JAPAN LAYS GAINS TO MASSING OF FOE
Welcomes Further Chance at Nanking to Wipe Out the Nation's Armies
HUGE AREA IS LAID WASTE
Foreign Military Officers Are Amazed by Chinese Destruction in Their Retreat
By HALLETT ABEND
Special Cable to The New York Times.
SHANGHAI, Thursday, Dec. 9. - Now that the Japanese campaign against Nanking is nearly completed, certain matters hitherto termed military secrets may be revealed.
Long ago, members of the staff of General Iwane Matsui, the Japanese commander here, told the writer they were delighted because the Chinese kept pouring divisions into the Shanghai area. When the total reached forty divisions, or about 400,000 men, the Japanese were jubilant. When the total reached nearly eighty divisions, with more troops still coming downriver, the Japanese were almost incredulous at their good luck or the ineptitude of their enemy.
"It seems almost unbelievable that the Chinese high command or their German advisers have not realized our whole desire has been to get the Chinese armies into one mass so we could destroy them," a member of General Matsui's staff told the writer many weeks ago.
Massed Forces Bombed
"At the beginning of hostilities China had nearly 2,000,000 armed men, widely scattered. Instead of scattering these forces in hilly, mountainous terrain, where it would be extremely difficult to employ our superior mechanical equipment, China has thrown huge, massed forces against us in the vicinity of Shanghai.
"Actually they have been sometimes too numerous for proper military use, affording magnificent targets for our shells and bombs. If some secret Chinese faction planned upon giving us an opportunity for wholesale destruction of China's immense armies things could not have been managed more to our satisfaction.
"History will record this campaign around Shanghai, as far as China is concerned, as one of the most foolhardy, wasteful campaigns on record. Certainly this must have been done in utter defiance of the plans of China's able German military advisers."
The Japanese officer paused reflectively and then continued:
"Of course, China's gesture around Shanghai served the purpose of getting this war on the front pages of the world's newspapers. Possibly China believed that by forcing the fighting around the foreign-controlled areas she would succeed in bringing the United States, Great Britain or some other power into the hostilities on her side. If this was true it was a woeful miscalculation."
Best Troops Threatened Others
What happened, according to the Japanese version, was that China used Chiang Kai-shek's well-disciplined Central Government divisions largely in the role of supervisory divisions behind the front lines with orders to shoot units that showed signs of wavering. Division after division of poorly equiped, poorly disciplined provincial forces were poured into the front lines and destroyed by Japanese aerial bombings and artillery fire.
Meanwhile the Japanese Army was being derided abroad because it was unable to break the Chinese defenses and unable to make progress in the difficult Shanghai terrain, but when the Japanese bombed the supervisory divisions the Chinese retreat soon followed.
The Japanese high command professes to be pleased because nearly 300,000 men are making a stand in the Nanking-Wuhu area for a brave "fight to the last man" because the invaders will have a further chance to carry out their aim to destroy China's vast armies.
Foreign military observers remaining in Nanking are amazed by the extent of the Chinese destruction of everything within the zones they still control. Most of this destruction is said to be purposeless, serving no military use for the advantage of the Japanese except to force the invaders to use tents instead of billeting in buildings. The Taiping rebellion about the time of the Civil War in the United States involved a far greater area but though the destruction wrought then has become proverbial with the Chinese it was not nearly as thorough as what has been going on since the retreat from Shanghai, according to foreign military men.
"Not since the armies of Genghis Khan turned the sites of once-populous cities of China into grazing lands has there been any such systematic destruction as that going on in the lower Yangtze area at the hands of the Chinese themselves," a neutral military observer told the writer.
"Japanese aerial bombings and artillery fire have been destructive in comparatively narrow ranges, mostly military objectives, but all such damages combined will not equal one-tenth the destruction achieved by the Chinese armies. From the way the Chinese are behaving you would think they did not expect to recover any semblance of control in this part of China in the next century. You would think they were laying waste land belonging to some bitter foe.
Vast Wealth Destroyed
"It is incredible that they are adopting this 'scorched earth' policy against forces which must certainly be only temporary invaders and are not going to attempt to colonize Chinese soil. What is being destroyed represents the savings of thrifty generations of hard-working Chinese.
"Those who advocate the policy of frenzied destruction of towns, cities and countryside do not pause to think that they are utterly wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of accumulated wealth and that this property, if not destroyed, could have been taxed by the Chinese Government at no distant future, thereby helping the nation to refinance its rehabilitation. This rich area, which had been one of the most thickly populated in the world, will need vast sums to rebuild what is vanishing in flames."
The only acceptable explanation seems to involve the ancient Oriental idea of "saving face," the Chinese believing they enhance their prestige if their retreat leaves only a barren wilderness of smoking ruins for the invaders to occupy. This policy ignores the welfare of millions of Chinese who have fled from this fighting zone.
How the millions of refugees are to be fed and housed through the Winter is a serious problem because their own government cannot do anything for their relief.
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