A Dutch Spy in China: Reports on the First Phase of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1939) (Brill's Japanese Studies Library) Review

A Dutch Spy in China: Reports on the First Phase of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1939) (Brill's Japanese Studies Library)
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A Dutch Spy in China: Reports on the First Phase of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1939) (Brill's Japanese Studies Library) ReviewThis reports were made by Henri Johan Diederick de Fremery, a retired Dutch colonel at the request of the general staff of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army to keep the general staff informed about the Japanese military performance because they feared that, after joining the First World War on the side of the Allied, Japan might make use of the opportunity to avail herself not only of German colonies in the Pacific (including China) , but Dutch colonies as well, and they seriously reckoned with a war against Japan somewhere in the near future. Then De Fremery joined the group of Western military experts who were helping Chiang Kai Shih (a.k.a. Kai-shek) in his effort to modernise the Chinese Army.
Although most of the De Fremery reports are written in sober, detached manner, it is natural and clear that Colonel De Fremery was never of pro-Japanese sentiment. So is Kurt W. Radtke, the co-editor. He believes the so-called 乬Tokyo Trial view of history乭 that based on the unjust judgments on the Japanese of the trial in which, for one example, Japan was accused of conspiracy with the spurious 乬Tanaka Memorial乭. Still, Radtke couldn乫t write about so-called 乬Rape of Nanking乭 because, De Fremerey never ever mention a single case of 乬massacre乭 on both civilian population and captured soldiers as such.
He did write, however, extensively on Japanese Army performances before and after the capture of Nanking of 13th December 1937. Main criticism of De Fremery on Japanese Army was that the Japanese general Matsui should not have had his troops kept occupied at Nanking and other places along the southern bank of the Yangtze so long (a month) because that gave the Chinese a vital time to get ready for next move. 乬Time, space, and the inexhaustible supply of men were all that the Chinese could match against the better equipment and the greater military skills of the Japanese乭, writes De Fremery. This analysis echoes completely to Mao Tse-ton乫s evaluation on the Japanese Army strategy in the war.
And one thing that De Fremery thought sullied the significance of the Japanese Army乫s capture of Nanking, the then (the Japanese 乬forgot乭 it was already the 乬former乭, De Fremery says) capital of the whole China, was not 乬Rape of Nanking乭. Instead of it, he wrote; 乬[the] impression made by this capture was moreover well nigh completely lost on the outside world through what can in the very least be described as the extraordinary tactless 乪Panay-Ladybird乫 and other incidents of smaller import, which more or less coincided with it.乭
As you know, Panay and Ladybird were gunboats of the U.S.A. and the Britain, respectively, which were mistakenly attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy in the Yangtze in the mist and the confusion of the Battle of Nanking where the Chinese retreating troops were trying to escape on steamers and even in boats that fly the American or British flags. Japanese Army, of course, had issued a warning beforehand not to enter the area, but that was apparently ignored. Anyway, two Japanese were also killed by bomb when aiding wounded Americans, (The New York Times, Dec. 28, 1937) and despite the infuriated public opinion, the U.S. and the British governments eventually accepted Japan乫s explanation and apology for the grave mistakes.
De Fremery says only this small incidents spoiled Japanese Army乫s 乬glorious乭 capture of Nanking.
On the whole, De Fremery乫s minute observations show you how China and Japan fight a war within their own limitations. Since China couldn乫t match better equipments and greater military skills of the Japanese, the China counted on their guerrilla tactics, especially after Chiang Kai Shih lost many of his best troops at battles of Shanghai and Nanking. De Fremery writes repeatedly and favourably of Chiang Kai Shih乫s guerrilla warfare strategy. It is true that Japanese Army did suffer casualties and sabotage on communication lines and so on many times because of these guerrillas.
De Fremery乫s observations, however, suggest not that whole civilian population of China was up to fight against Japan as guerrilla with high morale. On the contrary, such well organised guerrilla bands were very few. In fact, not so few civilians were even took refuge on Japanese Army from their own country men guerrillas. Besides, although De Fremery never mentioned, the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists had still been in an ugly civil war behind the battle against the Japanese. The true nature of their 乬war乭 was not for their own people 乬resisting乭 the Japanese, but for hegemony over China.
One other thing De Fremery did not mention of the Chinese guerrilla warfare is that they were often in plain clothes disguising themselves as civilian which is in fact the breach of the International Law. The Chinese were doing so in the first Shanghai conflict with Japan in 1932. Even before that, the plain clothes guerrillas were there fighting in the civil war. By the way, infamous 乬Three All Policy乭 (Burn all, kill all, steal all/rape all) was first introduced by the Chinese Nationalists in the war against the Communists as well. Japanese Army never had that policy.
Many Western and Chinese scholars believe 乬Rape of Nanking乭 really happened based on the verdicts of Tokyo Trial, the unjust, one-sided 乬victor乫s justice乭. But if you really closely examine those contemporary documents like these reports of De Fremery乫s, there is no massacre that was actually eye-witnessed. De Fremery should have heard rumours about the 乬atrocities乭 of the Japanese Army in Nanking which were spread by the American missionaries in Nanking who did so as propaganda agents for the Chinese Nationalists. But, De Fremery even reports no hint of disorders in Japanese Army at all. Considering this, the testimonies of the ex-Japanese officers and soldiers that the order and discipline in the Japanese Army were quite well maintained throughout the war should be assumed to be true.
乬Rape of Nanking乭 was mere propaganda, after all.A Dutch Spy in China: Reports on the First Phase of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1939) (Brill's Japanese Studies Library) Overview

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