The Rape of Nanking
How it Started
The Rape of Nanking was an episode during the Second Sino-Japanese War of mass murder and mass rape by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing (then spelled Nanking), then capital of the Republic of China. Perhaps the most notorious atrocity was a killing contest between two Japanese officers as reported in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun and the English language Japan Advertiser. The contest — a race between the two officers to see which could kill 100 people first using only a sword — was covered much like a sporting event with regular updates on the score over a series of days. At noon on December 9, the military dropped leaflets into the city, urging the surrender of Nanking within 24 hours, promising annihilation if refused. The Japanese awaited an answer to their demand for surrender but no response was received from the Chinese by the deadline on December 10. What followed was nothing short of chaos.
Eyewitness accounts of Westerners and Chinese present at Nanking in the weeks after the fall of the city say that, over the course of six weeks following the fall of Nanking, Japanese troops engaged in rape, murder, theft, arson, and other war crimes. On 19 December 1937, the Reverend James M. McCallum wrote in his diary:
I know not where to end. Never I have heard or read such brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape! We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night and many by day. In case of resistance or anything that seems like disapproval, there is a bayonet stab or a bullet ... People are hysterical ... Women are being carried off every morning, afternoon and evening. The whole Japanese army seems to be free to go and come as it pleases, and to do whatever it pleases.
The United States Response
In the United States, reports published in the New York Times, Reader's Digest and Time Magazine, were greeted with skepticism from the American public. The stories smuggled out of Nanking seemed almost too fantastic to be believed. Overall, most Americans had only a passing knowledge or little interest in Asia. Political leaders in both America and Britain remained overwhelmingly focused on the situation in Europe where Adolf Hitler was rapidly re-arming Germany while at the same time expanding the borders of the Nazi Reich through devious political maneuvers.
We must speak up and demand that government leaders make the right choices to prevent and stop atrocities. Perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities cannot succeed without the support of other governments and corporations. We follow the money and apply public pressure to shame and stop companies and governments that finance mass violence. We call to account any nation that would welcome or reward a perpetrator of mass atrocity.