THE NANKING MASSACRE: Fact Versus Fiction
By HIGASHINAKANO Shudo
CHAPTER 1: THE ROAD TO THE CAPTURE OF NANKING
The 1930’s: A Divided China
In the 1930’s, China was fraught with internecine strife, with the exception of Manchuria. Consequently, foreign nations with Chinese concessions stationed troops in North China to protect their citizens. Chiang Kai-shek controlled less than half the mainland at that time, a fact that, apparently, has escaped even some specialists. For instance, Utsunomiya University Professor Kasahara Tokushi, an East Asian history scholar, has asserted that Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government had unified all of China by 1931.1 Accordingly, we believe that it would be useful to provide an overview of the political situation in China in the 1930’s.
The Atlas of World History published by Ringensha includes a map entitled “China Under Nationalist Rule: 1928 -1937.”2 According to that map, only four provinces (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Jiangxi) were controlled by Chiang and his Nationalist Party in 1928. In 1929, Hubei Province fell into Nationalist hands, followed by Henan in 1930, and Fujian in 1934. By 1937, the Nationalists also controlled Guizhou and Guangdong provinces. Between 1935 and 1937, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces, more than half of Gansu Province, and nearly half of Shaanxi Province entered the Nationalist sphere. However, Shandong Province was controlled by Han Fuju until 1938. Shanxi was ruled by Yan Xishan, Xinjiang by Soviet sympathizer Sheng Shicai, and Hunan by He Jian. According to Hallett Abend’s Tortured China,3 Manchuria, the homeland of the Nuzhen (Manchurian) people, was unaffected by the turmoil that plagued China.
Conversely, Mao Zedong had been defeated by Nationalist forces and, in October 1936, finally succeeded in establishing a base at Yan’an, in northern Shaanxi Province. The Communist Party was unable to regroup until after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Thus, China was clearly a divided nation in the mid-1930’s.
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident
In 1937, foreign troops from Japan, the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy were stationed in North China to protect the citizens of their respective nations. Their authority to be present there was based on an agreement concluded between foreign powers and Li Hongzhang in 1901, subsequent to the Boxer Rebellion (1900). The agreement, the Final Protocol Relating to the North China Incident, afforded nations affected by the rebellion the right to station troops at 12 locations between Beijing and Shanhaiguan, a town on the coast of the Bo Hai.4 Foreign troops were permitted to hold maneuvers, without reporting where and when they were to be held, as long as they did not use live ammunition.5
That is how Japanese troops came to be stationed at Marco Polo (Lugou) Bridge, situated 12 kilometers west of Peiping (Beijing), as well as in other areas. On July 7, 1937, they were engaging in final maneuvers on the left bank of the Yongding River, which is spanned by the Marco Polo Bridge, in preparation for a company training inspection to be held two days later.6 The soldiers were using blanks. At 10:40 p.m., they were attacked without warning by Chinese troops, who were using live ammunition.7
It was difficult for the Japanese soldiers to gain access to their ammunition because it was stored, as usual, in heavy cardboard boxes securely bound with yards of cotton string. To make matters worse, they were not wearing helmets. Nevertheless, the Chinese continued to fire on them. The fourth attack occurred on the following day at
5:30 a.m., when the sun had risen and visibility was good. Seven hours had elapsed since the first shots were fired.
Not until then did the Japanese retaliate by firing against the 29th Chinese Army. The battle between Japanese and Chinese troops, or the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, took place not on July 7, as has so often been reported, but on July 8.
Jin Zhenzhong, commander of the garrison guarding the Marco Polo Bridge, wrote his recollections of the incident in The July 7th Incident, compiled by the Historical Accounts Committee of the National Political Consultative Conference, People’s Republic of China (1986). Jin claims to have heard the “thundering of tanks” and “loud gunfire” on July 7.8 However, the Japanese artillery unit did not arrive on the scene until 3:20 a.m. on July 8. Additional reinforcements, a tank unit, did not appear until about July 10.9
Jin also describes the night of July 7 as rainy and pitch-dark,10 but the skies were clear that night, according to Japanese military records.
