World War II was fought on the European stage in the early years of the war. After December 7, 1941, it was also being fought in the Pacific theatre. I bring that up because most people are familiar with the atrocities the Nazis perpetrated against the Jewish people, and other people they deemed undesirable. What they are unaware of is that there was an equal amount of horrific crimes committed by the Japanese against Asia and their prisoners of war.
Unit 731, also known as Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army, was a Japanese research facility during WWII, conducted by the Imperial Japanese Army. They conducted fatal human experiments on the: Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Mongolians, Pacific Islanders, other South East Asians and even a few American prisoners of war all fell victim to the doctors at the camps. (1)
The high percentage of victims were Chinese and because Japan was occupying China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, most of the bases these experiments happened at were in China, including Pingfang and Hsinking.
The Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department was created in 1936 by Surgeon General Shiro Ishii. It was a covert operation that was formed off the Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory (AEPRL). Maruta was the code name for the project that used human beings for experiments.
Thousands of men, women and children were subjected to vivisection. This was done without anesthesia almost always resulted in their deaths. Many times the scientists infected the people with diseases (like Syphilis), incubated the diseases and then dissected the people. They removed organs to study the effects of the diseases, again without anesthesia, while the people were alive. The reason given was that if the person was dead, decomposition would affect the results. (2)
Limbs were amputated to see the effect of blood loss. Other people had limbs frozen and then thawed to see the results of gangrene and rotting flesh. Physiologist Yoshimura Hisato conducted experiments by taking captives outside, dipping various appendages into water, and allowing the limb to freeze. Once frozen, which testimony from a Japanese officer said “was determined after the ‘frozen arms, when struck with a short stick, emitted a sound resembling that which a board gives when it is struck.” (3) Stomachs were removed and the esophagus sewn directly to the intestines.
Female prisoners were forcibly impregnated and then infected with diseases (again like Syphilis) to study the effects on female and the baby during gestation. Many babies were said to have been born during this time. It is believed the mothers and babies were killed. There is no record of survivors. (4)
They weapon tested grenades against human targets, that is right blew them to bits and studied the effects. Flame throwers were tested on humans. They were also tied to stakes and used as targets for germ releasing bombs, explosive bombs and chemical weapons. (5) They infected the people with bubonic plague, cholera, small pox and other diseases.
Before we dropped the bomb in 1945, there is a rumor they perfected a plague they were set to use against San Diego. After the American occupation, the United States granted immunity to those doing the testing in order to utilize some of the information gleamed from the experiments. USSR however prosecuted 12 top military leaders and scientists from Unit 731. Later they built a bioweapons facility and used the documentation they got from Unit 731.
So though we often hear about the Nazi’s horrendous experimenting on children during WWII, the world has really been in the dark about Japan’s heinous experiments. The atrocities committed by Japan and their role in the war often are under reported. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they are seen as victims of the war, not the appalling perpetrators of crime and cruelty they often were.
- World War II Horror Files: Unit 73, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/07/wwii-horror-files-unit-731/
- “Interview with former Unit 731 member Nobuo Kamada”. Archived from the original on November 19, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2004.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. “Unmasking Horror – A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity” The New York Times (1995)
- Gold, Hal (2011).Unit 731 Testimony. (1st ed.). New York: Tuttle Pub.
- Neuman, William Lawrence (2008).Understanding Research. Pearson/Allyn and Bacon