:

“When I went back to the Zhongshan Gate, I saw, for the first time, an unearthly, brutal massacre. On top of the wall, about 25 meters [85 feet] high, the prisoners of war were rounded up in a line. They were being stabbed by bayonets and shoved away off the wall. A number of Japanese soldiers polished their bayonets, shouted to themselves once [to raise their morale], and thrust their bayonets in the chest or back of the POWs.

I saw about ten stragglers bound by wire to a big tree…. One of them [Japanese soldiers] stood up in front of them [Chinese captives], shouted, “You killed our buddies!” and raised the pickax, then swung it down to the head of a powerless prisoner of war.” [45]

Matsumoto Shigeharu, the Shanghai bureau chief of Domei News Agency, interviewed his ex-colleagues, Arai Masayoshi, Maeda Yuji and Fukazawa Kanzo, who spent a few days as correspondents in Nanking after the capture of the city. According to his book, all of the interviewees told Matsumoto that they saw a number of charred bodies around Xiaguan area, probably between 2,000 and 3,000 dead bodies, on the 16th and 17th.

"I believe only what I saw," says a former Tokyo Nichi Nichi photographer, Sato Shinju

“I believe only what I saw,” says a former Tokyo Nichi Nichi photographer, Sato Shinju.

Maeda personally saw new recruits executing Chinese POWs with bayonets. After having seen 12 or 13 of them being “stabbed to death,” he retched and left the place. Maeda also heard that the Japanese troops were carrying out extensive mopping-up operations on the 14th and 15th. But he also remembered that the streets were becoming normal around the 20th.

Matsumoto noted that his interviewees all pointed out the difficulty at the time of distinguishing “massacre” and “extension of combat.” His interviewees dismissed the so-called “Great Massacre” of hundreds of thousands of people. Instead, the three journalists gave him an estimate of the civilian death toll at ten or twenty thousand. [46]

A Domei newsreel cameraman, Asai Tatsuzo, stated a similar notion when interviewed for a magazine article, “I thought executing plain-clothes soldiers and stragglers was what the war was all about.” [47]

Sato Shinju, a photographer for Tokyo Nichi Nichi newspaper, saw a mass execution of about 200 Chinese soldiers but also dismisses the “massacre of 200,000 or 300,000 civilians.” “I believe only what I saw,” says Sato in an interview for this documentary. “Surely I witnessed a mass murder once, but I also saw some makeshift food stands and street vendors in the Safety Zone. There might have been some atrocities, but I can’t believe such a high death toll.” [48]

Living Soldiers: What A Japanese Novelist Observed

A Japanese soldier on sentry duty. March 1938.

A Japanese soldier on sentry duty. March 1938.

Probably the most contemporary account of Imperial troops’ atrocities given by a Japanese national at the time was a fictional novel titled Ikiteiru Heitai or Living Soldiers, written in February 1938.

The author, Ishikawa Tatsuzo, later said that he was frustrated by the “conventionally identical news articles” from the China theater and had been wanting to see the war with his own eyes when afforded an opportunity to become a special correspondent for a magazine, Chuo Koron, in December 1937. Ishikawa left Tokyo on the Christmas day and arrived in Nanking on January 5, 1938, three weeks after the city was taken over by the Japanese troops.

During his eight days of field research in Nanking, Ishikawa got acquainted with the soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the 16th Division. Soon Ishikawa came up with a story featuring a fictional platoon whose march toward Nanking was clearly based on the unit.

Unlike many heroic characters appearing in general wartime stories and news articles in Japan, in Ishikawa’s Ikiteiru Heitai [Living Soldiers] the main characters such as Privates Hirao and Kondo, Sergeant Kasahara, and Second Lieutenant Kurata, were absorbed in the reality of war. They engaged in whimsical killings, looting, rape, and arson throughout their march. [49] The following passage is one of those fickle acts his characters often commit in the story:

Hirao grabbed her by the collar and pulled her up, but she didn’t let go of the dead body of her mother until one of the soldiers twisted her arm and pulled the body away. The soldiers hauled the girl outside, her legs dragging on the ground.

