Unit 731, page 1
(Frontispiece) This diagram gives a general overview of the experiments conducted at the Anda testing field.
Published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.
Copyright ©1997 Hal Gold.
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LCC Card No. 95060907
First edition, 1996
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Table of Contents
Part 1: Historical Overview
1. Background of Japanese Biological Warfare
A Proud Medical Tradition
The Stage Is Set
2. A New Type of Warfare
The Fortress/Bacteria Factory
End of the Fortress
Ties to the Civilian Sector
Ishii's Battlefield Debut
3. Creating Pathology
Rodents and Insects
Four Areas of Experimentation
4. End and Aftermath
Attempted Biological Warfare Against the Americans
Covering the Traces
5. Unit 731 in Modern Times
The Teikoku Bank Incident
Japanese Biological Warfare Data in the Korean War
The Unit Leaders in Peacetime
Postwar Careers: Plum Positions
Part 2: Testimonies
Researcher attached to Unit 1644 (Anonymous) 150
Virologist attached to Unit 731 (Anonymous) 152
Lecture, "Unit 731 and Comfort Women" (Nishino Rumiko) 159
Youth Corps member (Anonymous) 166
Hygiene specialist (Wano Takeo) 175
Hygiene specialist (Anonymous) 178
Kenpeitai member (Iwasaki Ken'ichi) 188
Three Youth Corps members (Anonymous) 189
Nurse attached to Unit 731 (Akama Masako) 198
Kenpeitai officer (Naganuma Setsuji) 200
Army doctor (Yuasa Ken) 204
Civilian employee of Unit 731 in Tokyo (Ishibashi Naokata) 214
Youth Corps member attached to Unit 731 (Ogasawara Akira) 219
Professor emeritus at Osaka University (Nakagawa Yonezo) 221
Member of the Hygiene Corps (Tomioka Heihachiro) 222
Soldier stationed at Pingfang (Shinohara Tsuruo) 227
Soldier attached to Unit 731 (Ohara Takeyoshi) 234
Nurse attached to Unit 731 (Sakumoto Shizui) 235
Intelligence officer (Ogura Yoshikuma) 236
Army major and pharmacist attached to Unit 731 (Anonymous) 239
Army major and technician attached to Unit 516 (Anonymous) 241
Ishii Shiro's driver (Koshi Sadao) 241
Pharmacist attached to the laboratory at Dalian (Meguro Masahiko) 243
Captain, Japanese Imperial Army (Kojima Takeo) 244
Several people deserve to be mentioned here for the invaluable aid which they rendered in the creation of this book. Testimonies came to the author in the form of faxes or photocopies through the generous cooperation of the Secretariat of the Central Organizing Committee for the Unit 731 Exhibitions in Tokyo. Professor Eda Kenji and Professor Eda Izumi of Kyoto also assisted me in accumulating these materials. Ota Masakatsu of Kyodo News Service provided valuable information also.
Finally, I wish to extend my sincerest thanks to my editor, David Friedman, whose finely tuned editorial eye, disdain for rest, and familiarity with Japanese language and history were invaluable in turning my manuscript into a book.
Some four decades following the end of World War II, details concerning the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731, which researched and conducted biological warfare, began surfacing with startling impact. Information about this outfit, at whose hands an estimated three thousand Manchurians, Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Europeans, and Americans were killed, had remained largely hidden over the years, either by governmental control or a code of silence adhered to by its former members themselves. Then, newly revealed information stirred interest in an era which Japanese officialdom has been trying to wash away with the detergent of neglect. Japan has been told to leave the past behind and move ahead told to new ties of friendship and commerce with other countries. Yet while business ties develop, and amity is proclaimed to be spreading, old facts emerging as recent revelations increase their magnetic attraction and pull us into a reexamination of what happened then—and again incite us into debates of how and why.
It can be argued that probably no school system anywhere teaches true history; only the degree of rearrangment varies. For the years during which the research units were active, the chasm between history and Japan's official stance yawns wide. For years, Unit 731 "did not exist." Requests and demands not just for monetary compensation but for mere recognition of history and apology have been brushed away, turned down because "compensation has been made at government levels." Instead, Japan offers its dedication to "world peace" with statements that are as vague as they are eloquent.
