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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Nanking Massacre: Forgotten Genocide"

Warning: Graphic Content

In my research and throughout my years as a history buff, I have stumbled across countless incidents of  genocide. I am quite familiar with the Holocaust, where some six million Jews were killed in concentration camps throughout Europe. The atrocities that took place in Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, and Syria also sadden me, but I am encouraged when I read stories from survivors about resilience.  However, I recently delved further into the horrifying events of December 13, 1937, which was the beginning of "The Rape of Nanking" or the "Nanking Massacre".

Nanking, once the capital of China and now called "Nanjing", was a large metropolitan city that was decimated by Japanese Soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japanese General Matsui ordered his troops to destroy the city;   what happened over the course of six weeks would end up shocking the world. Both Chinese soldiers and civilians were massacred. The previous invasion of the city of Shanghai angered the Japanese General because of Chinese resistance. As a matter of revenge the annihilation policy of killing, looting, burning, and sexual violence was implemented.


What happened in December of 1937 was called "Rape of Nanking". It is also known as the "Nanking Massacre".  After the Japanese soldiers invaded the city with little resistance, the Chinese soldiers surrendered. The Chinese soldiers as POWS were not placed into POW camps. Instead, Japanese soldiers committed a litany of heinous acts such as placing bound Chinese soldiers in front of firing squads, shooting them in their backs while they were fleeing, and "bayoneting" them.

It was a rather sick and morbid competition to see who could decapitate as many Chinese soldiers as possible. In photos, Japanese soldiers stood next to corpses smiling and displaying severed heads. The sheer callousness reminded me of Southern racists who attended lynchings of Blacks, and smiled as if they were at a sporting event next to dead bodies.


The Japanese soldiers were taught that surrendering was a sign of weakness and a violation of their indoctrinated warrior code. General Matsui and other leaders thought that heinous acts would toughen them up and turn them into relentless, superior Japanese fighters. Consequently, Chinese soldiers were also doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Civilian Chinese were not spared from monstrosities. Eyewitness accounts describe how Chinese residents were bound, shot, and bodies mutilated as well. Their businesses were looted and then promptly burned to the ground.

 Chinese women were then victims of rape on a major level. Women from the age of eight through seventy were victimized. Female citizens were raped in front of their family members and gang raped by Japanese soldiers. Additionally, Japanese soldiers forced Chinese men to participate in incestuous acts with their own kin. Chinese were subjected to this cruel practice. Not even pregnant women were exempt from rape. They were sexually assaulted and their abdomens' were cut open, and fetuses killed. A segment of the female population were made into "comfort women", an euphemism for prostitutes, for Japanese soldiers.

 Moreover, Chinese men were also victims of sexual crimes. They were instructed to commit sexual acts with each other. Nanking males were also forced to engage in necrophilia. Necrophilia is the act of copulation with dead bodies.  All rape victims were then killed after being brutalized.

Chinese men were forced to dig graves for the growing amount of dead bodies.  Men were also buried alive. Civilians that survived were given the narcotic opium, a highly addictive drug. Survivors were left with burned edifices, injuries, and severe trauma. Thousands were left homeless, widowed, or orphaned.

 The war free zones that were set up by Western relief organizations reported these horrifying events, events that originally were discredited and not believed. Confessions from former Imperial Japanese soldiers, survivor accounts, and historical research have verified "Nanking Massacre" events. It has been explored in books and documentaries. "The Nanking Massacre" was indeed a deplorable chapter of genocide in twentieth century history.
Shanghai infant photo shocked the world.,,www.history,,

Total casualties: range of 80,000-300,00 range

Friday, June 21, 2013

10 Significant Imperial Japanese Events: 1925-1941

"It is Japan's mission to be supreme in Asia, the South Seas, and eventually the four corners of the world." ~General Sadao Araki*
 Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Flag

The 51st Defense Battalion was sent to fight a formidable opponent. For years, Imperial Japan was stockpiling their arsenal, indoctrinating the nation, and preparing its warrior-like soldiers. I have included a brief list of 10 Significant Imperial Japanese Events: 1925-1941 in order for my readers to have a better perspective below:

