Sunday, October 21, 2012

American Cover Up of Japan's WWII Atrocities by Unit 731

Those accused of committing war crimes in World War II were tried in Nuremberg and Tokyo. Sometime after the conclusion of those war crime trials, in December 1949, 12 Japanese physicians and military officers were tried for their crimes against humanity. The trial was held in Khabarovsk, Russia and the testimony described acts of horror and brutality beyond imagination. Americans are unaware of these crimes because General Douglas MacArthur, at the time in charge of occupation of Japan, suppressed the findings.

I was recently reminded of this part of WWII history when I came across an 8-page article published on June 5, 2001 in The Japan Times about the trial of Unit 731. This biological research unit was established in Harbin by Japan's military hidden behind a wall and a veil of secrecy. No outsiders knew what was going inside the camp. 

Most of the information in this blog is derived from the article in Japan Times, generally recognized as the equivalent New York Times of Japan. The following passages taken verbatim from the article give some "color" to the accusation of war crimes:

The crowds (at the trial) heard about doctors who subjected their victims--termed "logs"--to all kinds of experiments: injection with animals' blood, exposure to syphilis, hanging upside down until death, surgical removal of their stomachs with the esophagus then attached to the intestines, amputation of arms and reattachment on the opposite side. Some 10,000 people were reported to have died in Japan's 26 known killing laboratories in China, Japan and other occupied countries.

Unit 731's physicians, preparing to fight in the Soviet Union or Alaska, would experiment on victims in the bitter Harbin weather, where winter temperatures can fall into the minus 40s Celsius. Guards would strip a victim, tie him to a post outdoors and freeze his arm to the elbow by dousing him with water, researchers say. Once the lower limb was frozen solid, doctors would test their frostbite treatment, then amputate the damaged part of the arm. The the guards would repeat the process on the victim's upper arm to the shoulder. Another test, another amputation. After the victim's arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs.

When the prisoner was reduced to a head and torso, orderlies would lug him elsewhere in the compound and use him for experiments involving bubonic plague or other pathogens. Virtually no one survived. Unit 731 found a ready supply of human guinea pigs: members of resistance movements, children who strayed too closed to the outer perimeter, a teenage girl found carrying a pistol, Mongolians, Koreans, Russians. Any non-Japanese, really, was a potential victim.

While Soviet officials deliberated on what to do with them (after the war), Gen. Douglas MacArthur secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America with their research on biological weapons. Presented with evidence that downed US airmen had been victims of grotesque experiments, MacArthur suppressed the information.

MacArthur's action outraged Stalin and he ordered a trial of Unit 731 doctors then in Russian hands. The trial ended in 5 days and the accused were found guilty and sent to prison, none were executed. In 1956, except for one that committed suicide behind bars, rest were quietly sent back to Japan and released. Lt.-Col. Naito Ryoichi, one of the military doctors, founded Japan Blood Bank that later became Green Cross. General Ishii Shiro, leader of Unit 731, was never caught and tried; he died of throat cancer in his own bed in 1959.

As the Japan Times article pointed out,
the Khabarovsk trial casts light on a wound that still festers in Asian international relations. Anger at Japan runs deep in both Koreas, China, the Philippines and other nations occupied in World War II to whom Japan has never paid reparations or issued a satisfactory apology.

The trial revealed that the Japanese military was planning to attack San Diego with kamikaze piloted planes loaded with fleas infected with bubonic plague. Hiroshima and Nagasaki intervened and the plan was never carried out. Had it been otherwise, American might think differently about the pains of WWII.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although Japan should apologize and compensate the families of victims of unit 731 (none survived), the US also has a responsibility to come clean with its pardon of the butchers in exchange for data on their heinous experiments. Although it is mentioned that Douglas MacArthur granted the pardons in reality it was approved at the highest levels of the US government i.e. Truman and his partners in crime--the Joint Chiefs. That this entire sordid episode is still covered up more than 70 years after the fact is a national shame.