Rape of Nanking

Published June 10, 2010 by ABadKitten

Awareness is so important.

History will always be one of the most important parts of our culture, of any culture. To study it, to teach it, and to remember it are keys to the foundation of a better future. To have knowledge of the past helps to prevent mistakes and atrocious events from repeating themselves. In order to do that, though, the mistakes of the past must be reflected on and revisited not only by all parties involved, but by those watching from the sidelines as well.

We cannot live in denial, we cannot live in ignorant states of bliss, and we cannot allow those who commit heinous crimes escape responsibility.  In the case of the Nanking Massacre, a horrific genocide committed by the Imperial Japanese military, I can say for a fact that it is not a well-known tragedy. If it were, how then would 73 years have gone by in which Japan still seems able to escape the responsibility for such crime committed on its neighbors for so long?

Not once in my entire school career have I been taught about this genocide. Not in any discussion of World War II was this topic touched. It may have been mentioned, but I seriously, seriously doubt that. Have you ever heard about it? Some of you may have, or so I hope. Though whether you have or not, it’s time for you to grab a bowl of grapes, get your tea ready, and prepare to read. The animosity between Asian countries and Japan stem from this terrible past, something that undermines the stability and peace in the Asian region– and this is a key reason.

Warning: Graphic and disturbing pictures included.

In 1928, the Chinese Nationalist Government had moved its capital from Peking to Nanking, a city which eventually grew to more than 1 million people. These people were mainly refugees who were fleeing from the Japanese armies that had invaded China. After the Japanese had taken control of Shanghai, their began closing in on Nanking on the 11th of November, 1937. By early December, they had it surrounded.

In mid November, a group of foreigners formed an international rescue committee to establish a safety zone meant to protect the refugees. It was located inside the city, twenty camps large, each holding from 200 to 12,000 people.

On December 9th, Nanking was shaken when a massive attack was launched on them by the Japanese Army.  They entered the city via the Zhongshan and Pacific Gates on December 13th, soon to be joined by two fleets of the Japanese Navy.

Before the Japanese even entered the city, a large number of Chinese soldiers had been captured while the rest escaped inside the gates of Nanking, changing into civilian clothes to disguise themselves. Even so, upon entering, the Japanese arrested anyone who was suspected to be a Chinese soldier, sending them outside of the city to be massacred. (They also frequently entered the safety zone to arrest young men 700 at a time, executing them on site.) These people, murdered in tens of thousands at a time, were shot by machine guns in most cases. Those who survived the shots were individually ran through with bayonets. In some cases, the captured had gasoline poured onto them and were then burned alive, where others suffered through poison gas.

Apparently these Japanese soldiers were masters at thinking of new, barbaric, and inhumane ways to torment and murder these people, inside and outside of the city. These methods included shooting, stabbing, cutting open the abdomen, excavating the heart, beheading, drowning, burning, punching the body and eyes with an awl (pointed tool for marking surfaces or punching small holes), castration and punching through the vagina.

On the initial day the Japanese entered the city, more than 100,000 injured Chinese soldiers and refugees filled the streets. . They were mercilessly fired at by the Japanese on day one, and on day two came the tanks and artilleries to continue in the bloody murder. The two major streets of Nanking city were rivers of blood and bodies.

Refugees tried to escape across the Yagntze River where they were trapped with no transportation. Even as many of them tried to swim across the river, they were fired at by Japanese military from the shores and in the river itself. More than 50,000 men, woman and children were murdered during this incident, their bodies covering the entirety of the river the next day.

The Japanese took pleasure in looting and seizing everything they could from the civilians. This included food, clothes, animals, cigarettes, fountain pens, buttons, jewelry, and antiques. They also organized burnings of the buildings, using either gasoline or other combustible chemicals. After the fires were set, they would run and hid in wait for people who came to try to extinguish the fires and watch many of them burn alive. The city of Nanking was burned to ashes.

Had I been taught something like that, it would have stuck. The images that formed in my head while researching this, even without the pictures, were absolutely terrifying. It was the same thing as learning about tragedies like the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide.

Japan eluded responsibility for these horrific war crimes, and one has to wonder why and how? How is it possible for something like this to happen, yet nothing to be done about it? The sad thing about it is…this is not the only horrific part of history that has gone unrecognized. I see raising awareness to this nightmare as a stepping stone to raising awareness for all other atrocities that have happened, are happening, and will happen in the future.

