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Nankeen Kestrel

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Nankeen Night Heron


Witness Post: Nankeen


My story starts out with birds, dives into the textile industry, and ends gruesomely amidst war and genocide. It took me on travels across the globe beginning in Australia, passing through to Portland, Oregon, and ending in mainland China. WARNING: If you have a weak stomach for reading about man’s cruelty to his fellow man, then PASS up this story and move on to another Witness Post with a lighter theme.


My first encounter with Nankeen starts in Port Douglas, Australia, where my family and I had the pleasure of scuba diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. That, plus a trip to Sydney, where we were with dear friends the Bayles for Thanksgiving Down Under made for the vacation of a lifetime.


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We requested that our hotel hosts help us hire a naturalist for a half-day guided tour of the Daintree National Park. I was excited to be in the Park because, there is an extended string of National Parks on the East Coast of Australia, and many websites list the Daintree in the top 10. Our guide was Bill Crew and he was a full service tour guide. He had a treasure chest full of stories and places to see in and around the Daintree National Park. Bill is a wise native Aussie, who loves the rainforest. He drove us up into the highlands, across the Melaleuca tree forests (famous for tea-tree oil), and down to the surrounding lakes.  We saw lots of birds, beautiful eucalyptus trees, vast geological uprisings, three different kangaroos, hundreds of different tropical plants, enormous termite mounds, a platypus, and two species of wallabies. On the trip with Bill Crew, though, I mostly saw the birds. 


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      Buff-Breasted Kingfisher


We kept our eyes out for the elusive Cassowary, but only saw real ones in the Animal Parks. In the wild we spotted over 25 species of birds, but I most enjoyed putting field glasses and a positive identity to the gorgeous Buff-Breasted Kingfisher, the Common Paradise-Kingfisher, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the Red-Backed Fairy Wren, the Comb-Crested Jacana or “Jesus Bird,” and the Nankeen Kestrel, all life-time firsts. 


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                  Red-Combed Jacana, walking on water


The girls were getting pretty bored of the my focus on birding, but I loved every minute of it. Tracy mentioned that I might have the worst eyesight in the Crew sightseeing crew, but I had the best birding vision. My daughter, Eleanor, remarked, “Dad, I knew you were into birds and everything, but I didn’t realize you were so obsessed with them!” I guess the Hooper family OCD kicks in from time to time.


At the end of our half day trip I asked Bill about the meaning of the word Nankeen, as I had not heard it before. I had also noticed in my Australian Bird Guide that the word was attached to at least two different species: a Night Heron and the Kestrel.

Bill said, “Nankeen is the name of a city in China. They were known for doing lots of weaving and the factories exported table clothes, napkins, clothing and the like south to Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. Nankeen cotton has been known for centuries for its quality, its durability, and its buff, brownish-yellow color.

Trying not to sound ignorant, I asked the next question carefully: “Where is Nankeen?

Bill said, “Actually the Aussie’s and Kiwi’s call it Nankeen, but its real Anglicized name is Nanjing.


Fast Forward to the Bluff


Portland, OR, University of Portland, Pamplin School of Business, Cross-Cultural Management Class 511B. CASE STUDY: The Privatization of the Leaping Tiger Guest House in Nanjing, PRC. (Case by: Stephen Grainger, Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, 2011.)


Hired as an adjunct instructor in the Spring semester 2013 for the Cross-Cultural Management Class in the MBA program, my class had 23 graduate students from 13 different countries. Among the baker’s dozen countries one was from China, one from Taiwan, and one from Japan. A prominent Case Studies in the curriculum was about a multi-generational Chinese family from Nanjing who had owned a hotel, called the Leaping Tiger Guest House. In the story the Liang family was displaced during the Mao revolution of 1949, forced to abandon their hotel and homeland, and emigrated to Taiwan. At the beginning of the Case the Liangs are returning to mainland China two generations later to determine if they want to buy and privatize the hotel owned by their ancestors.