Further substantiation is provided by The Peiping News, a copy of which was located by Nihon University professor Hata Ikuhiko. The newspaper reports that the weather was clear on the 7th, and cloudy on the 8th.11
Jin writes that Japanese troops “fabricated a story about a missing soldier” in order to gain entry into the walled city of Wanping (approximately 1 kilometer due south of the site where final maneuvers were held). However, the missing soldier, Private 2nd Class Shimura, returned to his unit at about 11:00 p.m. on July 7 (20 minutes after the first Chinese attack).
Furthermore, the Japanese apprised Wang Lingzhai, the mayor of Wanping, of Shimura’s return at 2:00 a.m. on July 8.12
Therefore, Jin Zhenzhong’s allegation that Japanese troops demanded admittance to the town of Wanping “at about 8:00 a.m. on July 8” under the pretext that one of their soldiers was missing was clearly of his own invention, as Professor Hata and Dokkyo University professor Nakamura Akira have indicated.13 Since it is obvious that Japanese troops were engaging in lawful maneuvers on July 7, Jin may have been attempting to place the blame for the incident on the Japanese.
The Japanese military had no intention of engaging in hostilities with Chinese troops. As defense attorney Lazarus indicated in his opening statement at the Tokyo Trials (International Military Tribunal for the Far East),14 Lieutenant-General Tashiro, commander-in-chief of the North China Garrison, was gravely ill at the time. In fact, he died shortly after the incident occurred, so obviously was in no position to issue orders from his sickbed.
Then, who fired the first shots at Marco Polo Bridge? Professor Hata believes that the soldiers of the 29th Chinese Army did, but accidentally. Professor Nakamura concurs that the 29th Army was responsible, but concludes that even if the first shots were fired by accident, the subsequent, intentional escalation was perpetrated by communist elements within the 29th Army.15
On two occasions, the Japanese resolved to send out a punitive expedition, but withdrew the orders both times. The Nationalist government, however, instigated the Langfang (July 25) and Guanganmen (July 26) incidents, violating the armistice. On July 28, the Japanese abandoned the non-aggressive stance they had maintained during the three weeks following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, and went to battle. A renewed, massive Japanese offensive resulted in Chinese troops’ abandoning Beijing and Tianjin and fleeing south. On July 29, the Japanese completed their sweep of Beijing and Tianjin.
However, reports of the events that had transpired distorted the facts. The Nationalist-controlled Nanking Broadcasting Company emitted a spurious bulletin, i.e., that Chiang Kai-shek had routed Japanese troops at Marco Polo Bridge, and then resolved to overthrow the autonomous, anti-communist Yidong government headed by pro-Japanese Yin Rugeng of Tongzhou. The soldiers of Tongzhou believed this fabrication. Then, either because they deemed it prudent to change sides in the face of a Nationalist attack, or because they harbored resentment against the Japanese, they brutally massacred Japanese settlers in that city, located 25 kilometers east of Beijing.16
The Tongzhou Massacre
According to an official statement, issued on August 2, and an oral report (presented on August 4 by the director of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Overseas Information Division, and recorded in Volume 3 of Defense Exhibits Rejected by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East), the incident erupted at 4:00 a.m. on July 29, 1937. Some 3,000 soldiers from the Tongzhou Peace Preservation Corps surrounded the Japanese garrison’s barracks, where approximately 110 soldiers were stationed, and proceeded to raid Japanese shops, inns, and private homes. Approximately 200 of the 380 Japanese residents of Tongzhou were slaughtered. The 120 who survived did so only because they fled to the barracks, seeking refuge, before they were surrounded.17
The Overseas Information Division director’s oral report follows.
The Chinese had intended to massacre every single Japanese resident, including women and children. Most of the women were abducted. After being tortured for 24 hours, they were dragged through the streets (some by the ropes with which their hands and feet had been bound, others by wires that had been forced through their noses or throats), and killed outside the East Gate. The corpses were dumped into a nearby pond. Some of the bodies had been coated with a virulent poison, which corroded the skin on their faces, rendering them unrecognizable.18
These acts were flagrant violations of international law relating to the conduct of war (hereafter referred to as “international law”). Four days after the incident, the aforementioned director officially condemned the Chinese troops for the abduction, rape, and slaughter of Japanese citizens. Defense attorneys submitted his statement to the Tokyo Trials, but it was rejected by William Webb, the presiding justice, without explanation. The Allies were unwilling to allow any mention of the Tongzhou Massacre in the courtroom.19
The rejection notwithstanding, on April 25, 1947, 10 years after the massacre, defense attorney Levine called Kayashima Takashi (a former lieutenant-general in the Japanese Army) to the witness stand.
