Category: Max Hastings

The incineration of the vanitiesThe incineration of the vanities

“In the wake of Japan’s surrender, Hirohito’s soldiers, sailors and airmen were shocked to find themselves objects of obloquy among their own people. Public animosity embraced the humblest as well as the loftiest warriors. After years of suffering, all the pent-up frustration and misery of the Japanese people was made manifest in the wake of defeat. Servicemen who had mindlessly accepted the code of bushido, and sometimes suffered terribly to fulfill its demands, now faced the contempt of their own nation. . . . This was an experience unknown among German veterans who had served in Hitler’s legions. Japan’s early post-war years were characterized by a collapse of hierarchies, a ruthless pursuit of self-interest reflected in looting, crime and wholesale prostitution, unknown at any other period of the nation’s history. Decadence, even depravity, flourished, as the defeated people astonished their conquerors by that fashion in which they abased themselves before all things American. Self-loathing seemed for a time to overtake Japan.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

A new white man’s burdenA new white man’s burden

“Nowhere was relief at the dropping of the bomb more intense and heartfelt than in prison camps throughout the Japanese empire. Yet even among those for whom Hiroshima promised deliverance, a few displayed more complex emotions. Lt. Stephen Abbott’s closest friend, Paul, a devout Christian, entered their bleak barrack room in Japan and said: ‘Stephen—a ghastly thing has happened.’ He described the destruction of Hiroshima, as reported on the radio, then knelt in prayer. Eighteen months later, Abbott wrote a letter for publication in The Times, citing his own status as a former POW, and arguing that a demonstration of the bomb would have sufficed: ‘The way it has been used has not only provided a significant chapter for future Japanese history books but has also convinced the people of Japan that the white man’s claim to the ethical and spiritual leadership of the world is without substance.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

We can all have one of theseWe can all have one of these

“ ‘Little Boy,’ ‘an elongated trash can with fins’ . . . exploded 1,900 feet above Hiroshima’s Shima Hospital, 550 feet from its aiming point. . . . The 8,900-pound device created temperatures at ground level which reached 5,400 degrees and generated the explosive power of 12,500 tons of TNT. All but 6,000 of the city’s 76,000 buildings were destroyed by fire or blast. . . . The detonation of ‘Little Boy,’ the mushroom cloud which changed the world, created injuries never before seen on mortal creatures, and recorded with disbelief by survivors: the cavalry horse standing pink, stripped of its hide; people with clothing patterns imprinted upon their flesh; the line of schoolgirls with ribbons of skin dangling from their faces; doomed survivors, hideously burned, without hope of effective medical relief; the host of charred and shrivelled corpses. Hiroshima and its people had been almost obliterated, and even many of those who clung to life would not long do so.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

You have to have people killedYou have to have people killed

“Many people of later generations and all nationalities have viewed the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan as events which, in their unique horror, towered over the war as a dark mountain bestrides the plain. In one sense this perception is correct, because the initiation of the nuclear age provided mankind with unprecedented power to destroy itself. . . . To grasp the context in which the commitment to bomb Hiroshima was made, it seems necessary to acknowledge the cacophony amidst which all those involved, the political and military leaders of the U.S., were obliged to do their business. These were men in their fifties and sixties, weary after years of perpetual crisis such as world war imposes, bombarded daily with huge dilemmas. Europe was in ruins and chaos, the Western Allies striving to contend with Stalin’s ruthlessness and greed, Britain’s bankruptcy, the starvation of millions. . . . The U.S. found itself obliged to arbitrate upon the future of half the world, while being implored to save as much as possible of the other half from the Soviets, even as war with Japan continued and mankind recoiled in horror from newsreel films of Hitler’s death camps. . . . The bomb was only the foremost of many huge issues with which these mortal men, movingly conscious of their own limitations, strove to grapple. In the course of directing a struggle for national survival, all had been obliged to make decisions which had cost lives, millions of lives, of both Allied servicemen and enemy soldiers and civilians. Most would have said wryly that this is what they were paid for. The direction of war is never a task for the squeamish.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

The motivatorThe motivator

“On 24 April [1945] Truman received from [Secretary of War] Stimson a letter requesting a meeting to discuss ‘a highly secret matter.’ . . . The Manhattan Project represented the most stupendous scientific effort in history. In three years, at a cost of $2 billion [$26-and-a-third billion in 2015 dollars], the U.S.—with some perfunctorily acknowledged British aid—had advanced close to fulfilling a programme which much of the scientific world had thought unattainable, certainly within a time frame relative to this conflict. . . . Technological determinism is an outstanding feature of great wars. At a moment when armadas of Allied bombers had been destroying the cities of Germany and Japan for three years, killing civilians in hundreds of thousands, the notion of withholding a vastly more impressive means of fulfilling the same purpose scarcely occurred to those directing the Allied war effort. . . . As long as Hitler survived, the Manhattan team had striven unstintingly to build a bomb, haunted by fear that the Nazis might get there first.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Divorced from reality, married to perditionDivorced from reality, married to perdition

“From the winter of 1944 onwards, a significant party in Tokyo was seeking a route by which to end the war, and to overcome the army’s resolve to fight to the last. Even the most dovish, however, wanted terms that were not remotely negotiable, including the preservation of Japanese hegemony in Korea and Manchuria, freedom from Allied military occupation, and the right for Japan to conduct any war crimes trials of its citizens. . . . The ‘peace party’ thought and spoke as if Japan could expect to be treated as an honourable member of the international community. There was no acknowledgement of the fact that, in Western eyes, the behaviour of the Japanese since Pearl Harbor, indeed since 1931, had placed their nation beyond the pale. Japan’s leaders wasted months asserting diplomatic positions founded upon the demands of their own self-esteem, together with supposed political justice. In reality, their only chance of modified terms derived from Allied fears that a host of men would have to die if an invasion of the homeland proved necessary. As blockade and bombardment, together with the prospects of atomic bombs and Russian entry into the Pacific theatre, progressively diminished the perceived American need to risk invasion, Japan held no cards at all.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Once was enoughOnce was enough

“Some historians, armed with knowledge of subsequent events, argue that the capture of Okinawa was unnecessary. It did not bring Japan’s surrender a day closer. Yet to those directing the operation at the time, it was perceived as an indispensable preliminary to invasion of the Japanese home islands. [The Battle of] Okinawa exercised an important influence on the development of events thereafter, through its impact upon the civilian, military and naval leadership of the United States. To capture an outpost, American forces had been obliged to fight the most bitter campaign of the Pacific war. The prospect of invading Kyushu and Honshu in the face of Japanese forces many times greater than those on Okinawa, and presumably imbued with the same fighting spirit, filled those responsible with dismay. . . . [A]ny alternative which averted such necessity would be deemed welcome.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Cool Hand Luke draws the aceCool Hand Luke draws the ace

“At 1005 on 11 May [1945], the first of two Zeroes plowed into the flight deck of [Admiral Marc] Mitscher’s flagship, Bunker Hill, starting devastating fires which raged through the ship. . . . In a succession of skillful manoeuvres, Captain George Seitz saved Bunker Hill from absolute destruction by swinging her broadside to the wind, to prevent smoke and flame from engulfing the hull. . . .  In engine and boiler rooms, miraculously undamaged, crews laboured to maintain power in temperatures of 130 degrees. The Bunker Hill attacks cost 396 men killed and 264 injured. One of them might have been the post-war movie star Paul Newman. He was ordered to the ship as radioman/gunner in an Avenger with a draft of replacements shortly before the attack, but by a fluke of war was held back because his pilot had an ear infection. The rest of his detail died.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

You don’t miss what you never hadYou don’t miss what you never had

“What enabled some men to survive the unspeakable experiences of captivity, while others perished? [Captain] Mel Rosen attributed 5 percent to self-discipline, 5 percent to optimism—‘If you didn’t think you were going to make it, you didn’t’—and 90 percent to ‘pure luck.’ Milton Young, a carpenter’s son from Rhode Island who spent an orphan childhood working on a chicken farm, believed that an uncommonly harsh upbringing helped him to survive Japanese captivity. He was even grateful not to have a home to think about: ‘I didn’t have much of a family, and that helped.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Not all badNot all bad

“An enormous amount has been written about Japanese cruelty to prisoners. It should be noticed, nonetheless, that conditions varied widely in different camps. For instance, 2,000 British POWs in Saigon lived not intolerably until late 1944, sometimes even able to slip under the wire to visit local shops and brothels. It seems important also to record instances in which POWs were shown kindness, even granted means to survive through Japanese compassion. A British bugler, Corporal Leader, found himself in a Singapore hospital in 1942. Back home in Norfolk he had been a Salvation Army bandsman. Now, he was amazed to be visited by a Japanese who announced that he too had been a ‘Sally Army’ member in Tokyo. He wanted to help the sick Briton. The Japanese contacted a local Malay Salvationist, who sent Leader letters, eggs, and biscuits.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Very dry martinis, with a twistVery dry martinis, with a twist

“Western civilians who fell into the hands of the Japanese in China, the Philippines and South-East Asia were technically interned rather than imprisoned, often crowded into clusters of former colonial homes. In a few places, notably Shanghai, such communities came through the war worn, strained and wretched, yet almost all alive. In Shanghai’s Chapei camp, the Japanese left families intact. Inmates complained of confinement and lack of privacy, but none starved. It was noted ruefully that deprivation of alcohol improved the fitness of some adults.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

So that was ChristmasSo that was Christmas

“American prisoners in the Philippines suffered grievously from the fact that, after enduring the siege of Bataan, most were half-starved when they entered captivity. ‘The ones who wouldn’t eat died pretty early on,’ said Paul Reuter of the USAAF, a twenty-four-year-old miner’s son from Shamokin, Pennsylvania. ‘I buried people who looked much better than me. They just crawled under a building. I never did have any thoughts of not living. We were a bunch who’d been through the Depression. I never turned down anything that was edible—and I guess I just had the right genes.’ In Reuter’s camp, ‘anything that was edible’ meant whale blubber or soya meal, occasionally dried fish, ‘which we ate bones and all.’ Australian Snow Peat saw a maggot an inch long, and said, “Meat, you beauty!’ ‘One bloke sitting alongside me said, “Jeez, I can’t eat that.” I said, “Well, tip her in here, mate, it’s going to be my meal ticket home. You’ve got to eat it, you’ve got to give it a go. Think they’re currants in the Christmas pudding. Think they’re anything.” ‘ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

The fall of the WestThe fall of the West

“It is hard to overstate the trauma suffered by more than 100,000 American, British, Australian and Indian servicemen taken prisoner during the early Allied defeats. They had been conditioned by their culture to suppose that surrender was a misfortune which might befall any fighting man, especially those as poorly led as had been the Allies in the early Far Eastern campaigns, and as lamentably supported by their home governments. As crowds of disarmed personnel milled around awaiting their fate in Manila or Singapore, Hong Kong or Rangoon, they contemplated a life behind barbed wire with dismay, but without the terror which their real prospects merited. ‘In the beginning,’ said Doug Idlett, a twenty-two-year-old USAAF enlisted man from Oklahoma captured in the Philippines, ‘we thought: “A couple of months and our army will be back.” ’ In the weeks which followed, however, as their rations shrank, medicines vanished, and Japanese policy was revealed, they learned differently. Officers and men alike, dispatched to labour in sweating jungles, torrid plains or mines and quarries, grew to understand that, in the eyes of their captors, they had become slaves.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Fates worse than deathFates worse than death

“When the war ended, it became possible to compare the fates of Allied servicemen under the Nazis and the Japanese. Just 4 percent of British and American POWs had died in German hands. Yet 27 percent—35,756 out of 132,134—of Western Allied prisoners lost their lives in Japanese captivity. The Chinese suffered in similar measure. Of 41,682 sent to become slave labourers in Japan, 2,872 died in China, 600 in ships or on passage, 200 on the land journey, and 6,872 in their Japanese workplaces. These figures discount a host of captives who did not survive in Japanese hands on the battlefield, or after being shot down, or long enough to become statistics. Of 130,000 Europeans interned in the Dutch East Indies, almost all civilians, 30,000 died, including 4,500 women and 2,300 children. Of 300,000 Javanese, Tamils, Burmans and Chinese sent to work on the Burma-Siam railway, 60,000 perished, likewise a quarter of the 60,000 Western Allied prisoners. There seemed no limit to Japanese inhumanity. When a cholera epidemic struck Tamil railway workers in Nieke in June 1943, a barracks containing 250 infected men, women, and children was simply torched. One of the Japanese who did the burning wrote later of their victims: ‘I dared not look into their eyes. I only heard some whispering “Tolong, tolong”—“Help, help.” It was the most pitiful sight. God forgive me.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Slaughter in contextSlaughter in context

“The U.S. in 1945 was a prisoner of great industrial decisions taken years earlier, in quite different strategic circumstances. In 1942, the commitment to build the B-29 long-range bomber was entirely rational. The programme reached technological maturity and large-scale production too late to make a decisive impact on the war. Yet it was asking far too much of the U.S., never mind of its senior airmen, to forgo the use of these aircraft, at a time when the enemy was still resisting fiercely, and killing many Americans. In the circumstances then prevailing—an essential caveat for any historian to emphasize—the B-29s were bound to be employed.” – Max Hastings, Retribution (emphasis in original)


“The 9 March 1945 American bomber attack on Tokyo killed around 100,000 people, and rendered a million homeless. Over 10,000 acres of buildings were destroyed—16 square miles, a quarter of the city. A hundred of the capital’s 287 fire stations and a similar number of its 250 medical facilities were wiped out. Over the weeks that followed, the XXth Bomber Command launched a succession of further raids, designed to achieve the same result elsewhere. On 11 March, B-29s went to Nagoya, Japan’s third-largest city. Here, damage was much reduced by lack of a wind such as fanned the fires of Tokyo. Only two square miles of the city burned. On the thirteenth, Osaka was much more successfully attacked. Three thousand died, eight square miles of buildings were destroyed, half a million people were made homeless, for the loss of two American aircraft and thirteen damaged. On 16 March it was the turn of Kobe, population one million. Three square miles were destroyed, 8,000 people killed, 650,000 made homeless. Three bombers were lost and eleven damaged, all as a result of operational problems rather than enemy action. After five such missions in a fortnight, a temporary halt to ‘burn jobs’ became necessary. Air and ground crews were exhausted, supplies of incendiaries were running low. . . . In just five operations they had inflicted upon Japan eight times the damage done to San Francisco by the great 1906 earthquake. The enemy’s cities had suffered in a few short days a scale of destruction which it had taken years to achieve in Germany, because Japan’s buildings burned so much more readily.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

The end was never in doubtThe end was never in doubt

“Popular perceptions of the Second World War identify the August 1945 atomic bomb attacks on Japan as a unique horror. Yet the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can only properly be understood against the background of the air campaign which preceded the nuclear explosions, killing substantially larger numbers of people before the grotesque nicknames of ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ imposed themselves upon the consciousness of the world. In the early years of the Pacific war, save for the single dramatic gesture of the April 1942 Doolittle raid, launched from aircraft carriers, Japan was not bombed because it could not be reached. . . . In the last phase of World War II, impatience overtook the Allies at every level. From presidents and prime ministers to soldiers in foxholes, there was a desire to ‘get this business over with.’ The outcome was not in doubt. The Axis retained no possibility of averting defeat. It therefore seemed all the more irksome that men were obliged to continue to die because the enemy declined to recognise the logic of his hopeless predicament. Any means of hastening the end seemed acceptable. . . . The Japanese people found themselves at last within range of American bombers at a time when Allied moral sensibility was numbed by kamikaze attacks, revelations of savagery towards POWs and subject peoples, together with general war weariness. . . . It had always been a matter of course that the enemy nation which wrought the attack on Pearl Harbor should be bombed. Only the means were in question.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Silent serviceSilent service

“By early 1945, Japan’s ability to provide raw materials for its industries, and even to feed itself, was fatally crippled. The nation could import by sea no more than a fraction of its requirements. An invisible ring of steel extended around the waters of the home islands, created by the submarines of the U.S. Navy. . . . Every nation’s soldiers instinctively believe that wars are won by engaging the armies of the enemy and seizing terrain. Yet the most critical single contribution to the American defeat of Japan was made far out of sight of any general, or indeed admiral. The Japanese empire was uniquely vulnerable to blockade. Its economy was dependent upon fuel and raw materials shipped from China, Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies. Yet, unlike the British, who faced a similar threat to their Atlantic lifeline, the Japanese failed to equip themselves with a credible anti-submarine force to defend their commerce. Here was one of the major causes of Japan’s downfall. . . . No other combatant force as small as the U.S. Navy’s submarine flotillas and their 16,000 men achieved a comparable impact upon the war anywhere in the world.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

What’s in a nameWhat’s in a name

“Place-names which pass into history often identify locations so unrewarding that only war could have rendered them memorable: Dunkirk and Alamein, Corregidor and Imphal, Anzio and Bastogne. Yet even in such company, Iwo Jima was striking in its wretchedness. The tiny island lay 3,000 miles west of Pearl Harbor and less than seven hundred south of Japan. It was five miles long, two and a half wide. Dominated at the southern tip by the extinct volcano of Mount Suribachi, five hundred feet high, in the north it rose to a plateau, thick with jungle growth. Iwo had been claimed by Japan in 1861, and desultorily employed for growing sugarcane. A Japanese garrison officer described it sourly as ‘a waterless island of sulphur springs, where neither swallows nor sparrows flew.’ The perceived importance of this pimple derived, as usual, from airfields.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

For the suppression of evilFor the suppression of evil

“In considering the later U.S. firebombing of Japan and decision to bomb Hiroshima, it is useful to recall that by the spring of 1945 the American nation knew what the Japanese had done in Manila. The killing of innocents clearly represented not the chance of war, nor unauthorised actions by wanton enemy soldiers, but an ethic of massacre at one with events in Nanjing in 1937, and with similar deeds across Asia. In the face of evidence from so many different times, places, units and circumstances, it becomes impossible for Japan’s leaders credibly to deny systematic inhumanity as gross as that of the Nazis.” – Max Hastings, Retribution


“A pregnant woman, Carmen Guerrero, walked into the American lines, clutching a child in her arms. She had seen her husband tortured before her eyes, then removed to be shot. She neither eaten nor slept for a week. She wrote later, ‘I had seen the head of an aunt who had taught me to read and write roll under the kitchen stove, the face of a friend who had been crawling next to me on the pavement as we tried to reach shelter under the Ermita Church obliterated by a bullet, a legless cousin dragging himself out of a shallow trench in the churchyard and a young mother carrying a baby plucking at my father’s sleeve—“Doctor, can you help me? I think I’m wounded”—and the shreds of her ribs and her lungs could be seen as she turned around.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

The things they didThe things they did

“Some civilians found themselves herded out of their homes by Japanese who asserted that shellfire made them unsafe. They were taken to an assembly area on Plaza Ferguson, where there were soon 2,000 under guard. Young girls were then separated and removed first to the Coffee Pot Café, then to the Bay View Hotel, where brothels were established. The Japanese sought to give their men who were soon to die a final exalting sexual experience. One twenty-four-year-old named Esther Garcia later gave evidence about the experiences of her fifteen- and fourteen-year-old sisters, Priscilla and Evangeline. ‘They grabbed my two sisters. They were in back of me. And we didn’t know what they were going to do. So my two sisters started fighting them, but they couldn’t do anything. So they grabbed my sisters by the arm and took them out of the room. And we waited and waited and waited and finally my younger sister came back and she was crying. And I asked her, “Where is Pris? Where is Pris?” And she said, “Oh! They are doing things to her, Esther!” So everybody in the room knew what was going to happen to us. When Priscilla came back, she said, “Esther, they did something to me. I want to die. I want to die.” ’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

This happenedThis happened

“The most repellant aspect of the Japanese defence of Manila was their systematic slaughter of the city’s civilians. The Japanese justified this policy by asserting that everyone found in the battle area was a guerrilla. Over a hundred men, women and children were herded into Paco Lumber Yard along Moriones and Juan Luna Avenue, where they were bound, bayoneted and shot. Some bodies were burned, others left rotting in the sun. Japanese squads burst into buildings packed with refugees, shooting and stabbing. There were massacres in schools, hospitals and convents.” – Max Hastings, “Retribution”

Not something that has changed muchNot something that has changed much

“At the November 1943 Cairo Conference, President Roosevelt insisted upon anointing China as one of the four great Allied powers, assisted by Stalin’s acquiescence and in the face of Churchill’s contempt. Yet Roosevelt’s crusade to make China a modern power languished in the face of poverty, corruption, cruelty, incompetence, ignorance on a scale beyond even U.S. might and wealth to remedy. It was characteristic of the cultural contempt which China harboured towards other societies that even in the darkest days of the Japanese war, almost all Chinese retained a profound disdain for the Americans and British.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

As per the usualAs per the usual

“After Pearl Harbor, Chiang [Kai-Shek]’s armies began to receive massive American support in kind and in cash, much of which the generalissimo and his supporters pocketed. Since there was no overland link between British-ruled India and Chiang’s territories between 1942 and early 1945, all supplies had to be flown five hundred miles ‘over the Hump’ of 15,000-foot mountains to Kunming, the nearest accessible landing ground in China, at staggering cost in fuel, planes, and American pilots’ lives. In December 1942, the Hump air shuttle shifted a mere thousand tons a month. By July 1944 it was carrying 18,975 tons. This was an extraordinary logistical achievement, but remained a negligible contribution to the Chinese war effort; especially so as most of these supplies were stolen and sold long before they reached Chiang’s soldiers. Much of the matériel which remained was absorbed by the needs of the U.S. air forces in China. It was simply not feasible to airlift arms and ammunition on the scale needed to equip a Chinese army. From beginning to end, Chiang’s formations lacked indispensable heavy weapons to match those of the Japanese. For all the strivings of American generals, diplomats and military advisers, most of the fourteen million men drafted into the Nationalist army between 1937 and 1945 served as hapless victims rather than as effective combatants. Xu Yongqiang, in 1944 an interpreter with the Nationalists, watched new intakes of men herded in from the provinces: ‘Most recruits came simply as prisoners, roped together at bayonet point. They had so little training that it was easy to see why they were no match for the Japanese, who for years had been schooled to kill. It was inhuman! Inhuman! There were no such things as civil rights in China. For eight years, it was the peasants who had to fight the Japanese, both for the Communists and the Kuomintang. The middle class stayed at home and made money. The big families did nothing at all.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Time of the nadirTime of the nadir

“The [Japanese] occupation of Manchuria and eastern China was mercilessly conducted. Unit 731, the biological warfare cell based near Harbin, was its most extreme manifestation. Beyond hundreds of Chinese prisoners subjected to experiments which invariably resulted in their deaths, often by vivisection, the unit sought to spread typhus, anthrax and other plagues indiscriminately among the Chinese population, sometimes by air-dropping of germ cultures. Post-war Japanese claims that reports of atrocities were exaggerated, and that soldiers’ misdeeds were unauthorized, are set at naught by the very existence of Unit 731. Its activities matched the horrors of some Nazi concentration camps. The surgical evisceration of hundreds of living and unanaesthetised Chinese, under the official auspices of the Japanese army, represented the nadir of its wartime conduct.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

A fruitful victimA fruitful victim

“Historians of Asia assert that the Second World War properly began in China, rather than Poland. In 1931 Japan almost bloodlessly seized Manchuria—the north-eastern Chinese provinces, an area twice the size of Britain, with a population of thirty-five million people, hitherto ruled by an old warlord in uneasy cohabitation with a Japanese garrison—to secure its coal, raw materials, industries and strategic rail links. The Nationalist government based in Nanjing was too weak to offer resistance. The following year, Tokyo announced Manchuria’s transformation into the puppet state of Manchukuo, nominally ruled by the Manchu emperor Pu Yi, in practice by a Japanese-controlled prime minister, and garrisoned by Japan’s so-called Guandong Army. The Japanese perceived themselves as merely continuing a tradition established over centuries by Western powers in Asia—that of exploiting superior might to extend their home industrial and trading bases.” – Max Hastings, Retribution


“China’s wartime sufferings, which remain unknown to most Westerners, were second in scale only to those of the Soviet Union. It is uncertain how many Chinese died in the years of conflict with Japan. Traditionally, a figure of fifteen million has been accepted, one-third of these being soldiers. Modern Chinese historians variously assert twenty-five, even fifty million. Ninety-five million people became homeless refugees. Such estimates are neither provable nor disprovable. Rather than being founded upon convincing statistical analysis, they reflect the intensity of Chinese emotions about what the Japanese did to their country. What is indisputable is that a host of people perished. Survivors suffered horrors almost beyond our imaginings. Massacre, destruction, rape and starvation were the common diet of the Chinese people through each year of Japan’s violent engagement in their country.” – Max Hastings, Retribution