Speech at the Hollywood Bowl
April 4, 1943 — Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles CA
All experiences, happy or tragic, leave their impress, and consciously or otherwise influence our subsequent thinking and attitude of mind.
As the seventh year of China’s resistance against Japanese aggression approaches, I shall sketch a few of the incidents most vividly incused on my mind, and, insofar as it is humanly possible, adopt a detached and objective view in examining the processes of mind which led me to certain convictions. For, from them, perhaps you may gain an insight into the lives and motives of a people who for many long years have endured the brutalities of being invaded. Time does not permit me to give you a balanced or comprehensive account of the war. I shall leave that task to the historians.
I hesitated to talk to you about war in China lest it should appear that my intent is to overemphasize the suffering of my people. On further thought I believe you would understand that the purpose animating me lies in essaying in my own mind, as well as in yours, to profit by the lessons which these years should teach us.
I shall not encumber you with the his tory of the perfidy of the Japanese. We can well find its counterpart and parallel in ths talks between the Kurusu mission and the State Department just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, for they have a flavor familiarly reminiscent of those in the days following the Lukouchiao incident when Japan feigned negotiations with the Chinese Government while massing her troops for total invasion.
At the beginning of war in 1937, my duties as Secretary-General of the Chinese Air Force kept me chiefly en gaged in air activities. We had just reorganized the air force and the total number of usable planes we had was pitifully and incredibly scanty — less than three hundred. Of these, some thing short of a hundred were fighters and bombers; the rest were machines in tended for advanced and primary training. The Japanese, on the other hand, had approximately five thousand fighting planes.
On the very first day of air combat our young cadets shot down fourteen enemy bombers. We ourselves on that day sustained no irreparable loss for, although our planes were riddled with bullet holes, they still could fly. For three consecutive days enemy planes at tacked the same objectives — the Hang- chow Aviation School — and each time our airmen, flying archaic Hawk n’s and a few Hawk m’s, matched and outfought the enemy, shooting down a considerable number.
The Japanese thus were completely be wildered and even went so far as to say that we had some secret beam which enabled our young pilots, many of whom were yet undergoing training, successfully to shoot down their bombers. At first we, too, could not believe that the reports were entirely accurate. The charred remains of the enemy planes, however, bore witness to the veracity of the reports.
As time passed, fewer and fewer com bat planes remained to us, for most of the planes, ordered before the war, were not due for many months. The lack of replacements for our lost planes was further accentuated by the paucity of spare parts, and nowhere on the horizon shone there a ray of hope to mollify and alleviate our dire difficulties. Prob lem after problem stalked in nightmare procession.
The Nanking airdrome did not have a runway sufficiently solid to allow the take-off of the heavy Martin bombers which eventually arrived and were then being assembled. A new runway had to be made. Where was the material to be found at such- short notice, especially with the Nation’s transportation geared to more pressing tasks? A solution evolved. I asked myself to what more appropriate use in such an emergency could the material on the excellent roads leading to Dr. Sun’s mausoleum be put than this? So we decided to tear up those roads and take that material for the runway. But hardly was the first problem solved before another inter linked difficulty confronted us. Where could we find the labor?
I thought of the thousands of refugees who were daily streaming into Nanking and undertook to appeal to them for help. Every able-bodied man responded. As the enemy planes bombed the city every day during daylight hours, the refugees worked by night — tens of thou sands of them by the dim light of kerosene lamps. Through concerted and unflagging toil the heavy runway was completed in record time, thanks to the energy, persistence and patriotism of the refugees who gave their time and labor without stint and without murmur; asking in return no remuneration, no manifest recognition of their service.
The need for planes became ever more pressing and the devastation and de struction wrought by the enemy over the whole countryside, made it imperative that we had to resort to measures which may seem ludicrous to you. Yet what else could we do? Every effort must be made, every means must be employed, to equal the high morale of the Army and the people.
The constant cry of the young cadets was to give them anything which could fly, and so we put bomb racks on the Hawk n’s and Ill’s which from that time on served both as bombers and -pursuits. We also equipped the primary training planes — the Fleets — with bomb racks. But, alas, the latter were found to be too fragile and too slow to be effective. To those lads, however, any machine which could go soaring into the sky meant snatching that much edge off the vast initial advantage held by the enemy.
