Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact

This Article

No American witnessed the Nanjing Massacre

By Matsumura Toshio,

Matsumura Toshio, Historian
Society for the Dissemination of History Fact ©
Matsumura Toshio
Many Americans believe that Japanese military personnel slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians immediately after emerging victorious from the Battle of Nanjing on December 13, 1937; they refer to that carnage as the “Nanjing massacre.” Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking is one written work that claims to prove that such atrocities were indeed perpetrated. However, her book has been largely discredited, veering as it does, so far from the facts. Discerning people who wish to consult fair and impartial sources, and then arrive at their own conclusions, are certain to turn to accounts written
by Americans who witnessed such crimes.
Eyewitnesses to Massacre: American Missionaries Bear Witness to Japanese Atrocities in Nanjing would seem to be the ideal resource for truth-seekers to consult. The book, published in 1984 by the New York firm M.E. Sharpe, is based on documents housed at the Yale University Divinity School Library. Those documents include letters written by Christian missionaries and other Americans residing in Nanjing at the time the atrocities are alleged to have occurred, to family members who had left Nanjing for safer locations. Unlike propaganda, which is designed for public consumption, they are private in nature. Since they were addressed to relatives, we can assume that they express the writers’ true sentiments. What sort of people make appearances in this book? The following biographical summaries were taken directly from Eyewitnesses to Massacre.
Minnie Vautrin: In 1912, Vautrin graduated from the University of Illinois with a major in education. Then she was commissioned by the United Christian Missionary Society as a missionary to China. Vautrin became chairman of the education department of Ginling College when it was founded in 1916, and she once served as acting president of Ginling College.
Miner Searle Bates: Bates won a Rhodes Scholarship to study history at Oxford University and earned his M.A. in 1920. The United Christian Missionary Society then commissioned him as a missionary to teach at the University of Nanking. He was a professor in the departments of politics and history and once served as the vice president of the university.
Robert O. Wilson: Born in Nanking in 1906, Wilson was the son of a Methodist missionary family. Wilson graduated from Princeton University and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1929. Appointed to the staff of the University of Nanking hospital in 1935, he arrived there in 1936.
Lewis S. C. Smythe: Smythe received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago and was appointed to teach at the University of Nanking by the United Christian Missionary Society in 1934. He was a professor in the department of sociology.
James H. McCallum: McCallum graduated from the University of Oregon in 1917 and earned his B.D. from Yale Divinity School in 1921; later he earned a master’s degree at Chicago Divinity School and did doctoral work at the Union Theological Seminary while on furlough. He moved to China in 1921, and engaged in evangelical and community center work for the United Christian Missionary Society. In the winter of 1937, he volunteered to remain in Nanking as administrator of the University of Nanking hospital.
John G. Magee: Magee graduated from Yale in 1906 and received a B.D. from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1911. He was ordained as a minister in the Episcopal Church and set off for China in 1912. He served as chairman of the Nanking Branch of the International Red Cross after the capture of Nanking. Together with M.S. Bates, he was engaged in relief work for the refugees.
George A. Fitch: Born in Suzhou, China, in 1883, Fitch was the son of a Presbyterian missionary family. He graduated from Wooster College in 1906, then attended Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained in 1901 and returned to China to work with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Shanghai. He served as director of the Safety Zone after the fall of Nanking.
W. Plumer Mills: Mills graduated from Davidson College in 1903 and received a B.A. from Oxford University in 1910 and a B.D. from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1912. Mills served under the YMCA in China from 1912 to 1931 and then under the Presbyterian Foreign Mission Board in Nanking from 1933 to 1949. He is one of the important leaders of the relief work during the fall of Nanking.
Ernest H. Forster: Forster graduated from Princeton University in 1917. In 1919, Forster went to China as an Episcopal missionary and taught at Mahan
School in Yangzhou. He and his family were transferred from Yangzhou to Nanking to serve at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church only about one month before the capture of Nanking. Forster, with John Magee, another Episcopal minister, remained in Nanking throughout the critical months of the Nanking Massacre and helped in the relief work.
These summary biographies tell us that everyone mentioned above was the beneficiary of Christian education, and was engaged in missionary work in Nanjing.
If nine educated Christians left records stating that they had personally observed Japanese military personnel slaughtering or assaulting Chinese civilians, such records would serve as powerful evidence that the massacre allegations are true. Unfortunately and surprisingly, their records, which occupy more than 400 pages, do not serve that purpose. Not one of the authors of these documents states claims to have witnessed Japanese soldiers murdering civilians at any time during the period beginning with the fall of Nanjing (December 13) and ending with the dawning of 1938. Nor did any of the “witnesses” observe Japanese committing rapes, or looting. When the missionaries received reports of such crimes from Chinese refugees and rushed to the “crime scene,” they never found any trace of the “criminals.” The book’s grossly misleading title notwithstanding, none of these Americans was an eyewitness to Japanese atrocities.
In searching for the reason why these persons came to be viewed as eyewitnesses, I made a shocking discovery. It concerns two of the men listed above, Miner Searle Bates and George A. Fitch. Both of them consistently disseminated accusations of Japanese atrocities, within China and abroad, from the moment that Nanjing fell.
It turns out that Bates was a paid advisor to the Chinese government, hired by Chiang Kai-shek himself. His assignment was producing and publicizing propaganda calling attention to Japanese atrocities. Bates was decorated twice by Chiang (once during the war, and again afterwards) for his efforts.1
What about Fitch? In March 1938, after assisting Bates with his propaganda work, Fitch returned to the US via Hong Kong. Once there, he not only traveled all over the US delivering anti-Japanese propaganda speeches, but also was instrumental in the establishment of two large pro-China, anti-Japan organizations (July 1938), serving as an officer in both of them.2 The intent of this propaganda, as requested by the Chiang government, was to convince the American people that Japanese military personnel were cruel and brutal, and to win their sympathy for China. Once they were aligned with China, Americans would lobby their government to send aid, both financial and material, to the Chiang government. The propagandists didn’t care whether the information they were disseminating was true or not. Such stratagems are far from uncommon; they are deployed all over the world, even today. Furthermore, Americans, who didn’t know much about the Japanese at that time (they certainly didn’t know that Bates, Fitch and their
 Zhang Kaiyuan, ed. Eyewitnesses to Massacre: American Missionaries Bear Witness to Japanese Atrocities in Nanjing (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1984), xxiii-xxiv.
colleagues were in the employ of the Chinese government), believed the men’s protestations.
In this paper I will demonstrate that contrary to its thesis, Eyewitnesses to Massacre proves definitively that there were no American witnesses to a massacre. Page numbers following citations preceded by “EM” refer to that book. I will also refer to a map of Nanjing to enhance readers’ understanding. Additionally, I have italicized certain words, mainly relevant dates, for emphasis.
The International Committee and the Safety Zone
In mid-November 1937, Smythe and Bates, both professors at Nanking University, and others, including some American missionaries, discussed the idea of establishing a safety zone to accommodate noncombatants. The committee formed to move that plan forward was the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone (hereinafter “International Committee”). John Rabe, a German, was appointed chairman. That process is described in a letter from W. Plumer Mills to his wife dated January 24, 1938.
With regard to the Safety Zone, we got our inspiration of course from the success of Father Jacquinot’s zone in Shanghai. I have called it his zone, just because his name was so prominently associated with it. Our first task locally was to clear the idea of such a zone with Chinese and foreign friends, then to discuss it with the Chinese officials to make sure that we had their support, and finally to take it up with the Japanese. (EM 245)
Father Robert Jacquinot was a Jesuit priest working in Shanghai. When there were hostilities between the Japanese and Chinese near the city, he protected the lives and property of Chinese civilians by designating a densely populated area of Shanghai near the French concession as a neutral zone. Although the International Committee in Nanking too aimed to protect the city’s civilians from danger, they selected a different type of location. The Safety Zone in Nanjing was not in the southern part of the city, where residents and stores were concentrated. The International Committee chose central Nanking, which was sparsely populated. Since it was also very close to American and other foreign settlements and businesses, committee members may have wanted to protect foreign interests as well. A steady stream of Chinese began to flow into the Safety Zone, an elongated hexagon of land measuring 1.6 kilometers from east to west, and 3.2 kilometers from north to south, about a week before the city fell. Two hundred thousand people, the poorest residents of Nanjing, who had nowhere else to go, crowded into 20 camps set up primarily in foreign facilities and public buildings. The refugees brought with them just a few possessions and as much food as they could carry. Hardly anyone remained outside the Safety Zone. Therefore, although its location was not ideal, it functioned adequately as a safety zone.
When the International Committee requested that Japanese forces refrain from attacking
the Safety Zone, they received the following reply.
Consul-General Katsuo Okazaki had called on the 16th to tell us that while they could not recognize us legally, they would deal with us as though they had recognized us1 (EM 245).3
Basic Japanese policy was outlined in a letter from Smythe dated January 10, 1938 to John M. Allison, a secretary at the US Embassy who had returned to Nanking. In a letter to relatives dated December 20, 1937, Smythe writes that the Japanese kept their promise.
