Early in the 20th century, the Japanese government saw an opportunity to dominate the Eastern world, and began actively asserting dominance over the region. This began with minor skirmishes over territorial borders, but by the 1930s, their actions escalated and they launched a full scale invasion of the Asian continent, beginning in China. This invasion started the Second Sino-Japanese War, which later became the Pacific Theater during World War II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
In November of 1937, the Japanese army secured the city of Shanghai, and headed for China’s new capital, a safe zone, called Nanking. The city immediately surrendered, as they were ill-equipped to defend themselves. After the city had been officially captured in early December, a six week raid on the city began. This consisted of mass murder, rape, pillaging, and destruction of the city. Despite the unconditional surrender of the Chinese military, the Japanese forces targeted and then systematically killed any man known or suspected of serving in the army.
Rape was one of the most common crimes committed during the siege on Nanking. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 800,000 women were raped; many were mutilated and killed following their rape.
The army subjected many people to death by beheading, bayonet, drowning, mass execution, and being buried alive. If the bodies were not burned, thrown into the Yangtze River, or buried in mass graves, they filled the streets or were left in large mounds. The city was completely destroyed.
The exact death toll has been hard to estimate due to the destruction of Japanese military records after their surrender in 1945, as well as the inability to account for all the bodies because of their destruction. However, most experts agree that between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed during the Nanking Massacre. While war tribunals did convict several officers after the fact and several political officials have made apologies for this atrocity, many Japanese people deny the extent of the brutalities committed in Nanking or even that the massacre happened at all. Many believe that this amount of damage could not have been caused in such a short amount of time and that the Chinese government exaggerated the statics to gain international sympathy and support.