For most Americans, December 7, 1941 was a day that would live in infamy. For the Chinese, it was December 13, 1937 and the six weeks that ensued. On December 13th, China fell to the Japanese Imperial Army. Fifty thousand Japanese invaded near the mouth of the Yangtze, and executed 57,000 Chinese civilians and former soldiers at the base of Mufu Mt. by shooting and bayoneting each man individually.
On December 12, the Panay was sunk and strafed by Japanese aviators.
To promote safety for the residents (of which there had been over 590,000 at the start of the invasion), the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone was created by a group of physicians, missionaries, executives and professors who had not boarded the Panay. The Zone leaders included Nazi John Rabe, surgeon Robert Wilson (the only surgeon in Nanjing), and Professor Wilhelmina "Minnie" Vautrin.
Over the course of the next several weeks, Chinese were killed by live or partial burials, mutiliation, death by fire or ice, partial burial and dog attacks, water treatments, dislocation of joints, extraction of fingernails, electric shock, flogging, cannibalism, and being forced to kneel on sharp instruments.
Women of all ages, from eight to eighty years of age, were raped -- some were raped more than twenty times daily, and often before their families.
The Japanese also conducted scientific experiments via Unit Ei 1644. Prisoners were injected or fed lethal gases, poisons and germs such as acetone, arsenate, cyanide, nitrate prussiate, cobra venom, habu venom and amagasa venom. They were also infected with the bubonic plague and carved open without anesthesia. More than ten people died daily and were incinerated. Unit Ei 1644 was also responsible for spreading germ-carrying fleas, and threw flasks of microbes -- including cholera, dysentery, typhoid and anthrax -- into houses, wells, rivers and reservoirs.
Journalists in Nanjing published stories of the atrocities committed in Nanjing, including the New York Times and Chicago Daily News. Newsreel men for Universal and Fox Movietone filmed the sinking of the Panay. As a result, foreigners were forbidden to enter the city. Committee members were also active in spreading the word. Administrative director George Fitch sent his diary to Shanghai, where it was then forwarded to Time, Reader's Digest and Far Eastern magazine and John Rabe sent a letter to Hitler.
In August of 1945, Japan surrendered. One hundred and twenty air raids and arson had contributed to the burning of one-third of the city and the destruction of three-fourths of the stores. Although the number is disputed, the end of the rape saw approximately 260,000 victims. Statistics range from 38,000-300,000, but some Japanese place the figure at 6,000.