CHINA AND WORLD WAR II
Chinese troops march on Ledo Road The Japanese had been in northern China since 1931, and in coastal China since 1937 when they attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, marking the official beginning of World War II in Asia and the Pacific. The Japanese occupied most of the eastern and coastal part of China but not the interior until the end of World War II. They had difficulty advancing into the interior. In rugged terrain, the well-equipped Japanese were no match for the modestly-armed but determined Chinese peasants.
The Kuomintang and Communists formed an alliance against the Japanese. Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Mao Zedong's Red Army occupied the interior of China. The area under Mao’s control was home to around 100 million people. Chiang reluctantly agreed to form a United Front with the Communists against the Japanese after being pressured to do so by the United States.
Good Websites and Sources: ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; U.S. Army Account history.army.mil; World War II Database worldwar2database.com ; Burma Road book worldwar2history.info ; Burma Road Video danwei.org ; JAPANESE OCCUPATION OF CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; Book: The Imperial War Museum Book on the War in Burma, 1942-1945 by Julian Thompson (Pan, 2003).
Japanese Occupation of China : Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Washington State University site wsu.edu : Nanking Incident (Rape of Nanking) : Princeton site princeton.edu/~nanking ; Nanjing Massacre cnd.org/njmassacre ; Wikipedia Nanking Massacre article Wikipedia Nanjing Memorial Hall humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/NanjingMassacre ; Nanking Atrocities nankingatrocities.net/
Links in this Website: WARLORDISM AND CHIANG KAI-SHEK Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARLY COMMUNISTS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MAO, HIS EARLY LIFE, TACTICS AND REVOLUTION Factsanddetails.com/China ; LONG MARCH Factsanddetails.com/China ; JAPANESE OCCUPATION OF CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA AND WORLD WAR II Factsanddetails.com/China ; COMMUNISTS TAKE OVER CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARLY COMMUNIST RULE UNDER MAO Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) Brooklyn College site academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge chinaknowledge.de ; 5) China History Forum chinahistoryforum.com ; 6) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia 20th Century History China History Virtual Library CHINA AND WORLD WAR II
Kuomintang During World War II
Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists were headquarters in the Yangtze River city of Chongqing. They did little to help the Allied effort against the Japanese. Chiang was more interested in exterminating the Communists and saving his forces for battles against the Communists than ousting the Japanese. Chongqing was China’s capital during World War II in part because it was too far inland for Japanese bombers to reach.
In 1942, Chiang was named the Allied commander in China. The American General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, commander of the Allied forces in the China-Burma-India theater, didn't like Chiang at all. He referred to Chiang as a "Peanut" and called him "an unbalanced man with little education...arbitrary and stubborn." In regard to the corrupt and inefficient Kuomintang army he wrote: "The crux of it, they just don't want to get ready to fight...the Chinese government was a structure based on fear and favor." He also compared the fascist ideals of the Nationalist party with those of the Nazi party in Germany.
Chiang Kai-shek's military effort against Japan, as weak it was, won him support from the United States, Britain and even the Soviet Union. Western money and aid didn't seem to make the Kuomintang stronger it just seemed t make them more corrupt and out of touch with Chinese peasantry. A Kuomintang alliance with wealthy landlords didn't win them any support among the peasantry either.
Communists During World War II
Lin Biao The Communist were based in Yenan in Shanxi Province, the same place they had been since the end of the Long March. During the war Mao described his efforts as "70 percent self-expansion, 20 percent temporization and 10 percent fighting the Japanese.”
Gen. Stillwell had a higher opinion of the Communists than the Nationalists. "Somehow," General Stillwell wrote, "we must get arms to the Communists, who will fight." The Communists were recruited directly by American forces during a mission to Mao's guerilla base in Yenan on July 23, 1944. A museum devoted to General Stillwell in Chongqing has a picture of an American pilot rescued by the Communists posing next to Mao Zedong.
Communist efforts won the support of the Chinese peasantry, which made up 90 percent of the population of China. By the end of the war, the Communists had recruited nearly a million troops and emerged as a much more powerful force than they were before the war.