  1. 1924 -  Japanese Exclusion Act prohibited Japanese Immigration to the United State of America. Japan becomes isolated, and the ABCD Powers--American, Britain, Chinese, and Dutch were viewed as threatening to the Japanese Empire.
  2. 1925 - Universal Male Suffrage was introduced which meant that more men were eligible to vote in elections. Eligible voters went from 3.3 million to 12.5 million. This creates an opportunity to solidify the direction of the nation.
  3. 1928-1932 - Japan's Depression and the Great Depression caused economic strife, along with social and political unrest. The military creates a livelihood for young men. Many soldiers were from rural, poor areas and were committed to the military's effort to expand Japanese territory and to achieve economic security. 
  4. 1931- Army Takes Control and Evades Manchuria. The Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo was established. 
  5. 1936 - German and Japan Sign the Anti-Comintern Pact. This was essentially an Anti-Communism treaty.
  6. July 1937, Japanese Soldiers Invades Manchuria in China. They went on to invade Peking, Shanghai and Nanking, the former capital of China. 
  7. 1940 - Japan Signs the Tripartite Pact. It is the Rome-Tokyo-Berlin-Axis agreement, where the countries agree not to "meddle" in each others military pursuits.  
  8. 1940 - During The Second Sino-Japanese War massive killing, looting, and burning takes place.
  9. In 1940, Japan Took Over French Indochina (Vietnam).This resulted in an oil embargo with Great Britain and the United States. Japan, needing oil to maintain its military prowess, then decides to invade the oil rich Dutch East Indies. (Indonesia)
  10. Secret Attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. The aim was to destroy the United States' naval vessels and to diminish the US presence in the Pacific.

These 10 Significant Imperial Japanese Events caused great concern throughout the world. Strategic and swift military action was taken after the secret attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan desired superpower status and was determined to weaken the West under the guise of protecting Asia. As stated previously, Japan desperately needed raw materials such as oil and rubber, commodities that were not found within its island nation. Fierce Nationalism propelled its war machine and was the catalyst to a brutality that surpassed World War I.

The boxed off area on the map was where 
the 51st Defense Battalion were stationed.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"They Don't Tell You Where They're Going To Send You, You Just Go!"

Well, the clamoring for dad's "missing" 51st Defense Battalion whereabouts, led to action. The Pittsburgh Courier's story reverberated across Black America. Members of the 51st were soon going to be deployed as a result of the story. Military officials, previously concerned about racial dissension in the ranks relented, and deployed my dad's unit.

"So dad, when you were in San Diego, did you know where they were going to send you?" I inquired. "No!"  my father answered in an irritated voice, as if I should have known better. "They don't tell you where they're going to send you, you just go!"

"They sent us to Ellice Island." I asked him how it was spelled, because it sounded like the "Ellis Island" in New York, the point of entry for myriads of immigrants into the United States. "It's an island off the coast of Australia and that is where we (The Marines) picked up and received our mail", my dad explained.

"We also ended up in Enewetok and Kwajalein." Dad pronounced these names with ease. I automatically remembered conversations from years ago that these were islands in the Marshall Islands.When I looked at a map, I saw tiny dots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Marshall Islands were named after a British captain in 1788. They were previously explored by the Spanish in the 16th century. Germany unsuccessfully attempted to control the islands, but the islands utimately ended up in the hands of the Japanese in 1914.*

The Marshall Islands are located halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The Islands are considered a part of Oceania, and make up two archipelagic island chains of 29 atolls, each made up of small islets and five single islands in the North Pacific Ocean.

The area is roughly the size of Washington, D.C. (181 km). Also, the Marshall Islands climate is tropical, hot and humid. Its wet season is May through November, with the islands bordering the typhoon belt. Finally, Micronesian peoples were the first inhabitants of the archipelago.**


Source: www.



 June 27, 2012. It was the evening before the Medal of Honor Ceremony at the official Montford Point Marines hotel. Dad, normally a talkative character, was very nervous. I watched the older gentlemen meet and greet each other and exchange information. Some of the Marines already knew each other from their area Montford Point Marine Associations. My dad was standing in line and I watched as his doppelganger approached him. By doppelganger I meant someone of his exact stature and personality.

"Do you know who your commanding officer was?" A short, expressive man with a puffed out chest asked. My Dad could not remember his officer's name. "I don't remember his name, I'm eighty-nine years old", dad answered tersely. Both families of the men watched, amazed at the mirroring that was taking place. The two elderly men stood staring at each other for it seemed like eternity, and then sauntered on, chatting with other Marines.

 I then went to the wife of my father's "twin", and talked to her. I guessed her to be an educator, but was close. She worked with troubled female teens and her husband was a retired vocational teacher. We joked around a bit about her husband's and my dad's assertive personalities.The kind woman then set out to trail her feisty husband.  Her spouse reminded me of Adolph Ceaser, the actor that played an Army officer in A Soldier's Story, and the father of "Mister" in A Color Purple. In any event, the whole scene was indeed 'colorful.' The seriousness of the special occasion prevented a heated exchange.

