Young Chinese men, their hands bound, are
led away for mass execution. On 5 December, even before Nanjing's fall, Prince Yasuhiko Asaka -- uncle of Emperor Hirohito -- issued a secret order to "Kill all captives." When Nanjing was taken, "All military-age men among the refugees were taken prisoner," whether or not they had actually been soldiers (Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking, p. 76. Note that the Chinese Nationalist government's press-ganging of young men was possibly the most brutal and gendercidal in history -- see the case-study of Military Conscription).
At wharves along the Yangtze River, tens of thousands of these prisoners -- up to 150,000 in all -- were massacred in cold blood. A typical order, issued to the 66th Regiment 1st Battalion on 13 December, read as follows:
Battalion battle report, at 2:00 [p.m.] received orders from the Regiment commander: to comply with orders from Brigade commanding headquarters, all prisoners of war are to be executed. Method of executed: divide the prisoners into groups of a dozen. Shoot to kill separately. ... It is decided that the prisoners are to be divided evenly among each company ... and to be brought out from their imprisonment in groups of 50 to be executed. ... The vicinity of the imprisonment must be heavily guarded. Our intentions are absolutely not to be detected by the prisoners. Every company is to complete preparation before 5:00 p.m. Executions are to start by 5:00 and action is to be finished by 7:30. (Quoted in Yin and Young, The Rape of Nanking, pp. 110, 115.)
According to Iris Chang, "The Japanese would take any men they found as prisoners, neglect to give them water or food for days, but promise them food and work. After days of such treatment, the Japanese would bind the wrists of their victims securely with wire or rope and herd them out to some isolated area. The men, too tired or dehydrated to rebel, went out eagerly, thinking they would be fed. By the time they saw the machine guns, or the bloodied swords and bayonets wielded by waiting soldiers, or the massive graves, heaped and reeking with the bodies of the men who had preceded them, it was already too late to escape." (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, p. 83.) The Japanese held grotesque killing contests, including "a competition to determine who could kill the fastest. As one soldier stood sentinel with a machine gun, ready to mow down anyone who tried to bolt, the eight other soldiers split up into pairs to form four separate teams. In each team, one soldier beheaded prisoners with a sword while the other picked up heads and tossed them aside in a pile. The prisoners stood frozen in silence and terror as their countrymen dropped, one by one." (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, p. 85)
Atrocious tortures were also inflicted on the captive men. "The Japanese not only disemboweled, decapitated, and dismembered victims but performed more excruciating varieties of torture. Throughout the city they nailed prisoners to wooden boards and ran over them with tanks, crucified them to trees and electrical posts, carved long strips of flesh from them, and used them for bayonet practice. At least one hundred men reportedly had their eyes gouged out and their noses and ears hacked off before being set on fire. Another group of two hundred Chinese soldiers and civilians were stripped naked, tied to columns and doors of a school, and then stabbed by zhuizi -- special needles with handles on them -- in hundreds of points along their bodies, including their mouths, throats, and eyes. ... The Japanese subjected large crowds of victims to mass incineration. In Hsiakwan [along the Yangtze] a Japanese soldier bound Chinese captives together, ten at a time, and pushed them into a pit, where they were sprayed with gasoline and ignited." (Chang, The Rape of Nanking, pp. 87-88.)