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Nanking Massacre – Japanese War Crimes

Nanking Massacre

 Japanese War Crimes

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Rape of Nanking

The Nanking Massacre

The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking or Rape of Nanjing, 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.

The massacre occurred over six weeks starting December 13, 1937, the day that the Japanese captured Nanjing. During this period, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army murdered an estimated 40,000 to over 300,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants, and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.

Several key perpetrators were tried and found guilty at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, and were executed. A key perpetrator, Prince Asaka of the Imperial Family, escaped prosecution by having earlier been granted immunity by the Allies.

Extremely rare evidence of Nanjing Massacre filmed by US pastor in 1937

Since most Japanese military records on the killings were kept secret or destroyed shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945, historians have not been able to accurately estimate the death toll of the massacre. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated in 1948 that over 200,000 Chinese were killed in the incident.

China’s official estimate is more than 300,000 dead based on the evaluation of the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal in 1947. The death toll has been actively contested among scholars since the 1980s.

The event remains a contentious political issue, as aspects of it have been disputed by historical negationists and Japanese nationalists who assert that the massacre has been either exaggerated or fabricated for propaganda purposes.

The controversy surrounding the massacre remains a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations and in Japanese relations with other Asia-Pacific nations such as South Korea and the Philippines.

 

Sword Killing Contest!!! First To 100 Wins – Death By Cold Steel Report

Military situation

In August 1937, the Japanese army invaded Shanghai where they met strong resistance and suffered heavy casualties. The battle was bloody as both sides faced attrition in urban hand-to-hand combat. By mid-November the Japanese had captured Shanghai with the help of naval bombardment. The General Staff Headquarters in Tokyo initially decided not to expand the war due to heavy casualties and low troop morale. Nevertheless, on December 1, headquarters ordered the Central China Area Army and the 10th Army to capture Nanjing, then-capital of the Republic of China.

Relocation of the capital

Chiang Kai-shek(蔣中正).jpg

After losing the Battle of Shanghai, Chiang Kai-shek knew that the fall of Nanjing was a matter of time. He and his staff realized that they could not risk the annihilation of their elite troops in a symbolic but hopeless defense of the capital. To preserve the army for future battles, most of it was withdrawn. Chiang’s strategy was to follow the suggestion of his German advisers to draw the Japanese army deep into China and use China’s vast territory as a defensive strength. Chiang planned to fight a protracted war of attrition to wear down the Japanese in the hinterland of China.

Leaving General Tang Shengzhi in charge of the city for the Battle of Nanking, Chiang and many of his advisors flew to Wuhan, where they stayed until it was attacked in 1938.

Strategy for the defense of Nanking

In a press release to foreign reporters, Tang Shengzhi announced the city would not surrender and would fight to the death. Tang gathered about 100,000 soldiers, largely untrained, including Chinese troops who had participated in the Battle of Shanghai. To prevent civilians from fleeing the city, he ordered troops to guard the port, as instructed by Chiang Kai-shek. The defense force blocked roads, destroyed boats, and burnt nearby villages, preventing widespread evacuation.

The Chinese government left for relocation on December 1, and the president left on December 7, leaving the fate of Nanking to an International Committee led by John Rabe.

The defense plan fell apart quickly. Those defending the city encountered Chinese troops fleeing from previous defeats such as the Battle of Shanghai, running from the advancing Japanese army. This did nothing to help the morale of the defenders, many of whom were killed during the defense of the city and subsequent Japanese occupation.

Approach of the Imperial Japanese Army

Japanese war crimes on the march to Nanking

An article on the “Contest to kill 100 people using a sword” published in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun. The headline reads, “‘Incredible Record’ (in the Contest to Cut Down 100 People) —Mukai 106 – 105 Noda—Both 2nd Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings”.

 

Sword used in the “contest” on display at the Republic of China Armed Forces Museum in Taipei, Taiwan

Although the massacre is generally described as having occurred over a six-week period after the fall of Nanjing, the crimes committed by the Japanese army were not limited to that period. Many atrocities were reported to have been committed as the Japanese army advanced from Shanghai to Nanjing.

According to one Japanese journalist embedded with Imperial forces at the time,

“The reason that the [10th Army] is advancing to Nanking quite rapidly is due to the tacit consent among the officers and men that they could loot and rape as they wish.”

Novelist Tatsuzō Ishikawa vividly described how the 16th Division of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force committed atrocities on the march between Shanghai and Nanjing in his novel Ikiteiru Heitai (Living Soldiers), which was based on interviews that Ishikawa conducted with troops in Nanjing in January 1938.

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.

In Japan, the veracity of the newspaper article about the contest was the subject of ferocious debate for several decades starting in 1967.

In 2000, a historian concurred with certain Japanese scholars who had argued that the contest was a concocted story, with the collusion of the soldiers themselves for the purpose of raising the national fighting spirit.

In 2005, a Tokyo district judge dismissed a suit by the families of the lieutenants, stating that “the lieutenants admitted the fact that they raced to kill 100 people” and that the story cannot be proven to be clearly false. The judge also ruled against the civil claim of the plaintiffs because the original article was more than 60 years old.

The historicity of the event remains disputed in Japan.

Flight of Chinese civilians

As the Japanese army drew closer to Nanjing, panicked Chinese civilians fled in droves, not only because of the dangers of the anticipated battle but also because they feared the deprivation inherent in the scorched earth strategy that the Chinese troops were implementing in the area surrounding the city.

The Nanjing garrison force set fire to buildings and houses in the areas close to Xiakuan to the north as well as in the environs of the eastern and southern city gates. Targets within and outside of the city walls—such as military barracks, private homes, the Chinese Ministry of Communication, forests and even entire villages—were burnt to cinders, at an estimated value of 20 to 30 million (1937) US dollars.

Establishment of the Nanking Safety Zone

Many Westerners were living in the city at that time, conducting trade or on missionary trips. As the Japanese army approached Nanking, most of them fled the city, leaving 27 foreigners. Five of these were journalists who remained in the city a few days after it was captured, leaving the city on December 16. Fifteen of the remaining 22 foreigners formed a committee, called the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone in the western quarter of the city.

German businessman John Rabe was elected as its leader, in part because of his status as a member of the Nazi Party and the existence of the German-Japanese bilateral Anti-Comintern Pact.

The Japanese government had previously agreed not to attack parts of the city that did not contain Chinese military forces, and the members of the Committee managed to persuade the Chinese government to move their troops out of the area.

On December 1, 1937, Nanking Mayor Ma Chao-chun ordered all Chinese citizens remaining in Nanking to move into the “Safety Zone”. Many fled the city on December 7, and the International Committee took over as the de facto government of Nanking.

Prince Asaka appointed as commander

Prince Yasuhiko Asaka in 1940

 

In a memorandum for the palace rolls, Hirohito singled Prince Yasuhiko Asaka out for censure as the one imperial kinsman whose attitude was “not good”. He assigned Asaka to Nanjing as an opportunity to make amends.

It appears that Hirohito had never learned about, or had refused to admit, Asaka’s role in the ensuing massacre.

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Kesago Nakajima

On December 5, Asaka left Tokyo by plane and arrived at the front three days later. He met with division commanders, lieutenant-generals Kesago Nakajima and Heisuke Yanagawa, who informed him that the Japanese troops had almost completely surrounded 300,000 Chinese troops in the vicinity of Nanjing and that preliminary negotiations suggested that the Chinese were ready to surrender.

Prince Asaka is alleged to have issued an order to “kill all captives”, thus providing official sanction for the crimes which took place during and after the battle.

Some authors record that Prince Asaka signed the order for Japanese soldiers in Nanking to “kill all captives”.Others assert that lieutenant colonel Isamu Chō, Asaka’s aide-de-camp, sent this order under the Prince’s sign manual without the Prince’s knowledge or assent.

Nevertheless, even if Chō took the initiative, Asaka was nominally the officer in charge and gave no orders to stop the carnage. When General Matsui arrived four days after it had begun, he issued strict orders that resulted in its eventual end.

While the extent of Prince Asaka’s responsibility for the massacre remains a matter of debate, the ultimate sanction for the massacre and the crimes committed during the invasion of China were issued in Emperor Hirohito‘s ratification of the Japanese army’s proposition to remove the constraints of international law on the treatment of Chinese prisoners on August 5, 1937.

Battle of Nanking

Siege of the city

The Japanese military continued to move forward, breaching the last lines of Chinese resistance, and arriving outside the walled city of Nanking on December 9.

Demand for surrender

At noon on December 9, the military dropped leaflets into the city, urging the surrender of Nanking within 24 hours, promising annihilation if refused.

Meanwhile, members of the Committee contacted Tang and suggested a plan for three-day cease-fire, during which the Chinese troops could withdraw without fighting while the Japanese troops would stay in their present position.

General Tang

General Tang agreed with this proposal if the International Committee could acquire permission of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who had already fled to Hankow to which he had temporarily shifted the military headquarters two days earlier.

John Rabe boarded the U.S. gunboat Panay on December 9 and sent two telegrams, one to Chiang Kai-shek by way of the American ambassador in Hankow, and one to the Japanese military authority in Shanghai. The next day he was informed that Chiang Kai-shek, who had ordered that Nanking be defended “to the last man,” had refused to accept the proposal.

Assault and capture of Nanking

Iwane Matsui enters Nanking

 

The Japanese awaited an answer to their demand for surrender but no response was received from the Chinese by the deadline on December 10. General Iwane Matsui waited another hour before issuing the command to take Nanking by force. The Japanese army mounted its assault on the Nanking walls from multiple directions; the SEF’s 16th Division attacked three gates on the eastern side, the 6th Division of the 10A launched its offensive on the western walls, and the SEF’s 9th Division advanced into the area in-between.

On December 12, under heavy artillery fire and aerial bombardment, General Tang Sheng-chi ordered his men to retreat. What followed was nothing short of chaos. Some Chinese soldiers stripped civilians of their clothing in a desperate attempt to blend in, and many others were shot by the Chinese supervisory unit as they tried to flee.