According to Volume 5 of Reports of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Kayashima was concurrently commander of the Tianjin Infantry and the 2nd Infantry Regiment (also stationed in China). His unit was among those that rushed to Tongzhou to rescue the Japanese settlers. He arrived on the scene at 4:00 p.m. on July 30, the day after the massacre.
The scene inside the town was ghastly. Brutally murdered bodies of Japanese settlers were lying everywhere. Most of them had ropes tied around their necks. I had to force myself to look at the mutilated corpses of women and innocent children.
I no longer have the report I wrote at the time. I have relied on my memories for this statement. But I assure you that what I witnessed was so horrifying that I will never be able to forget it.
I went to a restaurant (I think it was called Asahiken) to investigate. There were seven or eight women there, ranging in age from 17 or 18 to 40. They had all been raped, and then shot to death as they lay naked on the floor. Four or five of them had been stabbed in the genitals with bayonets. … The living quarters had been ransacked, and all the furniture, bedding, and clothing stolen. The situation was virtually the same at the homes of the other Japanese victims.
The scene at the Kinsuiro Inn was gruesome. Since many of the Japanese had gathered there, sensing danger, there had been mass carnage. … The owner of Kinsuiro and the maids had been tied together, raped, and decapitated.20 [Italics supplied.]
When Lieutenant-General Kayashima’s testimony had ended, former Army Major Katsura Shizuo took the witness stand. Katsura was deputy commander of the 2nd Regiment’s infantry gun detachment, sent to Tongzhou as reinforcements. His detachment arrived there at 2:30 a.m. on July 31. His horrific eyewitness account of the tragedy follows.
When I walked through the gate to the Kinsuiro Inn, I was shocked at its transformation. It was in ruins. I was nauseated by the stench of the corpses. … I went into the combination service area and office. There I found a man and two women dead, lying on their sides or face down. I don’t know if the women had been raped, but it was clear that the victims had tried to fight off their attackers. The man’s eyes had been gouged out, and his torso was riddled with bullets.
I went to a cafe that I had visited a year before the tragedy. When I opened the door, nothing seemed to have been disturbed. At first I thought that the cafe had been spared, but when I investigated further, I saw the body of a naked woman in one of the booths. She had been strangled with a rope. Behind the cafe was a house where a Japanese family lived. There I saw a mother and child who had been slaughtered. The child’s fingers had been hacked off.
There was a Japanese-owned store near the South Gate. The body of a man, probably the owner, who had been dragged outside and killed, had been dumped on the road. His body had been cut open, exposing his ribs and his intestines, which had spilled out onto the ground.21 [Italics supplied.]
The last witness Levine called to the stand was Sakurai Fumio, a former Army major. The platoon Sakurai headed, attached to the 2nd Regiment, was also part of the reinforcements that entered the town on July 30. He had ample opportunity to observe the devastation that had been wrought.
When we passed through the East Gate of the garrison, the first thing we saw was the mutilated bodies of Japanese settlers of both sexes, lying on the ground just about every few yards. Every one of us was overcome with grief and anger. Since we detected no signs of the enemy, we concentrated on rescuing the survivors, until midnight. We went to every home, calling out repeatedly, “Are there any Japanese here?” During the course of our inspection, the survivors began to crawl out from their hiding places . from trash and garbage containers, from inside the moat, from behind walls. Among them were children whose noses had been pierced with wire, just like cattle. There were old women, now one-armed, the other arm having been chopped off. And there were pregnant women whose bellies had been stabbed with bayonets.
Inside a restaurant, a whole family had been slaughtered. The enemy had cut off their arms. Every woman over 14 or 15 had been raped. It was a pitiful sight.
When I entered another restaurant, Asahiken, I saw the corpses of seven or eight women lying on the floor, naked. They had been raped before they were killed. A broom protruded from the genitals of one of them, where it had been shoved. The mouth of another had been stuffed with dirt. The belly of yet another had been sliced open, vertically. It was truly a dreadful sight.
