Tuesday, November 22, 2005

February 14, 1938 archives: "The Japanese were bent on butchery"

With Japanese last week still forbidding foreign correspondents to go to captured Nanking (TIME, Dec. 20, et seq.), the Chicago Daily News received last week one of the best eyewitness accounts thus far of the "Nanking atrocities" from its Far East Ace Reporter A. T. Steele.

Writes Mr. Steele, who was in Nanking when the Japanese captured it and has been trying to get out the grim details ever since: "All [the Chinese] knew that to be found in possession of a uniform or a gun meant death. Rifles were broken up and thrown into piles to be burned. The streets were strewn with discarded uniforms and munitions. . . .

"As the Japanese net tightened some of the soldiers went nearly crazy with fear. I saw one suddenly seize a bicycle and dash madly in the direction of the advancing Japanese vanguard, then only a few hundred yards distant. When a pedestrian warned him of his peril he turned swiftly about and dashed in the opposite direction. Suddenly he leaped from his bicycle and threw himself at a civilian and when I last saw him he was trying to rip the clothes from the man's back, at the same time shedding his own uniform. . . .

"I have seen jackrabbit drives in the West, in which a cordon of hunters closes in on the helpless rabbits and drives them into a pen, where they are clubbed or shot. The spectacle at Nanking after the Japanese captured the city was very much the same, with human beings as the victims. . . .

"The Japanese were bent on butchery. They were not to be content until they had slaughtered every soldier or official they could lay hands on. . . . One Japanese soldier stood over the growing pile of corpses with a rifle pouring bullets into any of the bodies which showed movement.

"This may be war to the Japanese, but it looked like murder to me."

Best estimates are that the Japanese executed 20,000 at Nanking, slew 114,000 Chinese soldiers in the Shanghai-Nanking phase of the war, lost 11,200 Japanese in this phase.

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