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Nankeen Kestrel hovering


In my research for the Cross-Culture Class, it was apparent where the name of the CASE came from — geological landscape. Some interesting rock formations surround the city: the Zhong Mountain curls in the east of the city; and Stone Mountain is crouching like a tiger in the west of the city. The mountain names make perfect sense “the Zhong Mountain is a dragon curling and the Stone Mountain, a tiger crouching.”[1]


The Case makes one small mention on the second page to the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, where several extended Liang family members and employees are killed and injured, but the family endured these setbacks. I asked the students from Japan, Taiwan and China, if they knew anything about the history of Nanjing and they said they knew very little, since they had never been there. The question I had was: do you need to have been there to know a place or its reputation? And why, after the introduction to Nankeen as a buff color had my investigation taken such a sharp turn toward war and death. 

Why was the city, Nanjing, coming up the second time in three months?  I had not heard the name before December 2013, and now it was coming up a second time. After some research on the city, I could think of several reasons for its resonance with me: Nanjing is the former capital city of the Republic of China (I had applied to Yale in China program, post-undergrad years, in hopes of studying in the country, but was not admitted). Nanjing has always been known for its cotton and the weaving industry, so perhaps that is a family firm connection (I had worked for the William E. Hooper & Sons Company in the 1980’s, which was a revered two hundred year old textile company in Maryland). Lastly it was a city after which at least two Australian birds had been named (as noted above). Was this just a coincidence or were there deeper meanings?  Perhaps it is good to get some perspective, a bird’s-eye-view on the whole subject.


Nanjing, China 


According to the “Travel China” website, Nanjing is beautiful city that lies on the south bank of the Yangtze River Delta. It is the capital of Jiangsu Province and one of the most delightful destinations in China. Known as the capital city of six or ten dynasties in ancient Chinese history, it has a brilliant cultural heritage.[2]  The city is surrounded by beauty: it faces the fertile Jiangsu Southern areas on the east, the hills of Anhui Province on the west, Tai Lake on the south and Jianghuai Plain on the north. Since it is the intersection of Yangtze River—an east-west water transport artery and Nanjing-Beijing railway—a south-north land transport artery, hence the name “door of the east and west, throat of the south and north.” [3] The municipal space of the city covers a very large geographic area totally nearly 6,600 square kilometers and the urban space covers over 4,700 square miles. The city supports a permanent residential population of over 7.4 million people.[4] To keep those numbers in perspective, in the US only the Five Boroughs of New York City have a larger municipal space and only Los Angeles and New York have larger populations.


Nanjing claims to be over 6,000 years old, and it has gone by many names over the centuries. Originally known as Yuecheng, the first recorded military defense of the city was constructed in early 472 BC. That defensive blockade began the long history of Nanjing. In the following years, the city reached its height of splendor at various times. In 229, Sun Quan, one of the three heroes in Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280), to strengthen his influence in the middle valley of the Yangtze River, moved the capital of his kingdom to Yuecheng and renamed it Jianye. From that time on, the city served as the capital for several dynasties in history. In 1356, in a Peasant Rebellion, Zhu Yuanzhang, later the Emperor Taizu of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), conquered the city and renamed it Yingtian Fu. In 1368, Zhu established the Ming Dynasty – the last feudal dynasty ruled by the native Han people – and gave Yingtian Fu the new name of Nanjing. Ten years later, the emperor made it the capital of the country. The mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang is perching on the southern slope of the Mount Zijinshan in the northeastern part of the city.[5]


The Emperor Zhu ordered the construction of city walls and encouraged the farmers to plant grain to “consolidate the rule” of Nanjing. Today’s majestic walls in the city, the longest of its kind in the world, are the result of that phase of construction. Zhonghua Gate, simply meaning ‘Chinese Gate’, is a noted attraction for visitors in the present city center.[6]


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Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty


Today Nanjing is a modern city with energetic economics. It serves as a center for industries such as high-tech electronic information, auto industry, petrochemical industry, and iron and steel. Nanjing also serves the modern service industry with its five big regional service centers, which have been formed in the field of modern logistics, tourism exhibition, finance, information and trade. Proving that it is truly multi-national, Nanjing houses corporations from 104 countries. Those companies have made investments on 10,500 projects, 105 of which have been invested by 81 Top 500 corporations, such as BASF, Siemens, Shell, BP, Ericsson, Ford, Motorola, Sharp, Fujitsu, LG, and Samsung. [7]