Brutality and Labor in China During the Japanese Occupation
The Japanese were brutal colonizers. Japanese soldiers expected civilians in occupied territories to bow respectfully in their presence. When civilians neglected to do this they were viciously slapped. Chinese men who showed up late for meetings were beaten with sticks. Chinese women were kidnaped and turned into “comfort women”—prostitutes who serviced Japanese soldiers.
Japanese soldiers reportedly bound the legs of women in labor so they and their children died in horrible pain. One woman had her breast cut off and others were burned with cigarettes and tortured with electric shock, often for refusing to have sex with Japanese soldiers. The Kempeitai, the Japanese secret police, were notorious for their brutality. Japanese brutality encouraged local people to launch resistance movements.
The Japanese forced Chinese to work for them as laborers and cooks. But they generally were paid and as a rule not beaten. By contrast, many workers were dragooned by the Chinese Nationalists and forced to work as laborers under backbreaking conditions, often for no pay.
Some 40,000 Chinese were sent to Japan to work as slave laborers. One Chinese man escaped from a Hokkaido coal mine and survived in the mountains for 13 years before he was discovered and repatriated to China.
See Japanese Occupation of China
Atrocities During the Japanese Occupation of China
The Japanese committed atrocities in Manchuria that ranked with those Nanking. One former Japanese soldier told the New York Times his first orders after arriving in China in 1940 were to execute eight or nine Chinese prisoners. “You miss and you start stabbing again, over and over.” He said, “There were not many battles with opposing Japanese and Chinese armies Most of the Chinese victims were ordinary people. They were killed or they were left without homes and without food.”
In Shenyang prisoners were kept in contraptions that resembled giant lobster traps with sharp nails imbedded in the ribs. After victims were beheaded their heads were neatly arranged n a line. When asked he could be involved in such atrocities, one Japanese soldier told the New York Times, “We were taught from a young age to adore the emperor, and that, if we died in battle our souls would go to Yasukuni Junja, We just didn’t think anything of killing, of massacres or atrocities. It all seemed normal.”
One Japanese soldier who later confessed to torturing a 46-year-old man suspected of being a Communist spy told the Washington Post, "I tortured him by holding a candle flame to his feet, but he didn't say anything...I put him on a long desk and tied his hands and feet and put a handkerchief over his nose and poured water over his head. When he couldn't breath, he shouted, I'll confess!" But he didn't know anything. "I felt nothing. We did not think of them as people but as objects.”
Human Guinea Pigs, Biological Weapons and Unit 731
Unit 731 Japanese scientists used human guinea pigs to perform grotesque experiments at 26 secret laboratories in China, Japan and other occupied countries. Between 3,000 and 12,000 prisoners are believed to have died from these experiments. No survivors have been located. Another 250,000 were killed with biological weapons throughout China, most from the plague.
The most infamous of the secret laboratories was Unit 731, also known as Division 731, a laboratory located in the village of Pingfan, 16 miles south of Harbin in Manchuria. Established in 1939 by a decree signed by Emperor Hirohito and run by General Shiro Ishii, it was a Japanese version of Belsen or Auschwitz. Unit 731 was a massive complex. It had a staff of 3,000 people and its own airport and railway station. Many of the doctors were from Japan's top medical schools.
The Japanese killed an estimated 10,000 people at Unit 731. Most of the victims were Chinese, Mongolians and Koreans. They included children who wandered to close to the facility and a teenage girl found carrying a gun. Experiments were also performed on captured Soviets and British.
Human guinea pigs at Unit 731 were referred to as "logs." They were brought to the laboratory in black vans known as voronki, or ravens. Residents of Harbin remember the vans racing through streets as the prisoners inside pounded and shouted for help. Once in the prison they were often fattened up to ensure "good results."
One elderly resident of Harbin told the Japan Times, "They would catch people surreptitiously and bring them to their laboratory. Local residents were afraid every day that they might be kidnaped by the Japanese. Before going outside, I had to stop and think: Are there Japanese around?
Human Experiments at Unit 731
Unit 731 Prisoners at Unit 731 were frozen to death, burned alive, dissected alive without anesthetic, shot, electrocuted, injected with animal blood, boiled and hung upside down until the died. Some were sealed inside pressure chambers that caused their eyes to pop out of their heads. Operations were performed on perfectly heathy prisoners accused of being spies to teach young doctors surgical techniques.
Describing his work, one scientist in the plague unit at Unit 731 later said, "I inserted the scalpel directly into the log's neck and opened the chest. At first there was a terrible scream, but the voice soon fell silent." One employee at Unit 731 not directly involved in. the experiments told Newsweek, "From the start, we were taught not to see, not to inquire, not to speak." Explaining why he cut out the eyes of victims one Japanese worker said, "I received an order."
There were reports of three-year-old children being jabbed with needles and submerged in icy water and screaming women cut open so their reproductive organs could be examined. Some victims had their stomachs removed and their esophagus connected to intestines. Others who had their arms amputated and reattached on opposite sides.
In one experiment a victim was taken outside when the temperatures were -40°C and tied to a post. Water was poured on the lower arm until it froze solid. The doctors then tested their frostbite treatment and the lower arm was amputated. The same process was repeated on the upper arms and then the legs. When victim was reduced to a head and torso he was then turned over to disease divisions for experiments there.
Germ Experiments at Unit 731
Unit 731 Prisoners at Unit 731 were and infected with the bubonic plague, syphilis, cholera, typhoid, anthrax and a variety of other viruses, bacteria and diseases. An estimated 10,000 prisoners died from these experiments.
Similar experiments were conducted at Unit 8604 at Zhongshan University near Canton where perhaps 20,000 people, previously thought to have died from starvation, may have actually died from infections diseases planted on them by scientists. Few details are known, but bodies buried in earthen jars have been discovered and local residents say they saw large numbers of bodies dumped in pits and destroyed in vats of chemicals.
As many as 250,000 people died in field tests of germ agents and biological weapons produced at Unit 731 and other laboratories in at least a dozen cities, including Beijing, Dalien and Nanjing. More than 300 people died when cholera germs were sprayed on Beijing. People also died from ingesting food purposely infected with cholera.
Plague Bombs in China
Unit 731 Various experiments were conducted with fleas, rats and the plague. In one experiment plague-carrying fleas were raised in a bathtub and then mixed with wheat to attract disease-carrying rats. These rats were air dropped over China’s eastern province of Zhejiang and central Hunan province from 1940 to 1942. People who lived in these areas described how people dropped like flies in hours or days, their bodies swollen and black. Those who came for the funerals spread the disease when they returned home. The Chinese government claims that 270,000 were killed but there is little evidence to support the claim that so many were killed.
In another experiment plague-carrying fleas were raised on the bodies of rats in special incubators that could produce about 40 pounds of infected fleas a month. One man working on the plague project told U.S. News and World Report, "We would inject the most powerful bacteria into the rats. On a 500-gram rat we would attach 3,000 fleas. When the rats were released, the fleas would transmit the disease."
The plague was also dispensed via air drops and placed into the drinking water at the end of the war, killing thousands of local Chinese. The scientists also worked on developing balloons that could carry disease agents to the United States.
There were plans to place plague-carrying rats into plane-released porcelains bombs that kept the creatures alive until were released in the air and floated to the ground on parachutes. The surrender on August 1945 scuttled a plan for kamikaze pilots to attack San Diego in planes filled with plague-infected fleas.
Unit 731 After World War II
As the Nazis did at Auschwitz, the Japanese burned Unit 731 facilities in an effort to destroy evidence of the atrocities committed there. Unit 731 remained a secret until the 1980s when it was uncovered by a Japanese journalist.
The scientists who performed the experiments were given salaries and immunity from war crimes by the Americans in a "Faustian bargain" for the results of their experiments. Ishii, sometimes regarded as the Japanese Doctor Mengele, lived until 1959 when he died of cancer.
After World War II, many of the doctors who worked at Unit 731 took on positions at hospitals, medical schools and pharmaceutical companies in Japan. One Japanese historian said the doctors have little remorse and many were disappointed when the war ended because they could not continue their research. The U.S. recruited Japanese germ warfare scientist for programs to the U.S. One even became a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.
According to one Japanese scholar the U.S. still possesses 600 pages of documents and possibly human tissue samples for Unit 731. Medical schools in Japan still have slides of "fresh human brains" made from victims at Unit 731.
A group of Chinese tried to win compensation for the atrocities at Unit 731 and the germ experiments in the Japanese courts. In 2002, the courts ruled that germ warfare experiments were indeed conducted but rejected claims for compensation.