But there were no shells that landed in our Zone on the 12th, so my spot map for that day was clear. That was one reason we slept so peacefully with shellfire going on all night! We trusted the Japanese gunners implicitly not to shell the Zone. (EM 254)
At this point it would be useful to mention some basic facts about Nanjing. Consulting the map below, we see that Nanjing is a walled city with an overall length of 34 kilometers. It measures 40 square kilometers in area, covering approximately 70% of the
Map of Nanking
1 Hsü Shuhsi, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone (Shanghai, Kelly & Walsh, 1939), Document No. 35.
Map prepared with the aid of Encyclopedia of East Asian History, issued by Heibonsha in 1938
land occupied by Manhattan Island in New York City. There are 13 gates in the city wall, and in the 1930s they provided the only entrée into Nanjing. The Safety Zone covered 3.9 square kilometers, an area equal in size to New York’s Central Park. Before war broke out in Shanghai, the population of Nanjing was about one million. But when the conflict moved toward Nanjing, many of the city’s residents fled. According to a report issued by Wang Gupan, head of the Chinese National Police Force, on November 28, the population had dwindled to 200,000. On December 8 Tang Shengzhi, commander in chief of the Nanjing Defense Forces, issued strict orders to those 200,000 remaining residents to evacuate to the Safety Zone.4 Moreover, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone states that the population of Nanking was 250,000 on January 14, 1938. Needless to say, these are not circumstances that would permit the massacre of 300,000 Chinese.
First reports of Nanjing’s defeat
When Nanjing fell on December 13 there were five American and British journalists in the city. However, believing that all communications methods had been disrupted, they left Nanjing on December 15, boarding the USS Oahu, a gunboat. One of them, Archibald Steele of the Chicago Daily News, took a report that Bates had sent to the US Consulate in Shanghai with him.5 That memorandum was sent to the State Department, and its gist relayed to Tillman Durdin of the New York Times and other journalists. It was also included in Harold Timperley’s What War Means, albeit without any mention of Bates, but it is certain that Bates was the writer.6 Articles based on this memorandum graced these newspapers on December 16 and 17, and served as the first reports of Japanese atrocities in Nanjing.7
Here is an excerpt from Bates’ memorandum.
Some Pictures from Nanking (Dec. 15, 1937)
At Nanking the Japanese Army has lost much of its reputation, and has thrown away a remarkable opportunity to gain the respect of the Chinese inhabitants and of foreign opinion. The disgraceful collapse of Chinese authority and the break-up of the Chinese armies in this region left vast numbers of persons ready to respond to the order and organization of which Japan boasts. Many local people freely expressed their relief when the entry of Japanese troops apparently brought an end to the strains of war conditions and the immediate perils of bombardment. At least they were rid of their fears of disorderly Chinese troops, who indeed passed out without doing severe damage to most parts of the city.
But in two days the whole outlook has been ruined by frequent murder, wholesale and semi-regular looting and uncontrolled disturbance of private homes including offenses against the security of women. Foreigners who have traveled over the city report many civilians’ bodies lying in the streets. In the
 Timperley, Harold J., ed., What War Means: Japanese Terror in China (London: Victor Golanz Ltd., 1938).
central portion of Nanking they were counted yesterday as about one to the city block. A considerable percentage of the dead civilians were the victims of shooting or bayoneting in the afternoon and evening of the 13th, which was the time of Japanese entry into the city. Any person who ran in fear or excitement, and any one who was caught in streets or alleys after dusk by roving patrols was likely to be killed on the spot. Most of this severity was beyond even theoretical excuse. It proceeded in the Safety Zone as well as elsewhere, and many cases are plainly witnessed by foreigners and by reputable Chinese. Some bayonet wounds were barbarously cruel. (EM 4)
If Bates’ account speaks the truth, then he was the first witness to the “massacre.” We know that because he states unequivocally that he and other foreigners witnessed mass murders on December 13 and 14. In that case, did other foreigners witness mass slaughter on those two days?
Smythe’s letters vs. The Rape of Nanking
As secretary of the International Committee, Smythe fulfilled an important role, being responsible for the issuance of documents bound for Japanese military authorities and the Japanese and American embassies. He toured the Safety Zone and areas south of it, alone, from 6:00 to after 8:00 on the morning of December 13. Smythe wrote a letter stating that he had noticed no disturbances or chaos there to his family on December 20.
Went over to Ninghai Road by Ginling and found our flags out of place and told people about it. Found several discarded uniforms in the road, so told people and police to carry them out of the Zone. Then back up through Tao Ku Tsuen home. I did not realize it was 8:15! The gang were thru breakfast; but I ate. They were glad to know it was so peaceful out. After eating George took me over much the same road to see some things and we checked up on the Nash, then to Ginling to consult Minnie. She asked me why I looked so weary, but I told her I was enjoying it! (EM 255)
The Japanese attack continued until early in the morning of December 13. However, Smythe’s letter tells us that after the city had been occupied and defending Chinese troops had left, the Safety Zone was perfectly peaceful.
At that point, however, Smythe was not well informed about the horrors that had unfolded before Nanjing became peaceful, about the flight of Chinese troops from Zhongshan Road through Yijiang Gate and Xiaguan to the Yangzi River. But note that during the afternoon and evening of December 12, before Japanese forces arrived, thousands of Chinese soldiers were shot, burned to death, or drowned. Even Iris Chang was unable to ignore those events; she wrote about them in The Rape of Nanking, as follows:
Not surprisingly, the order to retreat threw the Chinese military into an uproar. Some officers ran about the city haphazardly informing anyone they came into contact with to pull out. These soldiers took off. Other officers told no one, not even their own troops. Instead, they saved their own hides. Their soldiers
continued to fight the Japanese; thinking they were witnessing a mass desertion
when they saw other troops fleeing, they machine-gunned hundreds of their fleeing comrades in an effort to stop them. In the haste and confusion to leave the city, at least one Chinese tank rolled over countless Chinese soldiers in its path, stopping only when blown up by a hand grenade.
Even in the larger, tragic scheme of things, the retreat had its comic moments. As soldiers grew desperate to blend into the populace and thereby elude capture, they broke into shops to steal civilian clothes and undressed in the open. The streets soon filled not only with half-naked soldiers but with half-naked police officers, who had discarded their uniforms to avoid being mistaken as soldiers. One man roamed about wearing nothing but his underwear and a top hat, probably stolen from the home of a wealthy government official. In the early stages of the retreat, when a semblance of order remained, entire sections of the Chinese army were shedding their uniforms, changing into civilian clothes, and marching in formation, simultaneously. But when the retreat turned into a rout, the scramble for clothes grew urgent. Soldiers were actually seen throwing themselves on pedestrians and ripping clothes off their backs.
There was only one way to get out of the city safely without encountering the Japanese, and that was through the northern harbor to the Yangtze River, where a fleet of junks were waiting for those who could get there first. In order to reach the harbor, soldiers had to first move up the main artery of Chungshan [Zhongshan] Road, and then pass through the northwest gate of the city, called the Ichang [Yijiang], or Water Gate, before they could enter the northern port suburb of Hsiakwan [Xiaguan].
As the night progressed, the soldiers focused on getting themselves across and abandoned the tanks and equipment. The scene grew violent as boats grew scarce, and in the end some ten thousand men would fight over two or three vessels, struggling to cram themselves aboard or to scare off others by firing shots in the air. Terrified crews tried to ward off the surging mob by swinging axes down on the fingers of soldiers who clung to the sides of their junks and sampans.
Innumerable men died trying to cross the river that night. Many never even made it past the gate. That evening a fire broke out on Chungshan Road, and the flames swept through heaps of ammunition, engulfing houses and vehicles. Horses ensnarled in traffic panicked and reared, heightening the confusion of the mob. The terror-mad soldiers surged forward, their momentum pushing hundreds of men into the flames and hundreds more into the tunnel, where they were trampled underfoot. With the gate blocked and an inferno raging nearby, the soldiers who could break free from the mob made a wild rush to climb over the
walls. Hundreds tore their clothing into strips and knotted them with belts and puttees to make rope ladders. One after another, they scaled the battlements and tossed down rifles and machine guns from the parapets. Many fell and plummeted to their deaths.
Since Chang wrote about the disorderly Chinese troops in such detail, readers will realize that the Japanese were not responsible for the huge number of corpses discovered in the areas mentioned after Nanjing fell. On the contrary, they were the tragic consequences of a frenzied attempt by Chinese troops, who had lost all discipline, to escape. These passages also tell us the truth about injured civilians treated at the Gulou Hospital, who claimed the Japanese set fire to their homes after the city fell. Furthermore, during the chaos there was not one civilian among the hordes of soldiers. Both Smythe’s letter and Chang have made it clear what was happening in and around Nanjing between the night of December 12 and the morning of December 13.
Now let us refer again to Smythe’s letter of December 20 to see what he wrote about the changes that had occurred in the Safety Zone, which was peaceful on the morning of December 13, after the Japanese entry into Nanjing. In that letter Smythe mentions encountering Japanese soldiers for the first time on his way to his residence on Pingcang Lane to have lunch.
Well on our way home at one we found that the Japanese had reached Kwangchow [Guangzhou] Road. We drove down there and met a small detachment of about six Japanese soldiers, our first — but far from our last! (At the corner of Shanghai Road and Kwangchow Road, they were searching a bus, but not harming the people.) (EM 255)
After lunch Smythe went with John Rabe, chairman of the International Committee, and a Russian named Cola who acted as interpreter, to look for a high-ranking Japanese officer. Their mission was threefold: to tell the Japanese about (1) the Safety Zone, (2) the new Red Cross Committee; (3) disarmed Chinese soldiers in the Safety Zone.