Nanjing is also a city of excellent specialists for scientific education. As one of the four scientific research education cities in the country, Nanjing has 41 general higher universities (not including military schools) with over 600,000 students. The portion of students in every ten thousand people ranks the first in cities of China. Moreover, more than 540 various scientific research organizations in Nanjing with 530,000 research staffs. [8]

Nanjing is a central city with wonderful regional advantages.The Nanjing Lukou International Airport has opened international passenger and freight transportation airlines from Nanjing to London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Moscow, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul, among others. The total number of cities that are in the airlines of the Lukou airport reaches 65. Besides, the Nanjing harbor is the largest inland one in Asia with range of nearly 200 harbors in 80 countries.[9]

Proving that big cities don’t always mean traffic jams, Nanjing is a safe city, conscientious of laws and regulations. With good public security and sound prevention & control systems, the rate of crime is the lowest for the cities of its kind. The general satisfaction of citizens towards public security is 95%. In addition, the good traffic order won Nanjing the “First Prize of National City for Smooth Traffic” several times.[10]

In spite of its glorious times in history and bright future, the city also witnessed the hardest moment of this nation. The various websites recount the brutality of the Opium Wars, the notorious Treaty of Nanjing (which turned Hong Kong over to the British for a century), the Revolution of 1911 (when Sun Yat-Sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty), the Chiang Kaishek counter-revolution of 1927, and in five simple lines the “inhuman Nanjing Massacre” was described:

In six weeks of 1937, more than 300,000 Chinese people were killed including women and children. No atrocity can go unpunished. In 1945 the Chinese people eventually drove the barbarous Japanese army out of China and the war criminals got what they deserved. However the atrocity left a deep scar on the city. Pictures of Japanese soldiers taken by Japanese photographers are exhibited in the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre. [11]

That is it. Wow! The travel guides of China today want to focus on the growth and beauty of Nanjing, rather than its gruesome past. No mention of sanitized marketing campaign, which called the peutsch the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” It was a rape and massacre. Why was there no mention of the atrocity?

When I asked the Japanese student if he knew of the Nankeen Massacre, he said that he had heard about it, but the deaths were overshadowed by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I concede this point. It is easier for any country, even the US, to talk about the death and destruction of its own country rather than to bear witness to the brutality caused by its troops to any other nation. As a Catholic many, many times I have had to admit that the Crusades were brutal to the invaded countries, when the topic of distress had been pointing to their homeland.


The Nanjing Massacre


One of the things that occurred to me is that many people are not keenly interested in history. There are many reasons for the apathy: it’s often dry and boring, it’s poorly written, and it’s about dead people. The Nanjing Massacre took place in 1937, which is 80+ years ago: almost four generations. My hypothesis is that terrible things that make one generation outraged are all but forgotten in three generations. I realize that we don’t need to go far to find evidence of this human tendency towards amnesia. The pain of memory is too much for the soul.


The Holocaust, the attack of the Twin Towers in New York, the genocide caused by the imperialism of the Spanish, French, British, Portuguese; the barbarism of US, or New Zealand or Australia against the indigenous peoples, and failure to respect Black Lives in any white dominant culture: all of these causes are forgotten (or will be forgotten) by the future generations. About 60 years down the road, who will feel the pain of these atrocities, if they were not personally impacted by them?


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Nankeen Trousers (c. 1818)                     

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Swatch of Nankeen Cloth


What was I supposed to do with the Nanjing Massacre in my class? First we had to talk about it. Then we had to put it into context. And lastly, we had to determine what type of response we should have as a consequence of it. The fact that none of the Asians, who were raised in China, Taiwan or Japan, had immediate recall of the story of Nanjing genocide was the first clue. Why would any of my students in 2013 care about what happened in a Chinese city (Japan vs. China) from 1937? The first sign of caring is acknowledgement. Since the students at least showed ignorance, not denial or caring, the lessons of history were lost on them. After all, the parents of these students grew up a full 50 years after the atrocities in Nanjing. The students and their parents may not have the grudges, prejudices, or baggage that the elderly Japanese or Chinese may harbor to this day. 


