1937: The Rape of Nanking (Nanjing)

An estimated 20 million people died and millions more were subjugated and oppressed during Japan’s half-century of war and colonial expansion, which ended in 1945. Throughout its military campaign the Japanese army carried out an infamous “Three All” extermination policy “loot all, kill all, burn all.” The policy led to unspeakable atrocities; wanton torture, biological warfare experimentation and live vivisections, and mass murder.  (Jin Xide. Japanese Wartime Aggressors “Savage and Cruel” – Why and How, 2005)

The invasion of Shanghai in August 1937 was followed by the Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre known as the “Rape of Nanking.” It was the beginning of a seven week reign of terror in which the conquering Japanese army went on a wild rampage; looting, torturing, beheading, burying alive, burning, and gang- raping at will. An estimated 300,000 unarmed Chinese soldiers and civilians were shot or bayoneted; and an estimated 80,000 Chinese women in Nanjing were raped—at the rate of 1,000 rape cases a night – and many mutilated and killed. (Deh Chien Chen. The Forgotten Holocaust: Nanking Massacre, 2001)

An ultra-nationalistic culture that exalted war and vanquishing the enemy with displays of cruelty; its militia were trained to become sadistic killers. “Japanese soldiers were encouraged by their superiors to inflict maximum pain and suffering upon individual POWs as a way of toughening themselves up for future battles, and also to eradicate any civilized notions of mercy.”  The Japanese did not just kill Chinese civilians, they tortured them in any and every cruel way possible and enjoyed the power of doing so.

 “The elimination of the Chinese POWs began after they were transported by trucks to remote locations on the outskirts of Nanking. As soon as they were assembled, the savagery began, with young Japanese soldiers encouraged by their superiors to inflict maximum pain and suffering upon individual POWs as a way of toughening themselves up for future battles, and also to eradicate any civilized notions of mercy. Filmed footage and still photographs taken by the Japanese themselves document the brutality. Smiling soldiers can be seen conducting bayonet practice on live prisoners, decapitating them and displaying severed heads as souvenirs, and proudly standing among mutilated corpses. Some of the Chinese POWs were simply mowed down by machine-gun fire while others were tied-up, soaked with gasoline and burned alive.” (Genocide in the 20th Century, The History Place)

“The Japanese not only disemboweled, decapitated, and dismembered victims but performed more excruciating varieties of torture. Throughout the city they nailed prisoners to wooden boards and ran over them with tanks, crucified them to trees and electrical posts, carved long strips of flesh from them, and used them for bayonet practice. At least one hundred men reportedly had their eyes gouged out and their noses and ears hacked off before being set on fire. Another group of two hundred Chinese soldiers and civilians were stripped naked, tied to columns and doors of a school, and then stabbed by zhuizi — special needles with handles on them — in hundreds of points along their bodies, including their mouths, throats, and eyes. … The Japanese subjected large crowds of victims to mass incineration. In Hsiakwan [along the Yangtze] a Japanese soldier bound Chinese captives together, ten at a time, and pushed them into a pit, where they were sprayed with gasoline and ignited.” (Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking, 1997, pp. 87-88.)

“The Japanese held grotesque killing contests, including “a competition to determine who could kill the fastest. As one soldier stood sentinel with a machine gun, ready to mow down anyone who tried to bolt, the eight other soldiers split up into pairs to form four separate teams. In each team, one soldier beheaded prisoners with a sword while the other picked up heads and tossed them aside in a pile. The prisoners stood frozen in silence and terror as their countrymen dropped, one by one.” (p. 85)

“Though young and conventionally attractive women were most at risk, no woman was safe from vicious rape and exploitation (often filmed as souvenirs) and probable murder thereafter. “Groups of 3 to 10 marauding soldiers would begin by traveling through the city and robbing whatever there was to steal. They would continue by raping the women and girls and killing anything and anyone that offered any resistance, attempted to run away from them or simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were girls under the age of 8 and women over the age of 70 who were raped and then, in the most brutal way possible, knocked down and beat up.” (p. 119)

“Chinese men were often sodomized or forced to perform a variety of repulsive sexual acts in front of laughing Japanese soldiers. At least one Chinese man was murdered because he refused to commit necrophilia with the corpse of a woman in the snow. The Japanese also delighted in trying to coerce men who had taken lifetime vows of celibacy to engage in sexual intercourse. … The Japanese drew sadistic pleasure in forcing Chinese men to commit incest — fathers to rape their own daughters, brothers their sisters, sons their mothers … those who refused were killed on the spot.” (p. 95.)

“One eyewitness, Li Ke-hen, reported: “There are so many bodies on the street, victims of group rape and murder. They were all stripped naked, their breasts cut off, leaving a terrible dark brown hole; some of them were bayoneted in the abdomen, with their intestines spilling out alongside them; some had a roll of paper or a piece of wood stuffed in their vaginas” (quoted in Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable History In Photograph, 1996, p. 195)

An eyewitness account of the beheading of Chinese victims by Hiroki Kawano, former military photographer: “I’ve seen all kinds of horrible scenes……headless corpses of children lying on the ground. They even made the prisoners dig a hole and kneel in front of it before being beheaded. Some soldiers were so skillful that they took care of the business in a way that severed the head completely but left it hanging by a thin layer of skin on the victim’s chest, so that the weight pulled the body down to the ditch. I captured that blink of a moment with my camera”. (Revolutionary Document, Vol. 109/ History Committee for the Nationalist Party, Taipei, China, 1987 Cited by Chen, 2001)