Source: A
The late great actor, Adolph Ceaser

Some checking on my end  turned up some additional details, which I later shared with my dad: Colonel Samuel Woods, Jr., commanded the Montford Point Camp and formed the Battalion.Woods was its first commanding officer.Others in command were: Lt. Colonel William B. Onley, Lt. Col. Floyd A Stephenson, Lt. Curtis W. LeGette and Lt. Colonel Gould P. Groves. Source: Condition Red: Marine Defense Battalions in WWII Summaries,

So, from the time my dad was stationed in the Marshall Islands, he had a handful of different commanding officers. The 51st Defense Battalion, was originally supposed to be an infantry division. Their mission was to prevent the Japanese from furthering their aggressive military conquests. Thanks to the Negro Press, my dad would finally play a part in World War II.

Sources: * www.infoplease,**

Sunday, June 9, 2013

How The Negro Press Demanded Answers On The "Lost Battalion"

Upon finishing boot camp at Montford Point, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, my father was very excited.  As a member of the 51st Defense Battalion, this unit had to prove that they were capable soldiers in combat. They would reverse the findings of the military report that cited that Negros were incompetent in battle. It was thirty long years since the 92nd Division's performance during World War I (1914-1918) that unfairly influenced military policy. Sentiments and beliefs systems were slowly starting to change for World War II.

Dad took a train from North Carolina to San Diego, California via the southern route of the United States. The year was 1943. San Diego, CA was the location of the Marines Corps military base. Of course, his battalion traveled Jim Crow style, which meant uniformed men of color in segregated train cars located at the rear of the train. Smoke and dust permeated the air of the rear train car; this was also where coal was placed into the engine.

Dad recounted how they stopped every four hours to exercise while on route to San Diego. Lunch was brought outside, because the colored men were not permitted to eat inside railroad dining cars. The white officers of the 51st Battalion, however ate inside the dining cars. Captured German prisoners of war traveled with better amenities and treatment than the Montford Point Marines. Meanwhile, the Colored enlisted men socialized with each other and developed a camaraderie. I will write more on the preferential treatment that Axis POWs received over African Americans in the future.
Vintage Map of San Diego

When dad arrived in San Diego, CA, the 51st Defense Battalion were not immediately deployed. The military leaders were not exactly sure what to do with the men. Additionally, Dad had no idea where in the Pacific or when he was going to be shipped out during World War II. World War II contained two theatres of war: The Pacific and The European.

 The Allies consisted of the following countries: France, Britain, United States, and the Soviet Union. Allied countries were opposed by The Axis Powers. The Axis Powers were a military and political alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. The Axis powers desired dominance in their respective area of Europe, Mediterranean and the Pacific. They promised not to intervene in each other's objectives and to stop the spread of Communism. Minor Axis countries were Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia. Collaborators for the Axis Powers were Vichy France, and Neutral but aiding the Axis was Spain. Italy ended up changing alliances.*

 Of course, Americans at this time despised the Japanese for their attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in the early morning hours of December 1941.
Headlines of this day were not very flattering and used derogatory terms. 

The leader of Nazi Germany was Adolph Hitler, who sanctioned hatred towards Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Jehovah Witnesses, etc. German propaganda at the time sanctioned the ideal of the "Master" Aryan Race which consisted of blond, blue eyed prototypes. Aryans were supposedly superior to all races and ethnicities. Adolph Hitler convinced the majority of his German people that the "Final Solution" would be in the best interests of the German Empire. "The Final Solution" was the horrific extermination of all Jews who Hitler believed to be the enemy.  Countries were invaded by the Axis Powers all around the world. So unsurprisingly, the 51st Defense Battalion were ready to go into battle against the Axis powers.

Montford Point Marines were given extensive praise during training. Dad still remembers seeing Sgt. Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson (1905-1972) and vividly describes the patches for service that decorated his uniform. "Hashmark" Johnson was so named because he served with honor in the US Army, Navy AND Marines. Johnson was one of the first Black Marines and a drill instructor.  Obviously he was a formidable man with a strong presence. Dad always speaks about Hashmark Johnson with awe in his voice.

Sgt Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson

"Man, we partied so hard,"  Dad exclaimed about his early days in San Diego.  "We went down to Tijuana, Mexico because it was so close to San Diego over the border. There were 35 cent tequilas, and we were having a good old time! Until the Pittsburgh Courier wrote an article asking about the whereabouts of the "Lost Battalion". The Pittsburgh Courier was a preeminent Negro newspaper that had a large readership across America. All of Black America was watching, and the story made big news during 1943.


The story of the  "Lost Battalion" was important in many ways. Negro Athlete Jesse Owens triumphantly took home four gold medals in track events at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics in Hitler's Germany.  Similarly, the 51st Defense Battalion represented an important chapter in American History. The Negro were marginalized within American society through institutionalized racism. Black combat soldiers were ready to prevail against discrimination whether stateside, or anywhere in the world. The Pittsburgh Courier raised questions and demanded answers. Where was the 51st Defense Battalion and why were they missing in action?