You don’t have to care, but you have to know.

As of right now, these are just about all the pictures I can stand.


45 comments on “Rape of Nanking

  • My AP European History teacher in high school made sure he taught us about the Rape of Nanking even though it wasn’t relevant to the coursework. He also made a point of informing us about the American concentration camps that held Japanese Americans during WWII, something most Americans don’t know about either. Ah, learning history from textbooks…no one every learns even the half of it!

  • @Paul_Partisan – A close (now dead) relative of mine fought the Japanese as a member of a Filipino guerrilla resistance. The Japanese Army turned whole countries into concentration camps. I study Japanese and hope to be a missionary in Japan one day, but many of my older Filipino relatives absolutely hate the Japanese to this day because of what happened in the Philippines.

  • Had this taught in HS, but I also had an AWESOME freshman history prof, so that helped a bit.Actually, i wanted to reference this a few weeks ago and had the thought on mind, but never got to it. Nice work, here.

  • Two years ago in my Honors World History class we learned about this.  We read about it in one of our textbooks.  My teacher even told us stories of how the Japanese would slide the villagers onto poles and let them slide down, ripping their internal organs as they went down.  He also taught a descendant of a survivor of this genocide.  We discussed many genocides in my class.  The Rwandan, the Jewish, and the Nanking genocides were the most touched on.  It’s a shame that so many of you haven’t heard of this since your history class never touched upon it.  Maybe it was because we were taught at an AP level and the regular ed. curriculum did not see the need to teach this–which is ridiculous.

  • Well, what do you mean by Japan has avoided responsibility? They had two cities annihilated, and they had their constitution rewritten by the US forbidding them from having a standing army. If you mean by how it’s not taught and remembered, that’s true, this topic doesn’t get taught. That’s because post WW2, western history considers China to be an enemy, so their suffering is avoided. We don’t learn about the casualties the Soviet Union suffered for the same reason. If you mean the individuals and the war crimes trials afterwards, that’s very true; I believe only two Japanese army leaders were convicted at trial.

  • I’d heard about it on PBS, and I read The Rape of Nanking in my WWII class at SDSU.  Unbelievable.  Simply unbelievable.  Thank you, though; it never hurts to be reminded that people are shit.

  • @schmidy182 – That’s a possibility. I only took one honors history course in high school, my freshman year. World Civilizations. We didn’t cover genocides in that particular class :[@Megan@revelife – Yeah, the Tokyo Trials. There were twenty-eight men prosecuted in these trials for the crimes in Nanking, and twenty-five were found guilty. Two of them apparently died during the Trials while the other one had a mental break down and was released, free, from a psychiatric hospital later on. Seven men were hung, sixteen received a sentence of life imprisonment, and two of them basically got slaps on the wrist. Regardless, all of these people (aside from the men who were hung, obviously) were released on parole eight years after wards.Wow that was long…anyways. What I meant when I said Japan has avoided responsibility is that, after the trials, Japanese civilians developed a sense of denial of the war crimes in Nanking. There were a lot of civilians that didn’t even know it was going on because of the incredible control the government had over the media. Not that it’s a surprise, but they mostly were told about the “war heroes” and “victories” and so on a so forth. Actually, there were facts about what occurred in Nanking released to the public where the government did not outwardly deny the massacre, though there was never an official public acceptance of responsibility or apology or anything of the sort. Personally, I think compensation is in order. At the least. :[

  • @Pandiie_Bear – I actually didn’t mean to hit submit just yet…I’m not finished yet!To add on to what I was saying… from the 1970’s to 1990, Japan began lying about what had happened. There were even attempts by the Japan Ministry of Education to rewrite history books, if you can believe it. Japanese citizens were led to believe that everything told about the massacre was a huge exaggeration. THEN in 1990, where the government had never previously denied what happened in Nanking, there was an official denial by the Japanese. However, in 1995, the Japanese prime minister finally gave an apology. There is still of lot of disbelief floating around.There will probably always be people who say things like this didn’t happen, unfortunately. It’s like, for example, the Jewish Holocaust. I’ve met a man who outwardly denied it happened, believe it or not. The difference between these two particular events, though, is that there really is not that much awareness of the Nanking Massacre. Japan has made some efforts to raise awareness, but the fact that Americans have done more to do so is very disheartening. Aaand…my fingers are falling asleep…

  • Turkey denies the millions of Armenians they slaughtered. The 50 million Stalin killed are overlooked because of Hitler. Chairman Mao tens of millions and he’s still practically worshiped by the Chinese state.Christian missionaries stayed in Nanking and were responsible for saving tens of thousands of lives. They also took many of the photos that were smuggled out.