We husbanded our small air force with the utmost care and each mission was carefully planned so that for the least expenditure could be achieved the greatest result. It was heartbreaking to send the boys up to defend our Capital from the skies or out on bombing missions, for the odds against them were so tremendous that each time many failed to come back. For many months I had worked with the boys and had learned to know them personally. They trusted me because they knew that what I had been telling them were my honest convictions: That we must fight for principles; that every man was to be judged on his own merits; that no favoritism was to be shown to anyone, but that ab solute impartiality in spirit and in treatment was to prevail throughout the whole air force.
Through my experience of that period I have come to be reaffirmed in the belief that any service can be built up when the directing policy is based on impartiality and fairness and when the ranks know that reward and punishment are meted out according to their just desserts.
Meanwhile the Japanese had concentrated their naval power at Woosung and under its protection landed ever-increasing numbers of troops in the eastern part of the International Settlement of Shanghai. Thus, whilst the enemy had the advantage of the International Settlement as their base for attack, our troops had the disadvantage of the International Settlement, for we were not allowed even to use it as a thoroughfare.
Our soldiers, with totally inadequate mechanized equipment and with absolutely no air protection, fought on the outskirts of Shanghai literally for every inch of land that the Japanese gained through the combined use of heavy artillery, naval guns, and incessant bombing. And the Japanese average gain was less than a mile a day.
On that front for three months our troops fought with the fury of the in spired, whilst the Japanese military moaned that China was not playing fair because her troops did not know when they were defeated. The spirit of our soldiers shone with steadfast splendor, and their selflessness instilled courage and determination in our sorely tried and harassed people. It was all that the High Command could do to hold back the troops in their trenches. They wanted to combat the enemy at close quarters; so clear was their realization of the principles at stake, and so great their indignation that good faith could be broken by the mere whim of those who knew only desecration.
Wherever the Generalissimo went to hold conferences with his officers at the front, I accompanied him. The trips held dangers even when made in the dead of night, for rail traffic was disrupted by constant bombing and con gested with troop movements, and on the highways, road lights were turned off and all motorcar headlights dimmed by black cloth lest enemy planes should spot us.
Once we arrived in Soochow just when some troop trains had pulled in. The station was a shambles from repeated bombings but the railway officials, tottering with weariness and lack of sleep, stuck doggedly to their work. Stretcher bearers worked like wordless automatons trying to clear the station platform of the wounded while more and more wounded were unloaded. Clammy, sticky blood clung like glue to our thick walking shoes while more blood seeped through the soles; still more blood spattered over us as we stumbled through the closely packed station. The wounded were huddled in every inch of available space — young men who a few hours before were full of vitality and vigor and who now were slowly being drained of life itself.
Only an occasional gasp of pain echoed across the roofless station; most of the sufferers bore their anguish in stoic silence.
One young boy, stretching out his hand, tugged at my coat as I passed him, murmuring: “Water, water.” I sent an aide- de-camp to get some water. Immediately a medical officer advised me that in the case of stomach wounds no water should be given. I shall never forget the look on the young lad’s face as I sorrowfully shook my head and told him that for his own good I could do nothing for him. That face so young, almost that of a child, twitching with the excruciating pain made by the gaping wound, how can I ever forget? Why should the Almighty select those so innocent, so untried, to be offered as sacrament on the communion table of national honor? Have they, perhaps, sinned against the tenets of God? Or is theirs the vicarious lot of retributive justice?
It is true that life, if it is of any worth, must have as its constant companion, honor. Death occurs as the final culmination inevitable in the processes of life. And indeed it falls not to all men to share the privilege with the crusaders of truth to breathe their last while in line of duty, and to have the benediction of knowing during their last conscious moments that they are dying in the upholding of ideals more meaningful than life.
War is cruel, terrible, and revolting, and should never be permitted to recur. We who have experienced it at its worst cannot extol nor glorify it, but we take comfort that the last moments of our youths in making the supreme sacrifice are illuminated by the lambent glory of righteousness and justice while the youths of the enemy are decimated with out solace that they are dying in order that civilization may survive.
To return. As the enemy landed increasingly long-ranged guns and heavy artillery, the time came when the Central Government decided that all civilians should evacuate Nanking. Hundreds of thousands of people who hither to had made the Capital their home had to take what they could carry and leave the rest to be consumed by fire in adopting the strategy of what is now commonly called the “scorched earth policy.” In no wise did we want the enemy to have any more advantage than we could help.
The trees which we had planted so proudly ten years before in our high hopes to make Nanking truly the “Capital Beautiful” had to be hewn down so that the artillery could have the necessary unobstructed view.
To have watched the saplings gradually grow year by year into sturdy trees and finally to witness their tops cut off was like seeing live pets killed before our very eyes.
The Generalissimo and I were amongst the last of the officials to leave Nanking. Before we left we took steps for the removal of the irreplaceable and priceless treasures of the National Museum of Art to quarters safe from enemy looting. Later I went outside of the city wall for a final look at the now empty buildings of the Schools for the Children of the Revolution. Here and there in the fields beyond the campus I saw thatched huts not yet devoured by flames, some out side walls still intact, and hanging on them strings of dried beans, peas, lentils and cobs of corn. They were the pick of the harvest and had been carefully saved as seeds for the next crop. But for these humble folks, who for generations had lived, loved and had their being on the soil; there was now no next crop, not for many years, anyway, not until after victory is won.
During such moments I wondered whether the mania of the bloodthirsty is ever slaked by the display constantly be fore their eyes of the human suffering and havoc they have wrought.
Are they such diabolic Lucifers that they can only revel in human misery? Well might I have such musings, for the world now knows to what extent the Japanese military carried their calculated cruelties after they occupied Nan king and other areas; how they plundered and stripped the terrified populace of all means of livelihood, molested our women, rounded up all able-bodied men, tied them together like animals, forced them to dig their own graves, and finally kicked them in and buried them alive.
Settled temporarily in Hankow, we realized that the war would be long and hard, and that to sustain a defensive war of the magnitude and length we had in mind, Hankow was merely a stopping- off place to enable us to take stock of our weaknesses and reassess our strength in making preparations for the future. In equipment the enemy undoubtedly outstripped us in every way, for theirs was a modern army with all auxiliary services complete, including mechanized units, trained engineer corps, fully equipped medical contingents, in addition to a powerful navy and an equally powerful air force.
And what did China have? We had no navy to speak of, only an embryo air force, and an infantry equipped mainly with rifles, machine guns, and outmoded artillery pieces. But we had manpower, which willingly volunteered its flesh and blood; we had fighting spirit, for we knew we were struggling for justice and righteousness. And, also, we had the advantages of time and space.
It was our intention and strategy to make the enemy pay, and pay dearly, for every inch of land they wrested from us, so that in time we could wear them out, provided that the will to win could with stand the onslaught of steel and high explosives.
China’s long-continued resistance in the face Of formidable difficulties proved that our envisionment of the situation, both psychological and military, was cor rect. To those skeptics who sneered at China’s “magnetic strategy” I should like to ask: What other people in the modern world has endured the agonies of war for so long and so bravely, held so tenaciously and so staunchly to the defense of principles as the Chinese people? And in the face of such odds in fighting equipment?
Of these same skeptics, I should also like to ask: Given the same conditions, what would they have done; in our position, what could they have done?
I should like to reiterate here that we have been fighting not only for our homes and hearths; we have been fighting for the upholding of pledges and principles, because the violation of one pledge means the breaking of the whole chain of international decency and honor.
During those Hankow days, the Generalissimo and I were constantly making trips to the various fronts. The ever- recurring spectacle of the hundreds of thousands of our well-to-do countrymen reduced to being refugees, fleeing on the roads over the countryside, being bombed and machine-gunned by enemy planes, and of the thousands of dead on the road sides awaiting burial, are ghastly memories impossible to forget. When will the ghosts of our bombed cities, ruined villages and myriads of men, women and little children murdered in cold blood, be laid?
Meanwhile there was work to be done for the living. As war continued, wo men’s volunteer organizations sprang up all over the country. Systematic coordination, however, was lacking, and, as a result, duplication of work and confusion prevailed. At a conference called in the hills of Killing, 50 women leaders representing every section of the country came together. During those ten days of the meeting we laid the foundations of the National Women’s Advisory Council which all agreed should function as the supreme body in directing women’s war efforts.
We established various departments to meet war emergencies without interfering with existing organizations, but by supplementing and coordinating local efforts. The training of girls and women to work amongst the wounded, the refugees, and as liaison between the people and the army, the care of the war or phans, the increase of production, all received the consideration they deserved.
The response to this movement on the part of women throughout the country was electric. Branch associations mush roomed overnight. Differences opinion were freely aired and hotly contested, but the final decisions of the Women’s Advisory Council ruled.
From this experience I am convinced that women can work together; they can, they will, and they must — women of every creed and belief, and, yes, of every nationality — provided the cause is big enough, and the challenge worth accepting.
A few months later the Central Government issued hurried orders for the evacuation of Hankow. I had gone to the boat to bid good-bye to several hundred of the girls whom I had helped to train for war work. How I hoped and prayed that they would reach their destination, for just the day before a boatload of refugees, including many of our war orphans, was bombed and all perished. As I was walking home I noticed that over the gutters in the streets there still remained thick slabs of iron grates. Would they not be used by the enemy to be made into bombs to kill more of our people? I mentioned this to the Generalissimo and he issued orders that the metal should be taken up and thrown into the river.
The Generalissimo and I took the last plane which left the night before Hankow was occupied by the enemy.
Chungking, the wartime capital, now became the center of activity. The same difficulties which obtained at Hankow followed us there. Even the Government organizations had a .hard time trying to find quarters, for, all of a sudden, mil lions of refugees poured into this district from the Hankow area. But there was one difference; we had already sustained the first impact of war, and the people had become accustomed to makeshifts in living.
Hardly had we arrived, however, be fore the enemy air force started their bombing and strafing again, hoping thus to break down the morale of our resistance. For several years during the clear season, whenever the city was not enveloped in opaque fog, we were constantly subject to overhead attacks. In fact, Chungking and its vicinity never had a respite until the famous Flying Tigers grappled with the air marauders and fought them off. But, alas, there were not enough Tigers to patrol the vast skies over China, nor enough to give even a little overhead protection to our valiant armies spread out in the nine war zones.
Our Chinese Air Force, as time went on, dwindled, for although Russia sup plied us with some planes, the need was ever greater than what was obtained. But whenever we could we made desperate raids over the enemy’s supply bases. For the rest, we had to be content with training pilots in the hope that someday planes would be forthcoming.
Anyone who has an idea of the topography of Chungking would understand the heartbreaking hardships our people had to endure. The city itself is situated on a tongue of land at the juncture of two rivers, the Chialing and the Yangtze. Steep stone steps lace their ways up and down the hillsides and the old houses were built in such a way that there was only one entrance. Oftentimes when a bomb exploded and cut off the one entrance the householders would be trapped without any means of egress. Whole sections of the city were turned into shambles by a few bombs, as the houses were so closely packed together that one incendiary bomb could set off a whole block into flames. We knew days when it was impossible to obtain coffins as the toll of death mounted.
In time, all the business section of the city was demolished, so that it was impossible to stand in the midst of the city and get an unobstructed view of the rivers on both sides. It is to the credit of the resurgent spirit of our people that they were not intimidated, for after each bombing, scarcely had the air-raid siren trailed off its last echo before the surviving householders returned to their burnt shops and homes and began to salvage whatever they could. A few days later, temporary shacks and buildings would make their appearance on the old sites.
Some days the raids were so close and numerous that no one had time to pre pare food. Hours were wasted in the dugout; valuable hours needed for work and rest. But moonlight nights were the worst, for the marauding planes, timed with devilish cunning, came in successive waves. Terrible tiredness permeated every nerve and bone so that it was preferable to risk being bombed to death than to seek safety.
But we knew that the enemy was trying to break our morale through sheer physical exhaustion. We were, there fore, inflexible in our determination not to give in. No greater tribute could be paid to our sorely tried people than this — that in all their suffering never did they complain against their leaders. Never did they falter in the determination that the enemy must be driven from our shores.
They had faith, too, that, in the end, America and the other Democratic Powers would realize that it was not only for ourselves that we were fighting, and that by continuing to engage the enemy, we were giving time to the Democracies to prepare their defenses. Here I should like to say that neither we nor posterity can deprive unerring tribute to the fore sight and statesmanship of President Roosevelt when he envisaged to the full the implications and consequences of the struggle of right against might, and took decisive measures to enable America to become the arsenal of the Democracies. History and posterity will panegyrize your President’s unswerving convictions and his moral courage to implement them.
We take pride in the fact that, amid all the stern and never-ending demands of war, we are preparing for a just and permanent peace and for the strenuous world-building that lies before us. You, too, are taking similar steps and, like us, you are determined to contribute your share in the organization of a new and happier social order as you are in prosecuting the war.
We in China through these years of suffering have not turned to indiscriminate, gally hate of the enemy. We shall not abrade the sharp, stony path we must travel before our common victory is won. But we, like you and the other United Nations, shall see to it that the four freedoms will not assume the flaccid statutes of ethical postulates no matter how belated may be the final victory.
We shall not be cozened of an equitable peace. We shall not permit aggression to raise its satanic head and threaten men’s greatest heritage: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all peoples.
Source: Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Addresses Delivered Before the Senate of the United States and the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 18, 1943, together with Other Addresses Delivered During Her Visit to the United States, (Washington: US Government Printing Office) 1943, pp. 21-26.