There was a pond near a Korean-owned shop, at the East Gate. In it I saw the corpses of a family of six. Their necks and hands had been bound with rope, and then pierced with No. 8 wire. They had then been tied together with the same wire, and obviously dragged for a distance before they died. The water in the pond was red from all the blood.22 [Italics supplied.]
The Japanese settlers were cruelly and brutally murdered. But the methods by which they were slaughtered have been used by the Chinese since ancient times.
Sima Qian (Ssu-ma Ch’ien) (c. 145 BC – c. 86 BC), in Chapter 1 of the “Book of Customs and Manners” of Shiji (Historical Records), writes that “Emperor Zhou (the last emperor of the Shang Dynasty) cut open Bi Gan’s chest. The emperor captured Ji Zi and, creating a new method of execution, burned him to death. Emperor Zhou also killed innocent people.”23
Similarly, in Chapter 9 of the “Book of Lu Hou”, he writes that “the Empress Dowager cut off Madame Qi’s arms and legs, put out her eyes, burned off her ears, forced her to drink a potion that made her deaf, caged her in a tiny room, and named her the ‘Human Pig.’”24
Apparently Lu Hou had married Emperor Gao Zu, the founder of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. -220 A.D.) when he was still a peasant known as Liu Bang. She was an extremely strong-willed woman. After Liu Bang’s death, Lu Hou declared her son Xiao Hui emperor, and became the empress dowager. When she transformed Madame Qi, whom the late Emperor had adored, into the “Human Pig,” even Xiao Hui was astonished, and agonized over her cruelty.
In Chapter 6 of “Book of the First Emperor,” Sima Qian writes that Emperor Zheng killed disobedient subordinates, and mutilated their corpses.25
Sima Guang’s Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government, as distinguished a chronicle as Historical Records, states that in 279, Wu King Sun Quan stripped the skin from his victims’ faces, and gouged out their eyes. The corpse of Hou Jing, the mastermind of the Hou Jing Rebellion, was disinterred and eaten by soldiers and civilians, who fought over it.26
According to Hallett Abend’s Tortured China, in the 1920’s, the flesh of law-abiding Chinese citizens was pierced with wire, which was then used to tie them together. Entire families were slaughtered, and the corpses of women whose arms and legs had been chopped off lay at the roadsides.27
In Journal of a Career Officer, Lieutenant-General Sasaki Toichi describes a uniquely Chinese means of intimidation, namely, gouging out the victim’s eyes, which Sasaki had the misfortune to experience personally.28 Agnes Smedley also mentions an instance in which that barbaric act was perpetrated in The Great Road.29 The Journal of Tanaka Seigen tells the story of Luo Yinong, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. Luo was captured by Chiang Kai-shek’s soldiers, subjected to torture, during which both his eyes were gouged out, and later executed.30
Edgar Snow describes, in Red Star Over China, having encountered the bodies of some men killed by Chinese soldiers: “Their skin had been stripped from them, their eyes gouged out, and their ears and noses cut off.”31 Smedley also mentions having seen a victim’s severed head on display.32
Savage acts of this sort were committed frequently, even during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. In China Wakes, coauthored by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, there is an account of an incident arising from the confiscation of communiques issued by dissident Zheng Yi. The principals of a number of middle schools, deemed anti-revolutionary elements, were brutally murdered.
Afterwards, their flesh was fried and eaten. Human bodies were hung on meat hooks in government-operated restaurants.33
During the Tongzhou Massacre, Chinese soldiers pierced the noses of their enemies with wire, just as one would do to an ox. They pierced their hands with wire, and tied their bodies together. They slit their victims’ bellies vertically, exposing their intestines. They cut out their eyes. One can find accounts of combat techniques like these in Chinese records, since they have been used throughout history, from ancient times to the present.
The Tongzhou Massacre on July 29 was followed by a rash of similar incidents in which Japanese soldiers stationed in Tanggu and Tianjin were ambushed. As defense attorney Lazarus mentioned in his opening statement at the Tokyo Trials, every action taken by Japanese military personnel was defensive.34 The Japanese made a concerted effort to settle these incidents locally. But the Chinese persisted, and the incidents escalated, from Marco Polo Bridge, through Tongzhou, to Tianjin.