In February 2011, Associated Press reported: “Japan began excavations at a former army medical school to search for human remains linked to a notorious World War II program that allegedly conducted biological warfare in China and live experiments on foreign prisoners of war. The government has never acknowledged the activities of the military’s shadowy Unit 731, although they have been documented by historians and participants. The excavation follows revelations by a former nurse that she helped bury body parts at the Tokyo site as American forces began occupying the capital at the end of the war. [Source: Associated Press, New York Times, February 21, 2011]
Uneasy Kuomintang- Communists Alliance During World War II
The collaboration between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party took place with salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP. The distrust between the two parties, however, was scarcely veiled. The uneasy alliance began to break down after late 1938, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions, and the rich Chang Jiang Valley in central China. After 1940, conflicts between the Nationalists and Communists became more frequent in the areas not under Japanese control. The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities presented themselves through mass organizations, administrative reforms, and the land- and tax-reform measures favoring the peasants--while the Nationalists attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence. [Ibid]
“In 1945 China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but actually a nation economically prostrate and on the verge of all-out civil war. The economy deteriorated, sapped by the military demands of foreign war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation, and by Nationalist profiteering, speculation, and hoarding. Starvation came in the wake of the war, and millions were rendered homeless by floods and the unsettled conditions in many parts of the country. [Ibid]
“The situation was further complicated by an Allied agreement at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that brought Soviet troops into Manchuria to hasten the termination of war against Japan. Although the Chinese had not been present at Yalta, they had been consulted; they had agreed to have the Soviets enter the war in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Nationalist government. After the war, the Soviet Union, as part of the Yalta agreement's allowing a Soviet sphere of influence in Manchuria, dismantled and removed more than half the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese. The Soviet presence in northeast China enabled the Communists to move in long enough to arm themselves with the equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army. The problems of rehabilitating the formerly Japanese-occupied areas and of reconstructing the nation from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering, to say the least. [Ibid]
Kuomintang, the Chinese Communist Party and the United States
During World War II, the United States emerged as a major actor in Chinese affairs. As an ally it embarked in late 1941 on a program of massive military and financial aid to the hard-pressed Nationalist government. In January 1943 the United States and Britain led the way in revising their treaties with China, bringing to an end a century of unequal treaty relations. Within a few months, a new agreement was signed between the United States and China for the stationing of American troops in China for the common war effort against Japan. In December 1943 the Chinese exclusion acts of the 1880s and subsequent laws enacted by the United States Congress to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States were repealed. [Ibid]
“The wartime policy of the United States was initially to help China become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. As the conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists intensified, however, the United States sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the rival forces for a more effective anti-Japanese war effort. Toward the end of the war, United States Marines were used to hold Beiping and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Nationalist forces in north and northeast China.
What is called the Burma Road was actually two roads: 1) the roughly 600-mile-long Burma Road, built in 1937 and 1938 between Lashio, Burma and Kunming, China under Chiang kai-shek to bring supplies through a backdoor of China after the Japanese invaded China; 2) and the roughly 500-mile-long Ledo Road (See Below). [Source: Donovan Webster, National Geographic, November 2003]
The straight line distance from Ledo to Kunming is about 460 miles. The Burma and Ledo Roads, built through some of the world’s most difficult terrain in India, Burma and China, covered more than twice that distance and hooked southward to avoid the Himalayas. The idea was ultimately to use the roads for an invasion of China and from China an invasion of Japan. Churchill called the entire project “an immense, laborious task, unlikely to be finished, until the need for it had passed.” The project was not completed until just six months before the war ended.
The Burma Road was the major overland supply route to China after the Japanese took over much of coastal China in 1937 and 1938 and blockaded its seaports. It was built at a break-neck pace, often by Chinese laborers forced to work for the Nationalists for two years without pay. When it was finished it was little more than a supply track that could only be used by trucks in the dry season.
The Burma Road was built by 160,000 Chinese laborers with virtually no machinery. One worker, who worked on the road between Ruili in Burma and Kunming in China told National Geographic, “It was not easy. I was a boy. In 1937 the engineers came through with stakes, marking where they wanted the roadway. We worked seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset.”
Book: The Burma Road by Donovan Webster (Macmillan, 2004)
Fighting in Burma
Japanese soldiers fighting Both in the The Allies supplied the Nationalists forces of Chiang kai-shek in Kunming using the Burma Road. In the spring of 1942 the Japanese captured Lashio, during their conquest of Burma, and cut off the Burma Road and severed the Allies overland supply line to China. The worker quoted above said, “The Japanese came up the road from Burma. They asked: ‘Are you a farmer, a laborer, or a rifleman?’ If you said you were a rifleman, as three in my village did, the Japanese shot you.”
During the Burma campaign the Japanese often attacked in the middle of the afternoon because they knew that is when the British took their tea time breaks. The Allies parachuted pigs from planes to fed starving populations. Among the colorful characters who took part in the effort was British Gen. Orde Wingate., the head of the legendary Chindit guerillas. He was given his job after a failed suicide attempt and often conducting meetings in the nude while he scrubbed himself with a brush.
The Japanese suffered in Burma. When food supplies ran short, men subsisted on rats, frogs and boiled grass. In some cases they used gasoline to clean their wounds and keep maggots from eating their flesh. By one estimate more 180,000 Japanese soldiers were killed or died of illness in Burma.
Kachin guerillas that fought for the Allies cut of the ears of the Japanese, which left them terrified that they could not ascend to heaven because their bodies were not intact. For their part the Japanese killed their wounded so they could not be captured and killed Allied soldiers instead of taking them prisoner so they wouldn’t be slowed down.
Describing his experience in Burma in World War II one former Japanese soldier told the Washington Post, "So many friends of mine were killed...I hated war. I didn't like fighting I could not tell the general, but I could tell my friend. He died in Mandalay. He died from cholera and lack of food. He was 27. I will go to Mandalay and pray for him." Another Japanese soldier recalled how when the frogs suddenly stopped croaking it meant that British warplanes would soon pass overhead and drop their payloads.
Kunming, Lashio, Ledo and Hump Fliers
Kunming in the Yunnan province of southwest China was the main distribution point for supplies arriving from the Burma and Ledo Roads. It was controlled by the Nationalists forces of Chiang kai-shek even after the Japanese claimed Burma in May 1942. In the early stages of the war entire factories were moved to Kunming to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese.
Lashio in Burma was a critical entrepot for the Allies in Southeast Asia. Food, fuel, medicines, and other supplies reached Lashio by railroad from Rangoon and were then carried by truck to Kunming.
Ledo in India was connected to the port of Calcutta by rail. It was the main source of material to China after Lashio and the Burma Road were captured by the Japanese. Ledo was important to the British mainly as a coal source. In the 1870s, a 2.4 billion metric ton coal supply was discovered here and the railroad was built primarily to bring this coal to Calcutta.
After the Burma Road was cut off military cargo was brought into China by "Hump Fliers" who flew through 15,000-foot-high passes in the Himalayas. Planes flying over the "Hump" arrived in Asia from America via South America and Africa. On their missions they departed from India and flew over the mountains on the China-Burma border to Kunming.
About 1,000 planes went down over China during World War II. A total of 607 of them were hump fliers. Others were Flying Tigers who fought for the Nationalists.
The Ledo Road was built between 1942 and 1945 between Ledo in India and the Burma Road under Gen. Joseph Stillwell to bring supplies to Allied forces fighting the Japanese who had invaded and occupied Burma. Gen. Lewis Pick was the chief engineer of the Ledo Road. Known to some as “Pick’s Pike,” he told his engineers in 1943: “The road is going to be built—mud, rain, and malaria be damned!”
The Ledo Road was roughly 500 miles long. It opened up a new supply route, as well as an oil pipeline, from India to China. Military strategist felt the road was necessary to supply China in the war. More than 28,000 Americans and 35,000 Asian workers participated in the project.
Construction of the Ledo Road began in 1942. The first true bridge was built over the Khtang Nall in northeastern India In October 1943, American-trained Chinese divisions entered Burma from Assam, India and drove down the Japanese road from the Hukawag Valley in northern Burma. In February 1945, Gen. Pick led a convoy into Kunming.