Starving Armenians


My father, who is 88, for example, still talks about the “Starving Armenians,” a slaughter which seared the Armenian Holocaust in his psyche at an early age. That atrocity was perpetrated in 1915 with the “ethnic cleansing” of the Armenians. The mass killings were the result of the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. It took place during and after World War I and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert.[12] The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.[13]


Both of my Grandfathers served in World War I; Henry Evans was in the American Field Service and James Hooper was in the US Navy. These men and their generation knew the horrors of what happened in Europe. The genocide in Turkey was perpetrated 9 years before my Dad was born (1924), but his parents, aunts and uncles had talked about it, warned about it, and used it as a character reference so frequently that it became part of the family lexicon. 


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Armenians, from the Genocide Historical Society


When we were growing up in the 1950’s and one of us left food on our plates Dad would say, “Don’t forget the starving Armenians!” If we ate our plate’s clean, we could have dessert. If not, then we could sit at the table with the peas and carrots in front of us until bed time and miss the family evening.


When something gets too far from our family experience or oral history, it gets lost. Stories are what keep the good and the bad engrained in our experiences. Without the stories the experiences get shelved, disbelieved and marginalized. It takes courage to write about these stories of man’s brutality and cruelty to other men, women and children. Part of us doesn’t want to believe it. How could anyone do such a thing?


Mỹ Lai Massacre


I recall in 1968 just such an outrage during the Vietnam War. One group of 14 soldiers had been accused of ordering civilians in the South Vietnamese town of Mỹ Lai into a pit, shooting the villages, and burying them in a mass grave. The commanding officer, Captain Ernest Medina, was acquitted of all charges, but several months later confessed to suppressing evidence that he had lied to his superior, Col. Oren Henderson, about the number of civilian who had died. The Lieutenant in charge of the battalion, Lt. William Calley, said he was following orders from Capt. Medina. Calley, on his own, could not have done such a thing to civilians, right? Right and Wrong. Calley had killed civilians, but he was the only one to stand trial. Others had their excuses and cover.


The soldiers in M Lai and later in an adjacent village of Sơn Mỹ were found to have shot and killed between 347 and 504 men, women and children in cold blood. Medina is quoted by his platoon leaders to have said: “Who is my enemy? Anybody that was running from us, hiding from us, or appeared to be the enemy. If a man was running, shoot him, sometimes even if a woman with a rifle was running, shoot her.” 


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Vietnamese women and children in Mỹ Lai before being killed in the massacre, March 16, 1968.

According to the eye-witness testimony, they were all killed seconds after the photo was taken. 

Photo by Ronald L. Haeberle


I remember writing an essay about the atrocity in high school. No one could believe it had really happened. But in March 1971, a few days after my 17th birthday, Lt. Calley was convicted to life in prison at hard labor. Two days later, President Richard Nixon ordered Calley to be released, pending appeal. The outrage of the verdict and the appeal helped to catalyze the public against the Vietnam War. There were many such incidents that occur in war, but few made it to the headlines as quickly and graphically as the Mỹ Lai Massacre.


Nanjing Massacre


Also known as the Rape of Nanjing, the Massacre occurred during a six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing, in December, 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During that period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed solders were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.  Wide spread rape and looting were reported to have occurred. Historians and eye-witnesses have estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 people were killed. Several key perpetrators of the atrocities, labeled war crimes, were later tried and found guilty at the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, and executed. One of the key perpetrators, Prince Asaka, who was a member of the Japanese Imperial Family, escaped prosecution by having been granted immunity by the Allied Forces upon surrender on VJ Day.[14]

The Nanjing 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 Nanjing quite rapidly is due to the tacit consent among the officers and men that they could loot and rape as they wish.” [15]


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Sword used in the “contest” on display

at the Republic of China Armed Forces Museum in Taipei, Taiwan


Some authors record that Prince Asaka issued and signed the order for Japanese soldiers in Nanjing to “kill all captives,” thus providing official sanction for the crimes that they committed during and after the battle. Others claim that Asako’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel, Isamu Chō, sent this order under the Prince’s signature without the Prince’s knowledge or consent. However, even if Chō took the initiative on his own, Prince Asaka, who was nominally the officer in charge, gave no specific orders to stop the carnage, thereby condoning them. When General Matsui arrived in the city four days after the massacre had begun, he issued strict orders that resulted in the eventual end of the massacre.[16]

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Prince Yasuhiko Asaka in 1940


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Head of a Chinese man beheaded by Japanese is wedged

in a barricade near Nanjing just before the fall of the city.