On 13 December, the 6th and the 116th Divisions of the Japanese Army were the first to enter the city, facing little military resistance. Simultaneously, the 9th Division entered nearby Guanghua Gate, and the 16th Division entered the Zhongshan and Taiping gates. That same afternoon, two small Japanese Navy fleets arrived on both sides of the Yangtze River.

Pursuit and mopping-up operations

Japanese troops pursued the retreating Chinese army units, primarily in the Xiakuan area to the north of the city walls and around the Zijin Mountain in the east. Although most sources suggest that the final phase of the battle consisted of a one-sided slaughter of Chinese troops by the Japanese, some Japanese historians maintain that the remaining Chinese military still posed a serious threat to the Japanese. Prince Yasuhiko Asaka told a war correspondent later that he was in a very perilous position when his headquarters was ambushed by Chinese forces that were in the midst of fleeing from Nanking east of the city. On the other side of the city, the 11th Company of the 45th Regiment encountered some 20,000 Chinese soldiers who were making their way from Xiakuan.

The Japanese army conducted its mopping-up operation both inside and outside the Nanking Safety Zone. Since the area outside the safety zone had been almost completely evacuated, the mopping-up effort was concentrated in the safety zone. The safety zone, an area of 3.85 square kilometres, was packed with the remaining population of Nanking. The Japanese army leadership assigned sections of the safety zone to some units to separate alleged plain-clothed soldiers from the civilians.

Massacre

Rape of Nanking Part I Atrocities in Asia Nanjing Massacre

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. Some of these accounts, including the diaries of John Rabe and American Minnie Vautrin, came from foreigners who opted to stay behind to protect Chinese civilians from harm. Other accounts include first-person testimonies of Nanking Massacre survivors, eyewitness reports of journalists (both Western and Japanese), as well as the field diaries of military personnel. American missionary John Magee stayed behind to provide a 16 mm film documentary and first-hand photographs of the Nanking Massacre.

A group of foreign expatriates headed by Rabe had formed the 15-man International Committee on November 22 and mapped out the Nanking Safety Zone in order to safeguard civilians in the city, where the population numbered from 200,000 to 250,000. Rabe and American missionary Lewis S. C. Smythe, secretary of the International Committee and a professor of sociology at the University of Nanking, recorded the actions of the Japanese troops and filed complaints to the Japanese embassy.

Massacre contest

In 1937, the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun and its sister newspaper, the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun, covered a “contest” between two Japanese officers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda of the Japanese 16th Division.

 

The two men were described as vying to be the first to kill 100 people with a sword before the capture of Nanking. From Jurong to Tangshan (two cities in Jiangshu Province, China), Mukai had killed 89 people while Noda had killed 78 people. The contest continued because neither had killed 100 people.

By the time they had arrived at Zijin Mountain, Noda had killed 105 people while Mukai had killed 106 people. Both officers supposedly surpassed their goal during the heat of battle, making it impossible to determine which officer had actually won the contest. Therefore (according to journalists Asami Kazuo and Suzuki Jiro, writing in the Tokyo Nichi-Nichi Shimbun of December 13), they decided to begin another contest to kill 150 people.[43] The Nichi Nichi headline of the story of December 13 read “‘Incredible Record’ [in the Contest to] Behead 100 People—Mukai 106 – 105 Noda—Both 2nd Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings”.

After Japan surrendered, Mukai and Noda were arrested, each charged as a “Civilized Public Enemy”, and executed at gunpoint in Nanking

Rape

Photo taken in Xuzhou, showing the body of a woman who was profaned in a way similar to the teenager described in case 5 of John Magee‘s movie.

 

Case 5 of John Magee‘s film: on December 13, 1937, about 30 Japanese soldiers murdered all but two of 11 Chinese in the house at No. 5 Xinlukou. A woman and her two teenaged daughters were raped, and Japanese soldiers rammed a bottle and a cane into her vagina.

An eight-year-old girl was stabbed, but she and her younger sister survived. They were found alive two weeks after the killings by an elderly woman shown in the photo. Bodies of the victims can also be seen in the photo.

 

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that, in a addition to children and the elderly, 20,000 women were raped.

A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process in which soldiers would go from door to door, searching for girls, with many women being captured and gang raped. The women were often killed immediately after being raped, often through explicit mutilationor by pentetrating vaginas with bayonets, long sticks of bamboo, or other objects. Young children were not exempt from these atrocities and were cut open to allow Japanese soldiers to rape them.

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.

On March 7, 1938, Robert O. Wilson, a surgeon at the American-administered University Hospital in the Safety Zone, wrote in a letter to his family,

“a conservative estimate of people slaughtered in cold blood is somewhere about 100,000, including of course thousands of soldiers that had thrown down their arms”.

Here are two excerpts from his letters of 15 and 18 December 1937 to his family:

The slaughter of civilians is appalling. I could go on for pages telling of cases of rape and brutality almost beyond belief. Two bayoneted corpses are the only survivors of seven street cleaners who were sitting in their headquarters when Japanese soldiers came in without warning or reason and killed five of their number and wounded the two that found their way to the hospital.

Let me recount some instances occurring in the last two days. Last night the house of one of the Chinese staff members of the university was broken into and two of the women, his relatives, were raped. Two girls, about 16, were raped to death in one of the refugee camps. In the University Middle School where there are 8,000 people the Japs came in ten times last night, over the wall, stole food, clothing, and raped until they were satisfied. They bayoneted one little boy of eight who [had] five bayonet wounds including one that penetrated his stomach, a portion of omentum was outside the abdomen. I think he will live.

In his diary kept during the aggression against the city and its occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army, the leader of the Safety Zone, John Rabe, wrote many comments about Japanese atrocities. For 17 December:

JohnRabe.jpg

John Rabe

Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall.

When I show them my party badge, they return the same way. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped, and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I managed to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hospital … Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling College. . . alone. You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.

There are also accounts of Japanese troops forcing families to commit incestuous acts. Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape their daughters. One pregnant woman who was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; although the baby appeared to be physically unharmed (Robert B. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun).

Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were also forced to rape women.

Massacre of civilians

A boy killed by a Japanese soldier with the butt of a rifle because he did not take off his hat.

 

Following the capture of Nanking, a massacre, which was perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), led to the deaths of up to 60,000 residents in the city, a figure difficult to precisely calculate due to the many bodies deliberately burnt, buried in mass graves, or deposited in the Yangtze River by the IJA.

Japanese ultra-nationalists have strongly disputed such death tolls, with some stating that only several hundred civilians were killed during the massacre. B. Campbell, in an article published in the journal Sociological Theory, has described the Nanking Massacre as a genocide considering the fact that the residents were still unilaterally killed en masse during the aftermath, despite the successful and certain outcome in battle.

On 13 December 1937, John Rabe wrote in his diary:

It is not until we tour the city that we learn the extent of destruction. We come across corpses every 100 to 200 yards. The bodies of civilians that I examined had bullet holes in their backs. These people had presumably been fleeing and were shot from behind. The Japanese march through the city in groups of ten to twenty soldiers and loot the shops … I watched with my own eyes as they looted the café of our German baker Herr Kiessling. Hempel’s hotel was broken into as well, as [was] almost every shop on Chung Shang and Taiping Road.

On 10 February 1938, Legation Secretary of the German Embassy, Rosen, wrote to his Foreign Ministry about a film made in December by Reverend John Magee to recommend its purchase. Here is an excerpt from his letter and a description of some of its shots, kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

During the Japanese reign of terror in Nanking – which, by the way, continues to this day to a considerable degree – the Reverend John Magee, a member of the American Episcopal Church Mission who has been here for almost a quarter of a century, took motion pictures that eloquently bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Japanese … One will have to wait and see whether the highest officers in the Japanese army succeed, as they have indicated, in stopping the activities of their troops, which continue even today.

On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house at #5 Hsing Lu Koo in the southeastern part of Nanking, and demanded entrance. The door was open by the landlord, a Mohammedan named Ha. They killed him immediately with a revolver and also Mrs. Ha, who knelt before them after Ha’s death, begging them not to kill anyone else. Mrs. Ha asked them why they killed her husband and they shot her. Mrs. Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1 year old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest, and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia’s parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14 [were]. They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha’s two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.

Bodies of Chinese massacred by Japanese troops along a river in Nanjing.

Pregnant women were targeted for murder, as their stomachs were often bayoneted, sometimes after rape. Tang Junshan, survivor and witness to one of the Japanese army’s systematic mass killings, testified:

The seventh and last person in the first row was a pregnant woman. The soldier thought he might as well rape her before killing her, so he pulled her out of the group to a spot about ten meters away. As he was trying to rape her, the woman resisted fiercely … The soldier abruptly stabbed her in the belly with a bayonet. She gave a final scream as her intestines spilled out. Then the soldier stabbed the fetus, with its umbilical cord clearly visible, and tossed it aside.

According to Navy veteran Sho Mitani, “The Army used a trumpet sound that meant ‘Kill all Chinese who run away'”. Thousands were led away and mass-executed in an excavation known as the “Ten-Thousand-Corpse Ditch”, a trench measuring about 300 m long and 5 m wide. Since records were not kept, estimates regarding the number of victims buried in the ditch range from 4,000 to 20,000. However, most scholars and historians consider the number to be more than 12,000 victims.

An elderly Hui man.

The Hui people, a minority Chinese group who are mainly Muslim, also suffered during the massacre, after which one mosque was found destroyed and others found to be “filled with dead bodies”. Hui volunteers and imams buried over 100 Hui following Muslim ritual.

Extrajudicial killing of Chinese prisoners of war

On August 6, 1937, Hirohito had personally ratified his army’s proposition to remove the constraints of international law on the treatment of Chinese prisoners. This directive also advised staff officers to stop using the term “prisoner of war” (POW).

A Chinese POW about to be beheaded by a Japanese officer with a shin gunto during the Nanking Massacre.

 

Immediately after the fall of the city, Japanese troops embarked on a determined search for former soldiers, in which thousands of young men were captured. Many were taken to the Yangtze River, where they were machine-gunned. What was probably the single largest massacre of Chinese troops occurred along the banks of the Yangtze River on December 18 in the Straw String Gorge Massacre.

Japanese soldiers took most of the morning tying all of the POWs’ hands together; in the dusk, the soldiers divided POWs into four columns and opened fire. Unable to escape, the POWs could only scream and thrash in desperation. It took an hour for the sounds of death to stop and even longer for the Japanese to bayonet each individual. Most were dumped into the Yangtze. It is estimated that at least 57,500 Chinese POWs were killed.

The Japanese troops gathered 1,300 Chinese soldiers and civilians at Taiping Gate and killed them. The victims were blown up with landmines, then doused with petrol before being set on fire. Those who were alive afterward were killed with bayonets.

F. Tillman Durdin and Archibald Steele, American news correspondents, reported that they had seen bodies of killed Chinese soldiers forming mounds six feet high at the Nanking Yijiang gate in the north. Durdin, who was working for The New York Times, toured Nanking before his departure from the city. He heard waves of machine-gun fire and witnessed the Japanese soldiers gun down some two hundred Chinese within ten minutes. Two days later, in his report to The New York Times, he stated that the alleys and street were filled with civilian bodies, including women and children.

According to a testimony delivered by missionary Ralph L. Phillips to the U.S. State Assembly Investigating Committee, he was “forced to watch while the Japs disembowled a Chinese soldier” and “roasted his heart and liver and ate them”.[71]

Theft and arson

One-third of the city was destroyed as a result of arson. According to reports, Japanese troops torched newly built government buildings as well as the homes of many civilians. There was considerable destruction to areas outside the city walls. Soldiers pillaged from the poor and the wealthy alike. The lack of resistance from Chinese troops and civilians in Nanking meant that the Japanese soldiers were free to divide up the city’s valuables as they saw fit. This resulted in the widespread looting and burglary.

On 17 December, chairman John Rabe wrote a complaint to Kiyoshi Fukui, second secretary of the Japanese Embassy. The following is an excerpt:

In other words, on the 13th when your troops entered the city, we had nearly all the civilian population gathered in a Zone in which there had been very little destruction by stray shells and no looting by Chinese soldiers even in full retreat … All 27 Occidentals in the city at that time and our Chinese population were totally surprised by the reign of robbery, raping and killing initiated by your soldiers on the 14th. All we are asking in our protest is that you restore order among your troops and get the normal city life going as soon as possible. In the latter process we are glad to cooperate in any way we can. But even last night between 8 and 9 p.m. when five Occidental members of our staff and Committee toured the Zone to observe conditions, we did not find any single Japanese patrol either in the Zone or at the entrances!

Nanking Safety Zone and the role of foreigners

The Japanese troops did respect the Zone to an extent; until the Japanese occupation, no shells entered that part of the city except a few stray shots. During the chaos following the attack of the city, some were killed in the Safety Zone, but the crimes that occurred in the rest of the city were far greater by all accounts.

The Japanese soldiers committed actions in the Safety Zone that were part of the larger Nanking Massacre. The International Committee appealed a number of times to the Japanese army, with Rabe using his credentials as a Nazi Party member, but to no avail. Rabe wrote that, from time to time, the Japanese would enter the Safety Zone at will, carry off a few hundred men and women, and either summarily execute them or rape and then kill them.

By February 5, 1938, the International Committee had forwarded to the Japanese embassy a total of 450 cases of murder, rape, and general disorder by Japanese soldiers that had been reported after the American, British and German diplomats had returned to their embassies.

“Case 5 – On the night of December 14th, there were many cases of Japanese soldiers entering houses and raping women or taking them away. This created panic in the area and hundreds of women moved into the Ginling College campus yesterday.”
“Case 10 – On the night of December 15th, a number of Japanese soldiers entered the University of Nanking buildings at Tao Yuen and raped 30 women on the spot, some by six men.”
“Case 13 – December 18, 4 p.m., at No. 18 I Ho Lu, Japanese soldiers wanted a man’s cigarette case and when he hesitated, one of the soldier crashed in the side of his head with a bayonet. The man is now at the University Hospital and is not expected to live.”
“Case 14 – On December 16, seven girls (ages ranged from 16 to 21) were taken away from the Military College. Five returned. Each girl was raped six or seven times daily- reported December 18th.”
“Case 15 – There are about 540 refugees crowded in #83 and 85 on Canton Road … More than 30 women and girls have been raped. The women and children are crying all nights. Conditions inside the compound are worse than we can describe. Please give us help.”
“Case 16 – A Chinese girl named Loh, who, with her mother and brother, was living in one of the Refugee Centers in the Refugee Zone, was shot through the head and killed by a Japanese soldier. The girl was 14 years old. The incident occurred near the Kuling Ssu, a noted temple on the border of the Refugee zone …”
“Case 19 – January 30th, about 5 p.m. Mr. Sone (of the Nanking Theological Seminary) was greeted by several hundred women pleading with him that they would not have to go home on February 4th. They said it was no use going home they might just as well be killed for staying at the camp as to be raped, robbed or killed at home. … One old woman 62 years old went home near Hansimen and Japanese soldiers came at night and wanted to rape her. She said she was too old. So the soldiers rammed a stick up her. But she survived to come back.”

It is said that Rabe rescued between 200,000 and 250,000 Chinese people.

Causes

Jonathan Spence writes “there is no obvious explanation for this grim event, nor can one be found. The Japanese soldiers, who had expected easy victory, instead had been fighting hard for months and had taken infinitely higher casualties than anticipated. They were bored, angry, frustrated, tired. The Chinese women were undefended, their menfolk powerless or absent. The war, still undeclared, had no clear-cut goal or purpose. Perhaps all Chinese, regardless of sex or age, seemed marked out as victims.”

Matsui’s reaction to the massacre

 

Iwane Matsui 01.jpg

On December 18, 1937, as General Iwane Matsui began to comprehend the full extent of the rape, murder, and looting in the city, he grew increasingly dismayed. He reportedly told one of his civilian aides:

“I now realize that we have unknowingly wrought a most grievous effect on this city. When I think of the feelings and sentiments of many of my Chinese friends who have fled from Nanking and of the future of the two countries, I cannot but feel depressed. I am very lonely and can never get in a mood to rejoice about this victory.”

 

He even let a tinge of regret flavor the statement he released to the press that morning:

“I personally feel sorry for the tragedies to the people, but the Army must continue unless China repents. Now, in the winter, the season gives time to reflect. I offer my sympathy, with deep emotion, to a million innocent people.”

On New Year’s Day, Matsui was still upset about the behavior of the Japanese soldiers at Nanking. Over a toast he confided to a Japanese diplomat:

“My men have done something very wrong and extremely regrettable.”

End of the massacre

In late January 1938, the Japanese army forced all refugees in the Safety Zone to return home, immediately claiming to have “restored order”.

After the establishment of the weixin zhengfu (the collaborating government) in 1938, order was gradually restored in Nanking and atrocities by Japanese troops lessened considerably.

On February 18, 1938, the Nanking Safety Zone International Committee was forcibly renamed “Nanking International Rescue Committee“, and the Safety Zone effectively ceased to function. The last refugee camps were closed in May 1938.

Recall of Matsui and Asaka

In February 1938 both Prince Asaka and General Matsui were recalled to Japan. Matsui returned to retirement, but Prince Asaka remained on the Supreme War Council until the end of the war in August 1945. He was promoted to the rank of general in August 1939, though he held no further military commands.

Death toll estimates

 

Estimates of the number of victims vary based on the definitions of the geographical range and the duration of the event.

The extent of the atrocities is debated,  with numbers ranging from some Japanese claims of several hundred,  to the Chinese claim of a non-combatant death toll of 300,000. Historian Tokushi Kasahara states “more than 100,000 and close to 200,000, or maybe more”, referring to his own book.  This estimation includes the surrounding area outside of the city of Nanking, which is objected by a Chinese researcher (the same book, p. 146). Hiroshi Yoshida concludes “more than 200,000” in his book.[Tomio Hora writes of 50,000–100,000 deaths.

Mainstream scholars consider figures from 40,000 to over 300,000 to be an accurate estimate. According to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, estimates made at a later date indicate that the total number of civilians and prisoners of war murdered in Nanking and its vicinity during the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation was up to 200,000. These estimates are borne out by the figures of burial societies and other organizations, which testify to over 155,000 buried bodies. These figures do not take into account those persons whose bodies were destroyed by burning, drowning or by other means, or whose bodies were interred in mass graves.

According to the verdict of the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal on 10 March 1947, there are

“more than 190,000 mass slaughtered civilians and Chinese soldiers killed by machine gun by the Japanese army, whose corpses have been burned to destroy proof. Besides, we count more than 150,000 victims of barbarian acts buried by the charity organizations. We thus have a total of more than 300,000 victims.”

 

However, this estimate includes an accusation that the Japanese Army murdered 57,418 Chinese POWs at Mufushan, though the latest research indicates that between 4,000 and 20,000 were massacred, and it also includes the 112,266 corpses allegedly buried by the Chongshantang, a charitable association, though today mainstream historians agree that the Chongshantang’s records were at least greatly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated.

Bob Wakabayashi concludes from this that estimates over 200,000 are not credible. Ikuhiko Hata considers the number of 300,000 to be a “symbolic figure” representative of China’s wartime suffering and not a figure to be taken literally.

Some researchers estimate that between 40,000 and 60,000 people were killed, which corresponds to the figures from three sources; one is the Red Army’s official journal of the time, Hangdibao and another is that of Miner Searle Bates of the International Safety Zone Committee, and the third is the aforementioned figure written by John Rabe in a letter.

John Rabe, Chairman of the International Committee and Nanking Safety Zone, estimated that between 50,000 and 60,000 (civilians) were killed  However, Erwin Wickert, the editor of The diaries of John Rabe, points out that

“It is likely that Rabe’s estimate is too low, since he could not have had an overview of the entire municipal area during the period of the worst atrocities. Moreover, many troops of captured Chinese soldiers were led out of the city and down to the Yangtze, where they were summarily executed. But, as noted, no one actually counted the dead.”

The casualty count of 300,000 was first promulgated in January 1938 by Harold Timperley, a journalist in China during the Japanese invasion, based on reports from contemporary eyewitnesses.  Other sources, including Iris Chang‘s The Rape of Nanking, also conclude that the death toll reached 300,000. In December 2007, newly declassified U.S. government archive documents revealed that a telegraph by the U.S. ambassador to Germany in Berlin sent one day after the Japanese army occupied Nanking, stated that he heard the Japanese Ambassador in Germany boasting that Japanese army killed 500,000 Chinese people as the Japanese army advanced from Shanghai to Nanking. According to the archives research

“The telegrams sent by the U.S. diplomats [in Berlin] pointed to the massacre of an estimated half a million people in Shanghai, Suzhou, Jiaxing, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Wuxi and Changzhou”.

Range and duration

The most conservative viewpoint is that the geographical area of the incident should be limited to the few km2 of the city known as the Safety Zone, where the civilians gathered after the invasion. Many Japanese historians seized upon the fact that during the Japanese invasion there were only 200,000–250,000 citizens in Nanking as reported by John Rabe, to argue that the PRC’s estimate of 300,000 deaths is a vast exaggeration.

However, many historians include a much larger area around the city. Including the Xiaguan district (the suburbs north of Nanking, about 31 km2 in size) and other areas on the outskirts of the city, the population of greater Nanking was running between 535,000 and 635,000 civilians and soldiers just prior to the Japanese occupation.[93]

Some historians also include six counties around Nanking, known as the Nanking Special Municipality.

The duration of the incident is naturally defined by its geography: the earlier the Japanese entered the area, the longer the duration. The Battle of Nanking ended on December 13, when the divisions of the Japanese Army entered the walled city of Nanking. The Tokyo War Crime Tribunal defined the period of the massacre to the ensuing six weeks. More conservative estimates say that the massacre started on December 14, when the troops entered the Safety Zone, and that it lasted for six weeks.

Historians who define the Nanking Massacre as having started from the time that the Japanese Army entered Jiangsu province push the beginning of the massacre to around mid-November to early December (Suzhou fell on November 19), and stretch the end of the massacre to late March 1938.

Various estimates

Japanese historians, depending on their definition of the geographical and time duration of the killings, give wide-ranging estimates for the number of massacred civilians, from several thousand to upwards of 200,000. The lowest estimate by a Japanese historian is 40,000.

Chinese language sources tend to place the figure of massacred civilians upwards of 200,000.

For example, a postwar investigation by the Nanking District Court put the number of dead during the incident as 295,525, 76% of them men, 22% women and 2% children.

A 42-part Taiwanese documentary produced from 1995 to 1997, entitled An Inch of Blood For An Inch of Land  (一寸河山一寸血), asserts that 340,000 Chinese civilians died in Nanking City as a result of the Japanese invasion: 150,000 through bombing and crossfire in the five-day battle, and 190,000 in the massacre, based on the evidence presented at the Tokyo Trials.

War crimes tribunals

Shortly after the surrender of Japan, the primary officers in charge of the Japanese troops at Nanking were put on trial. General Matsui was indicted before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for “deliberately and recklessly” ignoring his legal duty “to take adequate steps to secure the observance and prevent breaches” of the Hague Convention. Hisao Tani, the lieutenant general of the 6th Division of the Japanese army in Nanking, was tried by the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal.

Other Japanese military leaders in charge at the time of the Nanking Massacre were not tried. Prince Kan’in, chief of staff of the Imperial Japanese Army during the massacre, had died before the end of the war in May 1945. Prince Asaka was granted immunity because of his status as a member of the imperial family.[97] Isamu Chō, the aide of Prince Asaka, and whom some historians believe issued the “kill all captives” memo, had committed suicide during the defense of Okinawa.[98]

Grant of immunity to Prince Asaka

On May 1, 1946, SCAP officials interrogated Prince Asaka, who was the ranking officer in the city at the height of the atrocities, about his involvement in the Nanking Massacre and the deposition was submitted to the International Prosecution Section of the Tokyo tribunal. Asaka denied the existence of any massacre and claimed never to have received complaints about the conduct of his troops.[101] Whatever his culpability may have been, Asaka was not prosecuted before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East at least in part because under the pact concluded between General MacArthur and Hirohito, the Emperor himself and all the members of the imperial family were granted immunity from prosecution.

Evidence and testimony

Harold John Timperley‘s telegram of 17 January 1938 describing the atrocities.

The prosecution began the Nanking phase of its case in July 1946. Dr. Robert O. Wilson, a surgeon and a member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, took the witness stand first.

Other members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone who took the witness stand included Miner Searle Bates and John Magee. George A. Fitch, Lewis Smythe and James McCallum filed affidavits with their diaries and letters.

Another piece of evidence that was submitted to the tribunal was Harold Timperley’s telegram regarding the Nanking Massacre which had been intercepted and decoded by the Americans on January 17, 1938.

One of the books by Hsü, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone, was also adduced in court.

According to Matsui’s own diary, one day after he made the ceremonial triumphal entry into the city on December 17, 1937, he instructed the chiefs of staff from each division to tighten military discipline and try to eradicate the sense of disdain for Chinese people among their soldiers.

On February 7, 1938, Matsui delivered a speech at a memorial service for the Japanese officers and men of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force who were killed in action. In front of the high-ranking officers, Domei News Agency reported, he emphasized the necessity to “put an end to various reports affecting the prestige of the Japanese troops.”

The entry for the same day in Matsui’s diary read, “I could only feel sadness and responsibility today, which has been overwhelmingly piercing my heart. This is caused by the Army’s misbehaviors after the fall of Nanking and failure to proceed with the autonomous government and other political plans.”

Matsui’s defense

Matsui’s defence varied between denying the mass-scale atrocities and evading his responsibility for what had happened. Eventually he ended up making numerous conflicting statements.

In the interrogation in Sugamo prison preceding the trial Matsui admitted that he heard about the many outrages committed by his troops from Japanese diplomats when he entered Nanking on December 17, 1937.

In court, he contradicted the earlier testimony and told the judges that he was not “officially” briefed at the consulate about the evildoings, presumably to avoid admitting any contact with the consulate officials such as Second Secretary (later Acting Consul-General) Fukui Kiyoshi and Attaché Fukuda Tokuyasu who received and dealt with the protests filed by the International Committee.

In the same interrogation session before the trial Matsui said one officer and three low-ranking soldiers were court-martialled because of their misbehavior in Nanking and the officer was sentenced to death.

In his affidavit Matsui said he ordered his officers to investigate the massacre and to take necessary action. In court, however, Matsui said that he did not have jurisdiction over the soldiers’ misconduct since he was not in the position of supervising military discipline and morals.

Matsui asserted that he had never ordered the execution of Chinese POWs. He further argued that he had directed his army division commanders to discipline their troops for criminal acts, and was not responsible for their failure to carry out his directives. At trial, Matsui went out of his way to protect Prince Asaka by shifting blame to lower ranking division commanders.[102]

Verdict

In the end the Tribunal convicted only two defendants to the Rape of Nanking.

Matsui was convicted of count 55, which charged him with being one of the senior officers who “deliberately and recklessly disregarded their legal duty [by virtue of their respective offices] to take adequate steps to secure the observance [of the Laws and Customs of War] and prevent breaches thereof, and thereby violated the laws of war.”

Kōki Hirota, who had been the Foreign Minister when Japan conquered Nanking, was convicted of participating in “the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy” (count 1), waging “a war of aggression and a war in violation of international laws, treaties, agreements and assurances against the Republic of China” (count 27) and count 55.

Matsui was convicted by a majority of the judges at the Tokyo tribunal who ruled that he bore ultimate responsibility for the “orgy of crime” at Nanking because, “He did nothing, or nothing effective, to abate these horrors.”

Organized and wholesale murder of male civilians was conducted with the apparent sanction of the commanders on the pretext that Chinese soldiers had removed their uniforms and were mingling with the population. Groups of Chinese civilians were formed, bound with their hands behind their backs, and marched outside the walls of the city where they were killed in groups by machine gun fire and with bayonets. — From Judgment of the International Military Tribunal

Radhabinod Pal, the member of the tribunal from India, dissented from the conviction arguing that the commander-in-chief must rely on his subordinate officers to enforce soldier discipline. “The name of Justice,” Pal wrote in his dissent, “should not be allowed to be invoked only for … vindictive retaliation.”

Sentence

On November 12, 1948, Matsui and Hirota, along with five other convicted Class-A war criminals, were sentenced to death by hanging. Eighteen others received lesser sentences. The death sentence imposed on Hirota, a six-to-five decision by the eleven judges, shocked the general public and prompted a petition on his behalf, which soon gathered over 300,000 signatures but did not succeed in commuting the Minister’s sentence.[103][104]

General Hisao Tani was sentenced to death by the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal.[102]

Memorials

In 1985, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall was built by the Nanking Municipal Government in remembrance of the victims and to raise awareness of the Nanking Massacre. It is located near a site where thousands of bodies were buried, called the “pit of ten thousand corpses” (wàn rén kēng).

In 1995, Daniel Kwan held a photograph exhibit in Los Angeles titled, “The Forgotten Holocaust”.

In 2005, John Rabe’s former residence in Nanking was renovated and now accommodates the “John Rabe and International Safety Zone Memorial Hall“, which opened in 2006.

On December 13, 2014, China held its first Nanjing Massacre memorial day.[105]

Controversy

China and Japan have both acknowledged the occurrence of wartime atrocities. Disputes over the historical portrayal of these events continue to cause tensions between Japan on one side and China and other East Asian countries on the other side.

Cold War

Before the 1970s, China did relatively little to draw attention to the Nanking massacre. In her book Rape of Nanking Iris Chang asserted that the politics of the Cold War encouraged Mao to stay relatively silent about Nanking in order to keep a trade relationship with Japan. In turn, China and Japan occasionally used Nanking as an opportunity to demonize one another.[citation needed]

Debate in Japan

The major waves of Japanese treatment of these events have ranged from total cover-up during the war, confessions and documentation by the Japanese soldiers during the 1950s and 1960s, minimization of the extent of the Nanking Massacre during the 1970s and 1980s, official Japanese government distortion and rewriting of history during the 1980s, and total denial of the occurrence of the Nanking Massacre by some government officials in 1990.[106]

The debate concerning the massacre took place mainly in the 1970s. During this time, the Chinese government’s statements about the event were attacked by the Japanese because they were said to rely too heavily on personal testimonies and anecdotal evidence. Aspersions were cast regarding the authenticity and accuracy of burial records and photographs presented in the Tokyo War Crime Court, which were said to be fabrications by the Chinese government, artificially manipulated or incorrectly attributed to the Nanking Massacre.[107]

During the 1970s, Katsuichi Honda wrote a series of articles for the Asahi Shimbun on war crimes committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II (such as the Nanking Massacre).[108] The publication of these articles triggered a vehement response from Japanese right-wingers regarding the Japanese treatment of the war crimes. In response, Shichihei Yamamoto[109] and Akira Suzuki[110] wrote two controversial yet influential articles which sparked the negationist movement.

In 1984, in an attempt to refute the allegations of war crimes in Nanking, the Japanese Army Veterans Association (Kaikosha) interviewed former Japanese soldiers who had served in the Nanking area from 1937 to 1938. Instead of refuting the allegations, the interviewed veterans confirmed that a massacre had taken place and openly described and admitted to taking part in the atrocities. The results of the survey were published in the association’s magazine, Kaiko, in 1985 along with an admission and apology that read, “Whatever the severity of war or special circumstances of war psychology, we just lose words faced with this mass illegal killing. As those who are related to the prewar military, we simply apologize deeply to the people of China. It was truly a regrettable act of barbarity.”[111]

Apology and condolences by the Prime Minister and Emperor of Japan

On August 15, 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the Surrender of Japan, the Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama gave the first clear and formal apology for Japanese actions during the war. He apologized for Japan’s wrongful aggression and the great suffering that it inflicted in Asia. He offered his heartfelt apology to all survivors and to the relatives and friends of the victims. That day, the prime minister and the Japanese Emperor Akihito pronounced statements of mourning at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan. The emperor offered his condolences and expressed the hope that such atrocities would never be repeated. Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking, criticized Murayama for not providing the written apology that had been expected. She said that the people of China “don’t believe that an… unequivocal and sincere apology has ever been made by Japan to China” and that a written apology from Japan would send a better message to the international community.[18]

Denials of the massacre by public officials in Japan

In May 1994, Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano called the Nanjing Massacre a “fabrication”.[112]

On June 19, 2007, a group of around 100 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers again denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication, arguing that there was no evidence to prove the allegations of mass killings by Japanese soldiers. They accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a “political advertisement”.[113] [114]

On February 20, 2012, Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya, told a visiting delegation from Nanjing that the massacre “probably never happened”. Two days later he defended his remarks, saying, “Even since I was a national Diet representative, I have said [repeatedly] there was no [Nanjing] massacre that resulted in murders of several hundred thousands of people.”[115][116] On April 1, 2013, Kawamura said his position remained unchanged when the issue came up during an election debate.[117]

On February 24, 2012, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara said that he also believes that the Nanjing massacre never happened. He reportedly claims it would have been impossible to kill so many people in such a short period of time.[118] He believes the actual death toll was 10,000.[119]

On February 3, 2014, Naoki Hyakuta, a member of the board of governors of Japan’s public broadcasting company, NHK, was quoted as saying the massacre never occurred.[120] He said that there were isolated incidents of brutality but no widespread atrocity, and criticized the Tokyo Trials figure of 200,000.[121]

Legacy

Effect on international relations

The memory of the Nanking Massacre has been a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations since the early 1970s. Bilateral exchanges on trade, culture and education have increased greatly since the two countries normalized their bilateral relations and Japan became China’s most important trading partner.[122] Trade between the two nations is worth over $200 billion annually. Despite this, many Chinese people still have a strong sense of mistrust and animosity toward Japan that originates from the memory of Japanese war crimes such as the Nanking Massacre. This sense of mistrust is strengthened by the belief that Japan is unwilling to admit to and apologize for the atrocities.[123]

Takashi Yoshida described how changing political concerns and perceptions of the “national interest” in Japan, China, and Western countries have shaped collective memory of the Nanking massacre. Yoshida asserted that over time the event has acquired different meanings to different people.[124]

Many Japanese prime ministers have visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine for dead Japanese soldiers of World War II, including some war criminals of the Nanking Massacre. In the museum adjacent to the shrine, a panel informs visitors that there was no massacre in Nanjing, but that Chinese soldiers in plain clothes were “dealt with severely”. In 2006 former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi made a pilgrimage to the shrine despite warnings from China and South Korea. His decision to visit the shrine regardless sparked international outrage. Although Koizumi denied that he was trying to glorify war or historical Japanese militarism, The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Koizumi of “wrecking the political foundations of China-Japan relations”. An official from South Korea said they would summon the Tokyo ambassador to protest.[125][126][127][128]

As a component of national identity

Takashi Yoshida asserts that, “Nanking has figured in the attempts of all three nations [China, Japan and the United States] to preserve and redefine national and ethnic pride and identity, assuming different kinds of significance based on each country’s changing internal and external enemies.”[129]

Japan

In Japan, the Nanking Massacre touches upon national identity and notions of “pride, honor and shame”. Yoshida argues that “Nanking crystallizes a much larger conflict over what should constitute the ideal perception of the nation: Japan, as a nation, acknowledges its past and apologizes for its wartime wrongdoings; or … stands firm against foreign pressures and teaches Japanese youth about the benevolent and courageous martyrs who fought a just war to save Asia from Western aggression.”[130] Recognizing the Nanking Massacre as such can be viewed in some circles in Japan as “Japan bashing” (in the case of foreigners) or “self-flagellation” (in the case of Japanese).[citation needed]

The majority of Japanese acknowledge that Japanese troops committed atrocities during the Nanking Massacre. Some Japanese officials and writers have openly denied the incident, claiming it to be propaganda designed to spark an anti-Japan movement. In many ways, how “atrocious” the massacre was is the touchstone of left–right divide in Japan; i.e., leftists feel this is a defining moment of the Imperial Japanese Army; rightists believe Perry’s opening of Japan and the atomic bombings are far more significant events.[citation needed]

The government of Japan believe it can not be denied that the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts by Japanese army occurred. However, the actual number of victims is hard to be determined according to government of Japan.[131]

China

The Nanking massacre has emerged as a fundamental keystone in the construction of the modern Chinese national identity.[132] Modern Chinese (including citizens of the PRC, Taiwan, and overseas) will refer to the Nanking Massacre to explain certain stances they hold or ideas they have; this ‘national unifying event’ holds true to middle-school educated peasants and to senior government officials alike.

Although the Japanese government has admitted to the killing of a large number of non-combatants, looting, and other violence committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of Nanking,[17][18] and Japanese veterans who served there have confirmed that a massacre took place, a small but vocal minority within both the Japanese government and society have argued that the death toll was military in nature and that no such crimes ever occurred. Denial of the massacre and revisionist accounts of the killings have become a staple of Japanese nationalism.[19] In Japan, public opinion of the massacres varies, but few deny outright that it happened.[19]

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Pearl Harbour – Attack on Pearl Harbor

– Pear Harbour –

The attack on Pearl Harbor  was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Attack on Pearl Harbor (World War II)

Full Documentary in Color

fdr_column_by_Ross_Baker

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan on Dec. 8, 1941.

 (Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

“No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. We know now that a nation can have peace with the Nazis only at the price of total surrender.”

Winston Churchill

The attack on Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were nearly simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Reduced to a common time rather than the local times spread across about 6,000 miles and the International Date Line the attacks, from troop landings at Kota Bharu, Malaya to the air attacks ranging geographically from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor took place within the span of seven hours.

From the standpoint of the defenders, the attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time.[14] The base was attacked by 353  Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but one (Arizona) were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship,  and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.

Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of the United Kingdom (e.g., the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

Years later several writers alleged that parties high in the U.S. and British governments knew of the attack in advance and may have let it happen (or even encouraged it) with the aim of bringing America into war.  However, this advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is rejected by mainstream historians.

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy“. Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.[24][25]

Background to conflict

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest

Diplomatic background

The attack on Pearl Harbor was intended to neutralize the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and hence protect Japan’s advance into Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, where it sought access to natural resources such as oil and rubber. War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility of which each nation had been aware (and developed contingency plans for) since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Over the next decade, Japan continued to expand into China, leading to all-out war between those countries in 1937. Japan spent considerable effort trying to isolate China and achieve sufficient resource independence to attain victory on the mainland; the “Southern Operation” was designed to assist these efforts.

From December 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on the USS Panay, the Allison incident, and the Nanking Massacre (the International Military Tribunal of the Far East concluded that more than 200,000 Chinese non-combatants were killed in indiscriminate massacres, though other estimates have ranged from 40,000 to more than 300,000) swung public opinion in the West sharply against Japan. Fearing Japanese expansion,[27] the United States, the United Kingdom, and France provided loan assistance for war supply contracts to the Republic of China.

In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in an effort to control supplies reaching China. The United States halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline to Japan, which was perceived by Japan as an unfriendly act. The U.S. did not stop oil exports to Japan at that time in part because prevailing sentiment in Washington was that such an action would be an extreme step, given Japanese dependence on U.S. oil, and likely to be considered a provocation by Japan.

Early in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii from its previous base in San Diego and ordered a military buildup in the Philippines in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. Because the Japanese high command was (mistakenly) certain that any attack on the UK’s Southeast Asian colonies would bring the U.S. into war, a devastating preventive strike appeared to be the only way to avoid U.S. naval interference.