The second item on their agenda concerned the Red Cross Committee, headed by John Magee, which was established by the International Committee with the aim of opening a hospital for wounded Chinese soldiers. Before I embark on a discussion of the third item, I would like to discuss the circumstances under
 Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking : The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Penguin, 1998), pp. 76-77.
which this document was delivered to the Japanese Army on Hanzhong Road near Xinjiekou. In the same letter Smythe writes:
Sure enough we found a detachment of about 100 men sitting on the south side of the road, and a large group of Chinese civilians on the opposite side looking at them. We tried to explain to the officer the Zone and drew it on his map of Nanking, note it was not on his map. He said the Hospital would be all right if there was no one in there that shot at the Japanese. About the disarmed soldiers he could not say. (EM 256)
Thus, as Smythe wrote, the real witnesses to the aftermath of the Battle of Nanjing reported that they were surrounded by people who sensed that the Japanese had no intention of harming the civilian population once they entered the city. Let us compare Smythe’s account with what Chang writes about witnesses. It is obvious that she did nothing more than paraphrase Bates’ memorandum.
Eyewitnesses later claimed that the Japanese soldiers, who roamed the city in groups of six to twelve men, fired at anyone in sight as soon as they entered the capital. Old men were found face down on the pavement, apparently shot in the back on whim; civilian Chinese corpses lay sprawled on almost every block — many who had done nothing more provocative than run away as the Japanese approached.
Chang describes the Japanese soldiers as being equipped with tanks, heavy artillery and trucks, as though a huge force had entered the city. We can tell from Smythe’s letter that this was not true.
Now let us consider the disarmed Chinese soldiers in the Safety Zone. The following passage is from a letter sent by the International Committee to the Japanese military authorities on December 14.
Yesterday afternoon an unforeseen situation developed when a number of Chinese soldiers were trapped in the northern part of the city. Some of them came to our office and pleaded in the name of humanity that we save their lives. Representatives of our Committee tried to find your Headquarters but got no farther than a captain on Han Chung Lu [Hanzhong Road]. So we disarmed all these soldiers and put them into buildings in the Zone. We beg your merciful permission to allow these men to return to peaceful civilian life as is now their desire.
The disarmed Chinese troops had not surrendered to the Japanese. Therefore, in terms of international law they were not prisoners of war; therefore, they were ineligible to be treated as such. The International Committee pleaded with the Japanese for mercy precisely because they were aware of this fact. Absent is any mention of the number of
 Chang, op. cit., p. 82.
 Hsü, op. cit., Document No. 1.
disarmed soldiers in the Safety Zone.
Let us refer again to Smythe’s letter of December 20. Now he describes what he saw after his encounter with 100 Japanese soldiers at Xinjiekou on his way to International Committee headquarters.
Chung Shan [Zhongshan] Road was strewn with stuff thrown away by retreating soldiers. As we approached Shansi [Shanxi] Road Circle, a sight startled us; a crowd of men in motley attire crowded around an auto were coming around the corner. We soon found it was Charlie in a car leading a group of disarmed soldiers to the Law College. They hugged that car! At the circle we met a detachment of soldiers in arms. We told them to disarm and some of them did.
At headquarters we found a mob of men outside that Sperling and others had been disarming. The place was becoming an arsenal! They were marched into the police headquarters near us. About 1300 in all, and some still in soldiers clothes. (EM 256)
Therefore, when Smythe made his tour of the Safety Zone on December 13, his mind was on the subject of disarmed Chinese troops. Since he hadn’t seen any Japanese soldiers committing murders or rapes, or looting, he wrote nothing to that effect. But according to Bates’ memorandum, the Japanese committed atrocities over a two-day period. To understand why he wrote that, we must address the actual events of December 14.
The Safety Zone on December 14, 1937
I refer again to Smythe’s letter of December 20.
Tuesday morning, the 14th: We all got up and felt the fighting was over. (EM 257)
We can assume that Bates was included in the “we,” since the two men were living in the same house. This means that Bates did not witness the horrific events he described in his memorandum: “A considerable percentage of the dead civilians were the victims of shooting or bayoneting in the afternoon and evening of the 13th, which was the time of Japanese entry into the city.” In other words, Bates’ memorandum was pure propaganda. Not one American witnessed anything of the sort. If other Americans had been aware of the horrors described in Bates’ memorandum, they would not have thought the “fighting was over,” as Smythe did. They would have been worried about the refugees in the Safety Zone. The men were in a finite area (the walled city of Nanking), and as members of the International Committee were almost always together. That is why Smythe writes “we” and not “I.” His letter continues, optimistically, as follows:
Now the Japanese were here; would set up an orderly regime and things would be rosy. (EM 257)
One might even think that he was writing from the Japanese perspective. In any case, he described the situation in Nanjing to his family, honestly and openly, because there was no reason for him to invent a story. Since at that point Bates had already accused the Japanese military of committing atrocities, we have no choice but to presume that his memorandum was propaganda, and the diametric opposite of the truth. We know for a fact that he was an adviser to the Chiang government. It is safe to assume that Bates’ intention was to distort the truth and invent a story that would sully the reputation of the Japanese military in the minds of the American people.
More details about the situation in Nanjing on December 14, 1937 can be found in letters written by Smythe, Ernest Forster and John Magee, excerpts of which follow.
In Smythe’s letter of December 20, to which I have already referred several times, he describes a meeting with a Japanese Embassy staff member, also attended by Rabe and Forster.
We ran on to [sic] Fukuda8 at Sing Kai Ko [Xinjiekou]. He is Attaché to the Japanese Embassy.
He sent us to the Chung Yang Fang Tien [Zhongyang Fandian] to see an officer. We went up through broken glass and sand to a bedroom and this officer received us in half dress and a bad beard and a face of iron. He merely replied that the High officer had not come. They had made many sacrifices getting to Nanking and the Chinese had shot the people. That was that! As some one said later, “Holy smoke, these Japanese believe their own propaganda!” (EM 257-8)
When a Japanese officer told Smythe that Chinese troops had killed civilians, the latter was shocked because such acts contravene Western conventional wisdom. Smythe seems to have thought he was hearing Japanese propaganda. But previously cited text from The Rape of Nanking tells us otherwise, i.e., that Chinese troops did indeed kill civilians during the chaos accompanying the fall of Nanjing. When Smythe, Rabe and Forster met a Japanese officer, they entrusted a letter requesting clemency for the Chinese troops they had disarmed, a portion of which is cited above (Document No. 1 in Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone), to him.
Then the three men toured the business district (outside the Safety Zone). Needless to say, there were no refugees there. Since Forster described the tour in more detail than Smythe or Rabe, let us have a look at some letters he wrote.
Here is an excerpt from a letter to his wife dated December 14:
The city has fallen. We are all safe and are busy looking after the wounded and destitute. We have organized a committee of the International Red Cross. Don’t worry! (EM 118)
In another letter, dated December 15, Forster writes about his tour of Nanjing on December 14.
Yesterday I was busy all day. Three of us foreigners and a Chinese interpreter tried to find the highest Japanese officer in the city in order to let him know about the Safety Zone and the Red Cross Committee. He was living in a hotel near St. Paul’s Church so we rode around there to see what its condition was. The Church is intact. Some windows are broken and the door under the tower, but a shell hit the front gate of the compound and the roof of the parish house at the end where the main reception room is. The timbers are still there but I did not go inside. Fortunately it did not burn. (EM 118)
Notice that there is no mention of civilians being pursued and murdered by Japanese military personnel (either inside or outside the Safety Zone).
Forster’s letter continues:
The Safety Zone, while not ideal, has certainly saved the lives of countless thousands. It was the southern section of the city that got the worst of the bombing and shelling. But yesterday we saw less than 25 corpses on the road we traversed. The population of the Safety Zone increased tremendously on Sat., Sun., and Mon. There must be at least 100,000 people in the area. (EM 119)
Actually, we know from many other accounts that there were, at that point, 200,000 persons in the Safety Zone, twice the number cited by Forster. Particularly noteworthy here is his reference to “less than 25 corpses on the road.” And those few corpses were decidedly not those of Chinese killed by the Japanese after the latter entered Nanjing.
Smythe ventured outside with Bates on December 13, before either man encountered any Japanese soldier. He saw corpses as early as that. About them Smythe writes as follows in his letter of December 20:
We went down Shanghai Road and found no Japanese soldiers on Kwangchow Road. Near the Seminary we found a number of dead civilians, about 20, whom we later learned had been killed by the Japanese because they ran. That was the terrible tale that day. (EM 256)
Nowhere does Smythe mention that he heard shots fired in the Safety Zone. Moreover, none of the Americans claims to have heard shots on December 13. Why, then, did Smythe believe that the Japanese had shot about 20 civilians? The phrase “we later learned” reminds us of Bates’ memorandum. It is easy to imagine Bates’ regaling his housemate with tales like “the Japanese have been killing civilians ever since they entered the city.” Whatever the case, Smythe did not witness any “terrible murders.”
What did Magee have to say about corpses? Let us examine a letter he wrote to his wife on December 12, in which he describes traveling around the city to ensure that the wounded brought back from the frontlines were being transported to the hospital.