  • @JJ_Ames – It’s so…I don’t even know how to describe the feeling to have the knowledge that people can sit there and deny such things. The fact that they could even commit or be involved with these things…there’s another basket of feelings that no words seem to able to describe. 

  • What happened to Nanking was horrible.  Though for our schools in America, European History is prevalent – which makes sense since we are a Western culture, our roots are from Europe etc… etc… A lot of Asian, African history remains unexplored by U.S. students; it would add a lot to the curriculum.  I would support a revamping of our school system! πŸ™‚

  • The only time I had heard about the Rape of Nanking in school was when were allowed to choose our own topics for research in World History and I did my presentation on it.So much to learn outside of school.

  • been to the museum (in nj). frankly no one cares anymore. hoards of chinese tourists were just smoking and chilling, although a deep set disdain for the japanese still exists amongst the older folks. 

  • @milfncookies – There is a vast difference between a concentration camp and an internment camp.  We did not have concentration camps here.  There was no systematic attempt to kill the Japanese here.  We did intern the Japanese (and for the record, I believe we were wrong to do so), but to try and equate the camps to concentration camps simply shows your AP History Teacher is either a liar or a fool@AmeliaHart – There were atrocities committed by both sides in the Philippine Insurrection.  Just read a book on the subject.  Sad part of the whole situation is that the Filipinos had pretty much freed the country before the U.S. Army even arrived in country.  About all the Spanish had control of was some of the larger cities.  About the only thing that the USA contributed to the situation was that by smashing the Spanish fleet, they cut off their escape route.The worse part of the whole situation was that the bulk of the US Army was actually State Militias, and the longer they were held in the Philippines, the more they took out their resentment on the Filipinos.  An attack on their patrols often resulted in punitive expeditions attacking villages in the area of the attacks.  The US Commanders were a mixed bag.  Some, like MacArthur (the Father of Douglas), actually tried to minimize the retaliation.  Others took the “the only good Filipino is a dead Filipino” attitude.  The good thing is that the American Press actually reported what was happening and the American public reacted.  Congress legislated a massive expansion of the Regular Army, got the State troops out, and the atrocities were cut.

  • @Simian_Musings – That wouldn’t make my teacher the liar or fool, I’ll take the credit for that one. Isn’t a “concentration camp” where people are, well, concentrated during wartime (no necessarily with genocide in mind)? My mistake for using it interchangeably with “internment camp.”

  • @milfncookies – You wrote “He also made a point of informing us aboutthe American concentration camps that held Japanese Americans duringWWII, something most Americans don’t know about either.”  If that is what he taught you, then the teacher is to blame.   I only say that because I also encountered teachers who seem to do the same thing.  History is a dangerous field today because of all the revisionism that is going on.

  • While the Rape of Nanking was a horrific atrocity, I’m not sure it falls under the definition of genocide.  There was not an attempt to eliminate the Chinese as a people in Nanking.  There were a number of factors which brought about the massacre.1.  The Japanese were racist in their ideology.  Non-Japanese simply were not considered “people” by them.  It was a common practice of the Japanese military to kill captured soldiers or civilians for the slightest cause.  You read this over and over in accounts from the Philippines, Korea, and other areas occupied by the Japanese.  And to be honest, if you study Japanese history at all, you’d find that prior to their being forced to open their society, the military caste was pretty brutal to other, lower caste Japanese. You still encounter this racism in Japanese society today.2.  The Japanese military was a brutal institution.  You read accounts of their basic training, and it regularly includes beating of the recruits by their NCOs.  You then put these soldiers in an environment where the enemy is considered sub-human,  there is an ongoing guerrilla war featuring atrocities on both sides, and the fact that there was fairly heavy fighting going on before the Japanese reached Nanking.  You look throughout history, you find that a sack of a city usually involved these kind of massacres.  Granted, none of them had the “benefit” of the coverage the Rape of Nanking did.3.  And lastly, by the time the Nanking massacres took place, the Japanese Army in China was suffering from a degradation in morale due to the nature of the war.  They were fighting an enemy which no matter how many defeats they suffered, they simply did not go away.  One army was smashed, and another rose up in it’s place.  Japanese unit were not rotated out of the theater, and many of them had been there for years.Bear in mind none of this excuses the actions of the Japanese Army.  But considering these elements, what surprises me is not that the Rape of Nanking happened, but that it did not happen over and over during the course of the war.