Hirao screamed like a madman, raised his bayonet and stabbed the girl in the chest three times. The other soldiers also took their daggers and began stabbing her head, abdomen, and other parts indiscriminately.

She was dead within ten seconds. When she collapsed like a futon [pile of bedclothes] onto the dark ground, the warm smell of fresh blood wafted up to the flushed faces of the excited soldiers.

In the trench Second Lieutenant Kurata was aware of what was going on but did not say a word. When the excited soldiers came back to the trench spitting, Sergeant Kasahara was sitting cross-legged on the bottom of the trench smoking. He muttered with a detectable smile on his lips, “What a waste, indeed!” [50]

Japanese soldiers who quartered in the Pacific Ocean restaurant in Nanking. March 17, 1938.

Japanese soldiers who quartered in the Pacific Ocean restaurant in Nanking. March 17, 1938.

The story was published in Chuo Koron March issue on February 17, 1938. And the very next day, the Ministry of Interior prohibited the sale of the magazine on the grounds that Ishikawa’s story “deliberately slandered the Imperial Army troops in the holy war” and was thus “improper in view of the state of affairs.” In August Ishikawa and his editor were indicted.

“People regard the soldiers at the front as someone like god and think there will be a heaven after they occupy the land,” testified Ishikawa in court. “People think Chinese civilians are cooperating with us to create the land of Perfect Bliss, but war is nothing like that at all. I believed it was of absolute necessity to let people know what war truly means, realize the situation is an emergency and prepare for what we are dealing with.”

In April 1939 Ishikawa was sentenced to four months in confinement suspended for three years. After being obscure for years, Ikiteiru Heitai [Living Soldiers] finally saw the light of day again a few months after Japan lost the Pacific War in 1945. [51]

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[References]

  1. Shinichi Kusamori, “Fukyoka Shashin Ron: Houkoku no Shashin 2 [An Essay on Disapproved Photographs: Journalistic Photos on Japan 2],” in Mainichi Shinbun Hizou Fukyoka Shashin 2 [Stashed Photographs in Mainichi Newspaper: the Disapproved 2], (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun, 1999), 177-178.
  2. Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 15-18.
  3. Masatake Imai, “Nanking Shinai no Tairyo Satsujin [Mass Murders in the City of Nanjing],” in Mokugekisha ga Kataru Showashi 5: Nichi Chu Senso [Showa History Told by Witnesses 5: Sino-Japanese War], 48-58.
  4. Quoted in Honda, 239.
  5. Quoted in Yutaka Yoshida, Tenno no Guntai to Nanking Jiken [The Emperor’s Military and the Nanjing Incident], 117.
  6. Matsumoto, 251-252.
  7. Masaaki Tanaka, Nanking Jiken no Sokatsu: Gyakusatsu Hitei 15 no Ronkyo [The Nanjing Incident Overview: Fifteen Reasons To Deny the Massacre] (Tokyo: Kenkosha, 1987), 232.
  8. Shinju Sato, interview by author, Fujisawa (Kanagawa Prefecture), Japan, 28 February 2000.
  9. Kazutoshi Hando, “Ikiteiru Heitai no Jidai [The Age of ‘Living Soldiers’],” in Tatsuzo Ishikawa, Ikiteiru Heitai [Living Soldiers] (Reprint, Tokyo: Chuko Bunko, 1999), 204; Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 19-21.
  10. Ishikawa, 85-86.
  11. Hando, 201-208.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.

The Safety Zone and American Missionaries

The Safety Zone and American Missionaries

The Nanking Safety Zone

Members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. December 1937.

Members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. December 1937.

In mid-November 1937, as the Japanese air raid on Nanking intensified, many wealthy Chinese and Westerners began leaving the city.

