The Second Sino-Japanese War began on September 18, 1931, when Japan invaded China’s Manchuria and took control of the Northeastern part of China. The war then escalated into a full-blown war on July 7, 1937 when the Japanese troops crossed the Marco Polo Bridge and invaded Peking (today’s Beijing). This was followed by eight years of terror when the people in China and other countries in Asia were pillaged, raped, and murdered. The number of Chinese killed during the Second Sino-Japanese War was about 25-30 million, and millions of Chinese women and girls were raped. To the Chinese, WWII started in 1931.

The video on the left is a film documentation produced by the US War Department and released in 1944.
THE BATTLE OF CHINA focuses on Japan’s invasion of China. Special attention is paid to the history of China and the origins of the conflict, including Japan’s “Tanaka Memorial” plan for conquest. A moving, human portrait of a nation beset by tragedy, the documentary highlights the grim determination of the Chinese, who lose battle after battle yet stay in the fight.

The atrocities that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted on China, Korea, Philippines, and other parts of Asia during WWII were not isolated incidents, but massive atrocities that included the Nanking Massacre, sex slaves, biological and chemical warfare, and slave labor.

The Nanking Massacre:During the six-week period beginning on December 13, 1937, about 300,000 Chinese (mostly civilians) were killed, over 20,000 Chinese females (women, girls, and even very young girls and great-grandmothers) were raped, and one-third of the city of Nanking was burned to the ground. Many Chinese were beheaded or bayoneted in competitions among Japanese soldiers to see who could kill the most. Many were lined up and shot en mass, or were buried alive in mass graves. The Yangtze River was a river of death with dead bodies floating all over, and Nanking ran out of coffins.

The woman still clutching baby even though her head had just been cut off.

A field of severed heads.

  Horror of Nanking Massacre is captured in quote from Chu-Yeh Chang, a 14th-year old boy at that time whose great-grandmother, mother and younger sister were raped, and his great-grandmother was also killed after being raped: “Crossing the Yangtze River on a small boat back to Nanking, we saw many dead bodies bloated like balloons floating around us, and the smell of the corpses from the upstream Ba-Gua-Zhou Island made me feel like puking. These bodies were often the result of killing practices and competitions among the Japanese troops, and many of the bodies were without their heads as decapitation was one of the Japanese’s favorite execution methods. The walls of the city moat were covered with blood drops and bullet holes.”1

Sex Slaves(or euphemistically called “comfort women” by the Japanese government):

Approximately 400,000 women and young girls from China, Korea, Philippines, Netherlands, and other countries (with about 50% being Chinese) were forced to become sex slaves to the Japanese soldiers occupying China, Korea, Burma, Philippines, and other parts of Asia.2  Most of these women and girls were kidnapped from their families and shipped to all over the Japanese empire to become sex slaves, and many died or were never united with their families again.  Sometimes, these women and girls were tricked to become sex slaves when they thought they were being recruited for other jobs.  As sex slaves, they were raped on a daily basis by as many as two dozen or more Japanese soldiers, while being poorly fed and living in extremely harsh conditions.

Many women were forced to become sex slaves.

A gang-raped woman was killed and had her stomach split open.

  The terrifying experience of a sex slave can be seen from the remarks of Kim Koon Ja of Korea when she recalled her days as a Japanese sex slave: “On a daily basis, I was raped by Japanese soldiers, and it was common to be raped by 20 different soldiers a day, and on some days, it was as high as 40.  If we fought or resisted the rapes, we would be punished, beaten or stabbed by the soldiers.  There were soldier overseers to make sure that we complied and, if we resisted, they would punish us.  My body is forever marked and scarred with those beatings and in some cases stabbings with a knife …The Japanese government must acknowledge and admit to its crimes and claim responsibility for these atrocities.  The Japanese government is mistaken if it is simply waiting for all of us to die.  Eighteen former comfort women already died in 2006.  Many have died but our memories and history live on in the voices of the younger generation and written resolutions … The Japanese government should officially apologize and provide reparations.”3

Biological and Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction:Thousands of biological and chemical weapons were used by the Japanese army in Heilongjiang, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jilin, Guangdong, Yunnan, Zhejiang, and other provinces in China.  The largest Japanese biological/chemical warfare laboratory, Unit 731, near Harbin, Heilongjiang, is probably the largest such laboratory ever in the world.  Unit 731 was a gigantic complex covering six square kilometers and consisted of more than 150 buildings, with living quarters and amenities for up to 3,000 Japanese staff members, 300-500 of whom were medical doctors and scientists.  The complex contained various factories.  It had 4,500 containers for raising fleas, six giant cauldrons to produce various chemicals, and around 1,800 containers to produce biological agents, such as those associated with cholera, bubonic plague, and anthrax.  Approximately 30 kg of bubonic plague bacteria could be produced there in several days. An example of such biological (germ) warfare occurred on May 4, 1942, when Japanese airplanes dropped cholera and bubonic plague-infected bombs in the city of Baoshan in Western Yunnan that killed about 60,000 people in the Baoshan area from cholera, and thousands more were killed from the bubonic plague. The population of Baoshan In 1942 was about 400,000.