An invasion of the Philippines was also considered necessary by Japanese war planners. The U.S. War Plan Orange had envisioned defending the Philippines with a 40,000-man elite force. This was opposed by Douglas MacArthur, who felt that he would need a force ten times that size, and was never implemented. By 1941, U.S. planners anticipated abandonment of the Philippines at the outbreak of war and orders to that effect were given in late 1941 to Admiral Thomas Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet.

The U.S. ceased oil exports to Japan in July 1941, following Japanese expansion into French Indochina after the fall of France, in part because of new American restrictions on domestic oil consumption. This in turn caused the Japanese to proceed with plans to take the Dutch East Indies, an oil-rich territory.[nb 8] On 17 August, Roosevelt warned Japan that the U.S. was prepared to take steps against Japan if it attacked “neighboring countries”.[36] The Japanese were faced with the option of either withdrawing from China and losing face or seizing and securing new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich, European-controlled colonies of Southeast Asia.

Japan and the U.S. engaged in negotiations during the course of 1941 in an effort to improve relations. During these negotiations, Japan offered to withdraw from most of China and Indochina when peace was made with the Nationalist government, adopt an independent interpretation of the Tripartite Pact, and not to discriminate in trade provided all other countries reciprocated. Washington rejected these proposals. Japanese Prime Minister Konoye then offered to personally meet with Roosevelt, but Roosevelt insisted on coming to an agreement before any meeting.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan repeatedly urged Roosevelt to accept the meeting, warning that it was the only way to preserve the conciliatory Konoye government and peace in the Pacific. His recommendation was not acted upon. The Konoye government collapsed the following month when the Japanese military refused to agree to the withdrawal of all troops from China.

Japan’s final proposal, on 20 November, offered to withdraw their forces from southern Indochina and not to launch any attacks in Southeast Asia provided that the U.S., the UK, and the Netherlands ceased aiding China and lifted their sanctions against Japan. The American counter-proposal of 26 November (November 27 in Japan) (the Hull note) required Japan to evacuate all of China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with Pacific powers. However the day before the Hull Note was delivered, on November 26 in Japan, the main Japanese attack fleet left port for Pearl Harbor.

Military planning

Preliminary planning for an attack on Pearl Harbor to protect the move into the “Southern Resource Area” (the Japanese term for the Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia generally) had begun very early in 1941 under the auspices of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, then commanding Japan’s Combined Fleet. He won assent to formal planning and training for an attack from the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff only after much contention with Naval Headquarters, including a threat to resign his command.  Full-scale planning was underway by early spring 1941, primarily by Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, with assistance from Captain Minoru Genda and Yamamoto’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Captain Kameto Kuroshima. The planners studied the 1940 British air attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto intensively.

Hirohito, Emperor of Japan

Over the next several months, pilots trained, equipment was adapted, and intelligence collected. Despite these preparations, Emperor Hirohito did not approve the attack plan until November 5, after the third of four Imperial Conferences called to consider the matter. Final authorization was not given by the emperor until December 1, after a majority of Japanese leaders advised him the “Hull Note” would :

“destroy the fruits of the China incident, endanger Manchukuo and undermine Japanese control of Korea.”

By late 1941, many observers believed that hostilities between the U.S. and Japan were imminent. A Gallup poll just before the attack on Pearl Harbor found that 52% of Americans expected war with Japan, 27% did not, and 21% had no opinion.

While U.S. Pacific bases and facilities had been placed on alert on many occasions, U.S. officials doubted Pearl Harbor would be the first target; instead, they expected the Philippines would be attacked first. This presumption was due to the threat that the air bases throughout the country and the naval base at Manila posed to sea lanes, as well as to the shipment of supplies to Japan from territory to the south.They also incorrectly believed that Japan was not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time.

Ever since the Japanese attack, there has been debate as to how and why the United States had been caught unaware, and how much and when American officials knew of Japanese plans and related topics. Several writers, including journalist Robert Stinnett and former United States rear admiral Robert Alfred Theobald, have argued that various parties high in the U.S. and British governments knew of the attack in advance and may even have let it happen or encouraged it in order to force the U.S. into war via the so-called “back door”. However, this Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is rejected by mainstream historians.

Objectives

The attack had several major aims. First, it intended to destroy important American fleet units, thereby preventing the Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Second, it was hoped to buy time for Japan to consolidate its position and increase its naval strength before shipbuilding authorized by the 1940 Vinson-Walsh Act erased any chance of victory.

Finally, it was meant to deliver a severe blow to American morale, one which would discourage Americans from committing to a war extending into the western Pacific Ocean and Dutch East Indies. To maximize the effect on morale, battleships were chosen as the main targets, since they were the prestige ships of any navy at the time. The overall intention was to enable Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without interference.

Striking the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor carried two distinct disadvantages: the targeted ships would be in very shallow water, so it would be relatively easy to salvage and possibly repair them; and most of the crews would survive the attack, since many would be on shore leave or would be rescued from the harbor. A further important disadvantage—this of timing, and known to the Japanese—was the absence from Pearl Harbor of all three of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga). IJN top command was so imbued with Admiral Mahan‘s “decisive battle” doctrine—especially that of destroying the maximum number of battleships—that, despite these concerns, Yamamoto decided to press ahead.

Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war also meant other targets in the harbor, especially the navy yard, oil tank farms, and submarine base, were ignored, since—by their thinking—the war would be over before the influence of these facilities would be felt.

Approach and attack

Route followed by the Japanese fleet to Pearl Harbor and back.

 

An Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter on the aircraft carrier Akagi.

 

On November 26, 1941, a Japanese task force (the Striking Force) of six aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku—departed northern Japan en route to a position northwest of Hawaii, intending to launch its 408 aircraft to attack Pearl Harbor: 360 for the two attack waves and 48 on defensive combat air patrol (CAP), including nine fighters from the first wave.

The first wave was to be the primary attack, while the second wave was to attack carriers as its first objective and cruisers as its second, with battleships as the third target. The first wave carried most of the weapons to attack capital ships, mainly specially adapted Type 91 aerial torpedoes which were designed with an anti-roll mechanism and a rudder extension that let them operate in shallow water.

The aircrews were ordered to select the highest value targets (battleships and aircraft carriers) or, if these were not present, any other high value ships (cruisers and destroyers). First wave dive bombers were to attack ground targets. Fighters were ordered to strafe and destroy as many parked aircraft as possible to ensure they did not get into the air to intercept the bombers, especially in the first wave. When the fighters’ fuel got low they were to refuel at the aircraft carriers and return to combat. Fighters were to serve CAP duties where needed, especially over U.S. airfields.

Before the attack commenced, two reconnaissance aircraft launched from cruisers Chikuma and Tone were sent to scout over Oahu and Maui and report on U.S. fleet composition and location. Reconnaissance aircraft flights risked alerting the U.S., and were not necessary. U.S. fleet composition and preparedness information in Pearl Harbor was already known due to the reports of the Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa. A report of the absence of the U.S. fleet in Lahaina anchorage off Maui was received from the fleet submarine I-72.

Another four scout planes patrolled the area between the Japanese carrier force (the Kido Butai) and Niihau, to detect any counterattack.

Submarines

Ko-hyoteki class submarine.jpg

Fleet submarines I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24 each embarked a Type A midget submarine for transport to the waters off Oahu. The five I-boats left Kure Naval District on November 25, 1941.  On December 6, they came to within 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) of the mouth of Pearl Harbor  and launched their midget subs at about 01:00  on December 7.

At 03:42  Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper Condor spotted a midget submarine periscope southwest of the Pearl Harbor entrance buoy and alerted the destroyer Ward. The midget may have entered Pearl Harbor. However, Ward sank another midget submarine at 06:37 in the first American shots in the Pacific Theater. A midget submarine on the north side of Ford Island missed the seaplane tender Curtiss with her first torpedo and missed the attacking destroyer Monaghan with her other one before being sunk by Monaghan at 08:43.[66]

A third midget submarine, the Ha-19, grounded twice, once outside the harbor entrance and again on the east side of Oahu, where it was captured on December 8. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki swam ashore and was captured by Hawaii National Guard Corporal David Akui, becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war. A fourth had been damaged by a depth charge attack and was abandoned by its crew before it could fire its torpedoes. Japanese forces received a radio message from a midget submarine at 00:41 on December 8 claiming damage to one or more large war vessels inside Pearl Harbor.

The fifth midget submarine was found in three parts in 1992, 2000 and 2001 by Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory‘s submarines outside Pearl Harbor within U.S. amphibious warfare debris field. Both torpedoes were missing and their fate correlates to the reports of firing two torpedoes at light cruiser St. Louis at 10:04 at Pearl Harbor entrance and possible torpedo firing at destroyer Helm at 08:21.

Japanese declaration of war

The attack took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but this was not Admiral Yamamoto’s intention. He originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that peace negotiations were at an end. The Japanese tried to uphold the conventions of war while still achieving surprise, but the attack began before the notice could be delivered. Tokyo transmitted the 5,000-word notification (commonly called the “14-Part Message”) in two blocks to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, but transcribing the message took too long for the Japanese ambassador to deliver it in time. (In fact, U.S. code breakers had already deciphered and translated most of the message hours before he was scheduled to deliver it.).

The final part of the “14 Part Message” is sometimes described as a declaration of war. While it neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations, it was viewed by a number of senior U.S government and military officials as a very strong indicator that negotiations were likely to be terminated and that war might break out at any moment.

A declaration of war was printed on the front page of Japan’s newspapers in the evening edition of December 8, but not delivered to the U.S. government until the day after the attack.

For decades, conventional wisdom held that Japan attacked without any official warning of a break in relations only because of accidents and bumbling that delayed the delivery of a document hinting at war to Washington. In 1999, however, Takeo Iguchi, a professor of law and international relations at International Christian University in Tokyo, discovered documents that pointed to a vigorous debate inside the government over how, and indeed whether, to notify Washington of Japan’s intention to break off negotiations and start a war, including a December 7 entry in the war diary saying,

“our deceptive diplomacy is steadily proceeding toward success.”

