The Japanese invasion of China immediately before and during World War II lasted from the early 1930’s to 1945.
During this dark period in modern Asian history, the Japanese war crimes military machine was motivated by an uncontrollable desire for aggression, expansion, and imperialism.
The brutalities and atrocities committed by the Japanese military in China and elsewhere in Asia finally ended with destruction on Japanese soil — the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
The victims of the Japanese war crimes militarists’ aggression included the innocent and peace-loving peoples of China, Korea, the Philippines, other southeast Asian countries, United States, and Japan herself.
In the past forty-five years, China and other countries have allowed the Japanese war crimes to be forgotten. In fact, the only constant reminders of the victims of World War II in Asia were the events commemorating the Japanese who were killed by the atomic bomb dropped by the United States. The young generations, Chinese and Japanese alike, are not kept informed about the consequences of imperialist militarism.
During this time, the Japanese Ministry of Education distorted the facts of World War II in their history textbooks, the government glorified convicted Class A war criminals as national heroes, and high-ranking Japanese officials publicly denied the occurrence of the Nanking Massacre, one of the most infamous atrocities committed by the Japanese armies in China.
This pamphlet is an attempt to raise awareness on an issue — the history behind the bombing of Hiroshima — where proper attention is long overdue. Although this pamphlet is far from an exhaustive research on the subject, we hope to provide the readers with some basic information on a few pertinent topics:
- The Nanking Massacre
- Nanking Massacre — the Japanese Versions
- The Tokyo War Crime Trial
- Chronology of the Japanese Invasion of China o References
The constant reminders of the atrocities of Germany’s Nazi regime are now recognized as a major preventive measure against the revival of Nazism in Germany, and the annual commemoration of the victims of Hiroshima provides a strong basis for the resistance to the dangerous escalation of nuclear weapons.
By preparing this pamphlet, we hope to help initiate a long-term movement to bring attention to the war crimes committed by the Japanese militarists during World War II, and, by doing so, to unite with peace-loving people of all nationalities to prevent the resurgence of militarism anywhere in the world.
Japanese war crimes The Nanking Massacre
In 1928, the Chinese Nationalist Government moved the capital of China from Peking to Nanking. The city normally held about 250,000 people, but by the mid-1930’s its population had swollen to more than 1 million. Many of them were refugees, fleeing from the Japanese armies which had invaded China since 1931.
On November 11, 1937, after securing control of Shanghai, the Japanese army advanced towards Nanking from different directions. In early December, the Japanese troops were already in the proximity of Nanking.
On December 9, after unsuccessfully demanding the defending Chinese troops in Nanking to surrender, the Japanese troops launched a massive attack upon the city. On the 12th, the defending Chinese troops decided to retreat to the other side of Yangtze River. On the 13th of December, the 6th and the 116th Divisions of the Japanese Army first entered the city.
At the same time, the 9th Division entered Guanghua Gate, and the 16th Division entered Zhongshan Gate and the Pacific Gate.
In the afternoon, two Japanese Navy fleets arrived on both sides of the Yangtze River. On the same day, December 13th, 1937, Nanking fell to the Japanese. In the next six weeks, the Japanese committed the infamous Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, during which an estimated 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed, and 20,000 women were raped.
During the Nanking Massacre, the Japanese committed a litany of atrocities against innocent civilians, including mass execution, raping, looting, and burning. It is impossible to keep a detailed account of all of these crimes. However, from the scale and the nature of these crimes as documented by survivors and the diaries of the Japanese militarists, the chilling evidence of this historical tragedy is indisputable.
(I) Japanese war crimes The Tragedy at Yangtze River
On December 13th, a large number of refugees tried to escape from the Japanese by trying to cross the Yangtze River. They were trapped on the east bank because no transportation was available; many of them tried to swim across the river. Meanwhile, the Japanese arrived and fired at the people on the shore and in the river.
A Japanese soldier reported that the next day he saw an uncountable number of dead bodies of adults and children covering the whole river. He estimated that more than 50,000 people were killed in this tragic incident of the Nanking massacre.
