Rape of NankingThe Japanese government would really appreciate it if everybody could just stop bringing up this horrific massacre committed against Chinese civilian noncombatants in December 1937. Frankly, it makes them uncomfortable. And while we're at it, let's not go anywhere near the topic of reparations.
If we could just agree never to discuss the unpleasantness, and remove all traces of it from our history textbooks, and everyone goes on with their lives as though it never happened, pretty soon the event will fade from our collective memory. And when the last eyewitness finally dies, it will be as though it had never happened.
Won't that be nice?
What sets World War II apart from a lot of other wars was how good all the different sides had gotten with weaponry and efficiency of killing; all the magic of the Industrial Age combined with the power of Mass Media, working together to make it that much easier to fight each other. The improvements to the Tank and the addition of the submarine into the mix ensured that things would be entirely out of hand, even for just for the enlisted personnel, who had agreed to fight in the first place. Everything was in place to ensure the Sequel would make The First World War look like a snowball fight.
The problem was civillians; they got everywhere. And since war could come upon an area of countryside within hours (instead of days), an awful lot of people were caught flat-footed, and faced with armed troops whose job was to Destroy the Enemy, come what may. As a result, atrocities happened. Lots of them. In all sorts of places. We've heard a bit about that population control program we now call The Holocaust, but a lot of other events happened too.
One of the biggies for Japan's part in the War was what has become known as "The Rape of Nanking", a military operation where Japanese troops descended on the capital of China, Nanking, in December of 1937 and stayed until March of 1938. In that time, somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 prisoners of war and civilians were slaughtered, and somewhere in the range of 80,000 women and girls were raped, tortured, mutilated and otherwise defiled.
There are photos, hundreds of them, of the bodies piled up, the masses being killed, the whole deal. It was another military operation to the Japanese, and they documented it like everything else. There's lots of them, and they look really damning.
Just like Holocaust Revisionists, there are revisionists for Nanking as well, quoting this statistic or that, calling the stories falsified, the stories propaganda, the eyewitnesses glory-hounds looking for a quick buck. It's almost a pathological problem, like being caught stealing a cookie and denying, beyond all hope and reason that you're just not holding that cookie. Or you were putting the cookie back.
But unlike Holocaust Revisionism, the painting of the Rape of Nanking as a propaganda stunt of complete fiction has been largely successful in Japan, where large segments of the society claim it never happened, or even better yet, have never heard of it. And as the last eyewitnesses die off, and as the endless call to ignore and shove this little bit of nastiness under the rug continues, who knows how much longer it'll be remembered.