Japan: Rape of Nanking Historical Background

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JAPAN: Rape of Nanking

Historical Background: The Second World War began in Asia. Japan's military dictators had long viewed China as the main outlet for their imperial and expansionist ambitions (for an overview, see Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War 1931-1945). Japanese forces invaded and occupied Manchuria in northeast China in 1931, setting up the puppet state of Manchukuo. After the manufactured "Marco Polo Bridge Incident" of July 1937, the Japanese launched a full-scale invasion of China, capturing Shanghai on 12 November and the imperial capital, Nanjing, on 13 December. Numerous atrocities were committed en route to Nanjing, but they could not compare with the epic carnage and destruction the Japanese unleashed on the defenseless city after Chinese forces abandoned it to the enemy.


1. Carefully read the question. Consider what you already know about this topic. How would you answer the question if you had no documents to examine?

2. Now, read each document carefully, underlining key phrases and words that address the question. You may also wish to use the margin to make brief notes.


  • Info that might be considered a cause.

  • Info that might be considered an effect.

  • Info that might show someone’s or a group’s perception or point-of-view of the conflict.

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