Then yesterday (Saturday, Dec. 11th), I took some wounded soldiers in the Drum Tower ambulance to a dressing station for wounded soldiers in the Capitol Theatre. Just before I arrived a large shell had fallen in the street and killed about 11 people. Two motor cars were burning immediately opposite the Capitol Theatre in front of the Fu Chang Hotel. We took the ambulance and this time went down a back street also taking the Ford. After passing the University Middle School and before we arrived at Hua Chung [Hanzhong] Road we saw a number of dead bodies lying in the road. A house had been hit by a shell and close to 20 people killed, 7 or 8 of them being hurled into the street. A poor old couple were simply frantic as their son, aged 33, was lying dead with a huge hole in the front of his face. They were simply beside themselves with grief. Great crowds were standing around out of curiosity and I told them to leave immediately and get behind something. The masses in China are certainly unintelligent about such things. There was danger that another shell might arrive at any moment. (EM 168-9)
The “close to 20” corpses Magee saw on December 11, must have been the same ones that Smythe noticed on December 13. Smythe encountered Japanese soldiers at Xinjiekou, further south in the city. Comparing the accounts written by all three men (Smythe, Forster and Magee), we realize that Bates’ contention that the Japanese embarked on a campaign of slaughter the moment they entered Nanjing is a bald-faced lie.
It is likely that some shells landed in the Safety Zone, given its location. But we know that they were stray shells, and that they landed there before the city fell from a letter sent by the International Committee to the Japanese commanding officer.
December 14, 1937
Honorable Sir:
We come to thank you for the fine way your artillery spared the Safety Zone and to establish contact with you for future plans for care of Chinese civilians in the Zone.
How did Magee describe the situation in Nanjing? In a letter to his wife dated December 15 he writes about his attempts on December 14 to transport wounded Chinese troops from a field hospital to the Foreign Ministry.
 Hsü, op. cit., Document No. 1.
The next morning I took an ambulance full of wounded soldiers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When we had just succeeded in helping up the steps those who were able to walk (some had to be taken on stretchers) along came a squad of Japanese soldiers some of whom were like wild beasts. I was helping a poor fellow who was coming along most painfully but a soldier grabbed him from me and began to jerk his wounded arms terribly and tied his hands together and also the hands of another wounded man. Fortunately I found a Japanese medical officer who came about that time and pointed to the bloody clothes of these men. He spoke in German and I said in poor German that this was a hospital for wounded soldiers and he made the soldiers release them.
I then found a decent Colonel who spoke English and told him I wanted to go to headquarters to get permission to tend to the wounded soldiers and he sent me and the young Russian to headquarters in our ambulance (borrowed from the Red Swastika Society). We went to the Central Hotel west of the officers Moral Endeavor and saw a small man with a pointed head and heavy beard. I said through Cola that there were many wounded soldiers in the Ministry of War and I wanted permission to move them to the Ministry of F.A. He went back into an inner room where the highest officer in the city was located and then said that I must wait several days. I said they have not been tended to for days and did not even have anyone to bring them water and he said we must wait. We went away in disappointment. I returned to the headquarters of our Neutral Zone Committee and there found a number of wounded soldiers and took two loads of them to the Wounded Soldiers’ Hospital at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Each time I had difficulty with the soldiers. Some high staff officers we met in a car were afraid I was carrying wounded soldiers away but I told him we wanted to bring them in, not take them away. They gave us permission to bring one more load. (EM 170-1)
There are two reasons for including these detailed passages about Magee’s activities. First, they show that his thoughts were focused on the wounded soldiers, which means that during his travels around the Safety Zone he was not conscious of refugees’ being persecuted by the Japanese. The same was true of Smythe and Forster. That none of the men refers to Japanese atrocities (which, according to Bates’ memorandum, escalated during the two-day period
after the Japanese entry into Nanjing) is proof that there were no atrocities.
Second, the hospital to which Magee transported wounded Chinese soldiers was protected by Japanese military personnel. This is a crucially important fact, because it proves that the Japanese were not killing wounded soldiers on that occasion. A month later, on January 11, 1938, Magee wrote the following to his wife:
I have heard from doctors and nurses in the International Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers at the Ministry of Foreign affairs that they have been protected, both men and women, although none of us foreigners have been allowed to enter since Dec 14th when I took three truck loads of wounded soldiers there. (EM 189)
As Forster writes in a letter to his wife dated December 14, the Japanese had taken control of the hospital. It made perfect sense for them to do so because of the possibility that Nanking Defense Force stragglers were hiding there.
We decided to concentrate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Red Cross Hosp. for the wounded, but yesterday the Japanese took it over and will let none in or out. We can only pray for the fate of those inside. (EM 119)
But as Magee states, the Japanese protected the wounded Chinese soldiers. Here is another fact that proves that the massacre argument is complete fiction.9
Now we come to Minnie Vautrin. In an entry in her diary, she writes that on at 4:30 p.m. on December 14 she got into Mills’ car and rode with him, traveling outside the Safety Zone to the Hanxi (Shuixi) Gate in the southern part of Nanjing to check on some Chinese Christians. She discovered that nothing in their homes had been disturbed. On the way home she saw only one dead body on the street near Hillcrest School across from Shanghai Road (inside the Safety Zone). Vautrin was surprised that there weren’t more dead bodies, since shelling in the area had been intense during the hostilities that preceded the fall of Nanjing. The drive lasted several hours, but at no time did she see Japanese military personnel committing acts of violence. Then who were the foreign witnesses to which Bates refers, and where were they? Here, again, is further proof that since there was absolutely no contact between Japanese soldiers and Chinese civilians for those two days, the accusations in Bates’ memorandum are pure propaganda.
The three days following the fall of Nanjing
On the afternoon of December 15 five foreign journalists took their leave of Nanjing. Referring to a memorandum handed to them by Bates, they wrote articles stating that Japanese soldiers had devastated the city of Nanjing. However, they wrote only about driving over piles of corpses as they departed from Nanjing by car. They did not say that they had seen Japanese military personnel murdering or committing violent acts against
 Hu Hua-ling, ed., The Undaunted Women of Nanking: The Wartime Diaries of Minnie Vautrin and Tsen Shi-fang (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), p. 36.
civilians. As described in the foregoing citation from The Rape of Nanking, the bodies the reporters saw in the streets on their way to the Yangzi River were not those of civilians killed by the Japanese, but Chinese soldiers who were shot by their own comrades during the chaos that followed their defeat, or who died when engulfed in conflagrations.
Moreover, the document sent by the International Committee to Japanese authorities on December 15 makes no mention whatsoever of Japanese atrocities. Rather than referring to that document, let us have a look at a letter Smythe (the author of that document) wrote to his family.
Wednesday morning, Dec. 15th, armed with that new appeal for the disarmed soldiers on the basis of humanity and recognizing the laws of war (both ways!) we were going to see the high man when he came. But before the letter was finished, Fukuda called at our Headquarter [sic] to find out what the Zone was! We gave him copies of all the documents and answered his questions about population, food supply, etc. (EM 258-9)
Obviously, the International Committee’s main concern was the disposition of Chinese soldiers whom they had disarmed. They answered questions from Japanese Embassy staff member Fukuda Tokuyasu about the refugees. They did not mention Japanese atrocities because they were not aware of any.
At a meeting held at noon on December 15 with a representative of the Special Service Corps, Smythe uttered not one word about Japanese atrocities. Here is another excerpt from the same letter.
Meanwhile, Swen, our interpreter from the Red Swastika, a 60 year old former secretary in the Japanese Embassy here, had arranged for us to meet the head of the Special Service Corps who was to arrived [sic] that day at noon. So we dashed down there, and Fukuda was with him to translate.
The Chief of the Special Service Corps told us they must search the city for Chinese soldiers; would post guards at entrances to Zone; people should return home as soon as possible; trust humanitarian attitude of Japanese Army to care for the disarmed Chinese soldiers; police might patrol within the Zone if armed only with batons; 10,000 tan of rice we had stored in the Zone could be used by us for refugees; telephone, telegraph, and water must be repaired, so he would go with Rabe to inspect; asked us to assist in getting 100-200 workers for the next day — will pay; will inspect rice locations and guard. (EM 259)
The letter ends with Smythe’s expressing disappointment that the 1,300 Chinese stragglers whom he had disarmed on December 13 were apprehended and taken away by the Japanese. We must remember that Chinese troops had shed their uniforms and infiltrated the Safety Zone. As the occupying forces, the Japanese would have been remiss had they not searched for and apprehended them. Smythe and other Americans
referred to them as “disarmed soldiers,” never as “prisoners of war.” The Americans might have heard rumors that those soldiers were executed, but they never verified those rumors.
War ends, but Bates’ lies continue
In his memorandum, Bates writes that countless civilians fell prey to Japanese brutality for two days after the Chinese defeat in Nanjing. However, as I have shown above, accounts written by Smythe, Forster, Magee and Vautrin (in fact, by every American except Bates) describing that same period fail to mention the witnessing of Japanese atrocities. Now I would like to introduce two more documents that further describe the situation in Nanjing.
The first is a written statement submitted to a military tribunal held by the Nationalist government in Nanjing in 1947.
