Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Rape of Nanking, Part 2

We continue from Part 1:

From Chapter XII: Raping and Pillaging Committed by the Japanese in the Safety Zone:

One night, with the help of some Chinese traitors, the Japanese soldiers quietly took down the bamboo fence on the south side of the Ginling College hostel allowing several hundred monstrous Japanese officers and soldiers to storm in and kidnap over 100 young women. This immediately aroused the rage of all the other refugees. They appointed a representative to appeal to Dr. Lewis S.C. Smythe, an American member of the International Committee, Dr. M.S. Bates, the Secretary of the International Committee30, and Fei Wusheng, to go and inquire into the whereabouts of the women and negotiate on their behalf. In the end, they asked the Japanese member of the Committee, Yasumura Saburo, to carry out an investigation into the matter. According to Yasumura's report, the soldiers who tied up and kidnapped the women were from the Kuroda Detachment.31 The lives of the women, he said, were not in danger. Several days later, these kidnapped women were subjected to gang rapes committed by Japanese soldiers and officers which went on for several days and nights. After the Japanese were done with the women they trucked them back to the hostel. Some of the young girls who had undergone particularly severe rapings survived for only a few days after being returned. Some women contracted venereal diseases from which they suffered unbearable pain. Others suffered from extreme embarrassment and shame and allowed themselves to wither away to nothingness. Many women were driven to suicide. The women of the refugee hostel again elected a representative to lodge a protest against the Japanese and to secure a promise that this sort of activity would not happen again. They also wanted the International Committee to live up to its promise to protect the refugee women. But the International Committee ignored their pleas and neither protested nor attempted to negotiate with the Japanese.

From this time forward, the Japanese became more daring even to the point of considering the refugee hostels to be their own personal "pleasure palaces." They brazenly drove their trucks straight into the University of Nanking and Ginling College and carried out rapes and looting on the spot. In one incident, Japanese soldiers barged into the International Committee's offices and forced an office worker out of the way so they could commit a rape right there in broad daylight. ("A Foreigner's Eyewitness Account of the Atrocities Committed by the Japanese Army," p.204.32) Frequently, the Japanese would come in groups during the evening, charge into several refugee hostels, and commit gang rapes. While the victims moaned, cursed, and vented their fury, those fortunate ones who were spared were also becoming filled with anger and their bitterness simply could not be contained. The whole campus sank into a state of seething rage. Some of the women were killed as a result of their attempted resistance, but the International Committee was helpless to do anything.

A 2005 BBC article entitled Scarred by history: The Rape of Nanjing gives an overview of what happened:

Between December 1937 and March 1938 one of the worst massacres in modern times took place. Japanese troops captured the Chinese city of Nanjing and embarked on a campaign of murder, rape and looting.

Based on estimates made by historians and charity organisations in the city at the time, between 250,000 and 300,000 people were killed, many of them women and children.

The number of women raped was said by Westerners who were there to be 20,000, and there were widespread accounts of civilians being hacked to death.

Yet many Japanese officials and historians deny there was a massacre on such a scale.

They admit that deaths and rapes did occur, but say they were on a much smaller scale than reported. And in any case, they argue, these things happen in times of war.

The downplay and denial of the nature and extent of the incidents at Nanking in this timeframe continues to be a source of contention between China and Japan today.

Unlike Germany, which acknowledged and accepted responsibility for the horrific crimes committed in World War II, many in Japan continue to make light of the conduct of Japanese military forces in occupied areas. Worse yet, there is a significant militaristic movement in Japan today that echoes the very ideology that brought war to the Far East decades ago.

Continuing with Scarred by history: The Rape of Nanjing:

'One of the great atrocities of modern times'

At the time, the Japanese army did not have a reputation for brutality.

In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, the Japanese commanders had behaved with great courtesy towards their defeated opponents, but this was very different.

Japanese papers reported competitions among junior officers to kill the most Chinese.

One Japanese newspaper correspondent saw lines of Chinese being taken for execution on the banks of the Yangtze River, where he saw piles of burned corpses.

Photographs from the time, now part of an exhibition in the city, show Japanese soldiers standing, smiling, among heaps of dead bodies.

Tillman Durdin of the New York Times reported the early stages of the massacre before being forced to leave.

He later wrote: "I was 29 and it was my first big story for the New York Times. So I drove down to the waterfront in my car. And to get to the gate I had to just climb over masses of bodies accumulated there."

"The car just had to drive over these dead bodies. And the scene on the river front, as I waited for the launch... was of a group of smoking, chattering Japanese officers overseeing the massacring of a battalion of Chinese captured troops."

"They were marching about in groups of about 15, machine-gunning them."

As he departed, he saw 200 men being executed in 10 minutes to the apparent enjoyment of Japanese military spectators.

He concluded that the rape of Nanjing was "one of the great atrocities of modern times".

The atrocities that occurred at Nanking were well-documented. The story got out to a horrified world.

As Japanese aggression continued, the United States, which supplied 80% of Japan's oil, cut off oil exports to Japan. Many in Japan viewed this as paramount to an act of war.

In an effort to seize vital oil supplies and prevent counterattacks against Japan, Japanese forces embarked on a new wave of offensives, which began with simultaneous strikes at the military facilities of the United States and other nations in the Pacific -- including the bombing of the extensive U.S. installations at Pearl Harbor. This attack came without a formal declaration of war, while Japanese diplomats were still leading the U.S. government to believe that Japan sought a negotiated settlement -- even though the operation had been planned long in advance, and even though the ships had been at sea for many days crossing the Pacific Ocean, nearing their targets.

In the months that followed, U.S. and Filipino forces defended the Philippines, but ultimately, many of them had to surrender. The Japanese marched their prisoners of war off to camps under brutal conditions, and the Bataan Death March became another chapter in the annals of Japanese wartime atrocities. Utlimately, so too did the shipment of prisoners of war across the ocean in poorly-ventilated holds of large ships; the prisoners were packed in, and given essentially no food or water for days on end in the tropical heat. Some of the POWs were so thirst-crazed that they considered drinking the blood of other men around them. Upon their arrival, some POWs then underwent horrific Nazi-like medical experiments.

This is the enemy we faced; this is the kind of war we had to end.

Japan is a great nation, with a long and proud history. Indeed, Japan has a great deal to be proud of.

But, the atrocious behavior of its military in these years is a giant blot on Japan's history, and it is a blot that has yet to be fully acknowledged by Japan.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed many innocent civilians. Many died as horrifically as did the Chinese as Nanking; many of those who suffered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were every bit as innocent as the Chinese at Nanking.

But, those bombings ended a terrible, brutal war -- a war which we did not start. Ultimately, they likely prevented Japan's leadership from executing an act of national suicide to prevent the dishonor of defeat, and thus, those bombings may have saved Japan.

We now know how terrible nuclear weapons are; at that time, all we knew was how terrible the war had been, and how criminally and atrociously brutal our enemy was.

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