Three Alls Policy

The Three Alls Policy (三光作戦, Sankō Sakusen; ) was a Japanese scorched earth policy adopted in China during World War II, the three alls being: "Kill All", "Burn All" and "Loot All". In Japanese documents, the policy was originally referred to as . This policy was designed as a retaliation against Chinese Communists following the Hundred Regiments Offensive.

The name "Sankō Sakusen", based on the Chinese term, was first popularized in Japan in 1957 when a former Japanese soldier released from the Fushun war crime internment center wrote a controversial book called "Sankō, Nihonjin no Chūgoku ni okeru sensō hanzai no kokuhaku" ("The Three Alls: Japanese Confessions of War Crimes in China") (new edition : Kanki Haruo, 1979), in which a number of Japanese veterans confessed to war crimes committed under the leadership of General Yasuji Okamura. The publishers were forced to stop the publication of the book after receiving death threats from militarists and ultranationists.


Initiated in 1940 by Ryūkichi Tanaka, the Sankō Sakusen was implemented in full scale in 1942 in north China by Yasuji Okamura who divided the territory of five provinces into "pacified", "semi-pacified" and "unpacified" areas. The approval of the policy was given by Imperial General Headquarters Order Number 575 on 3 December 1941. Okamura's strategy involved burning down villages, confiscating grain and mobilizing peasants to construct collective hamlets. It also centered on the digging of vast trench lines and the building of thousands of miles of containment walls and moats, watchtowers and roads. These operations targeted for destruction "enemies pretending to be local people" and "all males between the ages of fifteen and sixty whom we suspect to be enemies."

According to a joint study of historians such as Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo, Mark Peattie and Zhifen Ju, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the Imperial Japanese Army for forced labor in north China and Manchukuo under the supervision of the Kōa-in.

In a study published in 1996, historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta claims that the Three Alls Policy, sanctioned by Emperor Hirohito himself, was responsible for the deaths of "more than 2.7 million" Chinese civilians. His works and those of Akira Fujiwara about the details of the operation were commented by Herbert P. Bix in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, who claims that the Sankō Sakusen far surpassed The Rape of Nanking not only in terms of numbers, but in brutality as well. In some places, the use of chemical warfare against civilian populations in contravention of international agreements was also alleged.

Controversy and Dispute

As with many aspects of Japan's World War II history, the nature and extent of Three Alls Policy is still a controversial issue. Because the now well-known name for this strategy is Chinese, some nationalist groups in Japan have even denied its veracity. The issue is partly confused by the use of scorched-earth tactics by the Kuomingtang government forces in numerous areas of central and northern China, against both the invading Japanese, and against Chinese civilian populations in rural areas of strong support for the Chinese Communist Party. Known in Japan as the - Chinese soldiers would destroy the homes and fields of their own civilians in order to wipe out any possible supplies or shelter that could be utilised by the over-extended Japanese troops. Per the counter-claims by this minority viewpoint, many supposed victims of the Three Alls Policy actually died at Chinese hands and their deaths were later attributed to the Japanese.


The movie The Children of Huang Shi, which covers the Japanese invasion from 1938 to 1945, is set in part along the sankō sakusen.



  • Fujiwara, Akira (藤原彰) The Three Alls Policy and the Northern Chinese Regional Army (「三光作戦」と北支那方面軍), Kikan sensô sekinin kenkyû 20, 1998
  • Himeta, Mitsuyoshi (姫田光義) Concerning the Three Alls Strategy/Three Alls Policy By the Japanese Forces (日本軍による『三光政策・三光作戦をめぐって』), Iwanami Bukkuretto, 1996
  • Bix, Herbert P. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 0-06-019314-X

Some of the content of this article comes from the equivalent Japanese-language article (accessed on April 7, 2006).

Search another word or see Three_Alls_Policyon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature