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Many atrocities were reported to have been committed as the Japanese army advanced from Shanghai to Nanjing.
According to one Japanese journalist embedded with Imperial forces at the time, "The reason that the [10th Army] is advancing to Nanking quite rapidly is due to the tacit consent among the officers and men that they could loot and rape as they wish." Novelist Tatsuzō Ishikawa vividly described how the 16th Division of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force committed atrocities on the march between Shanghai and Nanjing in his novel Ikiteiru Heitai (Living Soldiers), which was based on interviews that Ishikawa conducted with troops in Nanjing in January 1938.
The second telegram was sent through Shanghai to Japanese military leaders, advocating for a three-day cease-fire so the Chinese could withdraw from the city.
Targets within and outside of the city walls—such as military barracks, private homes, the Chinese Ministry of Communication, forests and even entire villages—were completely burnt down, at an estimated value of 20 to 30 million (1937) US dollars.The Chinese government has been accused of exaggerating aspects of the massacre such as the death toll, a small but vocal minority within both the Japanese government and society have argued that the death toll was military in nature and that no such crimes ever occurred.Denial of the massacre and revisionist accounts of the killings have become a staple of Japanese nationalism.In 2000, historian Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi concurred with certain Japanese scholars who had argued that the contest was a concocted story, with the collusion of the soldiers themselves for the purpose of raising the national fighting spirit.In 2005, a Tokyo district judge dismissed a suit by the families of the lieutenants, stating that "the lieutenants admitted the fact that they raced to kill 100 people" and that the story cannot be proven to be clearly false.