In 15 months construction battalions moved 13.5 million cubic yards of earth to cut the roadbed. the New York Times correspondent Tillman Durbin said there was enough dirt to build a 10-foot-high, three-foot-think wall between New York City and San Francisco.
An engineer and shovel operator who worked the project told National Geographic, “It was crazy, and it was miserable. Every day was the same. Up at dawn, sweat and work until dark. It was so hot sometimes, where we’d lay concrete, it would be dry in an hour. We’d cut a stretch of road over some jungle mountain, and the monsoon would wash it out. But we kept going. We had no choice.”
Obstacles included landslides, man-eating tigers, swarms of bugs, leeches and mosquitos, vertical jungles and 150 inches (380 centimeters) of rain in the three month rainy season. Crews worked at night under light provided by diesel fuel burning in sawed off oil barrels. The Ledo Road was nicknamed the “man a mile road” for the frequency in which workers died. Hundreds were killed by disease, accidents and Japanese attacks, mainly from snipers and mortars. More were killed from disease and starvation than from fighting.
Stillwell and Merill's Raiders
Generals Stillwell and Merrill The American General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell commanded the Allied forces in the China-Burma-India theater and was the first foreign commander to lead regular Chinese troops in combat. His mission was to keep China fighting, drive the Japanese out of Burma and reopen the Burma Road. The Ledo and Burma Roads were sometimes collectively called the Stillwell Road in his honor.
Stillwell was a controversial figure. He described himself as impatient and vulgar. In his diaries he referred to the Japanese as "bow-legged cockroaches," Chiang kai-shek as "ignorant" and "grasping," British supreme allied commander Lord Lois Mountbatten as a "glamour boy," and Roosevelt as a "rank amateur in all military matters" prone to "whims, fancy and sudden childish notions." One of the few people he admired was Mao Zedong
Stillwell had been the unofficial commander of several Chinese divisions that, with British help, defended Burma against Japanese attack. Stillwell, was driven out of Burma in 1943 in a legendary march from Myitkyina after the completion of the Ledo Road to the pipelines from India. But returned two years later to help drive the Japanese out of Burma.
Another important American fighter in the China-Burma theater was Frank Merrill. He headed an American commando unit, known as Merrill's marauders, that landed in China on parachutes and gliders and helped reinforce the Nationalist forces.
Allies Retake Burma
Stillwell’s troops invaded Burma from India in October 1943. Around the same time a force of British Chindits known as Wingate's Raiders advanced from the south. The fighting turned in the Allies favor after these veteran jungle fighters defeated the Japanese 15th Army at the battles at Kohima and Imphal
Stillwell’s forces engaged 3,500 Japanese soldiers defending Myitkyina, a strategic port on the Irrawaddy River. The Battle of Myitkyina was fierce. It lasted for ten weeks from May to August in 1944. Some of the fighting was done by Chinese troops under U.S. command. Before the siege was over and the Allies claimed the Myitkyina on August 3, 1944, a total of 790 Japanese were killed and 1,180 were wounded. The Allies suffered 1,244 dead with and 4,139 wounded.
In September 1944, more than 9,000 Chinese and 2,000 Japanese were killed at a battle in Tengchong, China. Here above the raging Salween River, Chinese tried to reach the top of an imposing, 26-mile-long ridgeline on Songshan (Pine Mountain) after a month-long battle that left 1,300 Chinese and 7,675 Japanese dead. Many died in hand-to-hand combat. Sixty-two pairs of Chinese and Japanese soldiers were found dead in each other’s grasp.
As part of Operation Dracula, British soldiers led by Gen. William Mith moved southward and captured Mandalay and Rangoon. Forces under Britain’s General William Slim recaptured Rangoon after a six month campaign.
The Burma Road opened completely between India and China in January 1945, allowing supplies to more easily be brought into China. On May 8, 1945 Supreme Allied Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten declared the Burma campaign a success even though sporadic fighting continued for several weeks. The victory signaled the collapse of the Japanese effort in Southeast Asia.
Renewed Fighting in China
In late 1944, the Japanese stepped up their fighting in China as part of an effort to wipe out forward bases for the United States Air Force. Between September 8 and November 26, 1944, seven large air bases were overrun by the Japanese. Less than a month later the Japanese split unoccupied China and opened up new route that allowed the Japanese to travel between Singapore and Korea
In the spring of 1945, the Chinese began a counteroffensive that regained much of the territory lost the previous year. Imperative to this drive were 35 divisions trained and supplied with the help of Gen. Stillwell. Air support was provided by American and British planes based in Luichow, India and Kunming, China.
