The Rape of Nanking
“In 1937, Japan launched a full scale invasion of China,” he began. “That same year the Nanking Massacre took place, better known as the Rape of Nanking. The American gunboat USS Panay was bombed and sunk near Nanking. Japanese troops soon occupied all of North China. All foreigners, non-Chinese that is, were herded into concentration camps. The Murrays were among them. “
The three of us, Lt. Harper, Whittington and me, became mesmerized by the tone in his voice. He spoke with conviction. To win a point, like the Sophists, he asked questions that we couldn’t answer. “Do you know where I am leading? No. Well, let me tell you, the Japanese didn’t travel alone. They brought their women with them. Their women! Only they were special women. They were sex slaves. This is what Clara Murray became, a Japanese sex slave.”
The words came as a chill wind but without the cold. Lt. Austin hesitated, as though waiting for a question he knew we wouldn’t ask. Letting his words sink in, he continued: “Instead of sex slaves, the Japanese called them jugun ianfu, meaning military comfort women. It’s a euphemism for enforced military sex labor for the Japanese Imperial Army in the name of Emperor Hirohito. It’s the Japanese way of hoping to obscure the dreadful reality behind the term. The number of victims involved is estimated at nearly 200,000, though it is possible that the figures are even higher. Who were they? Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipina, Indonesian, as well as Dutch women taken prisoner in the Dutch East Indies.”
Incomparable Japanese Atrocities
Suddenly the world before me lit up, as if one of those Nip memie bombs had exploded right before my very eyes. This was no dud. Lt. Austin’s words were a sledgehammer blow right in the midsection. As a movie opens up on the silver screen, suddenly it was all there. Ever since Okinawa, something had been deeply puzzling me. I had found it too horrible to talk about, even with my Marine buddies. There are some things we bury deep inside ourselves and this was one of them. When we were mopping up in the south, we entered the caves where the Japanese had been holding out. Only after intense shelling and with Napalm poured into the air vents were we able to flush them out. Not many surrendered, and those who did came out with their hands up, heads shaven, wearing only strips of loincloths for covering. Their Emperor wouldn’t be happy with them now, surrendering as they did, but still, we felt pity for them, until we entered the caves. Those who didn’t die from our shells and Napalm lay dead from their own hands. They had committed harikari. But there was a sight even more dreadful than dead Japanese soldiers who split their guts open with sabers or ended their miserable lives with bullets in their heads. Almost without exception, in nearly every cave, we found women who had been massacred, and all were completely naked. They had not a stitch of clothing on their bodies. Many had their hands bound behind their backs with cord or wire, wire that had cut so deeply into the flesh their hands were nearly severed. They had struggled. Sometimes it was less than an hour after a shelling when we stormed the caves, and already by then maggots began their work. It was a horrid sight that was to haunt us long after, one that had no explanation, until now.
The G2 officer must have been able to read my mind. “You saw it on Okinawa,” he said. Turning to Whittington, he asked, “And you too. What did you see?”
“I especially remember one clear, warm day,” Whittington began. “It was sunny, about our 79th or 80th day of fighting, and we were on the southern tip of the island. We were on a high cave-infested bluff overlooking the South China Sea. Navy ships were cruising just off shore blaring surrender messages through their PA systems. Navy sailors with rifles were exchanging fire with Japs we could not see. I was in a group of ten or fifteen Marines wrestling with 55-gallon barrels of napalm. We were pouring the stuff down the cave air vents. Gunfire and grenade noises were everywhere. Every once in a while a Jap soldier or an Okinawan woman would appear out of nowhere and jump off the cliff. I remember it as one of the most surreal moments of my life.”
“Did you go into the caves?” Lt. Austin asked.
“Yes, and there were the women who didn’t jump. They were dead.”
Lt. Austin began again. “Toward the end of the war, the supply of women was dwindling, and there was more indiscriminate kidnapping of women by the Japanese Imperial Army under the enforcement of the Military Compulsory Draft Act in 1943. This is what you saw on Okinawa. At the end of the war, survivors of military sexual slavery were not informed of Japan’s defeat. During Japan’s retreat, to keep the facts from becoming known, they massacred these helpless women, by driving them into trenches or caves and either bombing or gunning them down.”
Lt. Austin went on to explain how each woman was made to serve an average of thirty to forty soldiers per day, with more soldiers waiting in line. Women who were not submissive were brutally beaten and tortured. Escape was impossible due to strict surveillance. Japanese soldiers were reminded that women were their common property.
“Women from the working class and farmer families were assigned to lower-ranking soldiers, while Japanese and European women were for higher-ranking officers. Clara Murray became officers’ property.”
Lt. Austin read from the dossier, a horror story from real life. It was part medical report, and mentioned things like antisocial personality disorders, shared psychotic disorder and psychotherapy. The report listed eyewitness confessions by prisoners who stated that every woman caught by the Japanese had been raped, without exception. When Japanese soldiers couldn’t find women to rape, they had been seen copulating with sows in some districts. In places where the villagers had not had time to hide themselves effectively, the women were captured, herded together, stripped naked, and driven forward by the imperial army as beasts of burden until they reached their destinations.
“Witnesses reported that Mrs. Murray was raped when she was eight months pregnant,” Lt. Austin continued. “On resisting, she was beaten and her lower jaw was broken. Her daughter was born a month later. Clara Murray was twelve when they were captured. Age meant nothing to the Japanese. She spent six years handed from one officer to another, until she no longer had her senses. We want to treat this as war crimes, but our difficulty is that no one wants to come forth with their own testimony. Every witness points a finger at someone else. We had hoped Mrs. Murray and her daughter might help, until this last incident with the sergeant.”
“And you want me to see what I can do?” I said.
It was an ugly affair and I didn’t think I could confront Mrs. Murray by asking such horrid questions, but I had to agree that I would at least try. But there was no need. When I arrived at the Murrays the following Monday afternoon, Mrs. Murray announced Clara was out of the hospital and that they were returning to England. She used the pretext that they thought it was best for Mr. Murray who could recuperate back home and regain bis health so that they could return to China.