Especially after Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek officially declared that the Nationalist government of China would eventually transfer the capital from Nanking to Chungking and its military headquarters would be shifted to the transitional capital of Hankow on November 20, the scale of evacuation became much larger. [52]

Following the departing Chinese government, most foreigners also decided to leave the city. A small number of Western businessmen and missionaries, however, chose to remain in the future battlefield. They were primarily American missionaries from the Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches. [53]

On November 22, 1937, trusting their privileged status as third-party nationals, those remaining foreigners voluntarily organized a committee called the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone to provide Chinese people with refuge and relief.

They elected a German businessman of Siemens China Corporation, John Rabe, as its chair presumably for not only his character but also his status as a Nazi (Japan and Germany signed the bilateral Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936).

"Nanking Refugee District [authorized by] the International Committee: REFUGEE CAMPS"

“Nanking Refugee District [authorized by] the International Committee: REFUGEE CAMPS”

“The Chinese authorities agreed to the idea of the Zone, though the military were naturally reluctant to move out of the area before the very last minute,” wrote American missionary Miner Searl Bates, a professor of History at the University of Nanking and a member of the International Committee, in April 1938.

“The Japanese authorities never formally recognized the Zone, but did say that they would not attack an area which was not occupied by Chinese troops. On this narrow margin of agreement, the Chinese promise to evacuate the area and the Japanese statement that they would not intentionally attack an unoccupied place, the Safety Zone was finally put through.” [54]

The Nanking Safety Zone was established in the western district of the city. It was composed of a score of refugee camps that occupied an area of about 3.4 square miles (8.6 square kilometers). On December 1, 1937, Mayor Ma Chaochun of Nanking met the International Committee and authorized them to take over the city’s administration once he and his staff were evacuated. [55]

The Japanese government issued the statement mentioned by Bates on Dec. 4 and, indeed, the Army did not subject the Safety Zone to concentrated air bombardment or shelling. Only a few shells landed in the Zone throughout the siege, which wounded some 40 refugees. [56]

Although the Committee’s proposal for a three-day armistice on Dec. 9 never materialized (see Introduction), the remaining Westerners, as well as local Chinese residents, thought the strains of war would be over and their lives would be secure once the Japanese troops took over the city.

However, when Chinese defense finally collapsed and the Japanese troops made their way into the city on Dec. 13, as Bates later noted, their hopes were “doomed to disappointment.”

Struggle against the Atrocities

A pond filled with corpses. "This is a scene typical of many of the ponds inside the city after the occupation of the city by the Japanese," noted Forster.

A pond filled with corpses. “This is a scene typical of many of the ponds inside the city after the occupation of the city by the Japanese,” noted Forster.

“If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it,” wrote the committee chairman Rabe in his diary on that day.

“They [Japanese soldiers] smash open windows and doors and take whatever they like…. I watched with my own eyes as they looted the café of our German baker Herr Kiessling…. Of the perhaps one thousand disarmed soldiers that we had quartered at the Ministry of Justice, between 400 and 500 were driven from it with their hands tied. We assume they were shot since we later heard several salvos of machine-gun fire. These events have left us frozen with horror.” [57]

As the entering Japanese soldiers wreaked havoc, more and more people rushed into the refugee camps inside the Safety Zone, raising its population to an overwhelming 200,000 – 250,000. Day after day the members of the International Committee received reports about wholesale pillage, arson, rape, whimsical murder and mass execution, which kept them completely busy for the next six or seven weeks.

Rabe and American missionary Lewis S. C. Smythe, who was also a professor of Sociology at the University of Nanking and the secretary of the International Committee, recorded atrocities of the Japanese troops and reported to the Japanese embassy repeatedly.

They and other Committee members frequently contacted Consul-General Okazaki Katsuo, Second Secretary (later Acting Consul-General) Fukui Kiyoshi and Attaché Fukuda Tokuyasu to deal with the anarchic situation. [58]

"After having been beaten by a Japanese soldier with an iron bar, this 13-year-old boy was bayoneted in the head," noted Magee.

“After having been beaten by a Japanese soldier with an iron bar, this 13-year-old boy was bayoneted in the head,” noted Magee.