(II) Japanese war crimes Annihilation in the City
When the Japanese troops first entered the city on the 13th, the streets were crowded with more than 100,000 refugees or injured Chinese soldiers. The Japanese relentlessly fired at these people. The next morning, tanks and artilleries entered the city and killing of people continued. Dead bodies covered the two major streets of the city. The streets became “streets of blood” as a result of the two-day annihilation.
(III) Japanese war crimes Mass Execution of Captives
A large number of Chinese soldiers had already been captured in the suburban areas before the Japanese entered the city. The rest of the Chinese soldiers scattered inside the city and changed into civilian clothes. After the “City-Entering Ceremony” on the 17th, the Japanese arrested anybody who was suspected to be a Chinese soldier.
A large number of young men who were arrested, together with those who had been captured earlier, were sent outside of the city to be massacred, from several thousand to tens of thousand at a time. In most cases, the captives were shot by machine guns, and those who were still alive were bayoneted individually. In some cases, the Japanese poured gasoline onto the captives and burned them alive. In some cases, poison gas was used.
(IV) Japanese war crimes Scattered Atrocities with Extreme Cruelty
Numerous atrocities occurred within and around the city, and the victims were largely civilians. Japanese soldiers invented and exercised inhumane and barbaric methods of killing. The brutalities included shooting, stabbing, striking the head, cutting open the abdomen, excavating the heart, decapitation (beheading), drowning, burning, punching the body and the eyes with an awl, and even castration or punching through the vagina.
(V) Japanese war crimes Raping
An estimated 20,000 women were raped by the Japanese soldiers during the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre, most were brutally killed afterward. The Japanese soldiers even raped girls less than ten years old, women over seventy years old, pregnant women, and nuns. Rampant raping took place in the streets or at religious worshiping places during the day.
Many women were gang raped. Some Japanese even forced fathers to rape their daughters, sons to rape their mothers, etc. Those who resisted were killed immediately.
(VI) Japanese war crimes Atrocities in the Safety Zone
When the Japanese were approaching Nanking in mid-November, a group of concerned foreigners formed an international rescue committee to establish a safety zone in an attempt to protect the refugees. The safety zone was located inside the city and consisted of more than twenty refugee camps, each of which accommodated from 200 to 12,000 people.
During the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre, the Japanese frequently entered the safety zone to arrest young men. Every time, several hundred young men were arrested and executed on the site.
(VII) Japanese war crimes Looting
The Japanese looted all the storehouses and seized virtually everything from the civilians.
The loot included jewelry, coins, domesticated animals, food, clothes, antiques, and even inexpensive items such as cigarettes, eggs, fountain pens, and buttons.
(VIII) Japanese war crimes Burning and Vandalism
The Japanese organized burning of buildings in the city.
After they had set fire to buildings using either gasoline or some other inflammable chemicals, they hid, waited for and killed people who came to extinguish the fire.
Numerous people were killed by fire. Nanking, once a beautiful historical city, was burned to ashes by the Japanese.
Nanking Massacre — the Japanese Versions
From 1937 to now (1990), the Japanese militarists, the government, and the public dealt with the undeniable atrocities committed by the Japanese troops in Nanking and the rest of Asia in a number of ways. The major waves of Japanese treatment of this dark historical tragedy ranged from total cover-up during the war, confessions and documentation by the Japanese soldiers during the 1950’s and 60’s, denial of the extent of the Nanking Massacre during the 70’s and 80’s, official distortion and rewriting of history during the 80’s, and total denial of the occurrence of the Nanking Massacre by government officials in 1990.
(I) During and Immediately after the Sino-Japanese War
The Japanese Government had a tight control over the news media during the War and the Japanese civilians did not know about the truth of the Nanking Massacre or other crimes committed by the Japanese Military Force. In fact, the Japanese soldiers were always described as heroes. It was not until the postwar Tokyo Trial (tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) that the truth of the Nanking Massacre was first revealed to the Japanese civilians. The atrocities revealed during the Trial shocked the Japanese Society at the time.
