But the raiders’ choice of haven revealed coastal China as another dangerous gap in the empire’s defense. Japan already had many troops in China. Within weeks, the Imperial General Headquarters sent the main force of the Thirteenth Army and elements of the Eleventh Army and the North China Area Army—a total force that would swell to 53 infantry battalions and as many as 16 artillery battalions—to destroy the airfields the Americans had hoped to use in the provinces of Chekiang and Kiangsi. “Airfields, military installations, and important lines of communication will be totally destroyed,” the order read. The unwritten command was to make the Chinese pay dearly for their part in the empire’s humiliation.
Details of the destruction emerged from previously unpublished records on file at Chicago’s DePaul University. Father Wendelin Dunker, a priest based in the village of Ihwang, fled the Japanese advance along with other clergy, teachers, and orphans under the church’s care, hiding in the mountains. He returned to find packs of dogs feasting on the dead. “What a scene of destruction and smells met us as we entered the city!” he wrote in an unpublished memoir.
The Japanese returned to Ihwang, forcing Dunker out again. Troops torched the town. “They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved,” Dunker wrote. “They raped any woman from the ages of 10–65.”