"It's been 5 years..." Nanking

The Pittsburgh Press (December 13, 1937)

Capture of Nanking reported by Japs

Shanghai, China (UP) –
The Japanese Dōmei News Agency carried an official announcement that Japanese had completed the occupation of Nanking at sunset today.


Hankow, China –
It was official announced here today that Chiang Kai-shek had ordered withdrawal of Chinese troops from Nanking.

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Brooklyn Eagle (December 14, 1937)

Fighting ends in Nanking as big fires rage

Japan seizes reins of China’s government as foe is routed

Shanghai, China (AP) – (Dec. 15)
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, in a statement to the embattled Chinese people from “somewhere behind the Chinese-Japanese lines,” asserted today that the Japanese capture of Nanking would not affect China’s resistance to Japanese invasion. The head of China’s National Government said:

The chief significance of Nanking’s fall is its strengthening of China’s determination to continue a campaign of resistance. The seat of the government has been moved elsewhere and Nanking no longer possesses political or military importance.

Shanghai, China (AP) –
Great fires blazed in fallen Nanking tonight as the Japanese Army, relentlessly pursuing its punitive mission deep into China, rolled on past the conquered capital.

Japanese fliers reported flames raging through what had only a few weeks ago been the proud seat of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s government.

Fragmentary reports, filtering in over disrupted communications, indicated actual fighting had ended within the walls of Nanking and the Japanese troops, without slackening their offensive campaign, were carrying their operations farther afield.

Fear for residents

Unverified reports of the Japanese virtually slaughtering the defeated Chinese soldiers around Nanking circulated here, giving rise to grave fears for the safety of Nanking residents as well.

Actual information as to the situation within the captured city was unavailable because of regular communications being out of commission and the Japanese having the only contact.

Nothing could be learned about the Americans who were in Nanking when the Japanese stormed its gates Dec. 10.

Radio messages from foreign gunboats on the Yangtze said the Japanese and Chinese were still fighting in the vicinity of Hohsien, about 45 miles upriver from Nanking. Hohsien was where American refugees of the Panay bombing were taken.

Refugees in danger

The radios said fighting was again endangering these refugees.

While rescue parties from the foreign gunboats were ashore trying to contact the refugees, several Japanese boats laden with troops entered the area and engaged Chinese detachments.

Efforts were being made to have the Japanese withdraw from the Hohsien area in order to facilitate rescue of the Panay refugees.

Japan’s Rising Sun flag fluttered at each corner of Nanking’s walls today and within the ancient stone battlements, the abandoned capital of the Chinese government was reported in flames.

Withdraw from station

Chinese sources admitted that the Japanese occupied Pukow, terminus of the Tientsin-Pukow railway into North China across the Yangtze from Nanking. Chinese troops were reported to have withdrawn to a railway station at Puchen, about a mile north of Pukow.

While tremendous clouds of smoke shrouded the fallen city, a new provisional government for China – under the aegis of conquering Nippon – was formed at Beiping.

The guiding principles of the new regime, reported the Dōmei (Japanese) News Agency, were vigorous opposition to the harassed government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, suppression of communism and cooperation with Japan and Manchukuo.

Officials of regime

The new government was created immediately after the fall of Nanking. The Japanese command for the Nanking campaign announced its troops completed occupation of Generalissimo Chiang’s former capital when the sun set yesterday on a day of bloody street fighting.

Among the officials of the provisional regime were two former Presidents of China, three former Premiers, five former Finance Ministers and four other one-time cabinet officers, the Japanese news agency said.

Chinese press reports from Hankow, one of the temporary seats of Chiang’s government about 300 miles further up the Yangtze from Nanking and possibly one of the next Japanese objectives, said Outer Mongolian authorities had arrived to confer with the Generalissimo on plans for a rear attack against the Japanese in North China.

The Japanese have invaded or conquered five North China provinces. Beiping, seat of the new Japanese-molded provisional government for China, is the capital of one of these five, Hopeh. Outer Mongolia, lying between Soviet Russia and northern China, is under strong Soviet influence.

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The Pittsburgh Press (December 15, 1937)

All Americans safe at Nanking

Tokyo reports foreigners okay after fall of China’s capital

Shanghai, China (AP) –
The Japanese Embassy said today 27 foreigners – including 18 Americans – who were within the walls of Nanking when Japanese troops stormed and captured the Chinese capital city, were all reported safe in a message from Nanking.

Beside the Americans, there were six Germans, two Russians and a Briton who chose to remain in the beleaguered city, rather than evacuate on a river boat as many other endangered foreigners did.

The Embassy report said there were 150,000 Chinese in the “safety zone.”

Japan Embassy escapes

There were no foreign diplomatic officials remaining in Nanking, according to the Japanese information. The Japanese Embassy was reported to have escaped damage but the Japanese said they were uninformed about how other diplomatic establishments had fared in the fighting.

Sketchy reports from the war front indicated hard fighting was in progress beyond Nanking where the Japanese Army, driving steadily into the interior, was combating Chinese along a new defense line established approximately five miles northwest of the fall capital city.

