The Nanking Massacre, A Tragedy Forgotten
When mentioned, World War II rings images of cities ruined by German blitzes, Nazi Death Camps, D-Day and perhaps other cases of destruction, both material and human, on the European front. Yet, the most abhorrent deeds committed remain wrapped in a shroud of shadows as dark as their nature. The number dead from this genocide exceed even the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and rival the civilian death toll of several European countries throughout the entirety of the war. If they could be resuscitated and hold hands, they would form a chain spanning 200 miles; stacked up they would reach the height of a 74-story building. This is a forgotten Holocaust; its music muted by the curtains of time. Today, let us unearth this song and listen to its haunting melody.
The Battle for Nanking was a four-day siege that ended in a chaotic retreat and the submission of the city. The Japanese initiated the siege on Dec. 10, 1937 and for the next four days rained bombs and shrapnel on the city. On the evening of Dec. 12, Nationalist leaders finally acknowledged the overwhelming odds against the Chinese and issued a retreat. During the pandemonium that ensued the order, tens of thousands of people, soldiers and civilians alike, tried to escape to the waterfront where those who made it then clawed over the few remaining boats. Many were unable to squeeze through the city's gates and instead tried to scale the city walls, massive fortifications 50ft. tall, using makeshift ropes of knotted sheets and clothing. A great many of these desperate souls fell to their death. Soldiers who couldn't make it through to the water front stripped themselves of all military insignia, littering the streets with uniforms, weapon, helmets, ammunition and other clutter in hopes of passing off as civilians.
Once the white flag of surrender was raised, what followed should have been an era of relative peace and rebuilding, but for the people of Nanking, the terror had just begun. Almost immediately after they entered the city, the Japanese commenced a door-to-door search for "ex-soldiers" and "stragglers." In truth, many of the "soldiers" taken away were boys in their early or pre teens and old men in their 60's or 70's who could not have possibly had any connection to the military. The POW's were mass-executed, buried alive, cremated, mowed down with machine guns, run over with tanks or cars, mauled by dogs, used for live target practice or subjected to all kinds of grotesque torture. The Japanese invented methods of butchering people with merciless efficiency. One of these was to separate the prisoners into groups, each group digging their own grave and then killing the group before them, continuing in a sickening cycle. When burial grounds became scarce, the bodies were thrown into the Yangtze until its waters ran red with blood and its banks became strewn with mutilated, half-decaying, washed-up bodies. More bodies...