Of this, Iguchi said,

“The diary shows that the army and navy did not want to give any proper declaration of war, or indeed prior notice even of the termination of negotiations … and they clearly prevailed.”

First wave composition

The Japanese attacked in two waves. The first wave was detected by U.S. Armyradar at 136 nautical miles (252 km), but was misidentified as USAAFbombers arriving from the American mainland
Top:
A. Ford Island NAS B. Hickam Field C. Bellows Field D. Wheeler Field
E. Kaneohe NAS F. Ewa MCAS R-1. Opana Radar Station R-2. Kawailoa RS R-3. Kaaawa RS
G. Haleiwa H. Kahuku I. Wahiawa J. Kaneohe K. Honolulu
0. B-17s from mainland 1. First strike group 1-1. Level bombers 1-2. Torpedo bombers 1-3. Dive bombers 2. Second strike group 2-1. Level bombers 2-1F. Fighters 2-2. Dive bombers
Bottom:
A. Wake Island B. Midway Islands C. Johnston Island D. Hawaii
D-1. Oahu 1. USS Lexington 2. USS Enterprise 3. First Air Fleet

 

  <21 feet (6.4 m)
  22–23 feet (6.7–7.0 m)
  29 feet (8.8 m)
  30–32 feet (9.1–9.8 m)
  33–34 feet (10.1–10.4 m)
  34–35 feet (10.4–10.7 m)
  36–37 feet (11.0–11.3 m)
  38–39 feet (11.6–11.9 m)
  40–41 feet (12.2–12.5 m)
  42–48 feet (12.8–14.6 m)
  >49 feet (14.9 m)
  City
  Army base
  Navy base

Attacked targets:
1: USS California
2: USS Maryland
3: USS Oklahoma
4: USS Tennessee
5: USS West Virginia
6: USS Arizona
7: USS Nevada
8: USS Pennsylvania
9: Ford Island NAS
10: Hickam field
Ignored infrastructure targets:
A: Oil storage tanks
B: CINCPAC headquarters building
C: Submarine base
D: Navy Yard

The first attack wave of 183 planes was launched north of Oahu, led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida.[78] Six planes failed to launch due to technical difficulties. It included:

As the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near the island’s northern tip. This post had been in training mode for months, but was not yet operational. Although the operators, Privates George Elliot Jr. and Joseph Lockard, reported a target, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers. The direction from which the aircraft were coming was close (only a few degrees separated the two inbound courses), while the operators had never seen a formation as large on radar; they neglected to tell Tyler of its size,  while Tyler, for security reasons, could not tell them the B-17s were due (even though it was widely known).

As the first wave planes approached Oahu, they encountered and shot down several U.S. aircraft. At least one of these radioed a somewhat incoherent warning. Other warnings from ships off the harbor entrance were still being processed or awaiting confirmation when the attacking planes began bombing and strafing. Nevertheless, it is not clear any warnings would have had much effect even if they had been interpreted correctly and much more promptly. The results the Japanese achieved in the Philippines were essentially the same as at Pearl Harbor, though MacArthur had almost nine hours warning that the Japanese had already attacked Pearl Harbor.

The air portion of the attack began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time  (3:18 a.m. December 8 Japanese Standard Time, as kept by ships of the Kido Butai),  with the attack on Kaneohe. A total of 353 Japanese planes in two waves reached Oahu. Slow, vulnerable torpedo bombers led the first wave, exploiting the first moments of surprise to attack the most important ships present (the battleships), while dive bombers attacked U.S. air bases across Oahu, starting with Hickam Field, the largest, and Wheeler Field, the main U.S. Army Air Forces fighter base. The 171 planes in the second wave attacked the Army Air Forces’ Bellows Field near Kaneohe on the windward side of the island, and Ford Island. The only aerial opposition came from a handful of P-36 Hawks, P-40 Warhawks, and some SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the carrier USS Enterprise.

 

A destroyed Vindicator at Ewa field, the victim of one of the smaller attacks on the approach to Pearl Harbor.

 

Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire, prompting bleary-eyed men to dress as they ran to General Quarters stations. (The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.”, was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.) The defenders were very unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns unmanned (none of the Navy’s 5″/38s, only a quarter of its machine guns, and only four of 31 Army batteries got in action).

Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard USS Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post. Lt. Commander F.J. Thomas commanded USS Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m.

One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard.

Mervyn Sharp Bennion

 

Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

Second wave composition

The second planned wave consisted of 171 planes: 54 B5Ns, 81 D3As, and 36 A6Ms, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki. Four planes failed to launch because of technical difficulties.[60] This wave and its targets comprised:

  • 1st Group – 54 B5Ns armed with 550 lb (249 kg) and 132 lb (60 kg) general purpose bombs
    • 27 B5Ns – aircraft and hangars on Kaneohe, Ford Island, and Barbers Point
    • 27 B5Ns – hangars and aircraft on Hickam Field
  • 2nd Group (targets: aircraft carriers and cruisers)
    • 78 D3As armed with 550 lb (249 kg) general purpose bombs, in four sections (3 aborted)
  • 3rd Group – (targets: aircraft at Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point, Kaneohe)
    • 35 A6Ms for defense and strafing (1 aborted)

The second wave was divided into three groups. One was tasked to attack Kāneʻohe, the rest Pearl Harbor proper. The separate sections arrived at the attack point almost simultaneously from several directions.

American casualties and damages

Ninety minutes after it began, the attack was over. 2,008 sailors were killed and 710 others wounded; 218 soldiers and airmen (who were part of the Army until the independent U.S. Air Force was formed in 1947) were killed and 364 wounded; 109 marines were killed and 69 wounded; and 68 civilians were killed and 35 wounded. In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded.

Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred.

USS Arizona (BB-39) during the attack.

 

Of the American fatalities, nearly half were due to the explosion of Arizonas forward magazine after it was hit by a modified 40 cm (16 in.) shell.

Already damaged by a torpedo and on fire amidships, Nevada attempted to exit the harbor. She was targeted by many Japanese bombers as she got under way and sustained more hits from 250 lb (113 kg) bombs, which started further fires. She was deliberately beached to avoid blocking the harbor entrance.

California was hit by two bombs and two torpedoes. The crew might have kept her afloat, but were ordered to abandon ship just as they were raising power for the pumps. Burning oil from Arizona and West Virginia drifted down on her, and probably made the situation look worse than it was. The disarmed target ship Utah was holed twice by torpedoes. West Virginia was hit by seven torpedoes, the seventh tearing away her rudder. Oklahoma was hit by four torpedoes, the last two above her belt armor, which caused her to capsize. Maryland was hit by two of the converted 40 cm shells, but neither caused serious damage.

Although the Japanese concentrated on battleships (the largest vessels present), they did not ignore other targets. The light cruiser Helena was torpedoed, and the concussion from the blast capsized the neighboring minelayer Oglala. Two destroyers in dry dock, Cassin and Downes were destroyed when bombs penetrated their fuel bunkers. The leaking fuel caught fire; flooding the dry dock in an effort to fight fire made the burning oil rise, and both were burned out. Cassin slipped from her keel blocks and rolled against Downes. The light cruiser Raleigh was holed by a torpedo. The light cruiser Honolulu was damaged, but remained in service. The repair vessel Vestal, moored alongside Arizona, was heavily damaged and beached. The seaplane tender Curtiss was also damaged. The destroyer Shaw was badly damaged when two bombs penetrated her forward magazine.

This message denotes the first U.S. ship, USS St. Louis (CL49) to clear Pearl Harbor.

(National Archives and Records Administration) (Note that this is in answer to question “Is channel clear?” and faint writing at bottom concerning the answer being held until St. Louis had successfully cleared.)

Of the 402 American aircraft in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Almost none was actually ready to take off to defend the base. Eight Army Air Forces pilots managed to get airborne during the attack  and six were credited with downing at least one Japanese aircraft during the attack: 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch, 2nd Lt. Harry W. Brown, and 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling Jr. Sterling was shot down by Lt. Fujita over Kaneohe Bay and is listed as Body Not Recovered (not Missing In Action). Lt. John L. Dains was killed by friendly fire returning from a victory over Kaawa.

Of 33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. (The three on patrol returned undamaged.) Friendly fire brought down some U.S. planes on top of that, including five from an inbound flight from Enterprise. Japanese attacks on barracks killed additional personnel.

At the time of the attack, nine civilian aircraft were flying in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor. Of these, three were shot down.

Japanese losses

Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in the attack, and one was captured. Of Japan’s 414 available planes, 29 were lost during the battle (nine in the first attack wave, 20 in the second), with another 74 damaged by antiaircraft fire from the ground.

Possible third wave

Several Japanese junior officers including Fuchida and Genda urged Nagumo to carry out a third strike in order to destroy as much of Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities as possible. Genda, who had unsuccessfully advocated for invading Hawaii after the air attack, believed that without an invasion multiple strikes were necessary to disable the base as much as possible.

The captains of the other five carriers in the formation reported they were willing and ready to carry out a third strike Military historians have suggested the destruction of these would have hampered the U.S. Pacific Fleet far more seriously than the loss of its battleships. If they had been wiped out, “serious [American] operations in the Pacific would have been postponed for more than a year”;  according to American Admiral Chester Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, “it would have prolonged the war another two years.”