Dr. Robert Wilson and Dr. C. S. Trimmer, medical doctors at the American-administered University Hospital, had to treat numerous patients and go through surgical operations every day without running water and electricity for weeks as a consequence of rape, torture and bayonet practices with Chinese POWs by the Japanese soldiers. Reverend James McCallum kept the hospital running as the administrator of the institution.

Rev. John Magee, the chairman of the International Red Cross Nanking Branch, also took care of the wounded at the hospital and filmed some of them with his 16mm movie camera to visually record the atrocities.

Another missionary, Willhelmina Vautrin, or Minnie Vautrin as called by her colleagues, protected thousands of women from being raped as she oversaw the refugee camp at Ginling Women’s Arts and Science College where she served as the acting president. [59]

As well as protesting to the Japanese embassy on almost daily basis, Bates, Magee and George A. Fitch, the head of the YMCA at Nanking, actively wrote of the chaotic conditions created by the Japanese troops, mimeographed or retyped their stories over and over and sent them to their friends, government officials, and Christian organizations so as to let the world, especially the American public, know what was going on in the terrorized city.

They hoped that the U. S. government would intervene, or at least apply the Neutrality Act of 1937 to the “China Incident,” which would have made it illegal for any American business to sell war materials to Japan.

Refugees in the University of Nanking. March 1938.

Refugees in the University of Nanking. March 1938.

A letter of Bates to the American Consul in January 1938, for instance, explained how the Safety Zone had been “tenaciously maintained” and needed help “amid dishonor by soldiers, murdering, wounding, wholesale raping, resulting in violent terror.” [60]

Fitch succeeded in smuggling the films shot by Magee out of China when he temporarily left the country in January 1938. That year he traveled throughout the United States, giving speeches about what he witnessed in Nanking along with the films that showed haunting images of Chinese victims. [61]

In the United States the Committee on the Far East of the Foreign Missions Conference received scores of letters from those missionaries in Nanking. After weeks of consideration, they decided to release the letters in February 1938 despite the possible adverse effect on the Christian movement in Japan, which led to the eventual publication of their letters in some magazines such as Readers’ Digest in mid-1938. [62]

Some of their vivid accounts of the Nanking Atrocities in the official documents, protests, letters and diaries were also collected in such books as H. J. Timperley’s What War Means (in America it was titled Japanese Terror in China), Hsü Shuhsi’s The War Conduct of the Japanese in 1938, and another work by Hsü, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone, in 1939, which promoted China’s cause in the war to the world.

After the War

Refugees who gathered at the headquarters of the International Committee to receive the first cash relief. February 1938.

Refugees who gathered at the headquarters of the International Committee to receive the first cash relief. February 1938.

In 1946, the year after Japan lost the Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened in Tokyo to try Japan’s Class-A war crime suspects.

Among the members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone who took the witness stand were Robert Wilson, Miner Searle Bates and John Magee. George A. Fitch, Lewis Smythe and James McCallum filed affidavits with their diaries and letters. One of the books by Hsü, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone, was also adduced in court. [63]

Had it not been for those American missionaries, the tribunal and the world would never have known of the cruel nature and inconceivable scale of the Nanking Atrocities as we know today (see also Postwar Judgment).

However, in China during the Korean War (1950-53) those available records of the International Committee members were negatively used in an attempt by the Chinese government to arouse patriotism against the United States. In the propaganda campaign many missionaries were stigmatized as Americans who sacrificed Chinese people’s lives to protect their property, who guided the Imperial Army of Japan into the city and who cooperated with the Japanese troops to round up prisoners of war in the refugee camps.

As its after-effect, even the extensive study on the topic done by the researchers at the University of Nanking in 1962 argued that Westerners assisted the invaders in executing Chinese in Nanking. The research blamed those foreigners for not having any intention to prevent the ongoing atrocities. [64]

Yale Divinity School Library holds many of the personal letters and diaries written by the missionaries.

Yale Divinity School Library holds many of the personal letters and diaries written by the missionaries.

