** World War II : Rape of Nanking commanders

World War II: The Rape of Nanking -- The Commanders

Figure 1.--Here Japanese commanders General Iwane Matsui (foreground) and Prince Asaka ride into Nanking shortly after its capture. Notic the discipline of the Japanese soldiers sand how no offer officer is near Matsui and Asaka. Matsui is sid to hve been ill, but looks healthy enoughb here.

The Japanese commander was General Matsui Iwane. Prince Yasuhiko Asaka (朝香宮鳩彦王) was the other major commander. He was given the honor of leading a final assault on the city. Gen. Matsui (1878-1948) was the son of a former Sanurai. He had adestinuished military career with assignments aquainting him with European powers and diplomats. At the time Japan invaded Manchuria, he was attached to the Army General Staff between (1931). He was a member of the Japanese delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference (1931-32). He was a member of the Supreme War Council after which he was prompted to general rank (1933). He commanded the Taiwan Army, meaning Japanese forces on Taiwan, called Formosa at the time (1933-34). He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 1st Class (1934). He again served on the Supreme War Council (1934-35). He retired (1935). After Japan launched the Second Sino-Japanese War by invading China proper (July 1937), Matsui was recalled to active duty. He was given command of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force--the primary Japanese invasion force. He must have been frustrated at the stiff opposition the Chinese put up in Shanghai. He did not get the swift glorious victory tht he expcted. And then he was given command of the Central China Area Army. He thus oversaw the conquest of central China driving up the Yangtze River from from Shanghai toward the capital of Nanking/Nanjing. He is known tyi hve told War Minister Gen. Hajime Sugiyama that the 'China problem' could only be resolved by breaking the power of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and capturing his capital, Nanling. He was in command of the troops entering Nanking. Matsui and other Japanese commanders were under the illusion that taking Nanking would end the war. Which is why Matsui decided to make an example out of the city. What is not known is to what extent this was discussed with other Japanese officials. It is notable that Gen. Matsui had had more contact with the West than most Japanese officers. Some accounts claim that Gen. Matsui was ill at the time of the Rape of Nanking. It is unckear if this is true or a thinly veiled attempt to dowm play his responsibility for what transpired. Gen. Matsui was tried for war crimes after the war, found guilt, and hung (1948). The second leading officer involved was Prince Yasuhiko Asaka (1887-1981). The Prince founded a collateral branch of the Japanese Imperial family. He was a career Army officer. He became a part of the Imperial family by marrying a daugter of Emperor Meiji. He was thus an uncle of Emperor Hirohito. WE know very little about th persoanl relaionship netween Asaka the Emperor. Asaka like Matsui had some familiarity with the Wesrt, including America. He was impressed with ehat hesaw. He even built his tome in the Art Deco style. He and his wifevhadc four children, but his wife vied at a relatively early age. We know that Asaka had right-wing views and that the Emperor though it impropr for members of the Imperoal family to get involved im politics. Pince Asaka was commander of Japanese forces in the final assault on Nanking (December 1937). Some accounts suggest that he was transfered from Tokyo to China because the Emperror looked unfavorable on his political inmvolvemnt. He is widely seen along with Gen. Matsui to have been a perpetrator of the Rape of Nanking. American war crime investigators interoigated Asaka about his involvement in the Rape of Nanking (May 1, 1946). He was, however, never charged by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Gen. MacArthur overseeing the occupation decided to protect the Imperial Family and to essentially grant them immunity from procecution. MacArtur judged, with good reason, that Emperor Hirohito's cooperation was needed. And the the Emperor was cooperating with the American occupation and the major reform of Japanese society, reforms that would have encounteres serious oppodition without Hirihito's backing.


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Created: 6:39 PM 1/12/2022
Last updated: 6:39 PM 1/12/2022