The Shanghai Incident
A peace conference at which these incidents were to be addressed was scheduled to be held in Shanghai on August 9. However, on that day, in Shanghai, Navy Sublieutenant Oyama Isao (posthumously promoted to lieutenant) and 1st Class Seaman Saito Yozo were murdered by Chinese Peace Preservation Corps soldiers. Needless to say, the negotiations never took place. In fact, the Chinese may very well have orchestrated the incident to avoid holding the conference.
For instance, in Travels in China, a translation of which appeared in the September 1938 issue of China, published by Toa Dobunkai, the author, Claude Farrere, writes that Oyama was lured into a cleverly set trap, and mowed down by Chinese soldiers wielding machine guns.35
The Japanese soldiers maintained a surprising degree of calmness. They followed the example set by the Roman police force . the best in the world. Not one of the Japanese laid a hand on either the automobile or the bodies. They summoned the Chinese mayor of Shanghai, and the British, French, and American police authorities, who arrived promptly.
The authorities began their investigation. A Chinese soldier had been killed, and his body was lying on the road about 100 paces away. The unanimous conclusion reached after the on-site inspection was as follows.
The unfortunate Chinese soldier had been shot in the back with an automatic pistol by one of his comrades. His body was then dragged to a location where it would create the impression that there had been a confrontation, setting the stage for the assassination of the Japanese.36
The Chinese soldier was shot not by Sublieutenant Oyama, but by another Chinese soldier, in the back. Every one of the investigators arrived at this conclusion . there were no objections. Farrere’s account is consistent with Japanese records of the incident. The investigation discredited the Chinese claim that Oyama was shot in self-defense, after he had shot a Chinese soldier.
The Current Situation in China, published in 1938 by the Toa Dobunkai, carried a report of the results of an investigation conducted by a Japanese naval landing party. Apparently Oyama sustained fatal wounds from bullets that entered the back of his head, and died instantly. After his death, the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps inflicted further injuries: “His head was split in two, half of his face had been obliterated, and his intestines were protruding.37 There was a hole in his heart the size of a fist.” Oyama had been the victim of an assassination.
Edouard Helsey, the China correspondent for a Paris newspaper, wrote an article entitled Witness to The Second Sino-Japanese War, which appeared in translation in the August 1, 1938 issue of International News Pamphlet.
An unfortunate incident occurred on August 9, in which a Japanese naval officer was murdered by Chinese sentinels from the Rainbow (Hong) Bridge Airfield. Perhaps the Japanese officer should have been more cautious, but there is no denying that this was a Chinese plot. It is clear that the Nanking government had decided to go to battle in Shanghai at least 15 days prior to this incident.
Their plan was not simply to split the Japanese forces in South China, but also to entice them into the Neutral Zone, which act would certainly cause international problems. It was a malicious trick, this engineering of incident upon incident, the misinterpretation of which would sway public opinion in the West.
Chiang Kai-shek himself concurred that that was his intention, and he seemed rather pleased with himself. When I met with him at the end of October (1937) in Nanking, I asked him the following question.
“That was a clever ploy, since Shanghai is a thorn in Japan’s side. Until it is extracted, the Japanese will be paralyzed, will they not?”
Chiang replied, through an interpreter: “You are right. I believe it was successful.” At that time, the Japanese government and military authorities were attempting to avoid a war. They viewed an attack on Shanghai as a real danger.38
One of the aims of the Chinese in perpetrating the Shanghai attack was, as Helsey indicates, to convince the rest of the world that Japan and China were at war by initiating hostilities in Shanghai.
Shanghai, with the French Settlement and the International Settlement at its center, was the perfect arena. If war should break out between China and Japan, the Western world would certainly hear about it. Residents of the foreign concessions and news correspondents would be able to view the battle from an ideal vantage point. That was part of Chiang’s plan.
Chiang’s German Military Advisors
One of the reasons behind Chiang Kai-shek’s decision to launch an attack in Shanghai lay in improved military preparedness in that city. Five years earlier, in 1932, Chiang had recruited a 60-member military advisory team headed by General Hans von Seeckt, who had been the guiding force in the remodeling of the German army, to Nanking. The Germans advised Chiang to construct a network of pillboxes throughout the unarmed sector of Shanghai. Chiang heeded their advice.39
On July 12, Chiang Kai-shek issued extensive mobilization orders. He ordered his Central Army, consisting of 10 divisions, to Shanghai. On August 11, approximately 12,000 regulars masquerading as Peace Preservation Corps personnel were dispatched to what had been designated as a demilitarized zone in a truce between Japan and China in 1932. Since the truce specified that no armaments would be permitted in Shanghai, Chiang’s orders constituted a grave violation.