In contrast to the devastating defeats the Japanese suffered in the Pacific the Japanese were largely able to hold their own in China and were able to mount an effective offensive into the spring of 1945. At the time of surrender Japan held about half of China and the attacks by Nationalist and Communists were little more than harassments,
"When the Americans were here, it was pretty peaceful, a member of the Dai hill tribe told the New York Times in 1995, "For a while, we used American money. I remember because American coins were so big.
Japanese Brutality at the End of the Occupation of China
The Japanese brutality continued right until the end of World War II. In February 1945, Japanese soldiers stationed in China’s Shanxi Province were ordered to kill Chinese farmers after tying them to stakes. A Japanese soldier who killed an innocent Chinese farmer in this way told the Yomiuru Shimbun that he was told by his commanding officer: “Let’s test your courage. Thrust! Now pull out! The Chinese had been ordered to guard a coal mine that had been taken over by Chinese Nationalists. The killing was regarded as a final test in the education of novice soldiers.”
In August 1945, 200 Japanese fleeing the advancing Russian army killed themselves in a mass suicide in Heolongjiang, A woman who managed to survive told the Asahi Shimbun that children were lined up in groups of 10 and shot, with each child making a thud when he or she fell over. The woman said that when her turn arrived the ammunition ran out and she watched as her mother and baby brother were skewered with a sword. A sword was brought down on her neck but she managed to survive.
End of World War II
At Yalta in February 1945, Stalin demanded that the Soviet Union be given Mongolia and Manchuria in return for cooperation with an Allied invasion of Japan. Stalin also signed a treaty with Chiang Kai-shek that gave Soviet support to the Kuomintang not the Communists.
The Japanese occupation of China ended with Japan's total surrender after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Japanese officials who were present at the signing ceremony of Japan's surrender to China had to sit on chairs that were significantly lower than those used by the Chinese officials.
Last Minute Scramble by the Soviet Union
After the war in Europe was finished in May 1945, Soviet forces moved against the Japanese in Manchuria. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan two days after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped. In a massive offensive that began the next day on August 9, Soviet forces moved into Manchuria and occupied it and southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands.
One man in Harbin in northeastern China told writer Paul Theroux:: "It all ended in 1945, when the Japanese front collapsed. The Russian soldiers, who had been criminals and prisoners, were unmerciful. They took the city and began raping and murdering."
Around 600,000 Japanese were taken to Siberia as prisoners. About 55,000 died in prison. Survivors endured slave labor, starvation and bitter cold. A few managed to make it back to Japan. Many remained in the Soviet Union after their release from prison.
China After World War II
The San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 signified Japan's return to the community of nations as a reformed state. It was signed by the United States, Japan, Taiwan, the Soviet Union and 48 other nations but not by China. The treaty allowed Japan to once again control its domestic and foreign affairs. It also limited reparation claims against Japan by victims such as POWs and comfort women and required Japan to abide by anti-aggression provisions in the United Nations charter.
Many Chinese feel the Japanese need to apologize for the Rape of Nanking, Unit 731 and other atrocities committed in China. In 1970, Chinese textbook claimed that 10 million people died in China during World War II.The figure increased to 35 million in 2000.
Many Japanese feel their actions in China, the Philippines and Southeast Asia II are no worse than those committed by colonizing Western nations such as Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, the U.S. and the Netherlands. Some Japanese feel it is unfair that they have to apologize while other colonizing nations do not. The Japanese can make a credible argument that Japan "liberated" Asian counties such as China, Burma and Indonesia from "white imperialism.”
Japanese conservatives claim there is a lack of proof for things like the Rape of Nanking, Unit 731 and comfort women, and claim the Japanese occupation brought progress and development to Korea, China and other nations. .
In the mid 2000s, Japanese began traveling to China on tours of sites were wartime atrocities and massacres occurred. Among the stops on a Manchuria tour were the remains of Unit 731.