Careful checking of the reports of members and staff of the International Safety Zone Committee and of the burial records of Red Swastika Society which the International Committee financed and inspected in its burial work, convinced me that a low and incomplete figure for civilian deaths — men, women, and children — inflicted by the Japanese in the first few weeks of their occupation of Nanking, was 12,000; and for deaths of unarmed men in military clothing, 35,000. Of these murders, over 90 per cent occurred in the first ten days, most of all in the first three days. There certainly were more killings than these, but their circumstances lie outside of my knowledge, and therefore I do not estimate their number.
(Signed) M. S. Bates
February 6, 1947
According to this statement, the Japanese killed approximately 30,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians between December 13 and 15. However, as accounts written by three other Americans testify, these accusations are totally spurious.
The second is a letter written by W. Plumer Mills to his wife, dated January 24, 1938.
Of course we all thought and expected that the Zone would have gone out of operation long ago, but as I wrote you on the 22nd, the Zone has proven far more useful after the occupation than it was before. It did give some protection during the fighting, because it proved a haven of refuge especially to the people in the
 Kasahara Tokushi, ed., Nankin jiken shiryoshu 1: Chugoku kankei shiryo hen 2 [Nanking Incident source material: Vol. 2, Chinese references], trans. Nankin Jiken Chosa Kenkyukai hen [Nanking Incident Research Group] (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1992).
southern and southeastern sections of the city and in the suburbs, where the heaviest fighting took place. But the chief usefulness of the Zone has been in the measure of protection it has afforded to the people since the occupation. I wish you could have seen the way people flocked into the Zone during the early days of December, and I wish you could see Shanghai Road and Ninghai Road now. These two are now the principal business streets of Nanking. Formerly these used to be Tai Ping Lu and Chung Hua Lu [Zhonghua Road], the old Fund Dung Giai [Fudong Street], but those streets are now largely burned out, and instead the formerly more or less little used Shanghai Road up past Hillcrest and the American Embassy, and Ninghai Road in the new residential district, also formerly little used, are now the principal streets. Shanghai Road is now so crowded that one can hardly get through it in a motor car. This change is all a matter of the last few weeks. The reason is simply that the people are here in the Zone, and because by now some sort of order has been established, so that there is no longer the universal plundering and robbing that there used to be, the people now have more confidence than they had before and have begun to come out again on the streets. They have set up scores of temporary shops by the side of the road and business is brisk in these — all of course on a small scale and all within the Zone. Outside of the Zone there is no business at all. (EM 246)
This letter testifies to the fact that the Safety Zone continued to be useful even after the Japanese had occupied Nanjing. It also describes the center of the zone as a vibrant, bustling place that attracted throngs of refugees, their confidence restored. Though the businesses were small, they were prospering. If the Japanese had stormed the Safety Zone, and as Bates claimed, slaughtered 15% of its population, would Mills have written what he did? It is patently obvious that what Bates wrote was complete fiction, bearing no resemblance to the true situation in Nanjing and the Safety Zone. Bates’ accounts amount to no more than a string of lies.
Vautrin witnessed no rapes
Now let us examine “atrocities,” a word that graces the subtitle of Eyewitnesses to Massacre. Perhaps the atrocity that stands out the most because it is mentioned so often is rape. In films about Nanjing produced in China and the US, viewers are sure to see unbearably long segments featuring the invasion of Ginling Women’s College, where only female refugees were housed (more than 10,000 of them) by Japanese soldiers, who then proceed to rape a great many of the women. Scenes depicting bestial Japanese
soldiers capturing women trying desperately to escape and raping them on December 17 trigger extreme hatred of the Japanese and Japan. If those scenes are without factual basis, the films’ producers have unconscionably and unforgivably humiliated Japanese military personnel.
According to Vautrin’s diary, Japanese military personnel did search the premises of Ginling Women’s College on December 16, because of suspicions that Chinese soldiers were hiding there. However, at that time no soldier behaved in an untoward manner. She mentions that on December 17, in the middle of the night, a band of men calling themselves Japanese soldiers came into the building under the cover of night and took six young girls away with them. At that time a school employee named Chen was also taken away. However, all of them returned safely by the next morning. Here is the report Vautrin submitted to the administration of the college.
Between nine and ten o’clock through a side gate they took off twelve women and girls and the officer at the gate with us took of Mr. Chen. It was not until they were gone that we realized that the trick was to take off girls. I did not expect to see Mr. Chen again for I was sure that he would be shot or bayoneted. That closing scene I shall never, never forget. Mary, Mrs. Tsen and I standing near the gate, the servants kneeling just back of us, Mr. Chen being led out by the officer and a few soldiers. The rusting [sic] of the fallen leaves, the shadows passing out the side gate in the distance — of whom we did not know, the low cries of those passing out. Mr. Chen was released at the intersection of Shanghai and Canton Roads, and six of the girls came back at five the next morning unharmed — both of these we believe were wrought by prayer. (EM 336)
Vautrin writes that 12 women and girls were taken away, but the correct number was six, and all of them returned safely. (Vautrin did not seem to be worried about the other six, perhaps because she realized that only six had been taken away.) However, the brutal acts of “Japanese soldiers” observed by Smythe on the night of December 17, when he visited Ginling Women’s College upon an invitation extended, was perceived as horrific enough to be reenacted in films.
But the incident that occurred on the night of December 17 seems suspiciously like something the Americans orchestrated to indicate the violent behavior of Japanese soldiers. If Japanese soldiers had actually committed so many rapes, would Vautrin have written a report like the following after the fact?
The poorer people are still being deprived of bedding and money, even coppers being taken now, and houses of the former well-to-do people, which were fairly safe in the Safety Zone, are now being deprived of rugs and radios and furniture. We do not see the wholesale burning of houses which took place from about December 17th to January 17th — it was on that date that I saw the last fire. The most distressing thing that now exists is the continued looting by the “lao beh sing,” the common people. With no law and order in the city the poor and the lawless felt perfectly free to go into any house and take from it anything they wished. Outside of the former Safety Zone, many houses have been robbed of everything, even including doors and windows and floors. Within the last few
days I have seen very good doors and windows for sale and that means that the demolishing process is still going on. Naturally our Chinese friends are distressed by this but there is nothing they can do about it. (EM 346)
During this period of lawlessness in the city our campus has been fairly peaceful. At no time have “the people” come to loot or steal. Our soldier guard left us on January 14 and never returned. For many days we were fearful lest something should happen, but nothing beyond our control did happen to us. Three times soldiers came on mischief bent but were persuaded to go on their way. My calendar shows that military callers ranking from high official to soldiers numbered seventeen groups. Most of them came to see the campus and the camp. We usually show them one or two buildings occupied by refugees first and then take them to the Administration-Library Building which now looks quite normal and is open for inspection. They are always pleased to see it and we are glad to show them a clean building. (EM 347)
By “this period” Vautrin means January 14 through March 31, dates that appear at the beginning of her report. The campus was obviously peaceful during that time. We also know from these passages that it was “the people,” meaning the refugees, who were doing the looting. And since Japanese soldiers committed no murders and no rapes, I feel justified in discounting Bates’ “testimony.”
How the Japanese segregated combatants from civilians
Next I would like to cite Vautrin’s records again to show how very far removed from reality Bates’ charges were.
When the Japanese occupied Nanjing, they found not only massive amounts of weapons and ammunition, but also a great number of uniforms that Chinese troops had discarded. Some of those soldiers even killed refugees for their clothing, and then slipped into the Safety Zone. The Americans there, who had never seen such events during a war, were shocked. But the Japanese had no time to be shocked; to preserve order in the Safety Zone, it was vital that they ferret out Chinese troops who had shed their uniforms. To that end, they decided to register all refugees in the Safety Zone, and during that process, segregate soldiers masquerading as civilians. The Japanese called this procedure “separating combatants from civilians.” I refer to a letter Smythe wrote to his family on December 22.
The special service corps of the Military Police were up to see Rabe this morning, to say they were going to register all the population. He thought it also included a committee they have for the Safety Zone. So we had some hopes it might mean the beginning of their assuming some administrative responsibility for the city. But so far only orders for registration of “peaceful citizens” and thereafter you can only continue to live in Nanking if you have your registration card! (EM 267)
Here we have proof that by separating combatants from civilians, the Japanese were
attempting to protect the refugees from being attacked by stragglers disguised as civilians, who had infiltrated the Safety Zone. Bates, however, in a shocking move, transformed this prudent process to the wholesale killing of refugees.
Again, I refer to Vautrin’s report.
The Period of Registration: The registration of the people living in Nanking began at the University of Nanking on December 26 and lasted through the 27. All the men and women who were refugees on the main campus of the University registered during those days. (EM 337)
And Smythe describes the registration process on December 26 in a letter dated December 27.
During the afternoon there was not a great deal to do at the office. Trucks were interfered with because coolies could not work until registered and I suppose the same will be true today. But after people once pass the bugbear of registeration [sic] they feel much relieved. So far reports of any large numbers being taken off as soldiers, about 20 from the Middle School [MS]. (EM 276)
We see that Smythe thought 20 men had been taken from the middle school. But he also describes the situation at Nanking University, where the majority of the refugees were accommodated. On this occasion Bates and Sone (another American missionary) were also present. One Chinese male was apprehended but then released. Not one man was taken away by the Japanese. Next we have a letter written by Smythe on December 27.