Upon the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, approximately 22,000 Japanese residing on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River were evacuated to Shanghai. On August 11, Japan dispatched a naval landing party of 4,000 to Shanghai, to protect the lives and property of Japanese citizens. But by then, the Chinese force, shielded by pillboxes and creeks, had already swelled to 150,000. Therefore, the Japanese government decided to send two more divisions from Japan to Shanghai on August 13.40
On the night of August 14, five days after Sublieutenant Oyama was assassinated, as hostilities and tension heightened, Chinese Air Force planes bombed Shanghai. Several aircraft flew toward Shanghai at 10:00 a.m., and dropped bombs on the Japanese Consulate, Naval Landing Force Headquarters, Japanese warships, and on the streets of Shanghai. At about 4:00 p.m., a dozen aircraft bombed the moored warship Izumo, the French Settlement, and the International Settlement.41
An entry in The China Year Book 1938 reads “Chinese planes drop bombs in International Settlement.” Those bombs killed 1,741 persons and wounded 1,868. Most of the victims were Chinese. The Chinese Air Force had intentionally dropped bombs on its own people, setting a world record, however disgraceful.42
On the night of August 14, Japanese naval aircraft bombed airfields all over China. On August 15, Chiang Kai-shek established his GHQ, and issued nationwide mobilization orders. He divided China into four battle sectors, and installed himself as commander-in-chief of the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Force. It was on that day that full-scale hostilities between Japan and China commenced.
The following account appears in a middle-school history textbook published by Kyoiku Shuppan: “Japan was attempting to make inroads into North China. In July 1937, there was an encounter between Japanese and Chinese soldiers in the outskirts of Beijing, initiated by the Japanese. … The Second Sino-Japanese War had begun.”43 This account notwithstanding, that encounter was not initiated by the Japanese, nor did they have any aggressive intentions.
Hallett Abend, who was in Shanghai at the time, dispatched a report to The New York Times, in which he wrote that the Japanese, wishing to avoid at all costs a recurrence of the Shanghai Incident,
had been exceedingly forbearing. They had made every effort to prevent the situation from worsening, but were coerced into war by the Chinese, who were determined to involve the foreign concessions in China in the turmoil.44
The account in the aforementioned textbook is refuted by Abend’s statement that Japan was coerced into war in Shanghai by Chinese who wished to draw foreign interests in China into the conflict. Abend’s analysis is identical to that of correspondent Helsey. It is very likely that Chiang Kai-shek intended to convince European and American residents of Shanghai that Japan and China were at war and, by forcing Japanese troops to enter Shanghai’s neutral zone, attract international attention and, possibly, intervention.
On August 13, Army General Matsui Iwane was dispatched to Shanghai as commander-in-chief of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force, to protect Japanese lives and property from the full-scale warfare that had erupted between China and Japan. The Expeditionary Force began landing . the 3rd Division at Wusong, and the 11th Division at Chuanshazhen.
Chinese forces, already superior in numbers, were further augmented. The buildup occurred at a frenzied pace, with at least one division being added per day. By early September, nearly 40,000 Japanese soldiers had landed, but Chinese troops numbered 190,000 on the front lines alone. The rear echelons had swelled to 270,000 soldiers. By early October, 70,000 Japanese soldiers had landed, but they now faced Chinese forces 700,000 strong.45
Consequently, the 10th Army, commanded by Army Lieutenant-General Yanagawa Heisuke, was mobilized on October 12. It comprised the 18th and 114th divisions from Japan, the 6th Division from North China, and the Kunisaki Detachment of the 5th Division. The 10th Army landed in Hangzhou on November 5. Meanwhile, the 16th Division from North China (part of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force), landed at Baimaojiang on the upper reaches of the Yangtze.
Having landed at Hangzhou Bay, the 10th Army attacked Chinese troops from Shanghai from the rear. The Chinese soldiers immediately panicked and fled. Shanghai finally fell, seven days later, on November 12.
