World War II is the worst conflict the earth has ever seen. It is estimated that well over 50 million people died during the war. This number will vary from source to source and the total number of casualties may never be known. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, triggered a world conflagration unlike anything mankind had ever seen. The Japanese army in seeking to establish and empire of its own, invaded mainland China, waging a path of destruction and terror with the intention on obliterating several Chinese cities from existence. Shanghai was reduced to rubble and Nanking nearly completely destroyed. In total, nearly 20 million Chinese perished during the war and the actions of the Japanese government became the source of tension between the two nations which continues to this day. The intervention by the United States in the conflict and defeat of Japan allowed the people of China to breathe a sigh of relief. The actions of the Japanese Army were horrific and unspeakable but characteristic of the known and unknown number of atrocities committed during the second World War.
Minnie Vautrin (1886-1941) was a missionary who worked in Nanking and is best remembered for her efforts to save the young women under her care at the Gingling College as the Japanese military launched its invasion of Nanking. K.A. Kent presents Minnie’s story in this engaging yet tragic tale. Her tireless efforts to save the lives of as many girls and women as she could would make her one of the greatest unsung heroines of the 20th century. After serving 28 years as a missionary, she made her return home to the United States in 1940. Sadly she would take her own life in 1941. Thousands of young women were assaulted physically and sexually, tortured and murdered in what became known as the Nanking massacre. The story has been told in books and even films and in each case, the chilling reality of what transpired hits strikes the reader and viewer to the core. The barbarity exhibited by the Japanese military helped condemn Japan in the eyes of the world. Today, Japan has acknowledged the actions of its army during the war but has stopped short of offering a detailed and full apology. Only time will tell if Japan and China will fully heal from a dark time in world history.
I forewarn the reader that this book is a tough read at times and I found myself stepping back from the book. Kent has told the story in a semi-fictional matter. Vautrin is in the book but the names of others have been changed and composite characters instituted in their place. Nonetheless, the story is accurate as regards to what did happen and how it happened. For those who are unable to read stories of sexual assault or have been victims of sexual assault, this book may not be for you. For war enthusiast that seek to learn as much about World War II as possible, this book is a good addition to the library. But it is ugly at times and the truth does hurt but it is also necessary to understand the savagery that composed the world’s deadliest war.