Question: Assess the significance of the Nanking massacre
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NANKING MASSACRE (Introduction)
The Nanking massacre or the Rape of Nanking is an inconspicuous atrocity, which occurred during the time period of World War Two. This event was damaging and significant to the people of Nanking and does not go unnoticed in many of their minds. However it is a historic issue that has long been neglected, ignored and unknown to the rest of the world, due to a Eurocentric vision of the world. The city of Nanking is situated in a bend of the Yangtze River in eastern China. This city was the capital of Nationalist China and the largest industrial centre and most prosperous city within China. Often described by historians as ‘one of the greatest atrocities of world history’, the Nanking massacre or the Rape of Nanking occurred shortly before World War Two, in late 1937. According to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the ‘Rape of Nanking’ includes the bloodbath caused by the Japanese within the city of Nanking and a 65-mile radius of surrounding regions. This includes 40 small towns and several cities.
So what actually happened?
Japanese, for a long time, had their eyes set on China believing it was the best place for their imperial and expansionist ambitions.
The ‘Marco Polo bridge incident’ in 1937 gave the Japanese an opportunity to start a full-scale war with China. Japan invaded Shanghai thinking originally that they would be able to defeat China within 3 months. Within the first three months, the Japanese forced the Chinese to retreat from Shanghai and then began to march from Shanghai to Nanking feeling anxious, furious and frustrated, as they had not yet won the war. Japan sought to win and end the war by seizing control of Nanking, however doing this was costly and took far longer than anticipated by the Japanese.
The Japanese Central China Front Army arrived in Nanking on the 13th of December, encircling the city from three locations, the river bordering the fourth side. Japanese Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-Shek ordered for all official Chinese soldiers to be removed so that the city would be undefended and forced to give in to the Japanese. They began to seek out Chinese soldiers, and any civilians who resembled soldiers, then executed these people in masses.
In November, a safety zone was opened for Chinese civilians in Nanking by the ‘International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone’, who were a group of missionaries and western businessmen.
The Japanese soldiers initially respected this safety zone, however in January of 1938 they began to dismantle it, declaring that order in the city was restored and that the civilians should return to their homes. Even before the safety zone was dismantled, the Japanese would search the zone for soldiers or ex-soldiers and these people would be shot or executed in masses.
Although Chinese armies had superior numbers, their weapons were inferior to the quantity and quality of the Japanese weapons. Many soldiers and army leaders were largely intimidated by the power of the Japanese army and deserted. These deserting soldiers and civilians escaped through the gate that led to Hsiakwan and across the Yangtze River, however many were caught and executed before they could make it.
The Japanese later captured the Hsiakwan gate and cut off any exit from Nanking. The gate’s defenders were mass executed and piled with sandbags to form a six feet tall mound, which was continually ground down due to heavy military traffic. The remaining 1/3 of the Chinese army who were trapped in Nanking continued to fight until they were eliminated by Japanese tank patrols.
What were the main atrocities?
During the six weeks of assault, the Japanese inflicted countless sadistic actions on the Chinese. The city of Nanking was assaulted by air attack, artillery bombardment, rampaging Imperial soldiers, murder and rape,