(II) Postwar to 1970’s
Prior to 1970, there was no open denial by the Japanese regarding the Nanking Massacre. In fact, there were a number of Japanese books, many were confessions or diaries by Japanese soldiers, which confirmed and gave detailed accounts of the Massacre. Works by the Japanese documenting the Nanking Massacre climaxed with the appearance of Katsuichi Honda’s series of articles, “The Journey to China“, published in Asahi Simbun (Nov. 1971), which were based on interviews with the survivors of the Massacre. However, the Nanking Massacre was never emphasized in the Japanese history textbooks.
During the Tokyo Trial, the Massacre was treated as one unique example of the atrocities committed in Asia, rather than as a separate charge. Few Japanese historians treated the Massacre as a serious research topic.
(III) 1970 to 1990
The denial of the Nanking Massacre started around 1972 when the right-wing political force in Japan began to rise. The Japanese denial of the Nanking Massacre and other brutalities in Asia can be divided into three broad categories:
(a) Complete Denial of the Massacre
By the end of 1971, the wave of confessions by Japanese soldiers and research by journalists exposing the brutal crimes in Asia encountered strong resistance from the right-wing conservatives. The articles by Katsuichi Honda, the “Journey to China”, triggered a new phase of response in the Japanese treatment of the war crimes from the Japanese right-wingers.
The denial movement began with two controversial yet influential articles: (1) an article by a self-claimed Jew named Shichihei Yamamoto, “Reply to Katsuichi Honda” published in Every Gentlemen, March 1972; (2) an article by Akira Suzuki, “The Phantom of The Nanking Massacre“, published in the April issue of the same Journal.
This wave of open and public Japanese denial of their war crimes escalated over the years, as evidenced by Massaki Tanaka’s book “Fabrication of Nanking Massacre” (Nihon Kyobun Sha, 1984) in which not only was the Nanking Massacre denied, but the Chinese Government was charged as responsible for the occurrence of the Sino-Japanese War.
(b) Disputes on the Number of People Killed in the Massacre
Besides total denial, another line of Japanese thoughts insisted that the Nanking Massacre was exaggerated by the Chinese. This view is best elaborated in a book written by Hata Ikuhiko “Nanking Incident” (Chuo Koron Shinsho, 1986) in which it was argued that the number of victims in the Massacre was between 38,000-42,000.
It was also argued that the killing of surrendered or captured soldiers should NOT be considered as “Massacre“. This book is now considered as the official history text on the issue by the Japan Ministry of Education.
(c) Distortion and Rewriting of History
In 1982, the Ministry of Education embarked on a campaign to distort the presentation of the history of World War II. In the process of the revision of history textbooks in Japan, Japanese “aggression” in China was substituted by “advancing” of China during the Sino-Japanese War.
The Nanking Massacre was described as a minor incident which occurred because the Japanese soldiers were too frustrated by the strong resistance from the Chinese Army.
Although the substitution of the word “aggression” was finally stopped because of the strong protest by the surrounding Asian countries and various Japanese educational groups, the rewriting of the Nanking Massacre remained.
Moreover, the Ministry of Education has never admitted that the distortion of history is a mistake.
Japanese historian Saburoo Ienaga leading a protest against the tampering with history textbooks in Japan
(IV) 1990, Denials by Japanese Officials
The Nanking Massacre came into focus again when an interview with Shintaro Ishihara, the most popular contemporary writer in Japan and the most flamboyant member of the Diet, was published in the October issue of Playboy Magazine.
In the interview, Ishihara declared that the Nanking Massacre never occurred, and that “it is a story made up by the Chinese, … it is a lie“.
On November 10th, 1990, during a protest by Chinese Americans against the Japanese actions in Diao-Yu-Tai Island, the Deputy Japanese Consul in Houston maintained that according to Japanese sources, “the Nanking Massacre never occurred.”
*This article was originally published at www.cnd.org