Nagumo, however, decided to withdraw for several reasons:

  • American anti-aircraft performance had improved considerably during the second strike, and two thirds of Japan’s losses were incurred during the second wave.Nagumo felt if he launched a third strike, he would be risking three quarters of the Combined Fleet’s strength to wipe out the remaining targets (which included the facilities) while suffering higher aircraft losses.
  • The location of the American carriers remained unknown. In addition, the admiral was concerned his force was now within range of American land-based bombers. Nagumo was uncertain whether the U.S. had enough surviving planes remaining on Hawaii to launch an attack against his carriers.
  • A third wave would have required substantial preparation and turnaround time, and would have meant returning planes would have had to land at night. At the time, only the (British) Royal Navy had developed night carrier techniques, so this was a substantial risk.
  • Weather had deteriorated notably since the first and second wave launching, and rough seas complicated takeoff and landing for a third wave attack.
  • The task force’s fuel situation did not permit him to remain in waters north of Pearl Harbor much longer, since he was at the very limit of logistical support. To do so risked running unacceptably low on fuel, perhaps even having to abandon destroyers en route home.
  • He believed the second strike had essentially satisfied the main objective of his mission—the neutralization of the Pacific Fleet—and did not wish to risk further losses. Moreover, it was Japanese Navy practice to prefer the conservation of strength over the total destruction of the enemy.

At a conference aboard Yamato the following morning, Yamamoto initially supported Nagumo. In retrospect, sparing the vital dockyards, maintenance shops, and oil depots meant the U.S. could respond relatively quickly to Japanese activities in the Pacific. Yamamoto later regretted Nagumo’s decision to withdraw and categorically stated it had been a great mistake not to order a third strike.

Photographs

The first aerial photographs of the attack on Pearl Harbor were taken by Lee Embree, who was aboard a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress en route from Hamilton Field, California, to the Philippines.[110] Lee’s 38th Reconnaissance Squadron had scheduled a refueling stop at Hickam Field at the time of the attack.

Ships lost or damaged

Battleships

  • Arizona (Kidd’s flagship): hit by four armor-piercing bombs, exploded; total loss. 1,177 dead.
  • Oklahoma: hit by five torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 429 dead. Refloated November 1943; capsized and lost while under tow to the mainland May 1947.
  • West Virginia: hit by two bombs, seven torpedoes, sunk; returned to service July 1944. 106 dead.
  • California: hit by two bombs, two torpedoes, sunk; returned to service January 1944. 100 dead.
  • Nevada: hit by six bombs, one torpedo, beached; returned to service October 1942. 60 dead.
  • Tennessee: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 5 dead.
  • Maryland: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 4 dead (including floatplane pilot shot down).
  • Pennsylvania (Kimmel’s flagship) in drydock with Cassin and Downes, hit by one bomb, debris from USS Cassin; remained in service. 9 dead.

Ex-battleship (target/AA training ship)

  • Utah: hit by two torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 64 dead.

Cruisers

  • Helena: hit by one torpedo; returned to service January 1942. 20 dead.
  • Raleigh: hit by one torpedo; returned to service February 1942.
  • Honolulu: Near miss, light damage; remained in service.

Destroyers

  • Cassin: in drydock with Downes and Pennsylvania, hit by one bomb, burned; returned to service February 1944.
  • Downes: in drydock with Cassin and Pennsylvania, caught fire from Cassin, burned; returned to service November 1943.
  • Shaw: hit by three bombs; returned to service June 1942.

Auxiliaries

  • Oglala (minelayer): Damaged by torpedo hit on Helena, capsized; returned to service (as engine-repair ship) February 1944.
  • Vestal (repair ship): hit by two bombs, blast and fire from Arizona, beached; returned to service by August 1942.
  • Curtiss (seaplane tender): hit by one bomb, one crashed Japanese aircraft; returned to service January 1942. 19 dead.

Salvage

Captain Homer N. Wallin (center) supervises salvage operations aboard USS California, early 1942

After a systematic search for survivors, formal salvage operations began. Captain Homer N. Wallin, Material Officer for Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was immediately ordered to lead salvage operations.

“Within a short time I was relieved of all other duties and ordered to full time work as Fleet Salvage Officer”.

Around Pearl Harbor, divers from the Navy (shore and tenders), the Naval Shipyard, and civilian contractors (Pacific Bridge and others) began work on the ships that could be refloated. They patched holes, cleared debris, and pumped water out of ships. Navy divers worked inside the damaged ships. Within six months, five battleships and two cruisers were patched or refloated so they could be sent to shipyards in Pearl Harbor and on the mainland for extensive repair.

Intensive salvage operations continued for another year, a total of some 20,000 man-hours under water.  Oklahoma, while successfully raised, was never repaired, and capsized while under tow to the mainland in 1947. Arizona and the target ship Utah were too heavily damaged for salvage, though much of their armament and equipment was removed and put to use aboard other vessels. Today, the two hulks remain where they were sunk, with Arizona becoming a war memorial.

Aftermath

USS Pennsylvania, behind the wreckage of the USS Downes and USS Cassin.

 

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor. Additionally, a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later. On December 11, Germany and Italy, honoring their commitments under the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. The pact was an earlier agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan which had the principal objective of limiting U.S. intervention in any conflicts involving the three nations.Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy later that same day. The UK actually declared war on Japan nine hours before the U.S. did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.

The attack was an initial shock to all the Allies in the Pacific Theater. Further losses compounded the alarming setback. Japan attacked the Philippines hours later (because of the time difference, it was December 8 in the Philippines). Only three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk off the coast of Malaya, causing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later to recollect

“In all the war I never received a more direct shock. As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked”.

Throughout the war, Pearl Harbor was frequently used in American propaganda.

One further consequence of the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath (notably the Niihau Incident) was that Japanese American residents and citizens were relocated to nearby Japanese-American internment camps. Within hours of the attack, hundreds of Japanese American leaders were rounded up and brought to high-security camps such as Sand Island at the mouth of Honolulu harbor and Kilauea Military Camp on the island of Hawai

Later, over 110,000 Japanese Americans, including United States citizens, were removed from their homes and transferred to internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas.

The attack also had international consequences. The Canadian province of British Columbia, bordering the Pacific Ocean, had long had a large population of Japanese immigrants. Pre-war tensions were exacerbated by the Pearl Harbor attack, leading to a reaction from the Government of Canada. On February 24, 1942, Order-in-Council P.C. no. 1486 was passed under the War Measures Act allowing for the forced removal of any and all Canadians of Japanese descent from British Columbia, as well as the prohibiting from them returning to the province. The Japanese-Canadians were given a choice: either be moved into internment camps or be deported back to Japan.

Niihau Incident

Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi’s aircraft shown ten days after it crashed

 

The Japanese planners had determined that some means was required for rescuing fliers whose aircraft were too badly damaged to return to the carriers. The island of Niihau, only 30 minutes flying time from Pearl Harbor, was designated as the rescue point.

The Zero flown by Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi of Hiryu was damaged in the attack on Wheeler, so he flew to the rescue point on Niihau. The aircraft was further damaged on landing. Nishikaichi was helped from the wreckage by one of the native Hawaiians, who, aware of the tension between the United States and Japan, took the pilot’s maps and other documents. The island’s residents had no telephones or radio and were completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nishikaichi enlisted the support of three Japanese-American residents in an attempt to recover the documents. During the ensuing struggles, Nishikaichi was killed and a Hawaiian civilian was wounded; one collaborator committed suicide, and his wife and the third collaborator were sent to prison.

The ease with which the local ethnic Japanese residents had apparently gone to the assistance of Nishikaichi was a source of concern for many, and tended to support those who believed that local Japanese could not be trusted.

Strategic implications

Admiral Hara Tadaichi summed up the Japanese result by saying,

“We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war.”

While the attack accomplished its intended objective, it turned out to be largely unnecessary. Unbeknownst to Yamamoto, who conceived the original plan, the U.S. Navy had decided as far back as 1935 to abandon ‘charging’ across the Pacific towards the Philippines in response to an outbreak of war (in keeping with the evolution of Plan Orange).

The U.S. instead adopted “Plan Dog” in 1940, which emphasized keeping the IJN out of the eastern Pacific and away from the shipping lanes to Australia, while the U.S. concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany.

Fortunately for the United States, the American aircraft carriers were untouched by the Japanese attack; otherwise the Pacific Fleet’s ability to conduct offensive operations would have been crippled for a year or more (given no diversions from the Atlantic Fleet). As it was, the elimination of the battleships left the U.S. Navy with no choice but to rely on its aircraft carriers and submarines—the very weapons with which the U.S. Navy halted and eventually reversed the Japanese advance. While six of the eight battleships were repaired and returned to service, their relatively low speed and high fuel consumption limited their deployment, and they served mainly in shore bombardment roles (their only major action being the Battle of Surigao Strait).

A major flaw of Japanese strategic thinking was a belief that the ultimate Pacific battle would be fought by battleships, in keeping with the doctrine of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. As a result, Yamamoto (and his successors) hoarded battleships for a “decisive battle” that never happened.

The Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war meant that they neglected Pearl Harbor’s navy repair yards, oil tank farms, submarine base, and old headquarters building. All of these targets were omitted from Genda’s list, yet they proved more important than any battleship to the American war efforts in the Pacific. The survival of the repair shops and fuel depots allowed Pearl Harbor to maintain logistical support to the US Navy’s operations,  such as the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway.

It was submarines that immobilized the Imperial Japanese Navy’s heavy ships and brought Japan’s economy to a virtual standstill by crippling the transportation of oil and raw materials: import of raw materials was down by half what it had been at the end of 1942, “to a disastrous ten million tons”, while oil import “was almost completely stopped”.  Lastly, the basement of the Old Administration Building was the home of the cryptanalytic unit which contributed significantly to the Midway ambush and the Submarine Force’s success.

Present day

Photo from USS Missouri, looking towards the USS Arizona memorial

 

Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the lives lost on the day of the attack. Visitors to the memorial reach it via boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Alfred Preis is the architect responsible for the memorial’s design. The structure has a sagging center and its ends strong and vigorous. It commemorates “initial defeat and ultimate victory” of all lives lost on December 7, 1941.

Although December 7 is known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is not considered a federal holiday in the United States. The nation does however, continue to pay homage remembering the thousands injured and killed when attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Schools and other establishments in some places around the country lower the American flag to half-staff out of respect.

Fittingly, the very naval vessel where the war ended on September 2, 1945 — the US Navy’s last battleship ever built, the USS Missouri — exists as a museum ship moored in Pearl Harbor, with its bow barely 1,000 feet (300 meters) southwest of the Arizona memorial.