Japanese massacre thousands of Chinese at Changjiao

Japanese soldiers bayonet Chinese prisoners in Nanking

Japanese soldiers bayonet Chinese prisoners in Nanking

In the west the Rape of Nanking, when as many as 250,000 unarmed Chinese PoWs were massacred in 1937, is relatively well known. Less well known and even less well understood are other atrocities against the Chinese civilian population during the Japanese occupation of China. Between the 5th and the 12th May there was a massacre of Chinese civilians at Chingjiao, regarded as the second worst in the whole war:

The Changjiao Massacre was directed towards Chinese civilians. It was started by the Japanese China Expeditionary Army. The tragedy occured in Chingjiao, Hunan. The leader was Shunroku Hata. The Changjiao Massacre went on for four days, and 30,000 civilians were killed.

Leader of the China Expeditionary Army at the time of the Massacre. He was convicted of War Crimes after the war and sentenced to Life imprisonment but released in 1955.

Japanese Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, Leader of the China Expeditionary Army at the time of the Massacre. He was convicted of War Crimes after the war and sentenced to Life imprisonment but released in 1955.

Details are scarce in the English language but there is an account from a survivor (in Chinese) at Xinhuanet.

The Japanese have never really come to terms with their atrocities in the Second World War in the same way that the post war generation in Germany has attempted. There is very little acknowledgement of what happened at an official level. This has been a constant source of frustration for the western survivors of Japanese imprisonment. We understand even less about the attitudes of the Chinese to the Japanese following the years of occupation.

We can get some idea of the Japanese attitude to the Chinese during the time of occupation, from accounts given by the Japanese after the war. Uno Shintaro was a Chinese speaking officer in the Japanese Military Police, the Kempeitai. His role was ‘intelligence gathering’ in the occupied areas of China. He states that this was usually ‘interrogation’ – by which he means torture – of members of the local population. Contempt for the life of the Chinese seems to have been complete. Frequently it seems these interrogations often ended in execution by beheading.

Shintaro gives an account of how these were conducted:

I personally severed more than forty heads. Today, I no longer remember each of them well. It might sound extreme, but I can almost say that if more than two weeks went by without my taking a head, I didn’t feel right. Physically, I needed to be refreshed.

I would go to the stockade and bring someone out, one who looked as if he wouldn’t live long. I’d do it on the riverbank, by the regimental headquarters, or by the side of the road. I’d order the one I planned to kill to dig a hole, then cut him down and cover him over.

My everyday sword was a Showa sword, a new one with the name Sadamitsu. My other sword was called Osamune Sukesada. It was presented to me by my father and dated from the sixteenth century. Sukesada was a sword made for fighting. It cut well, even if you were unskilled. It wasn’t a particularly magnicent sword, but it was the kind the samurai in that time of constant warfare appreciated. It was the best sword for murder.

With Sadamitsu, you couldn’t really take a head with a single stroke. The neck was cut through, but it didn’t fall. Heads fell easily to Sukesada. A good sword could cause a head to drop with just an easy motion.

But even I sometimes botched the job. They were physically weakened by torture. They were semiconscious. Their bodies tended to move. They swayed. Sometimes I’d hit the shoulder. Once a lung popped out, almost like a balloon. I was shocked. All I could do was hit the base of the neck with my full strength. Blood spurted out. Arteries were cut, you see. The man fell immediately, but it wasn’t a water faucet, so it soon stopped. Looking at that, I felt ecstasy. I’m not that way today.

You might ask how it could happen that we could kill people like this. It was easy. Once, for instance, I got a call from divisional headquarters: “You’ve made grandiose claims, Uno, but the area you’re responsible for isn’t secure. How are you going to explain this?” I could only answer that I had no excuse.

I then resolved to clean up things. I dispatched our reserve squad, took the village mayor and others captive, and tortured them. They claimed they didn’t know anything. I was furious. I’ll show them, I thought. I lined them up, nine of them, and cut their heads off.