Buried Poison Gas in China
In August 2003, scavengers in the northwest Chinese city of Qiqhar in Heilongjiang Province tore open some buried containers of mustard gas that had been left by Japanese troops at the end of World War II. One man died and 40 others were badly burned or became seriously ill. The Chinese were very angry about the incident and demanded compensation.
An estimated 700,000 Japanese poison projectiles were left behind in China after World War II. Thirty sites have been found. The most significant is Haerbaling in Dunshua city, Jilin Province, where 670,000 projectiles were buried. Poison gas has also been found buried in several sites in Japan. The gas has been blamed for causing some serious illnesses.
Japanese and Chinese teams have been working together to remove munitions at various sites in China.
Japanese and Chinese Textbooks and the War
In Japanese textbooks from the 1980s the only reference to the "Rape of Nanking" was a footnote that called it the "Nanking Incident." In the same textbooks the Japanese occupation of China was referred to as the "China Incident," and characterized by skirmishes between Japanese and Communists and "bandits." Chinese textbooks are not known for their forthrighteousness or accuracy either. Some teach that Mao defeated the Japanese in World War II.
New Japanese history textbooks introduced in the mid 1990s admitted that Japan "waged a war of aggression" as a "fascist state" in conjunction with Nazi Germany and Italy. The books included descriptions of the "Rape of Nanking," Unit 731, and said that the Japanese government was "determined to...fight to the death on Japanese soil, whatever sacrifices that might mean for the people."
Another textbook that addressed the sex slave issue said, "Young women from Korea and other countries were conscripted as comfort women and sent to the war front." Another said: "The Japanese forces acted cruelly in various places in China. In particular, when they occupied Nanking, they indiscriminately killed civilians, including soldiers who had thrown out their arms, older people, women and children. The number of dead is said to be over 100,000 and is estimated to be over 300,000 in China."
A new textbook, New History Textbook, approved in 2001 by the Ministry of Education contained no references to comfort women and forced laborers, glossed over atrocities like Unit 731 and the Nanking massacre, and asserted that World War II helped Asian countries achieve independence. The textbooks were largely written by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, a controversial right wing group of revisionist historians, and was approved by the Tokyo Education Ministry in August 2005.
New high school history textbooks issued in 2007 contained descriptions of comfort women but did not say that they were coerced by the Japanese military. Screeners with the Education, Science and Technology Ministry all want to make adjustments on the numbers listed in the Rape of Nanking.
On the interpretations of World War II in history textbooks in different countries, Stanford historian Peter Duus wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Perhaps the most passionately nationalistic war stories are found in Chinese textbooks, Not only are they filled with coverage of heroic military operations, they suggest it was the Chinese—and primarily the Chinese Communist Party—military resistance to Japanese aggression that finally brought about Japan’s defeat. Little or no mention is made of the fighting in the Pacific or the role of the Allied powers. Nor is there any emphasis on the atomic attack in ending the war. Mao Zedong’s call for an all-out attack on Japanese forces and the Soviet declaration of war are seen as the decisive factors” in ending the war.
“Textbooks in both China and Taiwan describe victory in the anti-Japanese war as the end to a century of humiliation at the hands of foreign imperialists who rode roughshod over China’s rights and interests.”
Compensation for World War II
In March 2003, a Niigata District Cout ordered the teh Japanese government and a Japanese company to pay ¥88 million in compensation to Chinese who were forced to labor in Japan during World War II.
In April 2007, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that the 1972 Japan China Joint Communique prevented Chinese individuals from seeking war compensation through the Japanese courts and dismissed claims by Chinese who were forced to work as laborers for a Japanese firm during World War II. The decision overturned a lower court ruling that said that Japan was required to pay war compensation. The ruling also affected claims for by comfort women.
In July 2005, a Japanese court rejected a demand to set up a fund for Japanese war orphans left in China after World War II. The orphans now in their 60s and 70s had wanted $300,000 and blamed the government for not making an effort to repatriate them
In July 2005, a Tokyo court ruled that the Japanese government was responsible for paying damages to China for atrocities carried out by a notorious germ warfare unit in World War II. The suit was brought by 180 Chinese plaintiffs. Japan has never acknowledged carrying out the attacks.
Image Sources: Mostly U.S. National Archives and When Tigers Roared veterans group and History in Pictures, Video YuouTube
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2010