  • damn you never learned about this? i want to check if the schools in Japan educate their students about this. i heard that they don’t mention it at all. holy crap there are so many people in this forum that never heard ab out this in class! the hell?it’s such a big deal! how can you not x___x

  • @Simian_Musings -“@milfncookies – You wrote “He also made a point of informing us aboutthe American concentration camps that held Japanese Americans duringWWII, something most Americans don’t know about either.”  If that is what he taught you, then the teacher is to blame.   I only say that because I also encountered teachers who seem to do the same thing.  History is a dangerous field today because of all the revisionism that is going on.”the US did set up camps for the Japanese people in america. they sold their shit and dumped them in there because everyone was all scared of a spy. and then after it was over they payed those Asian Americans a bit for throwing them in there, like an apology. why blame the teacher? 

  • @Simian_Musings – I agree with you…I’m surprised it didn’t happen over and over again. I’ve honestly never studied all that much of Japanese history because, up until rather recently, I was never that interested in it. That lack of interest is slightly disturbing to me because that’s one of they key reasons that so many people don’t know about things like this. And I use the term “genocide” because that term frequently came up during my readings. Perhaps it’s not the best word in this case, but for whatever reason, it seems fitting. :[

  • @Simian_Musings – @MyCongee – That teacher actually wasn’t the one who taught me about said internment camps (and it’s been years since that class, obviously I’m not quoting him verbatim). In elementary school I was involved in a huge school project revolving around the 442nd infantry the took months of extensive interviewing with veterans and their families, all of which had been in these camps. So again, my mistake. On the topic of *bad* teaching, I agree 100%. Everything you learn in a classroom should be taken with a grain or 20 of salt. This particular teacher was probably my favorite of all time, he was adamant about his students really understanding what historical situations were like and pushed that through simulations (the most ridiculous, IMHO, being bringing in rotting cow legs and saws to have us experience amputation in the Civil War, oy).

  • @Simian_Musings – What books are you referring to on the Philippine American War? The news coverage you speak of, perhaps you are confusing the Spanish American War to the Philippine American War?  News outlets in the U.S. were ordered by President McKinley to not report the more inhumane atrocities committed by the U.S. to the Filipino people.  The videos I am linking to below are from a documentary. http://emanila.com/philippines/2009/12/07/spanish-american-war-the-philippines-and-filipino-genocide/Moreover the term, “Philippine Insurrection” implies that the U.S. was an already established power in the Philippines which was not the case.   http://www.yonip.com/main/articles/apology.html

  • The book was “The Philippine War 1899-1902” by Brian McAllister Linn.  Actually, the war has been called the Philippine-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the Philippine War of Independence, depending on the source.The video was interesting, but wildly inaccurate in places.  The command by General Smith to “kill every male over the age of ten,” was not a general order, but one issued to one Marine battalion commander in one district on Samar.  And the other Army commandants, seeing the effects of Smith’s orders on the population in general, actively worked to circumvent them.Other stuff, like Aguinaldo’s claim about Dewey’spromises which Dewey himself denied (sort of a he said/he saidsituation, and Aguinaldo’s hardly above reproach, considering hisfollowers executed his only real rival.  Political infighting whichcost the Filipino rebels a goodly amount of their early success against the Spanish.  Imight add he was so popular with the Filipinos that thousands of themvolunteered to fight at the side of the Spanish against his rebellion in it’s early stages.  Hardly an inspirational figure, unlike Rizal (by the way, Noli Me Tangere and El Fulibusterismo are excellent pictures of what the Spanish rule was like in the Philippines).I’d also have to question the statement in the title of a Filipino “genocide.”  That term hardly applies to the Philippine War and is so overused today that it has lost it’s meaning (kind of like the term “racist.”).  The maximum troop strength of the US Army was 70000 men, of which only 42000 were combatants.  Hardly enough to conduct a genocidal campaign unless the targets are passively going along with it.Was the Philippine War unjust?  Actually, I think it was unnecessary. All we had to do was cut off the Spanish from reinforcement and resupply and eventually they would have been forced to surrender.  Was it brutal.  The final stages were, mainly because it had become a guerrilla war with what amounted to terror attacks by the Filipino forces and the US Army’s decision to institute a policy of counter-terrorism which frankly was often applied in a brutal manner.  But you can just as much apply blame to Aguinaldo’s decision to adopt guerrilla tactics of not wearing uniforms, hiding among civilians, and terror tactics not only against US troops, but also against Filipino “collaborators.”The sad part of the whole thing is that the final brutal stages are considered the norm for how the whole war was waged, which is hardly accurate.  And commanders like Jacob Smith are held up as a typical example of the way all the American officers acted (and he was considered insane by many of the officers he served with, and was eventually courtmartialed  because of his brutality along with Waller, the commander of the Marine battalion) when he was actually atypical of the average officer there.Actually, some of the most interesting accounts I’ve found are in the U.S. Cavalry reviews, which include a number of first hand accounts by troopers and officers who served there.  Those actually hold the Filipinos on both sides in high regard and one of which speaks scathingly of Jacob Smith’s methods because of the brutality of them.

