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Zhao and I



Calm Before the Storm

July 12th 1937
A nightmare woke me in the middle of the night. Ever since I was recruited to my unit, I could not sleep properly through a single night. I have always wondered how a Japanese soldier might look like. They appeared to me in my dreams as the most monstrous, evil, brutal, and cold-blooded humans – maybe not even humans. Every night I shivered in the unbearable amount of fear, for I have heard of the number of incidents in which our national forces confronted the Japanese forces. The rumors have informed me that the Japanese army’s weaponry is far more superior to that of the Chinese army’s. Although our armies greatly exceed the Japanese armies in terms of size, it is already a well-known fact that the advanced technology and military strategies of the Japanese army can take over practically any nation in Asia. These rumors are probably the greatest reason that causes both the Chinese civilians and soldiers to fear the Japanese even before encountering them, a fact that well applies to myself as well.

It was yesterday when I heard of what had happened near the Marco Polo Bridge. The Chinese army and Japanese army reportedly had a conflict in which many people were killed or wounded. The rumors disseminated rapidly and soon enough, everyone was panicking, afraid of the possible outbreak of war. Since Japan has occupied Manchuria, the people’s reaction undoubtedly reflected the weakness of the people in our unit; a number of soldiers have already committed suicide due to the fear of the possible outbreak of war while the others lost their taste for food and sleep at night. Stories about the Japanese soldiers were told, which many of them were very bizarre and incredulous. Zhao, who sleeps next to me, seemed very intimidated every day. “Gen, I heard that Japanese soldiers eat Chinese people after roasting them alive,” said Zhao. “That’s nonsense,” I replied with a fabricated laughter that did not last long. Although I make an attempt not to appear weak for the sake of Zhao’s immense fear all the time, inside myself also existed a fear. This fear, I must admit, included one that was due to my chances of encountering death. My fear, however, was primarily attributed to my concern that I might not be able meet my family and friends again. All the little things in my daily life I began to miss as I trained every day.

Located near the city of Nanjing, our unit allows us to visit the city every once in a while to meet our families and friends. These visits played its role as a reward – and a reason to stay alive for me - after every vigorous month long training period. The trainings every day lasted very long. Although the meals were those of extremely poor quality, those soon became the favorite meals of mine. Devoting lives to our country, here, we await the Japanese soldiers to come, with the slightest hope that we will be able to protect our city.

A Knock on the Gates of Nanking

November 27th 1937
It has been almost two months since our forces have been fighting against the Japanese troops. Under the command of Tang Shengzhi, we bravely confronted the Japanese soldiers. The general has showed his confidence in his recent report in a press release saying that his forces will never give up and will fight until death. I, however, highly doubt that he does not have any fear towards the Japanese forces. The Japanese forces possess, as we have expected, a huge military advantage over our military forces. Although we have withstood the invasion of the Japanese into this city for over a month and a half, it is my belief that most of the troops have lost their determination, confidence, and desire to fight. I have witnessed many of my fellow troops simply giving in and surrendering themselves to our enemies. Even a greater number of troops have considered surrendering; Zhao was one of them.

“Don’t you think that it will be a better idea to surrender to the Japanese soldiers rather than wasting our lives, Gen?” he asked the same question almost every day and I had to reassure to him that everything is going to be fine.
“Don’t you worry about our lives yet,” I told him in a gentle yet admonishing tone. “Think in the positive way. We are still in a fight against them; no one knows what is going to happen afterwards. Haven’t you listened to our general speaking? He said that we are to defend our city and that he will never give up,” I said.
“Let’s be realistic here though. They have a significant advantage over our forces and you are well aware of that as well. Besides, haven’t you witnessed our friends dying right next to us? Or have you already forgotten all of our friends?” he stated in a demanding voice.
“I am very disappointed in you, Zhao,” I tried to maintain my calm. “Would not you rather die honorably for our families, friends, city, and China than surrender to the filthy, brutal, and inhumane monsters?” He did not answer.

