Four years before Pearl Harbor, no less. I’d never heard of this before, but NPR has a story about Japanese warplanes attacking the USS Panay, a ship sent to rescue Americans from the Battle (aka Rape) of Nanking, on December 12, 1937.
The US was neutral and its military presence in China was solely to protect corporate interests, specifically Standard Oil tankers. Why the attack, then?
Spark says the chaos in Nanking created an opportunity for renegade factions within the Japanese army who wanted the United States and China to “get into an active conflict so that the Japanese could once and for all drive the United States out of China.”
Didn’t work that time — the attack was a PR disaster and the Japanese government had to apologize profusely — but those same factions got their way again four years later.
Lucky for us, there was a newreelist on board. Here’s a taste of the Uncensored!!! and Unedited!!! footage complete with awesome old timey newsreel announcer voiceover:
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To watch the full documentary on the fighting in Nanking and the rescue, click here.