  • @MyCongee – Yes, the US did set up camps.  However, there is a vast difference between an internment camp and a concentration camp.  We did not work the internees to death.  We did not systematically kill them.  When one says “concentration camp,” for most people, the images of the German death camps come to mind, not what the American ones were like.  If the history teacher in question doesn’t know the difference, then maybe he needs another occupation because he’s not qualified to hold the one he is in now.  Worse yet, if he thinks the American and German camps were moral equivalents, he IS either stupid or a liar.

  • OMG! What a horrible lesson to learn in history. I had never heard that before. You are right, atrocities like this continue to happen and will continue for the ages to come. Perhaps the atrocities of this century will be taught as eye openers to classes fifty years from now. The Middle East boiling pot should be able to have a lot of historic data to educate later.

  • @Simian_Musings – Thanks for the book reference – I will have to read that one. The videos never claim that Aguinaldo’s encounter with Dewey was an ironclad promise that was broken. They even note that Aguinaldo was foolish to take his word for it (assuming those words were exchanged.) Accounts I have read concerning the island of Samar (a very small island in the Visayas) confirm that their villages were brutalized. The videos also point out that the violence began out of confusion and then subsequently escalating into incidents like those in Samar. Also the term genocide refers to “cultural” genocide.Was the war unjust? Yes; there was no reason for the US to engage in war against the Philippines who desired independence. Like many wars (conducted by many nations), the US had their own interests ie maintaining a presence in the Pacific which fueled the supposed need for war. Beyond their “benevolence”/ condescending attitude towards the Filipinos there is no reason for justification.

  • @AmeliaHart – Frankly, I blame McKinley at the time, one for not having a policy set, then waffling back and forth (commanders were told to secure Manila one day, then the whole Philippines the next).  At one point of the negociations the Philippines were actually going to be turned back over to the Spanish.  From what I’ve read, the USA finally annexed it over fears if they simply cut it loose, the Japanese and British would go in (both had naval squadrons in the area).  Frankly, having read speeches by McKinley in the period, I think economic and the “White Man’s burden” mindset that was shared by too many the people of the Philippines couldn’t rule themselves.As I said, the final stages of the war were particularly brutal, particularly Samar, where Smith was in command.  Again, a good part of this was due to the fact that it had devolved into a guerrilla war, which are marked by the problems of identifying civilian from foe (we had the same issues in Vietnam until Tet when the Viet Cong was essentially destroyed as a viable force and North Vietnamese Regulars took over).  In this time, with little outside press coverage, atrocities were easily covered up, though Americans at home were getting news as to what was going on, and even Randolph Hearst finally came out against the intervention there.  Even Mark Twain, who wrote that the war with Spain was the “worthiest” ever fought not only opposed the annexation of the Philippines, but wrote extensively on the subject and was prominent leader of the American Anti-Imperialist League (He was president from 1901 until his death).  In particular, his “Incident in the Philippines” is a scathing criticism of our actions during a fight against the Moros in 1906.  Oddly enough, even the Women’s Temperance League opposed the war (although mainly due to the negative moral influence it had upon our soldiers).  The truth of the matter is the conduct of the war actually had a significant amount of coverage, but unfortunately for most people, they simply did not care because it did not impact them.Funny thing about this whole subject is that I’d probably know very little about this war had I not married a Filipino and decided that to understand her, I had to at least understand something of Philippine history.  Before I did my study, I actually believe we’d liberated the Philippines from the Spanish, other than the truth of simply substituted ourselves for another master..

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