Information on Japan's consumption of live human beings as biological test material has been surfacing for many years now. As with the comfort women issue, however, there has never been a jolt of sufficient voltage to rock the national government into acts of contrition or compensation. Rather, it has been local governments who have opened their eyes to history. The efforts of local governments, in conjunction with high degrees of volunteer activity in their areas, can be credited with bringing the Unit 731 Exhibition before the eyes of Japanese in sixty-one locations over the course of a year and a half. The exhibition, in whose final days this book was begun, was arranged by a central organizing committee in Tokyo, and each locality which wanted to plan a local exhibition had to raise its own funds and find its own venue. There was, of course, an admission fee to enter the exhibit, and so for the
The shock to the Japanese people was predictable. In spite of the occasional documentary coverage or newspaper article, Unit 731 was largely unknown and unthought of. It sat safely outside the scope of the consciousness of most Japanese. True, some attention was drawn to Unit 731 when the Japanese government was taken to court for not permitting factual accounts of it in school textbooks, but even those with some knowledge of the Ishii organization had their eyes opened at the exhibits.
Several factors have conspired to keep Unit 731's activities from receiving the attention they so richly deserve. The decades of concealment of the outfit's history were partly the fruit of the Japanese central government's reputed skill at inactivity, along with its priority on avoiding all manners of controversy, whether domestic or international. Evidence also failed to surface simply because there were no survivors among the victims of Unit 731; all were eliminated before the end of the war. Then, there was the combination order-threat by commanding general Ishii Shiro himself that former unit members were to "take the secret to the grave." Obedience to the command was probably not at all difficult for those surviving Japanese members of the unit who could have borne witness but would have felt scalpels turned in their own hearts were their children to ask, "Daddy! How could you do something like that?"—and feel it even more acutely in their later years when the question would be prefaced with "Grandpa."
This last fact highlights an even more astonishing result of the exhibition. Surviving members of Unit 731 who had sworn to remain silent about their memories came out before the public to testify—to confess—and finally unburden their minds. After a half century of silence, they told. Some could tell all but their names, and retained that one secret before the public: an omission meaningful to them, but a minor exclusion for those of us more interested in their stories than in their identities. Others identified themselves openly. Some reached the point of weeping with equal openness, as they looked back through decades of silence to stir up ugly recollections.
But those who are coming forward now, after some half-century of silence, are among the most forceful in pressing for the story to be told. Additionally, a limited number of members of the post-war generation— scientists, doctors, writers—are searching out the survivors, doing their own research, and informing the public through writings and lectures. Outrage and shame span the generations. Exhibition sites generally have a desk where visitors may write their impressions and comments. Attendees from elementary school on up have recorded the shock of the history lesson.
There are several reasons why the code of silence has evaporated at this late hour. Whatever these motivations might be, however, we can be grateful that the grave did not get all the truth. One focus of this book will be the actual words of those who helped conduct Japan's biological warfare human experimentation program.
The exhibition itself, the reactions it provoked, and the testimonies of former unit members who came forth and spoke out were all driving factors behind the creation of this book. It is as important for these events to be available to English-readers as it is that Japanese know them. Some of the testimonies and statements presented here were originally given at lecture programs which the author attended, recorded, and translated. At other programs in different parts of the country, testimonies were obtained with the cooperation of the local organizing committees. An independent team sought out former Unit 731 members and produced a video series which was another source. A few of the testimonies were told to other people who then reported on them at lectures or in print.
The recent declassification under the Freedom of Information Act of some documents that had been sealed for years also played an important role in the creation of this book. Events in the former Soviet Union likewise brought about a freeing of material formerly kept hidden away. Some Japanese documents have also been declassified, making them available to researchers. In the end, however, the most thought-provoking source of public information on Japan's human experiments comes from those who were there, then emerged from silence and provided the personal accounts which lead us back to the crimes with distressing credibility. These firsthand recollections make mockery of statements which attempt to smooth down the edges of the cruelty and racism that made Unit 731 possible.
