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Court investigation into Nanjing Massacre


05-03-2016 14:22 BJT

Featuring prominently in the Tokyo Trials was an infamous event known as the Nanjing Massacre. It was a period of six weeks from December 1937, during which Japanese soldiers indiscriminately slaughtered and raped in the eastern Chinese city.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 people were killed, most of them civilians. Several key perpetrators were tried and found guilty.

At the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, the Japanese defendants were defiant. They said there was no killing of civilians in Nanjing, and rape happened only on a small scale. But witnesses painted a starkly different picture.

Robert Wilson, an American physician at Drum Tower Hospital in Nanjing, said from December 13, 1937, patients poured into the hospital, all 180 beds were occupied. The patients had bayonet wounds, severe burns, or were raped.

John Magee, an American missionary who worked in Nanjing, risked his life filming the atrocities carried out by Japanese soldiers.

Wu Changde survived a mass shooting. He threw himself down right before the bullets were fired. He narrowly escaped death, but was badly injured when Japanese soldiers stabbed at the bodies and set them alight.

News reports also bore witness to the horrors. The New York Times, published December 18, 1937, a report by its correspondent in China, Frank Tillman Durdin. The titles alone speak volumes. The report named it the “Nanking Massacre.”

The court estimated that more than 200,000 people were killed, without counting the bodies already incinerated. Military commander Iwane Matsui was accused of not acting to stop the terror. But he flatly denied knowledge of the atrocities until later.

In November 1948, the court ruled that Japanese soldiers slaughtered innocent civilians. Matsui was convicted as a class-A war criminal, and sentenced to death. Eleven years after the massacre, the commander of the killings was hanged.

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