Inside the Mind of a War Criminal

The Japanese commander of military operations in the Shanghai area in late 1937 was the 59-year-old General Matsui Iwane. Today he is mainly remembered as a war criminal, because he was executed after the war for his role in the infamous Rape of Nanjing. . “He did nothing, or nothing effective to abate these horrors,” the International Military Tribunal of the Far East said in its verdict before sending him to the gallows.

What is it like to be a war criminal? What goes on inside the mind of a person who uses awe-inspiring military might to inflict pain and death on defenseless civilians? In the case of Matsui, it’s actually possible to approach an answer to that question. This is because the general kept a detailed diary during his time in China in 1937 and 1938.

It’s a man full of paradoxes that emerges from the pages of the diary. Having spent almost his entire adult life in the armed forces and therefore thoroughly steeped in its stern values, he nevertheless displayed a tender side. In his diary entries, he showed genuine concern for the common Japanese soldier – the same young men that he would also, with little hesitation, send to their deaths in frontal attacks on Chinese positions.

Even more paradoxically, especially from a modern point of view, was his love of poetry. This was a man who relished the challenge of composing poems in the immensely difficult classical style, even when under enemy fire. After weeks of incessant fighting around Shanghai, Matsui found himself one morning admiring the view of flowers caught in the rays of the rising sun, and immediately penned this poem:

South of the Yangtze, a magnificent view:
Coquettish flowers come back to life.
The righteous knight has gained victory,
And is greeted by the bloom of the oleander.

Matsui after the conquest of Nanjing

Matsui’s view of China and of Asia was even more paradoxical. In the words of the book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, “he knew China well and had been an acquaintance of Sun Yat-sen’s, the revolutionary who had been the driving force in establishing the Republic of China in 1912 after the fall of the empire… Matsui mixed strident Japanese nationalism with a pan-Asian outlook, thus embodying much of the contradiction that characterized imperial Japan and its views about its role in Asia. In 1935, he had helped establish Dai Ajia Kyokai, or Greater Asia Society, an organization working to overcome divisions among the peoples of the continent and strengthen them to better resist western imperialism.”

He had toured China in the mid-1930s and had repeatedly met Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist leader of the Chinese republic. How could this politically savvy man, who evidently had not particular hatred of China, turn into a savage war criminal, contributing to one of the worst atrocities ever committed on Chinese soil? Perhaps disappointment over Chiang Kai-shek’s decision to side with the Chinese communists against Japan was part of the explanation.

“A staunch anti-communist,” according to Shanghai 1937, “the Japanese general had been gravely dismayed by Chiang’s decision to make peace with his Red rivals in order to coordinate and concentrate their efforts in a bid to defeat the Japanese threat. Matsui channeled his disaffection with Chiang into an extremely proactive approach to the command of troops in the field. He exhibited an aggressive bent from the moment he got his assignment, before he had even set foot in Shanghai.”

Categories: Battle, War


  • ブランドコピーブランド激安通販専門店!
    ※ 2017年注文割引開催中,全部の商品割引10%
    ※ 在庫情報随時更新!
    ※ 100%品質を保証する。
    ※ 送料は無料です(日本全国)!
    ※ 経営方針♥ブランドコピー財布提供します最安値♥

  • fifa 18 says:

    Very good blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring
    writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a
    paid option? There are so many choices out there that
    I’m completely confused .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

  • This website truly has all of the info I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  • I really love your website.. Very nice colors
    & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my very own site and want to learn where
    you got this from or just what the theme is named.

  • obd ii code says:

    I’m very happy to discover this web site. I wanted to thank
    you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every part of
    it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff in your web site.

  • Great information. Lucky me I came across your blog by
    accident (stumbleupon). I’ve saved it for later!

  • Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

  • modern cars says:

    I am curious to find out what blog system you’re using?

    I’m having some minor security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more safeguarded.
    Do you have any suggestions?

  • These are actually enormous ideas in regarding blogging.
    You have touched some fastidious things here. Any way keep
    up wrinting.

  • Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was a amusement account
    it. Glance advanced to far brought agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

  • Attractive element of content. I simply stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I acquire actually loved account your weblog posts.
    Anyway I’ll be subscribing on your augment or even I success you get admission to constantly fast.

  • I visited various web pages however the audio quality for audio
    songs current at this website is genuinely wonderful.

  • Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and
    checking back often!

  • Right now it looks like BlogEngine is the top blogging platform available right
    now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your

  • It’s not my first time to pay a visit this web page, i am visiting this website dailly and get good information from
    here daily.

  • Kerry says:

    Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to help
    with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good results.
    If you know of any please share. Thank you!

  • Thank you for every other excellent article. Where else may just anyone get
    that type of info in such a perfect approach of writing?
    I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such information.

  • Hi there, after reading this remarkable paragraph i am as well happy to share my familiarity here with colleagues.

  • brazil butt says:

    Thanks to my father who shared with me concerning this blog, this weblog is in fact

  • スーパーコピーブランド専門店おすすめ!
    ◆ 当社今日 マフラー面な更新!
    S/AAA品質 シリアル付きも有り付属品完備!

  • Tara says:

    Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d
    figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa?

    My blog goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I feel we could
    greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to send me an email.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific
    blog by the way!

Leave a Reply