The longer the battle went on, however, the more hope I started to lose. Our limitations were evident. We were losing every fight after fight after fight… Our forces were ordered to block roads, ruin boats, and burn villages nearby the Japanese forces in order to prevent their further advance. This left many civilians behind and prevented them from fleeing as well. I still cannot forget that little girl’s tears across the bridge after our unit was ordered to demolish the bridge several days ago. Her eyes were filled with fear, uncertain of what will happen to her in the future.

Realizing the impossibility of our victory, more and more Chinese troops began to either flee or surrender themselves to the Japanese. What happened to them I am not aware of. This even more exacerbated the situation. Winning a fight, now, was virtually impossible. Every day comprised of retreat after retreat. Today I write this journal in the midst of immense fear, uncertainty of my and our unit’s future.

The Gates Come Tumbling Down

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The low morale of our unit was apparent and I have expected our loss in this battle. As I have stated in my previous account, many have already fled during the battle due to the fear of losing their lives or surrendered to the enemies. Those who were left in the unit were seeking their chances to do so as well. How can those who once pledged their allegiance to their country so easily turn their back to their country? I as well had a deep sense of fear as the Japanese military advanced, but who would protect the young children, women, and the elders if we simply run away? Zhao was a timid young man. He treated me as an elder brother and seemed to respect my opinions. I had to, in the presence of Zhao, appear strong and fearless in order to lessen his fear and burden.
Now that the battle is practically over, most of our soldiers have been either captured or killed by the Japanese army. Many of my friends have been killed right in front of me, leaving me with an unbearable amount of trauma. Zhao and I, however, managed to stay alive along with six other men at first. We stayed at a small, wrecked, one story building that helped block the ridiculously cold wind. There we were and we talked about our lives before the war. There I found out that Zhao was only 16 years old and that he volunteered for the war in order to free his father from his obligation to join the army.
We stayed there, in the midst of the explosions, gunshots, the screaming of people. The atrocities I have witnessed cannot be described in words. Every now and then, I would seek a civilian running hastily, either to get stabbed or shot in the back by a Japanese soldier before I would try to hide him/her. How can a soldier possibly shoot an innocent person in his normal state of mind? The killings and butchery could be viewed from our building, but none of us had the courage to fight against the Japanese soldiers.
That very day, the eight of us successfully managed to bring a Chinese man into our building, who was running away from the Japanese troops. He was missing four of his fingers on each of his hands. We managed to temporarily stop the bleeding with the equipment we had. He was seemingly in his mid 40s. According to his account, the Japanese soldiers broke into his house and demanded for any females in the house. Having heard of the atrocities the Japanese soldiers have committed, he had his daughter and wife hide in the basement in advance. The Japanese soldiers, then, started to torture him questioning his answer by cutting off his fingers one by one. The courageous man, however, refused to give out an answer and the Japanese soldiers reluctantly gave up and burnt the house. The man could do nothing but watch his house burn and somehow made his way to run away, later to find us. Taking care of the man and viewing the Japanese troops’ brutal acts, I as a soldier, could not hide my shame due to my inability to do anything.

Through the Gates into Hell

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The Japanese showed no mercy even towards children, women, or elders.

For the past few months, witnessing the deaths of fellow Chinese troops and civilians, I could not find myself that existed few years ago. The peaceful and rather calm Gen was nowhere and every second and minute was a struggle for living, and so much physical pain and psychological traumas I have gone through that I could feel myself becoming numb both physically and psychologically. It is a hard feeling to describe: enervated, lacking motivation and will to live, but still in fear. The past events and deaths I have witnessed and gone through, however, turned out to be nothing compared to what I have experienced for the past few days.

When I woke up one morning, I noticed that there were more people in the building then there were supposed to be. I was aghast to find out soon that they were Japanese soldiers. Contrary to what I have thought, they did look kind of similar to Chinese people. The Japanese troops arrested us, immediately stabbing one of our soldiers as he made an attempt to run away. Inside my mind, there existed a thought ever since we settled in this building that we were one day going to be captured by the Japanese. My lack of motivation to live, however, could not stop the immense fear I soon confronted. The street we were in was deserted; not one person can be sought. Instead, The stench of rotting corpses I sensed, and the piles of corpses were unbelievable. We were then forced to ride a truck filled with people in the back. They were Chinese soldiers and their wounds and appearances could no better explain the harsh conditions they have been through for the past months.

