How Many Killed in the Nanjing Massacre

About Smythe's Statistics

[NOTE: The followings are Itaru Okamoto's letter sent to all Nanjing Massacre websites and Chinese newsgroups, and its discussions.]

From: "itaruo"
Subject: Scientific research on the "Nanjing Incident"
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 23:21:59 -0500

Dear Site Maintainers

I am a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at The Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the Johns Hopkins University. Besides my dissertation topic, I am interested in Japan's activities in Asia in the first half of 20th Century. As you can guess from my name, I am a Japanese national.

Everyone who wants to know the reality of Nanjing incident may be surprised that how few well-grounded evidences we have: Witnesses' evidences contradict each other; news media didn't document the "atrocity" even though dozens of western journalists lived in Nanjing at the very moment of the "massacre"; and, there is a reasonable doubt on the accuracy of burial record.

As far as I know, the most reliable statistical research on the "Nanjing incident" was done by Dr. L. S. C. Smythe, an expert on the study of war damage. From March 9, 1938 to June 15, 1938, he made a sampling research on one in fifty households in and around the city of Nanjing with a help of many Chinese students. His study result was:

Chinese civilians died at battle: 850 ...(1)

killed by Japanese Army: 2,400 ...(2)
wounded by Japanese Army: 3,400 ...(3)
kidnapped by Japanese Army: 4,200 ...(4)

According to Dr. Smythe, most kidnapped Chinese civilians (The category 4 above) were killed by Japanese.

Even if every kidnapped Chinese were killed and every wounded people died from the wounds, the death toll is 10,850. If you have the slightest knowledge on statistics and sampling research, you must admit that the figure in Dr. Smythe's research (10,850) and Chinese "official" figure of death (345,000) are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!! If you still insist that the "real" figure was 345 thousand, you have to explain how and why the Smythe research was wrong.

Of course, killing ten thousand (mostly) innocent Chinese civilians is unacceptable in today's standard. Nevertheless, if we consider the chaotic situation of Nanjing then and the Japanese Army's fear of Chinese guerrilla warfare, it is quite difficult to assume that Japanese killed every of those ten thousand Chinese civilians simply from a sadistic pleasure.

Therefore, my conclusion is that what is written in your site is totally inconsistent with the scientific mind and normal human reasoning.

I hope you get out of the illusion and face the reality.

Best regards.

Itaru Okamoto Washington, DC

Itaru Okamoto also sent the same message to China News Digest. Here are three replies appeared in China News Digest Europe/Pacific Regional News (CND-EP, No. EP99-003, Fri, 5 Feb 1999 14:14:11 +1030) .

(1) "Several flaws in his logic are immediately apparent"
(2) "Many key issues are not addressed or in doubt [in Dr. Smythe's research]"
(3) "It is not surprising to me to hear such comments from a Japanese"

Several flaws in his logic are immediately apparent

From: Number Six
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 06:18:44 -0700

In his letter (CND-EP, February 1, 1999,, Mr. Itaru Okamoto misses the obvious when it comes to statistics. He would do better to read Iris Chang's book on the subject and learn to keep in mind all the assumptions made whenever extending a sample's results to a population.

Several flaws in his logic are immediately apparent.

One, that he does not address the surrendered Chinese soldiers that I recall were included in the larger figure but not in the smaller number. In doing so Itaru seems to imply that it is appropriate to murder unarmed troops who are not of any military threat at all. I doubt Itaru really feels this way.

Two, while it is understandable that Dr. Smythe would do such a sampling in those chaotic circumstances in the manner he did, it is assumed by that sample that the civilian households he drew the sample from excluded any households that were no longer in Nanjing because either A) they left the area or B) there were no family members living after the massacre. So the good doctor sampled amongest the living and remaining, not the dead and fled!

I believe Dewey won the Presidency in this same manner over Truman. (Which he did not, but the polls before the election said so because the telephone polling sample was biased towards Republicans who were more likely to have telephones than Democrats in 1948. There is a famous photo of a grinning Harry Truman holding up the front page of a newspaper with a headline that reads "Dewey Wins!")

Thirdly, it is NOT mutually exclusive to have two different casualty "estimates". And there are more total death estimates than the two total death estimates Itaru mentions. Different samples have different assumptions, and war is not a clean, neat laboratory process for a social scientist to work in. To assume that there is only one correct number is to assume that the social sciences are exact sciences. It is not, as human interaction is very messy by nature.

-Al Arizona

Many key issues are not addressed or in doubt [in Dr. Smythe's research]

From: "Yong Yu"
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 11:34:07 PST

Dear Sir,

I read your letter (Itaru Okamoto's letter on CND-EP, February 1, 1999, -Ed.) to CND with interest. Here are some point I want to make.

First of all, a scientific research does not necessarily produce results reflecting the truth, when the research is not conducted properly with all factors in consideration. I am not saying that the research by Dr. blabla is wrong, but many key issues are not addressed or in doubt. These points are listed below.

A. a sample through household doesn't take account those households with all of the members killed
B. the change of number of households is not metioned.

I am sure that more statistics about the population change is existing in the history achive, both in China and in Japan. Your assumption is solely based on the result of Dr. blabla and a number from the Chinese govenment, which is not adequate. That is why the opinion of the general public and individuals are easily misled and manipulated by propagenda and so-called "scientific research" result from limited information resource...

Best regards and happy research!

Yong Yu

It is not surprising to me to hear such comments from a Japanese

From: jun luo
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 09:04:46 -0800 (PST)

(Regarding Itaru Okamoto's letter on CND-EP, February 1, 1999, -Ed.)

Just like what your government has been doing for over 60 years, you are trying to mislead people about what TRUELY happened. It is not surprising to me to hear such comments from a Japanese. I have a collegue who just came from Japan and he didn't even know that Japan bombed Pearl Harbour earlier than the U.S bombed your islands. Well I can't blame you if your texbook didn't teach you this. What surprises me is your gut to post such comments.

I lived in Nanjing for 9 years and in that city, people don't need statistics to be convinced. It is the memory passed down from our grandparents. It is recorded in numerous forms. I am not arguing with you the true figure. And if I were in your position, I would not be arguing that we killed less than you thought. Nobody will be able to check that out in a SCIENTIFIC way.

Remember in 1938, Nanjing was still occupied by Japanese. People got killed trying to keep the documents and photographs. Whoever was conducting such kind of RESEARCH would not be able to carry that out in a so called scientific way. Also please keep in mind that at that time, Chinese people were highly migratory, mainly to escape war. Nobody would trust that stupid research done by Dr. XX, who was probably employed by Japanese.

You have your right to cast your doubt. But I doubt you really have the interest to explore this matter unbiasedly. I personally recommend you pay a visit to the city of Nanjing, and stop posting this kind of message to stir up any more hatred. We didn't ask for war compensation while we could, why would we make up numbers of our civilians being killed.

We need to move on, but history is history. We keep record of something we are not proud of. And we covered that in our textbooks.

Jun Luo

From the Hall Maintainer

As pointed out by previous responses, Dr Symthe's statistics is based on limited sampling and the figure is not final. The figure does not include POWs and refugees pouring into Nanjing. We don't think Dr Symthe dared to claim his estimated figure is THE accurate figure. To claim it is "scientific" is to mislead readers and distort the facts--but mind you, it is already over ten thousand. Here we just want to add two more points.

(1) Itaru Okamoto repeats a laughable excuse of the Massacre common among the Japanese when they are confronted with the issue: the Japanese Imperial Army was afraid of Chinese guerrilla warfare. However, all records show that the most massive killings were POWs and unarmed civilians tied up in groups. Afraid? Afraid of what?

(2) Itaru Okamoto tries to deny the Massacre is "sadist" but we cannot think of a better word. We don't want to repeat all those brutal incidents to satisfy the "sadist" desire of some Japanese again. In this update, we have add a few photos to demonstrate our point.

When you cannot face the reality, you have to create an illusion. But please, give us a better one next time.

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