Background of Japanese
A Proud Medical Tradition
In all wars up until the Russo-Japanese War, it had been known that the "silent enemy"—disease—took a greater toll of lives among fighting men than did bullets. With the outbreak of the conflict with Russia, Japan made history by resolving to learn from her mistakes. Chastened by the waste represented by sickness-induced casualties that she had suffered in her recent war with China, she paid an extraordinary amount of attention to curbing battlefield illness. By the beginning of the twentieth century, her scientists were already gaining fame for their work, and feathers in their caps included discovery of the causes of beri-beri and dysentery. One strain of bacteria, the Shiga bacillus, even carries the name of its Japanese discoverer, Dr. Shiga Kiyoshi. The Western press termed the Japanese "scientific fanatics," a telling commentary on the lack of scientific awareness in other countries of the world, especially in military medicine. By contrast, Japan's army had come to be a—if not the— world leader in this field.
A perspective on Japanese military medicine at the time of Japan's war with Russia in 1904-05 is offered by a U.S. Army doctor, Louis Livingston Seaman. The Japanese granted him the privileges of a foreign military attaché, and he accompanied Japanese troops in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War. In addition to visiting field and base hospitals in Manchuria, he also observed hospitals in Japan. After the war, he published a book titled The Real Triumph of Japan: the Conquest of the Silent Foe. In it, he writes that
the history of warfare for centuries has proven that in prolonged campaigns the first, or open enemy, kills twenty per cent of the total mortality in the conflict, whilst the second, or silent enemy, kills eighty . . . This dreadful and unnecessary sacrifice of life, especially among the Anglo-Saxon races, is the most ghastly proposition of modern war, and the Japanese have gone a long way toward conquering or eliminating it. . .
I unhesitatingly assert that the greatest conquests of Japan have been in the humanities of war, in the stopping of the needless sacrifice of life through preventable disease . . .
In our war with Mexico, the proportion of losses was about three from disease to one from bullets, and in our great Civil War nearly the same proportion obtained . . . No lessons seem to have been learned from these frightful experiences, for later statistics show no improvement. In the French Campaign in Madagascar in 1894 fourteen thousand men were sent to the front, of whom twenty-nine were killed in action and seven thousand perished from preventable disease. In the Boer War in South Africa the English losses from disease were simply frightful, greater than even our Civil War record. But the crowning piece of imbecility was reserved for our war with Spain, where, in 1898, fourteen were needlessly sacrificed to ignorance and incompetency for every one who died on the firing line or from battle casualties.
The author points out how in Japan's war with China in 1894, the Japanese ratio of losses from disease was about the same as that suffered by American soldiers suffered in two of the wars cited above. The experience gained from that clash in Manchuria, however, was put to good use a decade later, and the Japanese army's ratio of combat casualties to those caused by disease turned around dramatically. Noting Japan's success, he writes, "Only one and two-tenths percent of the entire army died of sickness or disease. Only one and one-half died of gunshot wounds, although twenty-four percent were wounded . . . This record is, I believe, unparalleled and unapproached in the annals of war."
"Japan put into use the most elaborate and
In contrast, war correspondents recorded a statement by one of the Russian officers caught in the siege of Port Arthur: "Our principal enemies are the scurvy and 11-inch shells, which know no obstacle and against which there is no protection." (Eleven-inch shells were made possible by another Japanese scientific breakthrough, this time in gunpowder by Admiral Shimose Masachika; Shimose, like his compatriot Shiga, made it into Webster's Dictionary.)
Japan's early contact with bacteriological warfare was defensive. Seaman writes of the water sanitation methods which the Japanese practiced in an attempt to neutralize the problem that "the water supplies in the territory where the campaign was conducted had been left infected with the deadly germs of typhoid, dysentery, and cholera by the retreating Russians."
After the battle of Mukden, he wrote of sixty thousand Russian prisoners, many of them sick and wounded, taken by Japan. Another seventeen thousand sick and wounded were captured at Port Arthur. The American surgeon recorded how the Japanese cared for captured prisoners, taking careful case notes of their injuries and dressing their wounds, while the fleeing Russians left their dead and wounded so as to be able to retreat with maximum speed. Japan was in effect relieving the burden on the enemy hospitals. "This fact should be borne well in mind," Seaman wrote, "for should at a later date invidious comparisons be made regarding the low death-rate of the Russian wounded, it is Japan to whom the credit belongs. For it was under Japanese care that such a large percentage of them recovered."