December 13, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most odious chapters of 20th-century totalitarianism. The Japanese Army, upon invading Nanking (Nanjing), China, in 1937, began a reign of murder, rape, and mayhem that would be known forever after as simply “The Rape of Nanking.” The number of Chinese who died in this orgy of violence and violation will never be known with certainty, but credible estimates put the figure at around 300,000 men, women, and children.
The methods used by Japanese soldiers almost defy belief and betray the absence of any human conscience. Women and girls were submitted to a hellish orgy of mass rape, often until death, that could be equaled in history perhaps only to the conduct of the Russian communist army as it passed through Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and then Germany. And men, women, and children were bayoneted or otherwise impaled with bamboo or other objects.
In both instances, Red Army and Japanese Army troops, the slave soldiers of sadistic totalitarian regimes that cared no more for their own people than for anyone else on Earth, brutalized into near madness by their own leaders, were unleashed upon women and children as a reward for their fighting.
Rape, of course, is a cruel companion of war, and it has been since the beginning of history. Yet never, perhaps, has it been so carefully nourished in the bosoms of fighting men.
Military leaders could largely stop rape if they were of a mind to do so. Even in the most savage fighting, such as in Sherman’s March to the Sea during the American Civil War, as Victor Davis Hanson has noted, rape could be constrained. In that campaign there were almost no reported cases of rape at all.
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Photo of Japanese soldiers entering Nanking (Nanjing) in January of 1938