John Gillespie Magee

The Rev. John G. Magee was born October 10, 1884 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  After finishing high school in Connecticut, he received a B.A. from Yale University in 1906 and a B.D. from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1911.  He was ordained as a minister of the Episcopal Church and set off for China in 1912.  In China he met Faith E. Backhouse, an English missionary from the China Inland Mission, whom he married in July 1921.  They had four sons.

John Magee played a role in saving thousands of Chinese from being murdered by the Japanese, setting up a refugee hospital to take care of wounded soldiers and refugees, and serving as chairman of the Nanking Branch of the International Red Cross and as a member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone.  Films taken by Magee in Nanking and sent to the West provided some of the first available visual documentation of the Nanking Massacre. After the war, Magee was a witness at the Tokyo Trial.  Jiro Takidani's Witness to the Nanking Incident (Tokyo, 1993) documents Magee's work during the Nanking Massacre.

When Magee first returned to the United States in the summer of 1938, after 28 years of service in China, he made an extensive tour to speak about the Nanking Massacre.


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The Nanking Massacre Project

A Digital Archive of Documents & Photographs from American
Missionaries Who Witnessed the Rape of Nanking

From the Special Collections of the Yale Divinity School Library