Jesse Owens 

51st Defense Battalion member Clifford Primus' party days would be soon coming to an end.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Impact of The Negative Campaign Against the 92nd Division

Sometimes people want other people to fail. It is a simple as that. Negative campaigns are created to disseminate misinformation, ill-will, and can create major damage. Lies are told repeatedly and so often that the slanderers spewing the misinformation actually start believing the lies. The lies can damage an individual's or a group's reputation, and can place them in a dangerous situation.

The reason some individuals begin their negative campaign are many:  Financial gain, hatred, jealousy, retribution, power-- the list can be endless. Moreover, propaganda and rumor-mills are launched in order to cause confusion and division of loyalty. In modern society, people yearn for power and go to great lengths to achieve it because of its intoxicating effects. The group that is ostracized is tragically rendered powerless and treated as pariahs. However, negative campaigns can be terminated, reversed and eventually, the ultimate truth is revealed.

The culture of calumny does not end overnight. It starts with the courage of one to protest and to challenge. In a previous post I discussed how in World War I the French government awarded African American Soldiers Medal of Honor Awards ( Croix de Guerre) and not the American government.  I described at length the "Harlem Hellfighters", the relentlessly fierce American Army division (93rd) that fought in Europe. Sadly, one regiment was the scapegoat for Negros being viewed as not suitable in combat.


The 92nd division had a horrendous experience in World War I. The 92nd consisted of draftees and included four infantry regiments, three field artillery regiments, a trench mortar battery and three machine gun battalions, a general battalion, an engineer regiment. They received their training at Camp Funston at Fort Riley, Kansas at a segregated facility. The soldiers had a racial incident in their town and were unfairly admonished by their leader, General Robert Bullard, who dispatched  a scathing memo. The memo stated that, "White men made the division, and white men can break it easily if it became a troublemaker".* The 92nd were then sent overseas to France, where they were thrown into battle without an opportunity to develop camaraderie and little training with the French. The 92nd was unfamiliar with the terrain and under- equipped.

Consequently, the 92nd's 368th Infantry regiment did not do well during the Allied Meuse Argonne Offensive in September 1918. The 92rd suffered heavy casualties as a result of a deliberate lack of support. Scoffed their commander General Robert L. Bullard," If you need combat soldiers, and especially if you need them in a hurry, don't put your time upon Negroes." (Quoted by Ulysses Lee, United States Army in World War II: Special Studies: The Employment of Negro Troops. Washington: United States Government Printing Office 1966, p. 20.)

The 92nd Division dubbed themselves "The Buffalo Soldiers" in tribute to the famed Cavalries of the same name. The Buffalo Soldiers were brave African Americans Army soldiers that fought during the Spanish American War, patrolled National Parks, and secured the western frontier. German soldiers, on the other hand, referred to them as "Black Devils" (Schwartzer Teufel) and instituted their own negative campaign against the men. In battle, fliers in perfect English were launched airborne decrying that Negro soldiers should not fight for the English, French and especially America. It lambasted the African Americans in assisting a country that was allegedly "fighting for profit" and discriminated against Blacks. The 92nd were the subject of adverse campaigns from the Germans as well!

The 92nd Division had arrived in France during the latter stages of the war. It was their lot to be assigned the most active and well defended sectors of the front. As a result, the causalities were relatively high for the short period of combat. (

Members of the 92nd Division were also discredited by claims that they were rapists. Some were removed from their Division on trumped up charges and even court martialed. It took years for the charges to be cleared and the men exonerated.. (

So a formal military policy for the next thirty years undermined Negro soldiers in combat as a result of a mere five days of fighting. Accounts were taken from biased Army officials, ignoring any victories,decorations, and barring testimony from Negro soldiers. The information was submitted to The War Department and the Army War College. (https:armyhistoryorg/09/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-in-world-war-1/)

Early positive WWI Recruitment Poster

The idea of Black soldiers and officers as failures festered postwar and until courageous Black leaders approached the United States Government. Journalists of course, were also instrumental in changing the status quo. When the United States entered World War War in 1941, men of all races and both genders were needed to help defeat the Axis Powers. I bring up the 92nd Division, and negative campaigns for a reason--  my father, a member of a the first World War II combat division, the 51st Battalion, was in a holding pattern. Dad had completed grueling boot camp at Montford Point, Camp LeJeune, NC, yet the 51st Battalion were not sent overseas initially. In fact, when I asked my father about this time period, he tells an interesting story...

Notes: * "Segregation Policy and the Birth of the Blue Helmet."

The French decorated the 92nd's entire 1st Battalion of the 367th Infantry and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Other Black officers and enlisted men received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Cavalry-army component mounted on horseback
Infantry-is the branch of an army who fight on foot

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