George Ashmore Fitch

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George Ashmore Fitch (1883–1979) was an American Protestant missionary in China, the Young Men's Christian Association, Nanking Safety Zone International Committee Administrative Director, and the grandfather of politician George B. Fitch.

Fitch was born in Soochow, China, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George F. and Mary (McLellan) Fitch. He graduated from the College of Wooster, Ohio in 1906, and Union Theological Seminary in New York with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1909. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1909 and went to China to work with the YMCA in Shanghai.

Nanking Massacre[edit]

When the Nanking Massacre occurred in 1937–1938, Fitch, who was head of the YMCA there, served as director of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. He compiled a diary and filmed some of the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army in Nanking in December 1937.

Nanking Safety Zone International Committee, left to right: Ernest H. Forster, John H.D. Rabe, Lewis Strong Casey Smythe, Eduard Sperling, George Ashmore Fitch
Complete anarchy has reigned for ten days-it has been hell on earth... to have to stand by while even the very poor are having their last possession taken from them-their last coin, their last bit of bedding (and it is freezing weather), the poor ricksha man his ricksha; while thousands of disarmed soldiers who had sought sanctuary with you together with many hundreds of innocent civilians are taken out before your eyes to be shot or used for bayonet practice and you have to listen to the sounds of the guns that are killing them; while a thousand women kneel before you crying hysterically, begging you to save them from the beasts who are preying on them; to stand by and do nothing while your flag is taken down and insulted, not once but a dozen times, and your home is being looted and then to watch the city you have come to love and the institution to which you have planned to devote your best deliberately and systematically burned by fire-this is a hell I had never before envisaged.

December 24, 1937

Writing later in his autobiography, Fitch said, "My story created a sensation in Shanghai, for it was the first news of what had happened in the capital since its evacuation, and it was copied and mimeographed and widely distributed there."[citation needed] In 1938 Fitch traveled throughout the United States giving talks about the Nanking Massacre and showing films to document it.

In the documentary film Nanking, Fitch was portrayed by actor John Getz.

Subsequent career[edit]

He returned to China in 1939 to serve with the YMCA and later with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration until 1947. He then served the YMCA in Korea and Taiwan until 1961, when he retired in the United States. He died in Claremont, California.


  • George A. and Geraldine T. Fitch, My Eighty Years in China (1967)

Further reading[edit]

  • Zhang, Kaiyuan, ed. Eyewitnesses to Massacre, An East Gate Book, 2001. (includes documentation of American missionaries; M.S. Bates, George Ashmore Fitch, E.H. Foster, J.G. Magee, J.H. MaCallum, W.P. Mills, L.S.C. Smyth, A.N. Steward, Minnie Vautrin and R.O. Wilson.) (Google Book version)
  • biographical sketches: one from The National Cyclopedia of American Biography; one by George A. Fitch entitled "Grand Old Man of the Pacific-and of the YMCA"; a March 1949 issue of Science of Mind.

External links[edit]


  • Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan