Saturday, December 07, 2013

Five Infamous Days of WWII Worse Than Pearl Harbor

World War II was chock-a-block full of atrocities. Many of them, frankly, nastier than the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

December 13, 1937 - Rape of Nanking
Technically, it took six long weeks for the Japanese to exhaust their orgy of violence but the rape began on December 13, the day the Chinese capital city of Nanking fell to the Imperial Army. What followed was a massacre unparalleled in modern history. For the Japanese it was a grand old time. Army officers competed against each other to see who could kill the most Chinese first. Thousands of women were gang-raped to death. All totaled, over 300,000 Chinese were brutally murdered during the first few weeks of the Japanese occupation of Nanking.

November 9, 1938 - Kristallnacht
The "Night of Broken Glass" was the the worst pogrom in Jewish history. It was not the first assault on Jews by Nazi thugs but it was the day the actual Holocaust began. On that night across the whole of Germany over 7500 Jewish business were destroyed and 200 synagogues attacked. Officially, 91 Jews were murdered but hundreds more Jewish deaths were officially labeled as suicides. Of course, Jews were blamed for the anti-Jewish riots. The Jewish community was fined one billion reichsmarks (about $5.5 billion current US) to compensate the Nazi for the expense of destroying their property. Over 30,000 Jews were arrested and shipped to concentration camps.

September 29, 1941 - Babi Yar
As the German blitzkrieg raced across the Ukraine in the fall of 1941 there was little to slow them down. One thing the Nazis always had time for was to stop and slaughter local residents. Babi Yar is a ravine near Kiev. The Jewish population of Kiev was brought to Babi Yar, herded into the ravine, and shot. All 33,000 of them. Similar massacres were performed throughout the Soviet Union. The victims were also Gypsies, communists, and Russian POWs.

February 13, 1945 - Dresden
By the last year of the war there wasn't much left of military value left to bomb. But military commanders had plenty of bombers and bombs and needed to do something with them. So it was that RAF commander "Bomber" Harris set his sights on Dresden. One of the most culturally significant cities in Europe with no military significance, Dresden had become a gathering place of refugees fleeing the advancing Russian army. Ostensibly attacking Dresden's communications infrastructure, the raid mostly avoided bridges and rail lines and instead targeted the civilian population of the city center with almost 8 million pounds of mostly incendiary explosives. The resulting firestorm burned for days and killed some 25,000 non-combatants and zero combatants.

August 9, 1945 - Nagasaki
I'm of the opinion that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was a necessary, if obscene, act of war that prevented the need for a ground invasion of the Japanese home islands and the millions of casualties that would have resulted. The second atomic bombing was unnecessary and gratuitous. The only reason we dropped it was because we had a second bomb. There was not enough time (just three days) for the Japanese high command to consider the consequences of this new, terrible weapon. The Japanese surrendered five days after Nagasaki.

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