  Quote from eyewitness and survivor An Xian Ma, an eight-year-old boy at that time after cholera and bubonic plague-infected bombs were dropped in Baoshan on May 4, 1942: “There were so many deaths that they even ran out of coffins, resulting in bodies just being left exposed on mattresses. One day, he even saw dogs running around with human leg bones in their mouths. So many men were killed; it was up to the women to carry away the bodies. He said it was like hell.”4

Many terribly painful life-long rotten leg infections were caused by glanders used by the Japanese military during WWII.

Photo of the legs of a victim of glanders attack in 1942 in Zhejiang Province.

Note: At the 27th General Assembly of The Japan Medical Congress in Osaka, a segment of the Japan Medical Congress organized a big exhibit on “War and Medicine” that reflects on the morality of Japanese medicine as practiced by Japan’s biological/chemical warfare research centers and factories. More information can be found:

Slave Labor:The number of slave laborers in Asia forced by the Japanese Imperial Army was huge. According to an official report from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated 1946 when Japan had already lost the war and was trying to erase or at least reduce the magnitude of her crimes, there were 40,000 Chinese forced laborers in Japan, which was probably an underestimate by an order of magnitude.  Since most of the Chinese forced laborers were working in various parts of China, and not Japan, the number of Chinese forced laborers could easily run into millions.5

  These slave laborers worked under unimaginable harsh conditions. Former slave laborers Zhang Shijie (born in 1925) and Cui Guangting (born in 1924) recalled that the torment started from the moment they arrived in Japan “They ripped off our clothes and whipped us in a dark house while we were naked … We had to work for over 10 hours a day and were fed musty steamed buns and pickles once a day. We were not allowed to drink water while working in order to save time. And we would be beaten heavily by the guards if we picked up rotten leaves or food from rubbish bins to feed ourselves We were so hungry that sometimes we had to steal food from the mouths of rats.” Their long work days and lack of food left them with all kinds of diseases, ranging from stomach illnesses to lung diseases and dermatitis. None of them was healthy after they had been tortured.6

Prisoners of war (POWs) of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII were consistently mistreated. Torture, slave labor, and execution were common. There were numerous incidents, including not only Chinese but also soldiers from Western countries such as the U.S. This occurred during the previously mentioned Nanking Massacre when thousands of Chinese soldiers were summarily executed whenever they were captured. Another incident occurred in the aftermath of the Japanese troops defeating the American and Filipino troops after the 99-day Battle of Bataan in the Philippines on April 9, 1942, which was the largest defeat in U.S. military history. The end of the Battle of Bataan marked the beginning of one of the cruelest episodes in the history of modern warfare, the little known Bataan Death March.

  Before the march began, the 76,000 American and Filipino POWs were already extremely weak with exhaustion and starvation, and many were injured or sick.  During the week-long 60-plus mile march, the POWs were not given any food, except for a rice ball or two during the whole march (not per day).  They were also not given any water, even though there was plenty of fresh groundwater nearby.  Any POW who tried to get water from these freshwater sources were shot or bayonet to death on the spot.  The POWs had no choice but to gather whatever water they found in the water puddles along the trail, even though these water puddles were usually dirty and infected.  They were given little rest, and anyone who stopped on his own or was not able to continue was killed on the spot, including those who were sick or injured.  Furthermore, anyone who showed any sign of belligerent behavior or just disrespect was also killed on the spot.  A common method of killing was beheading. About 25-30% never completed the week-long march.7

Photo of Bataan prisoners from: http://www.battleofbataan.com/photos.html

(this site contains many other photos)

Why does Change need to Happen? In spite of the large scale and seriousness of these atrocities, the Japanese government still has not formally acknowledged the atrocities their Imperial Army committed about 70-80 years ago. This long amnesia of war crimes of such magnitude is a great stumbling block to ultimate peace and reconciliation among the Asian countries, and the world at large. That is why improving the education of this part of history is especially important today when students everywhere need to become world citizens. For the sake of our children and grandchildren getting a correct perspective on history, this state of affairs must change.

Footnote 1: See article “Nanking Massacre: An Eyewitness Account” in http://www.nj-alpha.org/Reference_Information_Articles/HTML_Articles/Chang_Chu_Yeh_English.html

Footnote 2: These are the most recent estimates based on more than 20 years of investigation by the world’s foremost expert on the sex slaves issue, Professor Zhi Liang Su (and his team), who is the Director of the Comfort Women Research Institute at the Shanghai Normal University in Shanghai, China.  Earlier corresponding numbers from the United Nations were 200,000 sex slaves, with the majority being Koreans.

Footnote 3: http://democrats.foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/kim021507.htm

Footnote 4: http://www.dontow.com/2009/08/heroic-and-critical-battles-in-yunnan-during-wwii/

Footnote 5: http://www.dontow.com/2014/09/reflections-from-2014-peace-reconciliation-asia-study-tour/

Footnote 6: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/850227.shtml

Footnote 7: See article “American POWs and the Bataan Death March,” http://www.dontow.com/2009/06/american-pows-and-the-bataan-death-march/