For the 1927 Nankin Jiken, see Nanking Incident. Flag of the Republic of China. The massacre occurred over a period of six weeks starting on December 13, 1937, the day that the Japanese captured Nanjing. Since most Japanese military records on the killings were kept secret or destroyed shortly folder relocation for parents of young children the surrender of Japan in 1945, historians have been unable to accurately estimate the death toll of the massacre.
The event remains a contentious political issue and a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations. This section does not cite any sources. In August 1937, the Japanese army invaded Shanghai where they met strong resistance and suffered heavy casualties. The battle was bloody as both sides faced attrition in urban hand-to-hand combat. By mid-November the Japanese had captured Shanghai with the help of naval bombardment. The General Staff Headquarters in Tokyo initially decided not to expand the war due to heavy casualties and low troop morale. After losing the Battle of Shanghai, Chiang Kai-shek knew that the fall of Nanjing was a matter of time.
He and his staff realized that they could not risk the annihilation of their elite troops in a symbolic but hopeless defense of the capital. To preserve the army for future battles, most of it was withdrawn. This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. In a press release to foreign reporters, Tang Shengzhi announced the city would not surrender and would fight to the death. Tang gathered about 100,000 soldiers, largely untrained, including Chinese troops who had participated in the Battle of Shanghai. In an attempt to secure permission for this cease-fire from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, a German national by the name of John Rabe who was living in Nanjing and had been acting as the Chairman of the Nanjing International Safety Zone Committee, boarded the USS Panay on December 9.
From this gunboat, Rabe sent two telegrams. The first was through an American ambassador in Hankow to Chiang, asking that Chinese forces “undertake no military operations” within Nanjing. The second telegram was sent through Shanghai to Japanese military leaders, advocating for a three-day cease-fire so the Chinese could withdraw from the city. The following day, on December 10, Rabe got his answer from the Generalissimo. The American ambassador in Hankow replied that although he supported Rabe’s proposal for a cease-fire, Chiang did not. This rejection of the Committee’s cease-fire plan, in Rabe’s mind, sealed the fate of the city. Nanjing had been constantly bombed for days and the Chinese troops that remained there were disheartened and had taken to drinking before the city’s inevitable fall.