At supper Searle said he had better stay with it until the registration was finished. They did the men yesterday; first by volunteer process above, then herding them around and asking if anyone would guarantee this man, and all passed but one. Then Searle and Sone guaranteed him. Today were registering the women more rapidly, and tomorrow will get to private houses. (EM 278)
Then what was the situation at Ginling Women’s College? Vautrin’s report to the college administrators is very detailed.
Our registration started on December 28 and by inference we thought it was to be of the women living on our campus. That was not our fate, however. It lasted for nine long days and men and women came from all sections of the Safety Zone and even from the country. Tens of thousands came in four abreast, listened first to the lecture on good citizenship and then got the preliminary slip which enabled them to go to one of Mr. Chen Chung-fang’s residences for the final step at which they were given a stamped and numbered registration blank with their name upon it. For the first few days it was limited to men. They formed in line out on Hankow Road and Ninghai Road as early as two o’clock in the morning and all day long they marched through the campus. It had snowed and you can imagine the amount of mud that these tramping feet brought in. This registration at first took place under the military officers. Two guards of soldiers came each time and each group had to have a blazing bonfire and for the officers we furnished two coal ball fires. At first I thought that it would be better to protest
this registration of men on our campus for this meant flinging our front gates wide open, and for the sake of the women we had been so careful to exclude stray men from coming in. However at the end of the first day it seemed best to endure the process for when men were selected out of marching lines and accused of being soldiers, their women folk were usually present and could plead for them and thus many innocent men were saved. Although in the announcement the men were clearly told that if they would confess to having served as soldiers they would be pardoned and given remunerative work to do, we are not sure that the promise was kept but we rather suspect that their bodies are in the large mounds of unburied bodies outside of Han Chung Gate which we know were brought there about that time. Finally only 28 men were taken from the tens of thousands that registered at Ginling. I shall never forget how anxiously the women watched this process of registration and how bravely they would plead for their husbands and sons. Although the registration of women began on Monday, January 3 yet it did not take place solely for them until Wednesday of that week and closed on Friday. How they feared the rough treatment of the soldiers, and how they cringed as they passed them to get the preliminary blank. A number of women were suspected of being prostitutes — and it was at that time that they were trying to start up the licensed houses in the city for Japanese soldiers — but each time when the women could be identified they were released. During the last two days of registration of women it was put under the civil officials and was carried on in a decent and orderly way. All the writing was done by Chinese men and the entire process was carried on in our main quadrangle. I was given permission to bring our group of workers, both staff members and amahs, out in a group and the registration was quickly finished — and thus an ordeal which they had been dreading was passed. (EM 337-8)
According to Vautrin’s report, the registration of tens of thousands of men and women may have been an ordeal for the refugees. But few problems arose, and the process took place without incident. Only 28 men were taken away by the Japanese (one in several thousand). But since Vautrin put the rumor that the bodies of the many men who were taken away were left outside near Hanzhong Gate in writing, some explanation is necessary.
A search for the source of this rumor leads to none other than Miner Searle Bates, who claims to have heard it from a man who narrowly escaped execution.
Here is what Smythe writes in a letter dated December 27.
During the registration process at UN yesterday, they had over 200 men volunteer that they had either been soldiers or military laborers (term used not clearly distinguished for forced civilian labor) on the promise that if they volunteered they would be allowed to work, instead of being shot as they would if they did not confess. This morning a man came to the University with five bayonet wounds and said the group of them were marched out to Ku Ling Sze [Gulin Temple] and there used for bayonet practice by 130 Japanese soldiers. He fainted from his wounds, and when he awoke the Japanese had left, so he made his way back. Wilson thinks one wound is so serious he will not live. That was our diet for lunch this noon when we all reported! (EM 278)
Thus we see that this is a rumor that Bates relayed to Smythe and others at lunch on December 27. We know this because it is completely different from the content of Smythe’s December 26 letter, in which he makes no mention of a great many men being taken away by the Japanese.
The point Bates wished to make can be found in his report issued on January 25, 1938. It appears in Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone. The beginning of this lengthy document contains information identical to that in Smythe’s letter of December 27 about all Chinese males having been freed after Bates and Sone guaranteed the last one, when no one else would vouch for him. Then Bates launches into a diatribe about the Japanese military police abducting and slaughtering civilians. But he did not witness any crime. He is simply reporting what he heard from a Chinese who escaped with his life. Here is an excerpt from that report.
Meanwhile another element had been introduced. Two additional officers, with higher status at least for this particular job, came in for inspection. One of them was violent in his dissatisfaction with what had been done. This man had shown gross roughness and stupidity during a visit to the University on the previous day, and we were often to encounter his evil doings and coarse methods as head of the military police for this district. Toward five o’clock in the afternoon, the 200 or 300 men were taken away in two groups by military police.
Bates has inserted into a factual record a story about how two officers from the military police took away 200-300 Chinese males. Note that he does not say that 200 men volunteered. Here again, he is the only American who writes about such an incident. Bates’ tale continues, relating events of December 27.
Next morning there came to the University Hospital a man with five bayonet wounds. On two occasions this man reported with fair clarity that he had been a refugee in the Library, but was not present at the tennis courts; he was picked up on the street and added to a group that did come from the courts. That evening somewhere to the west, about 130 Japanese soldiers killed most of 500 similar captives with bayonet thrusts. The victim recovered himself to find the Japanese gone, and managed to crawl back during the night. He was not familiar with this part of Nanking, and was vague as to places. Also on the morning of the 27th there was brought to me a man who said that he was one of 30 or 40 who had escaped the death met by most of the 200 to 300 taken away the previous evening.
Later Bates regales us at great length with more stories about men who returned to the university after narrowly escaping being murdered by Japanese soldiers. But now the duplicity of his “reports” is obvious.
 Ibid., Document No. 50.
 Ibid.
To the account of this man and his testimony must be added two items. A responsible worker in the Chinese Red Cross requested us to go outside of Han Chung Men [Hanzhong Gate] to inspect a large number of bodies there. Mr. Kroeger of the International Committee told me that he had observed these bodies himself, in the course of an early venture outside the gate, but that they could not be seen from the City Wall. The gate is now closed.
Hanzhong Gate is near the place where the “victims” taken away by the Japanese were supposedly killed. Bates writes that Kroeger, a German national and a member of the International Committee, reported having seen numerous bodies outside the gate, which couldn’t be seen from the city wall. We have no more information about the identity of the Chinese Red Cross worker. But I feel obligated to point out Bates’ clever, subtle artifice. It was in actuality not Kroeger who attempted to see the corpses from Hanzhong Gate, but Smythe and Bates himself. We know that this is so from a letter Smythe wrote to his wife dated January 1. On that day, Smythe surveyed the city of Nanjing from the Drum Tower, the highest point in the Safety Zone. He estimated that about 10% of the city had burned, and then adds that he climbed the wall of Hanzhong Gate (also known as Hanxi Gate). Let us read this carefully.
After our tower expedition and noting the way the refugees were enjoying the warm sunny day, boys turning cartwheels on the Univ. campus, etc., Searle and I took a walk back of Ginling to see if we could find any of the heaps of bodies of men shot this week. We went over by that temple “Kuling Sze [Gulin Temple],” … down through the valleys to the south, searched every pond, but did not find any bodies except the charred ones back of Ginling that Searle found a few days ago — after the burning incident. We found the garden plots over there less than half used up, but every farm house was deserted. Only a few were back loading up pei Tsai [Chinese cabbage] to carry over and sell. Not a house outside of the Zone was occupied, not even on the west side of Sikang [Xikang] Road. Then we went on south by Tsing Lian Shan [Qingliangshan] and on to the new gate at Hansimen [Hanxi Gate]. (EM 286)
Here we are told how the refugees are enjoying the New Year holiday peacefully and calmly, with no reference whatsoever to Japanese atrocities. Contrary to Vautrin’s fears,
 Ibid.
inspired by rumors that there were a great many bodies at Gulin Temple, there were no bodies there. This discrepancy alone would seem to discredit Bates’ tale of hearing about them from a man who escaped from the murderous Japanese. Subsequently, both Smythe and Bates walked around outside the Safety Zone and saw houses and fields that had been burned. But they did not encounter any corpses. The two men returned to Hanxi Gate and climbed up the wall there. Then, to sum up their tour, Smythe wrote the following:
The net result of our tour was that the situation regarding piles of bodies is less serious and therefore a more favorable result. As far as opportunities for people to go to their homes outside of the Zone, the outlook is still very dark. (Half of the houses were burned outside Hansimen [Hanxi Gate]. We went up on the wall there and looked down on the ruins. That done by the Chinese before the Japanese entered the city. (EM 286)
Thus, according to Smythe’s letter, it was he and Bates who climbed up the wall near Hanxi Gate, not Kroeger. What they saw at the time was an expanse of burned ruins outside the city walls, the result of fires set by Chinese troops.
Here is another excerpt of great interest from a letter Smythe wrote to his wife on New Year’s Eve, the last day of 1937.
