Unit 731

Way back in World War 2, the west saw Japan as a force for evil in the world. Unit 731, under the command of Dr. Shiro Ishii, was a perfect example of what this meant. The Daily Mail has the story.

Human beings used for experiments were nicknamed “maruta” or “logs” because the cover story given to the local authorities was that Unit 731 was a lumber mill. Logs were inert matter, a form of plant life, and that was how the Japanese regarded the Chinese “bandits”, “criminals” and “suspicious persons” brought in from the surrounding countryside.

Shackled hand and foot, they were fed well and exercised regularly. “Unless you work with a healthy body you can’t get results,” recalled a member of the Unit.

But the torture inflicted upon them is unimaginable: they were exposed to phosgene gas to discover the effect on their lungs, or given electrical charges which slowly roasted them. Prisoners were decapitated in order for Japanese soldiers to test the sharpness of their swords.

Others had limbs amputated to study blood loss – limbs that were sometimes stitched back on the opposite sides of the body. Other victims had various parts of their brains, lungs or liver removed, or their stomach removed and their oesophagus reattached to their intestines.

Kamada, one of several veterans who felt able to speak out after the death of Emperor Hirohito, remembered extracting the plague-infested organs of a fully conscious “log” with a scalpel.

“I inserted the scalpel directly into the log’s neck and opened the chest,” he said. “At first there was a terrible scream, but the voice soon fell silent.”

Not only were the victims dehumanized, treated as wood for the mill, but the experiments for which they were used were in support of weaponizing anthrax and the black plague.

Japan’s prime minister Hideki Tojo, who was executed for war crimes in 1948, personally presented an award to Ishii for his contribution in developing biological weapons. Vast quantities of anthrax and bubonic plague bacteria were stored at Unit 731. Ishii manufactured plague bombs which could spread fatal diseases far and wide. Thousands of white rats were bred as plague carriers, and fleas introduced to feed on them.

Plague fleas were then encased in bombs, with which Japanese troops launched biological attacks on reservoirs, wells and agricultural areas.

Infected clothing and food supplies were also dropped. Villages and whole towns were afflicted with cholera, anthrax and the plague, which between them killed over the years an estimated 400,000 Chinese.

One victim, Huang Yuefeng, aged 28, had no idea that by pulling his dead friend’s socks on his feet before burying him he would be contaminated.

All he knew was that the dead were all around him, covered in purple splotches and lying in their own vomit. Yuefeng was lucky: he was removed from a quarantine centre by a friendly doctor and nursed back to health.

But four relatives died. Yuefeng told Time magazine: “I hate the Japanese so much that I cannot live with them under the same sky.”

The plague bombing was suspended after the fifth bacterial bombing when the wind changed direction and 1,700 Japanese troops were killed.

Before Japan surrendered, Ishii and army leaders were planning to carry the war to the U.S. They proposed using “balloon bombs” loaded with biological weapons to carry cattle plague and anthrax on the jet stream to the west coast of America.

These days, evil is an unpopular word. It’s thought to be not wrong, so much as tacky. Good is an unpopular idea as well, but evil is just too extreme, too very too, to be believed when a simple “not good” can be substituted. However, in the face of real torture factories or experimental germ warfare death camps “not good” is simply not good enough. The least word that will suffice is “evil.”

And that’s the way it is.

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