Gun firing in the city was common. Even while I was riding the truck, I could observe the vivid scenes of people getting shot or bayoneted. Houses were either burnt down or in the process of burning. Women, children, and the elders, staring at their houses and the Japanese soldiers were full of fear. How can they possibly imagine what will happen next? The eyes of the Japanese soldiers were not those of human beings; if there existed anything such as a devil, the eyes of a devil would probably resemble that of the Japanese troops. Their evil red eyes striving for blood made me shiver even from a considerable distance.

After about an hour ride, we arrived at a place that seemingly looked like where the Japanese troops were staying. I sought many Chinese soldiers, most of them apparently lacking any sorts of desire or motivation to live; fear was minimal, many of them probably accepting what will happen to them in the near future. There I viewed the most inhumane and disgusting deeds that a human can possibly commit; the Japanese troops were killing for their own entertainment. Mutilation was a rather weak method in terms of torturing in this place. Those who were beheaded were lucky enough to die with minimal pain. People were nailed, tortured by German Shepherds alive, burnt alive, and other various methods that I cannot even recall. There I was, awaiting for my turn to confront death and praying to die in less pain.

Here you could have put something about the safety zone. Out all of these journals this one is your weakest. You neglected to put historical insight into this entry. But your other journal are mind blowing... I would revisit this journal and look at how you might improve it. How can you make it standout a bit more?

The Survivor

I still shiver with fear and misery when I reminisce the past events that occurred to my fellow soldiers and me. The nightmares often awake me in the middle of the nights, intensifying my sorrow and pain, and refreshing the memories whenever I start to forget them. The pictures of my friends and fellow Chinese people getting bayoneted, shot, beheaded, and buried alive appear vividly in my dreams.
The days confined within the prisoner camp seem to be a week ago, even though 8 years have already passed ever since. The stench of corpses being decayed and cremated I still seem to sense, which often make me throw up. The blood blend into the river leaving it red I recall whenever I view a red object; red is the color for blood for me. Whenever I recall the past memories in the city of Nanking 8 years ago, I cannot believe and, at the same time, thank god who has spared my life under such an impossible predicament to survive.

That day was the luckiest day in my life. Although it is painful for me to once again recall the memories of the brutal butcheries, the relief I felt that particular day was incomparable to the happiness I have ever experienced. Prisoners who were mostly composed of Chinese soldiers were killed every day – for the sole purpose of entertainment of the Japanese soldiers. I, as a relative elder, reassured and tried to relieve Zhao by saying that reinforcement and possibly the foreign country army will, without doubt, come to the city of Nanking and rescue us, which I highly doubted. We were ordered to walk our way up a mountain that very day, all of us seemingly recognizing the fate of us. Well if I am destined to confront death, I would rather die sooner than later, not having to worry and ponder on the idea of facing death, I thought. We were positioned at the very edge of a cliff, and behind us was a river flowing. There were about fifty Chinese people including Zhao and me. A machine gun was prepared and the firing then begun. Unconsciously, I slipped my foot and fell from the cliff as soon as the firing begun. Although I was shot in my left thigh, I managed my way out of the river. Many bodies began to fall into the river along with the firing, and corpses splashed into the water. If there was a god, I truly believe that he has rescued me that day; it was a true miracle, myself surviving after falling into a running river.

I read in the newspaper a few years ago about the consequences Japan faced due to the atrocities in Nanking. Although a number of officials have received appropriate consequences, I believe that Japan has not yet came up with an apology that will satisfy the victims of the Nanking massacre, including myself. We Chinese should not ever forget the atrocities of the blood thirsty Japanese. <-- Would like to see more of this. Expand this part of your journal next time.