The most serious aspect of the situation, and one for which we can see no adequate solution quickly, is that there is no economic basis of life for this community of 200,000. If they go [on] buying rice from the Japanese Army, then the money in the community will be drained out, and no return. The only return service is the food which most of the coolies that go out to work for Japanese Army men, not in great numbers yet, the very few that get any pay, and the few men now employed at the Water and Electric Light Works. The only other income will be what farmers can raise from the ground. Or what people can find or loot from other areas in the city! (EM 282)
However, it is remarkable how well the little street venders along the road keep at it. Little to risk, all to gain, so they daily ply their trade. And what a variety of stuff. We now suspect some of it is looted from areas outside of the Zone where burning has been going on, but anything the people can get in now is all to the good! (EM 283)
Two weeks after the fall of Nanjing, Smythe’s thoughts were focused on the bleak economic outlook for the refugees once they returned to their homes. Nowhere in any of his letters does he write anything about the mass slaughter of refugees crowded into the Safety Zone. Smythe does not profess that he witnessed even one murder. Clearly, he was not “an eyewitness to massacre.”
Still, testifying at the IMTFE in Tokyo on July 29, 1946, Bates repeatedly emphasized the brutality of Japanese soldiers.
As I have demonstrated by comparing his claims with accounts written by Smythe, Mills, and Vautrin, Bates lied on the witness stand. Here are some examples, taken from the stenographer’s record of the IMTFE proceedings.
1. Twelve thousand men, women and children were murdered in and near the Safety Zone.
2. Seventy hours after a large group of Chinese soldiers surrendered right outside Nanjing, and were disarmed, they were all shot with machine guns.
3. For three weeks Japanese commissioned and non-commissioned officers infiltrated the Safety Zone on a regular basis. There they searched through the multitude of refugees, apprehending men suspected of having been soldiers, whom they led away and killed.
4. Japanese soldiers made the rounds of the city every night, looking for women to rape; 8,000 women fell victim to them.
5. These horrific attacks continued for nearly three weeks; they intensified later, persisting for six to seven weeks.
6. For six to seven weeks after Nanjing was occupied, Japanese soldiers looted almost every building in the city. For instance, when someone (unnamed) took advantage of the opportunity to recover his piano, he saw 200 stolen pianos in a single warehouse.
7. Bates saw on three or four occasions high-ranking officers watching with amusement while their inferiors murdered, shot or raped civilians.
I trust I have amply demonstrated that previously cited accounts kept by Americans residing in Nanjing (the true witnesses) thoroughly discredit the accusations listed above.
Compared with Bates’ malicious “eyewitness reports,” a sworn affidavit submitted by Smythe to the IMTFE stated only that he relayed incoming reports of crimes committed by Japanese soldiers on a daily basis to the Japanese and American embassies.
We filed nearly two protests every day for the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation. Usually one of these was taken to the Japanese Embassy by Mr. Rabe and myself in person; the other was sent by messenger.
Smythe never said that he had witnessed any crimes. When we wonder why Bates continued to bear false witness even after Japan was defeated, we need only recall his status as advisor to the Chiang government. It is safe to consider his deceptions at least the remote cause of the fantastic but empty phrase “eyewitnesses to the Nanking massacre.”
Even in the aftermath of the terrible disaster that visited Japan this year — a megathrust
 IMTFE, Transcripts of Proceedings in Open Session, pp. 2624-2675.
 Ibid.
earthquake followed by a tsunami —the residents of the affected area, some of whom lost absolutely everything, never stooped to looting. Instead, they behaved in an orderly manner, and did their best to help each other. Their patience and stoicism became imprinted on the world’s collective consciousness. It is absurd to think, even for a moment, that the fathers and grandfathers of these disaster victims committed atrocities against defenseless refugees in Nanjing, also victims of a disaster.
I have nearly completed my explanation of the situation in Nanjing in late 1937 and early 1938 from the perspectives of the true witnesses: Smythe, Forster, Mills, Magee and Vautrin. The current debate concerning the events that took place, providing one assumes that Japanese military personnel did commit atrocities there, pits the PRC (which claims that the Japanese killed 300,000-400,000) against Japan (which asserts that the number of civilians killed was negligible). However, a careful analysis of contemporaneous records kept by Smythe and other Americans unequivocally contradict the propaganda, which emanated from Bates. I believe I have convinced readers that virtually no refugees were killed or raped by Japanese soldiers. The argument that there was a massacre that claimed 300,000 victims is a monstrous lie, and therefore not worthy of debate. However, in closing, I would like to discuss how the monstrous lie came to be viewed as the truth.
The number 300,000 made its first appearance in this context in 1938, in a book edited by one Harold Timperley. Here is some of the copy from the title page.
A Documentary Record
Compiled and Edited
H. J. Timperley
China Correspondent, Manchester Guardian
And here are the first few lines of text.
At least 300,000 Chinese military casualties for the Central China campaign alone and a like number of civilian casualites [sic] were suffered.
Timperley10 was an Australian who practiced the art of journalism in Manchuria and China. When Nanjing fell he was in Shanghai, working as a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. In January 1938 Timperley traveled to Hankou upon an invitation from W.H. Donald, a compatriot serving as advisor to Chiang Kai-shek. In Hankou Timperley received funds earmarked for the production of anti-Japanese propaganda. As soon as he returned to Shanghai, he set to work. The book Timperley wrote in his capacity as agent provocateur for the Chiang government was What War Means. It was based on letters and telegrams from Bates and Fitch in Nanjing, as well as documents
issued by the International Committee, and intended to serve as propaganda demonstrating the brutality of Japanese soldiers. Therefore, we now know that its content, far from being substantiated fact, was pure propaganda. Iris Chang relied heavily on Timperley’s book.
Timperley was the first to broach the figure of 300,000 victims (dead or wounded Chinese troops and civilians). But he was not referring to casualties in Nanjing, but in an extensive war zone, i.e., central China. Furthermore, he offered no factual basis for his claims, nor did he do any research designed to arrive at them. It is very likely that Timperley simply invented the number. Readers who are not familiar with the Chinese language may be interested to learn that the number three is often used in China to mean “many.” Perhaps Timperley chose it for that reason. He may have thought that for his purposes 30,000 was too few, and three million too many. At the IMTFE prosecutors referred often to What War Means, the source of the accusation that Japanese military personnel slaughtered 300,000 Chinese. But because this figure was a concoction, it became dormant after the IMTFE ended, not rearing its ugly head again until the 1970s, when the Chinese resurrected it. Armed with this knowledge, we can see how meaningless it is. Nevertheless, the number 300,000 is engraved in huge numerals on the roof of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.
Most Americans have seen coverage of the New York or Chicago marathon on television. Three hundred thousand is many times the number of participating runners. It is incredible that in this, the 21st century, the PRC considers justifiable its contention that the Japanese murdered a great number of people (many times the number of runners who completely cover bridges and roads for several hundred meters right after the beginning of a marathon), and that within a short period of time, and then buried their bodies or dumped them in the Yangzi River. The Chinese also continue to issue propaganda documents and films. This is behavior that makes one wish they would take a long, hard look at a marathon.
I hope I have managed to convince those who have had the patience to read this far that there are huge discrepancies between accusations that the Japanese killed 300,000 in Nanjing and the events actually experienced by Americans, and that the massacre tale was spun for propaganda purposes. Two of the nine Americans remaining in Nanjing (there were 25 foreigners in all), Bates and Fitch conspired to manufacture propaganda as soon as Nanjing fell. The other Americans, whose only other source of information was hearsay, believed them. Then Bates’ argument began to balloon. I have already stated that Fitch was an activist who established a pro-Chinese, anti-Japanese organization (see Note 2), but will add here that Fitch’s wife Geraldine was a friend of Chiang’s wife, Soong Mei-ling. Bates and Fitch sent copy to Timperley, who was in the process of publishing What War Means. Those three men launched the notion of the Nanjing “massacre” out into the world. Their efforts notwithstanding, there is no evidence indicating that the book enjoyed wide circulation. Prosecutors at the IMTFE made use of it, but it then disappeared until the 1970s, when the PRC used it as a political tool. This fact alone constitutes proof that the Nanjing massacre was fabricated, and that there were, of course, no eyewitnesses to a massacre.
In conclusion, I would like to introduce two Chinese references (submitted to the IMTFE by the prosecution). They are, to the best of my knowledge, unknown to anyone other than Japanese scholars. The first is from a report from an exhaustive investigation conducted by the prosecution into the “massacre” perpetrated by Japanese military personnel.
During this time, however, the Japanese had put so much effort to deceive and interrupt the investigations, that it depressed the general public. Not only were the number of people reporting the Japanese crimes extremely few, but also even when visited by investigators questioning, they would give out no information. There were some who would not tell the complete facts, while others refused to tell the truth for fear of their reputation. There were some who moved their residence before the investigators could call on them, and quite a few whose fate was unknown.
This investigation was conducted from 1945 to 1946, after Japan’s defeat. At that point all of Japan’s state institutions were under Allied control. The excuse proffered by the Chinese prosecutors for their failure to produce evidence seems exceedingly contrived. The reason no evidence was uncovered is obviously that there were no Japanese atrocities.
Since the prosecution had such difficulty finding witnesses, the majority of evidence gathered was statements from Chinese accusing the Japanese of atrocities. To show how unreliable that evidence was, I would like to reproduce testimony from a woman (Shui Fang Tsen) employed by Ginling Women’s College describing the situation at the college on December 17, 1937, which Minnie Vautrin also described (see above).
In spite of all that she and I and the rest of us could do on the night of December 17, 1937, the soldiers entered the grounds and carried off eleven girls. Nine of these girls horribly raped and abused by Japanese officers later made their way back to our grounds.
One girl was brought grounds [sic]. She could not walk and she was terribly bruised and swollen and stated that she had been repeatedly raped and abused by four or five soldiers.
