Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity

Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity

Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity

Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity


The December 1937 incident that has come to be known as the Rape of Nanking is, without doubt, a tragedy that will not soon be forgotten. While acknowledging that a tremendous loss of life occurred, this study challenges the current prevailing notion that the incident was a deliberate, planned effort on the part of the Japanese military and analyzes events to produce an accurate estimate of the scale of the atrocities. Drawing on Chinese, Japanese, and English sources, Yamamoto determines that what happened at Nanking were unfortunate atrocities of conventional war with precedents in both Eastern and Western military history. He concludes that post-war events such as the war crimes trials and the impact of the Holocaust in Europe affected public opinion regarding Nanking and led to a dramatic reinterpretation of events.


I am indebted to many people who have helped me complete this book in various ways.

Researchers and staff members of the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland, were always very helpful in locating valuable primary source materials. I am especially grateful to Mr. John E. Taylor, who provided me with useful guidance in exploring the archival materials. I cannot exaggerate how the meeting with him during my first visit to the National Archives facilitated my subsequent research there. Although I am not one of the Japanese researchers who gave him an award recently for his outstanding assistance to Japanese scholars, I am no less indebted to him than they are.

My gratitude also goes to the archivists of the Japanese Defense Agency’s Military History Division as well as the staff of the Japanese Diplomatic Archives. Among these archivists, Mr. Hara Takeshi of the Military History Division not only personally talked with me about some critical issues but also sent me some important materials.

I would also like to thank Mr. Hata Ikuhiko, a leading Japanese scholar in the field of Japan’s modern history. Mr. Hata, an author of a book dealing with the same subject as this book, kindly sat with me to discuss some touchy topics related to the Rape of Nanking.

I must mention a whole community at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where I now teach. The staff members of the library always handled my requests for interlibrary loans promptly. Although almost all the materials I could obtain through the interlibrary loan were secondary sources, their assistance undoubtedly helped me pave the way for further research. Staff members of the Information and Technology Service were also a valuable group of people in completing the last phase of this project. Without them, many computer-related problems might have ruined everything I had accumulated.

Although not academically, Mr. Noro Ichiro, who is now a part-time instruc-

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