It had taken Japanese forces three months to quell the second Shanghai Incident. According to Volume 1 of Army Operations During the Second Sino-Japanese War, part of the Military History Series, approximately 20,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, and 60,000 wounded.
In the first Shanghai Incident (1932), 3,000 lives were lost. Japanese casualties six years later, in the second incident, were so severe as to defy comparison. This was a tremendous waste of lives, the worst for Japanese soldiers since the Russo-Japanese War.46 The German military advisory staff had advised the Chinese to erect pillboxes in Shanghai, which were the cause of innumerable Japanese casualties. As John Rabe wrote in The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe, it was the German military advisors who trained the Chinese soldiers who fought so fiercely in Shanghai. 47
Order To Attack Nanking Issued
The first Japanese troops mobilized to the Shanghai conflict were the members of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force, followed quickly by the 10th Army. Since a unit that would coordinate the movements of these two armies was needed, the CCAA (Central China Area Army) was established to fulfill that role. General Matsui Iwane, commander-in-chief of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force, was appointed commander-in chief of the CCAA.
Meanwhile, Chinese troops that had retreated from Shanghai were fleeing to the capital, Nanking. On November 22, the Central China Area Army sent a cable to Headquarters of the General Staff in Tokyo, which read, “Nanking must be attacked.” (A reading of General Matsui’s diary, War Journal, and Major-General Kawabe Torashiro Recalls the War with China suggests that some CCAA officers were motivated by the belief that they could defeat Chiang Kai-shek if they captured Nanking. They thought that they would have the upper hand if they acted before the routed Chinese forces had time to regroup.48)
On November 28, six days after the CCAA’s cable was transmitted, the Headquarters of the General Staff decided to attack Nanking. To communicate its decision, Tada Hayao, Subchief of the General Staff, flew to Shanghai from Japan. In War Journal, General Matsui writes, “On December 1, the Subchief of the General Staff arrived, bearing orders to attack Nanking.”49
Tada conveyed the gist of the order: “The commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army shall attack Nanking, the capital of the enemy nation, with the cooperation of the Navy” (Imperial General Headquarters, Army Section, Operation Order No. 8).50
At 7:00 p.m. on December 1, General Matsui issued an order to the CCAA (Central China Area Army Operation Order No. 25).51 The CCAA was to first seize Nanking, “in cooperation with Central China Navy warships.”
The main strength of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force was next to “commence operations on or about December 5, attack eastern Nanking, concentrating its efforts on Danyang and Jurong Road. Some of its units were instructed to “attack the enemy from the rear, from the left bank of the Yangtze River.”
Similarly, the main strength of the 10th Army was to “commence operations on or about December 3,” advancing to Lishui, south of Nanking, and scattering any enemy soldiers they encountered. Part of the army was to advance to Nanking from the rear, from Wuhu. In other words, the two armies had been ordered to make a two-pronged advance. The Shanghai Expeditionary Force had been instructed to take the northern route, and the 10th Army, the southern route.
As soon as the order to attack Nanking was issued, the CCAA’s order of battle was revised. Lieutenant-General Prince Asaka Yasuhiko was appointed commander-in-chief of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force. General Matsui remained commander-in-chief of the CCAA, and Lieutenant-General Yanagawa, commander-in-chief of the 10th Army.
The attack launched by the CCAA was sudden and swift. On December 7, the Army pressed on to an area 20 kilometers away from Nanking. On that same day, the order of battle for the capture of Nanking was issued, since the attack was imminent.52
According to that order, enemy troops were expected to react in one of two ways. If the commander-in-chief of the Nanking Defense Corps or any government officials “remained in Nanking,” the Japanese troops were to “urge them to open the gates and, once that had been done, to enter the city peacefully.” In that case, only designated units would enter Nanking and “sweep the city, dividing it into sectors.”
If the enemy soldiers “should refuse to leave their bases at the city walls,” Japanese troops were to “fire upon the walls and occupy them” and, subsequently, to “assign one infantry regiment from each division to sweep the city.”
Fields of operations for the two armies were then assigned.
Fields of operations for both armies within the city shall be as follows:
Gonghe Gate (Tongji Gate), Gongyuan Road, Zhongzheng Street, Zhongzheng Road, Hanzhong Road.