During the first four weeks every night soldiers would come to get our girls … It was four or five weeks before the situation began to cease and several months before the danger was passed.
 IMTFE, Prosecution Exhibit No. 1706.
 IMTFE, Prosecution Exhibit No. 308.
Perhaps Tsen was not aware of the detailed report that Vautrin, her superior, had submitted to the college authorities. Knowing that the IMTFE handed down judgments on the basis of groundless fabrications like this one, what conclusions have you reached about the so-called Nanjing massacre?
1 Prof. Higashinakano Shudo discovered a newspaper article (shown at left) in the December 11, 1937 edition of the Huntingdon, Pennsylvania Daily News stating that Bates was an advisor to the Chiang government, among other Nanjing-related documents in the possession of Yale University. The text of the article below Bates’ photograph, under the headline “In Nanking With Ropes for Walls,” reads as follows:
For more information, see Higashinakano Shudo, ed. Nankin jiken: Kokuminto gokuhi bunsho kara yomitoku (Understanding the Nanking Incident with the aid of top-secret Nationalist documents) (Tokyo: Soshisha, 2006), pp. 118-9. For the English translation, see Top-Secret Chinese Nationalist Documents Reveal the Truth about the Nanking Incident (translated by Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact),
2 The organizations were CCCR (The Church Committee for China Relief ) and the American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression. The CCCR was headed by Harper Sibley (president of the US Chamber of Commerce from 1935 to 1937. Other officers were John R. Mott, president of the World Alliance of YMCAs, vice chairman; and Margaret Falsis (YMCA, North America), and George Fitch (YMCA, Shanghai), directors. The CCCR was headed by Harper Sibley (president of the US Chamber of Commerce from 1935 to 1937. Other officers were John R. Mott, president of the World Alliance of YMCAs, vice chairman; and Margaret Falsis (YMCA, North America), and George Fitch (YMCA, Shanghai), directors. The CCCR acted as the umbrella organization for 125,000 Protestant groups and ancillary bodies. It was immensely influential in convincing the Roosevelt administration to support China.
The officers of the American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression were Henry Stimson (former Secretary of State), honorary chairman; Roger S. Greene (former consul general at Hankou), chairman; Harry Price (former Yanjing University professor), founding member and executive secretary. Its membership included Margaret Falsis, Hellen Keller, Maxwell Stewart and George Fitch. The organization published and printed tens of thousands of anti-Japanese pamphlets bearing titles like “America’s Share in Japan’s War Guilt.” The group, which also lobbied media representatives, politicians and government officials proved instrumental in turning American public opinion against Japan.
For further information see Anti-Japanese Networks Devised by the United States, China and the Soviet Union That Put Japan into a Quagmire by Ezaki Michio at
3 Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone was published in 1939, 18 months after the Battle of Nanking, by Kelly & Walsh, a British publisher. Its editor was Hsü Shuhsi, professor at Yanjing University and adviser to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. His work was supervised by the Council of International Affairs in Chongqing.
The documents it contains are primarily protests, appeals and reports submitted to the Japanese military authorities, or the Japanese or US embassy. They serve as a record of the activities in which the International Committee was involved over a two-month period. Documents describing Japanese atrocities are, for the most part, reports made by Chinese, which committee members simply recorded without ascertaining their veracity. Cases that mention a witness or witnesses to a crime are exceptional. Most of these documents were prepared by foreigners in Nanjing when the Japanese entered the city
and thereafter. Therefore, they are valuable, primary sources useful in informing us what happened in the city after it fell. A Japanese translation of Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone by Hora Tomio appeared in 1973 under the title Nitchu senso shi shiryo 9: Nankin jiken II (References relating to the conflicts between China and Japan, vol. 9: Nanking Incident II) (Kawade Shobo Shinsha). However, a more accurate translation by Tomisawa Shigenobu was issued in 2004 (“Nankin anzen chitai no kiroku” kan’yaku to kenkyu (Complete translation and analysis of “Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone”) by Tendensha.
4 On December 8 Tang Shengzhi, commander in chief of the Nanjing Defense Forces, issued the following decree: “All noncombatants are to assemble in the Safety Zone, which is under international administration.” Civilians without special permission were not permitted to venture outside the Safety Zone under any circumstances.
5 On January 5, 1938 Clarence Gauss, US consul general in Shanghai posted a letter to the Secretary of State. In it he mentions that Professor Bates of Nanking University had written a memorandum describing the situation in Nanking after the Japanese victory, and that that memorandum had been entrusted to Chicago Daily News correspondent Steele. See Nanking Incident Source Material: American References Nankin jiken shiryoshu 1: Amerika kankei shiryo hen, trans. Nankin Jiken Chosa Kenkyukai hen [Nanking Incident Research Group] (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1992), p. 105.
Also, in a letter to some friends dated April 12, 1938, Bates writes:
Moreover, the book uses a statement which I prepared on the 15th of December to be utilized by the various correspondents living [sic] Nanking on that date. (EM 34)
6 Archibald Steele and Tillman Durdin (New York Times), as well as Colin McDonald of the London Times (who never set foot in Nanjing but was on board the USS Panay), wrote very similar articles describing atrocities allegedly committed by the Japanese based on Bates’ memorandum.
7 From Steele’s article in the December 15, 1937 edition of the Chicago Daily News:
The story of Nanking’s fall is a story of indescribable panic and confusion among the entrapped Chinese defenders, followed by a reign of terror by the conquering army which cost thousands of lives, many of them innocent ones.
It was like killing sheep.
This account is based on the observations of myself and other foreigners remaining in Nanking throughout the siege.
In his article in the December 18, 1937 edition of the New York Times, Durdin writes of “wholesale atrocities and vandalism at Nanking,” of killings, of “wholesale looting, the violation of women, the murder of civilians.” He describes Nanjing as transformed into “a city of terror.” Durdin adds, “Any person who ran because of fear or excitement was likely to be killed on the spot as was any one caught by roving patrols in streets or alleys after dusk. Many slayings were witnessed by foreigners.”
It is quite clear that Bates’ memorandum formed the basis for these two articles. The actual situation in Nanjing was drastically different, as can be seen from letters written by foreign residents of Nanking to their relatives.
8 Smythe is referring to Fukuda Tokuyasu, a Foreign Ministry clerk. Later he was private secretary to Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru, a member of the Lower House of the Japanese Diet, minister of defense, and minister of posts and telecommunications. The following are excerpts from an interview conducted by writer Tanaka Masaaki.
My duties included visiting the office of the International Committee, an organization formed by foreign nationals, nearly every day. There was much coming and going of Chinese youths, who were reporting incidents. Usually, what they had to say was something like the following: “Japanese soldiers are gang-raping 15 or 16 girls on X Street right now” or “A band of Japanese soldiers has broken into a house on Taiping Street, and is now burglarizing it.” Whichever Committee member or members was available (Rev. Magee and Mr. Fitch, for instance) would proceed to type up the reports right in front of my eyes.
I voiced my objections to these reports any number of times: “Just a moment — you can’t submit a protest without verifying this incident.” Sometimes I would insist that Committee members accompany me to the site where the rape or looting had supposedly taken place. When we arrived there, we never found evidence of a crime’s having been committed. None of these places was even occupied. This happened countless times.
(See Masaaki Tanaka, Nankin jiken no sokatsu (What really happened in Nanking) Tokyo: Tendensha, 2001); .)
9 When Magee testified at the IMTFE (International Military Tribune for the Far East), he offered lurid descriptions of Japanese atrocities supposedly perpetrated in Nanjing during a two-day period: looting, assault, rape, murder and arson. On cross-examination, Alfred Brooks, a defense attorney, asked Magee how many of those illegal acts and murders he had witnessed. Magee replied that he had witnessed one murder. However, according to a letter to his wife dated December 19, he hadn’t witnessed even that crime.
Just day before yesterday we saw a poor wretch killed very near the house where we are living. So many of the Chinese are timid and when challenged foolishly start to run. This is what happened to that man. The actual killing we did not see as it took place just around the corner of a bamboo fence from where we could
see. Cola went there later and said the man had been shot twice in the head. (EM 171)
It seems that a man who tried to escape for some reason or other was shot. But as Magee writes, he was not a witness to the killing. When cornered at the IMTFE, he admitted to having seen one murder, but even that was a lie.
Nor did his lies end there. When asked at the IMTFE about the population of Nanjing, Magee said that 200,000 Chinese had sought refuge in the Safety Zone; then he had the gall to add that there were at least 300,000 outside the Safety Zone, which was patently untrue. Every single member of the International Committee knew that there were very few people, if any, outside the zone. That is why they were able to drive around the city with such ease. But Magee told a colossal lie on the witness stand, perhaps because he was confident that no one in the courtroom knew enough to question his testimony.
10 We know for certain that Timperley was an agent provocateur for the Chinese Nationalist Party from An Overview of Propaganda Operations Conducted by the International Information Division, Central Propaganda Bureau, Nationalist Party (in the possession of the Nationalist Party Archives in Taipei). In addition to being the editor of What War Means (published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz Ltd.), Timperley ran the Trans-Pacific News Service, a supposedly neutral organization controlled in actuality by the Nationalist Party, which sent news releases to the US. (For more information, see Kitamura Minoru, The Politics of Nanjing: An Impartial Investigation, trans. Hal Gold (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2007).