The Pittsburgh Press (December 16, 1937)

Chinese slain without mercy in ‘4 days of hell’ at Nanking

By A. T. Steele

Herewith is the first dispatch on the shambles of Nanking to reach the outside world since the Japanese occupation.

Nanking, China – (Dec. 15, via the USS Oahu by radio)
“Four days of hell” would be the most fitting way to describe the siege, capture and rape of Nanking.

I have just boarded the gunboat Oahu with the first group of foreigners to leave the capital since the attack began. The last thing we saw as we left the city was a band of 300 Chinese being methodically executed before the wall near the waterfront, where already corpses were piled knee-deep.

It was a characteristic picture of the mad Nanking scene of the past few days.

The story of Nanking’s fall is a story of indescribable panic and confusion among the entrapped Chinese defenders, followed by a reign of terror by the conquering army which cost thousands of lives, many of them innocent ones.

While the behavior of the Chinese before the city’s abandonment was deplorable in many ways, it was mild compared to the excesses of the invading force.

All foreigners in Nanking are safe.

Japanese brutality at Nanking is costing them a golden opportunity to win the sympathy of the Chinese population, whose friendship they claim to be seeking.

After the complete collapse of Chinese morale and the blind panic which followed, Nanking experienced a distant sense of release when the Japanese entered, feeling that the behavior of the Japanese could not possibly be worse than that of their own defeated army. They were quickly disillusioned.

Although the Japanese could have completed the occupation of the remainder of the city almost without firing a shot, by offering mercy to the trapped Chinese soldiers, most of whom had discarded their arms and would surrender, they chose the course of systematic extermination.

It was like killing sheep. How many troops were trapped and killed, it is difficult to estimate, but it may be anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000.

Streets throughout the city were littered with the bodies of civilians and abandoned Chinese equipment and uniforms. Many troops who were unable to obtain boats across the river leaped into the river to an almost certain death.

Japanese looting made Chinese looting, which had preceded it, look like a Sunday school picnic. They invaded foreign properties, among them the residence of the American Ambassador Nelson T. Johnson.

In the American-operated University Hospital, they relieved the nurses of watches and money. They stole at least two American-owned cars, ripping off the flags. They even invaded the camp of refugees, stripping many poor of the few dollars they owned.

This account is based on the observations of myself and other foreigners remaining in Nanking throughout the siege.

Chinese soldiers discard uniforms

Seek civilian garb to avoid death in fall of Nanking
By Arthur Menken

The following description of the siege and capture of Nanking by the Japanese was wirelessed to the Associated Press from the U.S. gunboat Oahu by Arthur Menken, Paramount newsreel cameraman.

Nanking, China (AP) – (via the USS Oahu by radio)
The once-proud capital of ancient China was strewn today with the blood-splotched corpses of its soldier defenders and civilians killed in the bombing, shelling and fierce fighting to which the city was subjected.

Scattered through the city were hundreds of uniforms discarded by fleeing Chinese soldiers who had tried to escape death at the hands of the Japanese by substituting civilian garb.

During the Chinese retreat from Nanking, after their defense had been smashed by the terrific Japanese onslaughts, I saw some disorganized looting by fleeing Chinese soldiers, and when they had gone, some Japanese carried on the looting.

Safety zone respected

The Japanese refrained from shelling and bombing the safety zone which was set aside under sponsorship of American and German residents of Nanking. More than 100,000 Chinese sought refuge in the zone.

Despite the fact that Chinese troops were slow in withdrawing from the zone and planted guns along its edges, the Japanese did not attack there. Only a few stray shells fell in the zone and only a few were killed in it.

C. Yates McDaniel, the Associated Press correspondent in Nanking, and I saw many policemen shedding their outer clothes and walking around in underwear searching for old civilian clothes.

To make sure that the watchman at the U.S. Embassy was not executed for having arms, McDaniel took away his pistol and made him stay inside. This probably saved his life.

We first learned of the Panay’s sinking from a young Japanese Navy lieutenant on the gunboat Seta. After Nanking’s fall, we had gone to the riverside to request the Japanese to radio the Panay and ask it to return to Nanking.

The lieutenant answered:

Oh, sorry, Panay sunk.

Unbelieving, we heard him repeat that the gunboat had gone down.

He could give no details. We advised other Americans and foreigners of the Panay sinking, but did not tell the Embassy’s Chinese staff, not wanting to terrify them.

During the final days of the siege, we saw no Chinese planes in the air, and Chinese anti-aircraft weapons were hopelessly ineffective in keeping off Japanese bombers, although one Japanese plane was believed shot down.

University not disturbed

The American-supported University of Nanking, a haven for thousands of terrified refugees, was not hit or disturbed.

To me, the unsung hero of Nanking’s fall was an unknown Chinese private whose action probably saved me and Tillman Durdin, New York Times correspondent, whose home is in Pecos, Texas.

Walking along Chung-Shan Road near the Metropolitan Hotel, we were motioned out of the way by the private, who, with a small group of soldiers, was putting up a last-stand fight. We ducked into the safety zone just before Japanese tanks roared down the street, with machine guns firing.

When they had passed, we found the private and his comrades dead in the street.

The tomb of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, first President of China, came through the battle without damage.

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