Expeditionary Force: Zhongshan Gate, Taiping Gate, Heping Gate
10th Army: Gonghe Gate, Zhonghua Gate, Shuixi Gate.
When Japanese troops entered Nanking, regiments were to position themselves at designated fields of operation, and sweep the enemy forces. With assigned fields of operations, Japanese soldiers were less likely to fire at each other in error. Furthermore, it would be easier to pinpoint responsibility for any wanton, unlawful acts, which were strictly forbidden.
The purpose of the invasion was to take the necessary military action to capture Nanking, not to engage in the random slaughter of its residents after the city fell.
What orders were issued to regiments that would not be entering Nanking? According to an order entitled “Action To Be Taken Upon Entering Nanking,”53 presumably issued on December 7, the main force of each division was ordered to “assemble at appropriate locations outside the city,” and was not to enter Nanking without permission. Moreover, a joint memorial service was scheduled for the war dead subsequent to the sweep.
The main purpose of the “Nanking Invasion Outline” was to prevent the commission of unlawful acts, but to further emphasize that purpose, additional orders entitled “Precautions To Be Taken When Attacking and Entering Nanking”54 were issued.
1. The entrance of the Imperial Army into the capital of a foreign nation is an enterprise of great magnitude, one that will go down in history. Since this event is destined to become known to the entire world, all units are instructed to set a standard for the future by comporting themselves honorably, and by refraining, at all costs, from looting, fighting among themselves, and committing unlawful acts. …
Imperial Army personnel shall consult a map, to be provided separately, to ensure that they do not approach foreign concessions or foreign diplomatic missions. They shall also refrain from entering the zone designated, by diplomatic agreement, as neutral [the Safety Zone in Nanking], unless absolutely necessary. Sentries shall be posted to ensure that these
instructions are carried out. Furthermore, Imperial Army personnel are forbidden to enter certain areas outside the city walls, i.e., Zhongshan Tomb, where the remains of Sun Wen (Sun Yatsen) are interred, and the Ming Xiao Tomb, where the founder of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Hong Wu, is buried.
Units entering the city shall be selected with the utmost care by the relevant division commanders. Division commanders shall communicate precautions to be taken, and ensure that they are understood, taking special care to indicate the locations of foreign concessions within the city, so that absolutely no errors are made. Sentries shall be posted, if necessary.
Chief of Staff Nakayama Yasuto of the CCAA prepared maps on which he marked the locations of foreign concessions in red ink. However, at some point, some frontline units did in fact enter Nanking. At the Tokyo Trials, Nakayama testified as follows:
I was told later that they did so in the heat of the moment, in their excitement at having overcome resistance at the city walls. Furthermore, barracks or schools outside the city that might have accommodated the troops had been destroyed or burned by Chinese soldiers or civilians, leaving the Japanese soldiers with no housing. Also, there was a shortage of water outside the city. What water could be found was not potable.55
Frontline units entered the city spontaneously, propelled by their exhilaration at having finally breached the city walls. Even if they had been sent back, there was neither lodging (since all suitable structures had been burned to the ground by Chinese troops) nor water outside the city. It was midwinter, and bitter cold. We know from testimony given by Lieutenant-General Nakazawa Mitsuo, staff officer of the 16th Division, at the Tokyo Trials that “there were no houses that Japanese troops could use for shelter. Most of the units were forced to bivouac.”56
The impulsive entry of frontline soldiers into Nanking suggests that there was a marked disparity between conditions hypothesized when orders were drawn up and the events that actually occurred during the battle.
The penalties for looting or arson were extremely harsh.
Any soldier who engages in looting, or sets a fire, however
inadvertently, shall be severely punished.
The following order is probably the most pertinent one.
2. Soldiers are expected to adhere strictly to the military discipline and moral standards of their units and, respecting and revering the dignity of the Imperial Army, refrain from committing any act against Chinese military personnel or civilians that would sully its honor.
It is important to note that all Japanese military personnel were ordered “to adhere strictly to the military discipline and moral standards of their units” and to refrain from committing any act that would sully the honor of the Imperial Army. We can assume that the authority for military discipline was international law, a detailed treatment of which can be found in Chapter 5, “Points in Dispute (1).”