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Mini-DBQ: Should the US have entered World War II by 1940?


From F. Tillman, "All Captives Slain.'' The New York Times. 18 December 1937, pp. 1, 10. 

The Nanking Massacre, 1937

In December of 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army marched into China's capital city of Nanking and proceeded to murder 300,000 out of 600,000 civilians and soldiers in the city. The six weeks of carnage would become known as the Rape of Nanking and represented the single worst atrocity during the World War II era in either the European or Pacific theaters of war.

The killing of civilians was widespread. Foreigners who traveled widely through the city Wednesday found civilian dead on every street. Some of the victims were aged men, women and children.

Policemen and firemen were special objects of attack. Many victims were bayoneted and some of the wounds were barbarously cruel.

Any person who ran because of fear or excitement was likely to be killed on the spot as was any one caught by roving patrols in streets or alleys after dark…

The mass executions of war prisoners added to the horrors the Japanese brought to Nanking. After killing the Chinese soldiers who threw down their arms and surrendered, the Japanese combed the city for men in civilian garb who were suspected of being former soldiers.

In one building in the refugee zone 400 men were seized. They were marched off, tied in batches of fifty, between lines of riflemen and machine gunners, to the execution ground…

The capture of Hsiakwan Gate by the Japanese was accompanied by the mass killing of the defenders, who were piled up among the sandbags, forming a mound six feet high. Late Wednesday the Japanese had not removed the dead, and two days of heavy military traffic had been passing through, grinding over the remains of men, dogs and horses.

The Japanese appear to want the horrors to remain as long as possible, to impress on the Chinese the terrible results of resisting Japan.


  1. Provide two examples of what Japanese soldiers did to Chinese citizens in Nanking.

  1. Explain how the US should have responded to the Nanking Massacre. For example, should America have sent the military to Asia to stop the massacre, should President Roosevelt have held diplomatic meetings with the leaders of Japan and China, or should the US have done nothing? Why do you say so?


Roosevelt, Franklin D. “Quarantine Speech.” Chicago, IL. 5 October 1937.

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