This erroneous perception of the members of the International Committee in China evidently reversed in the 1980s as more historical documents became accessible and more thorough studies came out. Today many of the missionaries’ private diaries and letters that elaborately depicted the scale and character of the Nanking Atrocities are collected at the Yale Divinity School Library.

“Basically, there are two types of people [who often visit the library]. Scholarly researchers who are trying to do serious research and there are other people who are making documentaries of various kinds,” said Martha Smalley, the archivist at the Yale Divinity School Library.

“I think we’ve never had Japanese ultra-nationalists come here and look at these records because it is very clear to anyone, looking at these records, that it [the Nanking Atrocities] occurred. You have several different people giving independent accounts and they were all documenting the same events. There could not possibly be any kind of way that they were making up what they saw….”

“They [the missionaries] were not particularly complimentary about the Chinese Army, either. But they were reacting towards the events that happened to actual people, women and children…. They were not making any kind of political statements at all. In these letters they were talking about the specific events that happened…. Many of them were educational missionaries. They were professors in the university and they were just trying to help the people.” [65]

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[References]

  1. Tokushi Kasahara, Nanking Nanminku no Hyakunichi [One Hundred Days in the Nanking Safety Zone] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995), 60.
  2. Tien-wei Wu, in the preface of American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre 1937-1938, ed. Martha L. Smalley (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Divinity School Library, 1997), ii.
  3. American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre 1937-1938, 11.
  4. Timothy Brook, “Introduction: Documenting the Rape of Nanking,” in Documents on the Rape of Nanking, 3.
  5. Kasahara, Nanking Nanminku no Hyakunichi [One Hundred Days in the Nanking Safety Zone], 72; “Terror in Nanking,” the Times (London); Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 83-84.
  6. Rabe, 67-68.
  7. Most of the official documents were printed in Hsü Shuhsi, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1939). The entire book is reprinted in Documents of the Rape of Nanking.
  8. American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre 1937-1938, 2-10; Kasahara, Nanking Nanminku no Hyakunichi [One Hundred Days in the Nanking Safety Zone], 1-3. See also Wilson’s Diary in Documents of the Rape of Nanking.
  9. Quoted in Paul A. Varg, Missionaries, Chinese, and Diplomats: The American Protestant Missionary Movement in China, 1890-1952 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1958), 260.
  10. American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre 1937-1938, 4.
    Varg, 258-261. See also “The Sack of Nanking,” Readers’ Digest (July 1938): 28-31 and “We Were In Nanking,” Readers’ Digest (October 1938): 41-44.
  11. Arnold C. Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (New York: William Morrow, 1987), 178-180; Brook, 16; Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 33-34; Fujiwara, “‘Tokyo Saiban ni yoru Dechiage’ Setsu koso ga Dechiage [The Theory of ‘Fabrication at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial’ Is the Real Fabrication], in Nanking Daigyakusatsu Hiteiron 13 no Uso [Thirteen lies in the Nanjing Massacre Deniers’ Claims] (Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobo, 1999), 20.
  12. Mark Eykholt, “Aggression, Victimization, and Chinese Historiography of the Nanjing Massacre,” in The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography, ed. Joshua A. Fogel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 24-26.
  13. Martha L. Smalley, interview by author, New Haven, Connecticut, 25 January 2000.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.

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.

What Foreign Journalists Witnessed

What Foreign Journalists Witnessed

Five Western Journalists in the Doomed City

War damage in the southern section of Nanking. Photo taken by an American missionary, Ernest Forster, in March 17, 1938.

War damage in the southern section of Nanking. Photo taken by an American missionary, Ernest Forster, in March 17, 1938.

