Thursday, January 23, 2014

In WWII more Chinese died fighting for Japan than died fighting against Japan

From Odd Arne Westad's review in the Literary Review of China's War with Japan by Rana Mitter (published in the US as Forgotten Ally).
The matter of Chinese collaboration is an important one and Mitter deals with it well in his book. His conclusion is striking: just as in German-occupied eastern Europe, a lot more people wanted to collaborate and would have done so if only the occupiers had made it easier for them to. Instead Japan, like Germany, put in place policies directed against the local population that quickly eroded any support a quisling government might have gained. It is still remarkable that - according to recent research in China - more Chinese in uniform died fighting for Japan than against Japan in the Sino-Japanese War. These figures obviously include Chinese from Japanese-controlled Taiwan and Manchuria, but even so the numbers are striking.
Indeed. I have read a handful books on the Sino-Japanese conflict and have never seen that fact. But there is still so much that is unknown or yet uncommunicated. And the magnitudes are almost beyond comprehension anyway. Seventy-five of the eighty flyers of the Doolittle Raid flew on from Japan to crash land in China (one crew of five landed in the Soviet Union and were interned). Six of those crash landing in China died (one from chute failure, two drowned, and three were captured and executed). Sixty nine were able, through the assistance of the Chinese, to evade capture and return to the US and the war effort.

All that is wonderfully exciting history, but the staggering thing is the Japanese response. They already occupied much of China and were determined to find the American crews. Their efforts were brutally coercive and some 250,000 Chinese were killed in the process. Staggering. 250,000 lives taken in search of 69. Almost beyond comprehension. Almost the equivalent of total US combat deaths during the entire second world war in all theaters (292,000).

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