I knew that only two of them would have bent my Showa sword all out of shape, so I used my father’s sword. As might have been expected, that good old sword did the job with no ill effects. Guerrillas at that time caused enormous losses for our forces. Even killing them didn’t even the score! Among the “guerrillas” I killed were military men and a village chief.

The day I did those nine people, you know, I was quite calm. That night I went out drinking at a restaurant. I brought other captives to bury those bodies. We did that in the open field next to the prisoner encampment. We told them not to look, but in a sense, it was better for us if they did. They would realize that if they got out of line, they too might be in danger.

This account appears in: Japan at War – An Oral History

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew May 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm

The bastards were savages…yet think they conveniently forget their crimes.

Nicholas Robinson May 11, 2018 at 12:15 am

I lived in Japan from 1988-93 and met my then-wife there. By the time I went to Japan I was already well versed in the Nanking massacre stories and POW stories—I could thank James Clavell for the latter; at least for provoking me to look up more info on the subject of Japan in WWII. Of course, there was no Internet, so it was a lot harder to find things out back then.

But while I was in Japan, teaching English, I had a couple of students who were notable in that they had been kamikazes—or would-be kamikazes. One of them was going to pilot a kai-ten, or midget sub, and the other was actually going to be a Zero kamikaze, but the first guy was spared because the war ended and the second because his piloting skills were “too good” for him to be sacrificed.

They were both excellent fellows who *did* know about most of the excesses by Japan and were basically too mortified to talk about it—at least to me.

But a little after I left Japan and came with my then-wife to Montreal, I began reading more about Japan’s WWII role (my own father had been a radio operator in a B-24 of the 467th Bomb Group in Rackheath, England: http://www.montrealfood.com/mosecrew.html).

Once I was reading an amazing book about POWs—forget the title but it was by a guy named Gavan Daws—and they actually had an image of the Asahi Shimbun article about the “Competition to be the first to cut down 100” that became infamous later on. It was an actual picture of the actual newspaper article, and when, after having mentioned many of the appalling behaviours by the Japanese in WWII my then-wife had simply not believed me, I showed her the picture of the article.

I don’t know if you have ever had your blood run cold or seen someone else’s blood run cold but I swear that when she began to read the article and realised that it was not a fake but a picture of the real thing, she blanched and almost began shaking.

From then on she never disbelieved what I was telling her and even mentioned her own stories of being a “hostess” (euphemism for girls who serve drinks to mainly old men in bars) and sometimes serving groups of old men who were laughing and bragging about their appalling own behaviours—I never got details but it made a lot of sense.

The average Japanese person today literally does not have a clue about any of these behaviours of Japan during WWII or if they do, it’s heavily sanitised and swept under various rugs.

Their history textbooks say virtually nothing on the subject but *do* concentrate on the victimhood of Japan in Hiroshima (where I’ve been three times—excellent city) and Nagasaki.

It’s much like you hear from defenders of the Nazis who start point fingers at the bombing of Dresden—as if that clears Hitler and his pals and makes things all equal.

As for Japan, now, the older generation who were there and who actually witnessed or participated in this stuff have mostly disappeared and you can bet that Japan is heaving a collective sigh of relief.

If you wish to ask me anything further about anything, just ask. Like I say, I have no connection with any of this but I do wonder sometimes how I’m going to break all this to my son, who is turning 17 soon and lives with my ex-wife in Nara, Japan, and who is one-third American, one-third Canadian and one-third Japanese.



M Psaila May 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

Hopefully this animal got his justice in the same way he dealt it out to others.

Rick May 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

The ISIL of their time but today with the progress Japan has achieved, their dark past is beyond regular everyday questioning and introspection.

Jeff Bilyeu May 8, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Very disturbing…It is odd how the brutality of the Japanese is often swept under the rug relative to the Germans. The same would go for the Russians, who in my estimation were the most brutal regime engaged in WW2.

Michael Foley May 23, 2014 at 9:12 pm

The mind just goes numb after reading this. Utter depravity.

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