“Wholesale looting, the violation of women, the murder of civilians, the eviction of Chinese from their homes, mass executions of war prisoners and the impressing of able-bodied men turned Nanking into a city of terror,” wrote Frank Tillman Durdin of the New York Times on December 17, 1937, two days after he escaped from the “reign of terror” aboard the U. S. S. Oahu. [18]

Archibald Steele of the Chicago Daily News called the siege and capture of Nanking “Four Days of Hell” in his dispatch on Dec. 15. [19]

C. Yates McDaniel of the Associated Press jotted down the following sentence in his diary on Dec. 16, which was wired to the United States the following day, “My last remembrance of Nanking: Dead Chinese, dead Chinese, dead Chinese.” [20]

Although there were a number of foreign correspondents in the capital of China before the siege, most of them fled Nanking along with ambassadors and other foreign senior officials by Dec. 11.

To this day, the only foreign journalists known to have stayed in the doomed city during the siege and the first few days of Japanese occupation are the three correspondents mentioned above, L. C. Smith of Reuters, and a Paramount newsreel cameraman, Arthur Menken. Consequently they all witnessed the beginning of the carnage.

“Orgy of Burning”: China’s Scorched-Earth Policy

A village outside Nanking in 1936. Forster noted that the village was destroyed by the Chinese military for strategic reasons in December 1937.

A village outside Nanking in 1936. Forster noted that the village was destroyed by the Chinese military for strategic reasons in December 1937.

“The advance of the Japanese beyond Kuyung was the signal for an orgy of burning by Chinese troops,” described Durdin on China’s military strategy known as the “scorched earth” policy.

The principle behind it was not to leave anything that could be useful to the conquerors. As they beat a retreat from Jurong (Kuyun), about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Nanking, Chinese troops apparently set torches to not only buildings but also “trees, bamboo groves and underbrush.”

Within the distance of 16 miles (26 kilometers) between Tangshan and Nanking, the New York Times reporter saw whole villages burned to ruins, including barracks, mansions in Mausoleum Park, and numerous other buildings. Durdin estimated the loss caused by “Chinese military incendiarism” at $20,000,000 to $30,000,000. [21]

Inside the city wall the Chinese troops continued to set fire to shops and houses. Even the most ornate building in Nanking, the Ministry of Communication, which, according to a correspondent for the Times (London), cost £250,000, was set ablaze.

Though not in Nanking at the time, the Times reporter later interviewed foreign eyewitnesses, who told him that the building was filled with munitions and the explosions caused a “tremendous racket.” [22] McDaniel also recorded the finest edifice in Nanking blowing up and blazing away in his diary on Dec. 12. [23]

City under Projectiles

The U.S. propaganda documentary, the Battle of China, shows how Japanese troops attacked the walled city of Nanking.

The U.S. propaganda documentary, the Battle of China, shows how Japanese troops attacked the walled city of Nanking.

Since the beginning of the siege on Dec. 10, Nanking had been caught in the rain of bombs and shrapnel. “From a point of vantage today I watched shell after shell burst into Nanking’s central and southern districts. They came at the average of four a minute,” wrote Steele on Dec. 11. [24]

The same day, as the battle of Nanking was entering a critical phase, the defense commander, General Tang Sheng-chi, declared via the military headquarters in Hankow that Chinese morale was still high and the situation favored their side. According to the Chicago Daily News on Dec. 11 (no byline), he also insisted that he would defend Nanking “to the bitter end.” [25]

But in reality, heavy artillery was brought up and the constant explosions of projectiles shook the ancient city day and night. McDaniel reported to have seen the Purple Mountain being “sprayed by shrapnel” on Dec. 12, [26] one day before the city fell into the hands of the Japanese troops.

Retreat in Panic

Retreating Chinese troops shed their uniforms, firearms and other supplies. A scene from a Japanese propaganda documentary, Nanking.

Retreating Chinese troops shed their uniforms, firearms and other supplies. A scene from a Japanese propaganda documentary, Nanking.

As it became definite that the Japanese Army would conquer the city in a matter of time, panic swept through the city.

When Nanking’s defense commander, General Tang Sheng-chi, finally ordered his men to retreat at about 5 o’clock in the evening on Dec. 12, it only threw the military into uproar and created confusion since many troops had already been running away toward Xiaguan (Hsiakwan) riverfront, the northern port suburb, and the only way to escape from the city without encountering the enemy. [27]

By late evening the unorganized retreat became a rout. Frank Tillman Durdin of the New York Times and Archibald Steele of the Chicago Daily News saw many of the Chinese troops loot shops for food and other supplies, cast away their arms and shed their uniforms in the street.