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 (later executed for wartime atrocities) to see which of them 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.[17]

The contest remains a contentious political issue, as various aspects of the killing contest have been disputed by some historical revisionists and Japanese nationalists, who have claimed that the massacre has been either exaggerated or wholly fabricated for propaganda purposes. As a result of the nationalist efforts to deny or rationalize the war crimes, the controversy surrounding the massacre remains a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations, as well as Japanese relations with other Asia-Pacific nations such as South Korea and the Philippines.[18]

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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.’


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Photo taken in Xuzhou, showing the body of a woman profaned in a similar way to the teenager described in case 5 of John Magee’s movie. A woman and her two teenage 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.


The stories of rape, molestation, and sexual brutality are chilling and ubiquitous. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly. A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were often killed immediately after being raped, often through explicit mutilation or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo, or other objects into the vagina. Young children were not exempt from these atrocities, and were cut open to allow Japanese soldiers to rape them.[19]

On December 19, 1937, an eye-witness 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.”[20]

On March 7, 1938, 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.” Below are two excerpts from his letters. The first was on December 15, 1937: “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.” [21]

And on December 18, 1937: “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 has five bayonet wounds including one that penetrated his stomach, a portion of omentum was outside the abdomen. I think he will live.” [22]

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. “Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house… 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 Girls 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.” [23]

There are also accounts of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest.  Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape 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. [24]

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.” [25]

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A Chinese POW about to be beheaded by a Japanese officer with a

shin gunto during the Nanjing 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 what is called the Straw String Gorge Massacre. Japanese soldiers took most of the morning tying all of the POW’s hands together and in the dusk divided them into 4 columns, and opened fire at them. Unable to escape, the POW’s 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 POW’s were killed that day.[26]

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 that were left 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 Nanjing Yijiang gate in the north. Durdin, who was working for the New York Times, made a tour of Nanjing before his departure from the city. He heard waves of machine-gun fire and witnessed the Japanese soldier’s 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.[27]

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 disemboweled a Chinese soldier” and “roasted his heart and liver and ate them”.[28]

Jonathan Spence, the former Sterling Professor of History at Yale (author of The Search for Modern China, a survey of the last several hundred years of Chinese history), writes: “There is no obvious explanation for this grim event [in Nanjing], 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.” [29] However, boredom and anger and frustration and fatigue can no more be an excuse for these massacres than can the excuse, “my superior officer made me do it,” as reported in the My Lai Massacre.

Although the Japanese government has admitted to the acts of killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other violence committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of Nanjing, 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. In Japan, public opinion of the massacres varies, and few deny the occurrence of the massacre outright.  Nonetheless, recurring attempts by writers to promote a revisionist history of the genocide have created controversy that still echoes from time to time in the international media in China, South Korea, and other East Asian countries. [30]




How can anyone find the strength and fortitude to develop a conclusion for this piece. I come back to the question of what drew me to the topic in the first place? Was it the word Nankeen? Was it the connection with China? Was it a personal struggle with not having been to Vietnam? Was it more directly after re-reading about Lt. William Calley and wondering how My Lai could have happened?   do not really know. 

Traveling to Florida for a few days to see my Dad, perhaps he can help me make sense of it. He has traveled the globe, he loves to read, and he is in a particularly reflective mood at this point in his life…  He has lived through a lot of atrocities, genocides, and periods of peace. I know what he prefers, but perhaps it takes a SHOCK to every fourth generation to keep the stories alive so that we don’t repeat the sins of the past: “Remember the Starving Armenians!”


[13] Schaller, Dominik J; Zimmerer, Jürgen (2008). “Late Ottoman genocides: the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Young Turkish population and extermination policies – introduction”. Journal of Genocide Research 10 (1): 7–14. doi:10.1080/14623520801950820.

[14]While the number of victims varies widely from different sources, most of the sources refer to 200,000 on the low end and 350,000 on the high end of the found bodies. Some Japanese sources start as low as 40,000. The data is prevalent from many internet sources including: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre and http://www.nj1937.org/english/

[29] Spence, Jonathan D. (1999) The Search for Modern China, W.W. Norton and Company. p. 424. ISBN 0-393-97351-4.  Professor Spence was a popular professor at Yale when I was a student and his course on China was compiled over the years into this compendium.  It is a great read.

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