Punishment: Behind Japanese Military Brutality (Current Project)

Punishment: Behind Japanese Military Brutality

Current Project

Punishment: Behind Japanese Military Brutality

In this book we present an in-depth exploration into a disturbing
question: Why and how did the Japanese Army, during WWII, descend into a vortex
of brutality, marked by atrocities such as murder, rape, arson,
and looting? Many believe that such horrors distinguished it starkly from other
military forces of the era, putting it in par with the notorious armies of Hitler
and Stalin. Our narrative is not merely a recounting of events but an in-depth
inquiry into the evolution of Japanese military ethics and brutality, explored through a long-term

This book will explore the historical evolution of war morality,
tracing the complex development of the laws of war in the context of modern
Japanese history. We will examine pivotal questions that are key to
understanding this transformation: Whom was it permissible to kill in war, and
why? How did the treatment of enemy civilians by the Japanese Army evolve
across different periods, from the rainforests of aboriginal Taiwan in 1874 to
the urban slums of Manila in 1945? Additionally, we will investigate the
influences behind these changes: Who were the advisors, jurists, generals, and
experts who played roles in shaping this trajectory, for better or worse, and
the soldiers who played their part in the drama? To what extent did the
enduring legacy of samurai culture and the incorporation of Western military
ideologies influence the actions of Japanese soldiers? Most critically, we aim
to identify if there was a specific turning point that escalated the Imperial
Army’s brutality towards civilians and, if so, understand why it occurred.

‘Punishment: Behind Japanese Military Brutality’ is envisioned as
more than a historical account; it is an introspective journey into the factors
that sculpt military conduct and ethical boundaries, seeking a new explanation
for wartime horrors in East Asia and beyond.

Note on sources:

“Punishment: Behind Japanese Military Brutality” is grounded
in primary and secondary sources across multiple languages, including Japanese,
Chinese, English, German, Russian, and French. The research involved a thorough
exploration of Japanese Archives — the National, Military, and Foreign Affairs
Archives in Tokyo, along with the JACAR database. This extensive investigation
covered a wide range of materials such as military documents, official notes, diplomatic
reports, judicial records, army and navy manuals, and crime statistics. Additionally, the study
incorporates published collections, letters, diaries, court
testimonies, and judicial transcripts.

In English, the research encompassed an in-depth examination of
the national archives in London and Washington D.C., alongside numerous smaller
private archives and collections. The Russian dimension of the study involves
significant engagement with official documents, studies, and reports from the
First Sino-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Japanese intervention in
the Russian Civil War from archives in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Vladivostok.

Tentative Table of Contents



Part I: Pursuit of Civilization

Chapter 1: Potato Samurai: Introducing the Principle of Punishment

Chapter 2: Knights, Samurai and Barbarians: Navigating the Standard of Civilization

Chapter 3: Under Foreign Eyes: The Taiwan Expedition, 1874

Chapter 4: Fighting a Civilized War: The Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895

Chapter 5: Relapse into Barbarism? The Massacre of Port Arthur, November 1894

Chapter 6: Race to the Bottom, Race to the Top: The Boxer Rebellion, 1900

Chapter 7: “The Foot of the White Man”: Japan and the Allied Occupation of Beijing, 1900-1901


Part II: The Banditization of Warfare

Chapter 8: Spies and Mounted Bandits: The Dark Corner of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905

Chapter 9: Playing on the Russian Chessboard: Japan Enters Siberia, 1918-1920

Chapter 10: Frozen Hell: The Nikolaevsk Incident and its Aftermath, 1920-1922

Chapter 11: Soldiers as Bandits: The Manchurian Campaign, 1931

Chapter 12: Mayhem in the City: The Shanghai Incident, 1932


Part III: Age of Total War

Chapter 13: The Rise of Total War

Chapter 14: Towards Nanjing: August-November 1937

Chapter 15: “Yatte Shimau”: The Nanjing Massacre, December 1937

Chapter 16: “Rape of Nanking”: The Surge in Sexual Criminality

Chapter 17: When Law Failed: The Unmaking of Military Justice

Chapter 18: “Three All”: Counterinsurgency in Northern China

Chapter 19: Haste Crimes: The Sook Ching Affair, February-March 1942

Chapter 20: Reaching Rock Bottom: Total Massacre in Manila, February 1945


Conclusion: “Clear Voice of the Piccolo”: Behind Japanese Military Brutality

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