Shelling of Japanese army that awakened Cao Yukun from his dream 74 years ago still echoes in the ears of the 86-year-old man.
On the night of September 18, 1931, Cao, then a 12 years old boy, found himself awakened in chaos of neighborhood people flurried by shots of bombs and guns from the location of the Chinese military camp at Beidaying of Shenyang, now capital of northeastern China's Liaoning Province. Local people guessed that the attack by Japanese army eventually broke out. Days ago, he and other neighbors had found out that Japanese soldiers were deploying tanks and guns outside the city under the disguise of drilling "wells".
Cao later known what he saw was a scene of historical significance. On September 18, 1931, Japanese troops blew up a section of the Dalian--Harbin Railway near Shenyang, then accused the Chinese troops of sabotage as a pretext and bombarded the barracks of the Chinese troops near Shenyang the same evening, thus starting massive armed invasion against northeast china.
Historians later called the event "September 18 Incident". Japan from then on launched all-out war against China for the ensuing 14 years. Almost seven decades have been elapsed. The old man, however, can still remember the day was the seventh day of the eighth month in China's lunar calendar, just a week before the traditional Moon Festival, usually a holiday for family reunion.
But Cao's father, Cao Mengjiu, who was then a secretary at the province's police department, asked the whole family to evacuate from Shenyang. Amidst changeable situation and uncertainties, what was sure in heart of the policeman was the target of the Japanese army after the seemingly "sudden incident": the occupation over China's vast northeast territory.
The father was informed that the Japanese army took over not only the Chinese military camp but also the telegraph office, the arsenal and the airport.
The family fled from Shenyang to Xifeng county, where the family's relatives lived and the Japanese forces had not spread their claw yet. Cao's father had to say goodbye to the family and depart from Xifeng for Jinzhou, the temporary residence of the provincial government.
Archive exposed after the World War II showed the "incident" was well plotted by the Japanese army as prelude of its all-out invasion. "They even worked out an excuse for their long planned operation," he said, referring to the Japanese army's blast of a Japan-controled local railway near the city at night.
"But all grown-ups could see through the conspiracy at that time and told us it was nothing but a trick of a thief crying 'Stop, thief!', as a Chinese saying goes," Cao said.
The attack of Shenyang unveiled the 14-year invasion of China. In less than six months after seizing Shenyang, the Japanese army occupied China's whole northeastern territory, nowadays Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
The incident was also the beginning of hard years for Chinese nationals living in the northeast. On September 20, the Japanese army put up notifications in Shenyang, warning Chinese residents "to keep order".
But even children, who could pose no threat to the Japanese army at all, still fell victim to the invaders.
A child was stabbed to death when he ran to a Japanese soldier who was on patrol in the street to have a touch of his uniform just out of curiosity, said Sun Shizhen, who was a year younger than Cao.
"I saw the Japanese soldier sneer when he raised the wretched child up with his bayonet," said Sun.
The old man said that he is still haunted by the bloody scene even today.
When a couple of newly weds passed the city gates, the Japanese soldiers asked the bride to fully undress for "security check". "The Japanese guards first bayoneted the disobedient groom, then the raged bride," Sun recalled another atrocity committed by the Japanese soldiers.
Li Shu, former deputy director of the cultural bureau of Shenyang, lived near Beishichang, or the north market, when the Japanese army occupied the city. The 77-year-old man said that the once hustling and bustling market turned out to become an open mortuary, where many bodies of Chinese people killed by the Japanese army were laid.
The Japanese cruelties could be deleted from the Japanese history book, but it will live in the memory of all people who saw the crime, said these three old witnesses. "History can not be erased," Li said.