Some of them donned civilian clothes, sometimes by robbing civilians of their garments, and others ran away in their underwear. “Streets became covered with guns, grenades, swords, knapsacks, coats, shoes, and helmets,” wrote Durdin. [28]

However, at Yijiang (Ichang) Men (Gate), the northwest gate of the city leading to the riverfront that foreign correspondents called Hsiakwan Gate in their reports, the 36th Division of the Chinese Army, which had formerly been ordered to stop any retreat, confronted those who tried to go through the tiny openings of the gate.

The streets toward the Yijiang Gate became congested with thousands of retreating Chinese soldiers and civilians. Soon panic followed as the crowd fought to squeeze through the only path to the wharf.

Yijiang Men (Gate) after the fall of the city as filmed in the documentary, Nanking.

Yijiang Men (Gate) after the fall of the city as filmed in the documentary, Nanking.

To make matters worse, the Chinese Army fired machine guns at the retreating soldiers. Many were killed in this fashion and others fell and plummeted to death while attempting to scale the walls near the gate with makeshift ropes made of clothing.

Those who made it to the Yangtze riverbank were ordained to face another tragedy. There was little or no transport to get them across the river.

Tens of thousands of people fought over scarce vessels, quite a few dove into the cold water of winter and drowned, and many others frantically reentered the city, taking a risk of encountering the Japanese troops who were about to complete the encirclement at the Yijiang Men (Gate). [29]

Once back inside the city walls many soldiers turned themselves into the Safety Zone, the refuge camps organized by the remaining Westerners, so that they would be treated as noncombatants by the Japanese troops.

It turned out, however, to be a futile effort.

Instead of answering an ardent plea for mercy put forward by John Rabe, the chairman of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, [30] the invaders began systematic mopping-up operations the moment they entered the city.

Relentless Search for Stragglers

On December 13, 1937, the Japanese Army completed the encirclement. They opened the Zhongshan (Chungshan) Gate, the eastern pivot of China’s defense, and made a triumphal entry into the city.

“After the complete collapse of Chinese morale and the blind panic which followed, Nanking experienced a distant sense of release when the Japanese entered, feeling that the behavior of the Japanese could not possibly be worse than that of their own defeated army,” wrote Steele. “They were quickly disillusioned.” [31]

Japanese troops intensively searched for stragglers and plain-clothes soldiers. A scene from the film Nanking.

Japanese troops intensively searched for stragglers and plain-clothes soldiers. A scene from the film Nanking.

The Japanese soldiers did not show any sign of mercy. What the New York Times reporter called “a tremendous sense of relief” soon transformed into an immense fear of death, rape and robbery. As soon as they entered the city, the Japanese troops began an intensive search for stragglers and ex-soldiers.

“The helpless Chinese troops, disarmed for the most part and ready to surrender, were systematically rounded up and executed,” noted Durdin. [32]

They entered into the refugee camps, assembled any able-bodied men for capricious inspections, and marched off the suspects to execution sites. As most historians indicate today, many of the “suspects” probably had no connection with the Chinese Army.

The streets were littered with bodies including some old men who could never have been harmful. Japanese soldiers frequently shot anyone running in sight on the spot and searched house after house in the course of hunting plainclothes soldiers.

Steele saw scores of those “plainclothes suspects” being shot one by one while “their condemned fellows sat stolidly by, awaiting their turn.” [33]

“This afternoon [I] saw some of the soldiers I helped disarm dragged from houses, shot, and kicked into ditches,” read the diary report of C. Yates McDaniel of the Associated Press on Dec. 15. [34]

Looting in the Entire City and Rape All Over

The Japanese soldiers plundered the entire city and looted anything they pleased in Nanking. “Nearly every building was entered by Japanese soldiers, often under the eyes of their officers, and the men took whatever they wanted,” reported Durdin. [35]

“I saw Chinese troops looting shop windows, but later I saw the Japanese troops outdo them in a campaign of pillage which the Japanese carried out not only in the shops but in homes, hospitals and refugee camps,” wrote Steel. [36]

McDaniel saw one soldier collecting some $3,000 by threatening poor civilians in the Safety Zone with a bayonet. [37]

They robbed Chinese houses and shops, ripped off refugees and occasionally broke into the foreign properties. The Times (London) reported that the Japanese soldiers paid a visit to the American-operated University Hospital and “robbed the nurses of their wrist watches, fountain pens, flashlights, ransacked the buildings and property, and took the motor-cars, ripping the American flags off them.” [38]

A woman being carried into the hospital for gunshot wounds inflicted by a Japanese soldier who threatened to rape her. Photo taken by Forster.

A woman being carried into the hospital for gunshot wounds inflicted by a Japanese soldier who threatened to rape her. Photo taken by Forster.

According to the diaries and letters of remaining Westerners, their houses were also sporadically invaded.

Many Chinese women were molested freely and violently. However, because the five foreign journalists fled Nanking within three or four days after the collapse of the city, they could not possibly grasp the extent of rape cases. Compared to the relentless executions and looting by the Japanese troops reported in their articles, rape cases were mentioned rather briefly.

It was the Western members of the Nanking Safety Zone who first revealed the countless rape cases committed by the Imperial Army soldiers to the world.

Many years later, long after the war ended in 1945, a number of Japanese journalists (see Reign of Terror) and former soldiers (see Confessions) also came forward to speak up about what they had seen or what they had done in Nanking.

As urged by Japanese authorities, Durdin, Steele, Smith and Menken were evacuated to Shanghai on Dec. 15th aboard the gunboat Oahu, on which they had telegraphed their first reports on the Nanking Atrocities. [39] McDaniel stayed a day longer and headed for Shanghai on the Japanese destroyer, Tsuga. [40]

Go back to: Table of Contents

[References]

  1. Tillman Durdin, “All Captives Slain,” the New York Times, 18 December 1937.
  2. A. T. Steele, “Nanking Massacre Story: Japanese Troops Kill Thousands,” Chicago Daily News, Red Streak Edition, 15 December 1937.
  3. C. Yates McDaniel, “Nanking Horror Described in Diary of War Reporter,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 18 December 1937.
  4. Durdin, “Japanese Atrocities Marked Fall of Nanking After Chinese Command Fled,” the New York Times, 9 January 1938.
  5. “Terror in Nanking,” the Times (London), 18 Dec. 1937.
  6. McDaniel.
  7. Steele, “Big Guns Rake Nanking, Defense Is Abandoned,” Chicago Daily News, 13 December 1937.
  8. “Retreat Course Changed,” Chicago Daily News, 11 December 1937.
  9. McDaniel.
  10. Kasahara, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 128-133.
  11. Durdin, “All Captives Slain” and “Japanese Atrocities Marked Fall of Nanking After Chinese Command Fled”. See also Steele, “War’s Death Drama Pictured by Reporter,” Chicago Daily News, 17 December 1937.
  12. Kasahara, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 128-133.
  13. A series of the official documents written by the members of the International Committee to the Japanese authority were collected in Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone, ed. Hsü Shushi (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1939). The whole book is reprinted in Documents of the Rape of Nanking, ed. Timothy Brook (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999).
  14. Steele, “Nanking Massacre Story.”
  15. Durdin, “Japanese Atrocities Marked Fall of Nanking After Chinese Command Fled.”
  16. Steele, “War’s Death Drama Pictured by Reporter.”
  17. McDaniel.
  18. Durdin, “All Captives Slain.”
  19. Steele, “War’s Death Drama Pictured by Reporter.”
  20. McDaniel.
  21. “Terror in Nanking,” the Times (London).
  22. Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Massacre], 2-3.
  23. McDaniel.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved.