Reporting from the Sino-Japanese War, 1894

[James] Creelman, a Canadian by birth, had reported the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the capture of Port Arthur, perhaps his most famous piece. It is a textbook sample of vivid, concise reporting, forced on Creelman by communication difficulties. He was later able to elaborate his short cable, but the first account, on December 11, 1894, stands on its own.

The Japanese troops entered Port Arthur on November 21 and massacred practically the entire population in cold blood. The defenseless and unarmed inhabitants were butchered in their houses and their bodies were unspeakably mutilated. There was an unrestrained reign of murder which continued for three days. The whole town was plundered with appalling atrocities. It was the first stain upon Japanese civilisation. The Japanese in this instance relapsed into barbarism. All pretense that circumstances justified the atrocities are false.

The civilized world will be horrified by the details. The foreign correspondents, horrified by the spectacle, left the army in a body. The Japanese had offered Creelman a bribe to tone down his story, but he refused it. American public opinion, until then friendly to Japan, changed overnight.

SOURCE: The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, by Phillip Knightley (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2000; first published in 1975), pp. 60-61

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