Logs are Falling

16 September 2013 by Annelie Wendeberg, posted in Biological Warfare

“I need a brain,” says he, and off dash his guards, fetch a prisoner, hack at his skull with an axe, and deliver the steaming organ to their general. “But it’s damaged,” he complains, and sends the remains to the furnace.*

The complex covers six square kilometers - a small city, with 4,500 containers to breed fleas, six cauldrons to produce a variety of chemicals, 1,800 containers to produce biological agents, and prisons to house 300 to 400 people - the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department, better know as Unit 731.

Unit 731 Complex, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii had worked on biological and chemical weapons since 1932. In 1936 he was given command over Unit 731. For more than ten years, he tested deadly diseases and surgical procedures on humans, and is responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes in history.

In Unit 731, Ishii’s test subjects were referred to as “logs”, and in scientific publications as “apes”. His victims included the elderly, pregnant woman, and infants. Most of them were Chinese, selected to give a good cross-section of the population. By disguising injections as vaccines, physicians of Unit 731 infected thousands of people with bubonic plague, anthrax, smallpox, botulism, and other deadly diseases. The course of untreated venereal disease was studied by infecting - often by rape - men and women with syphilis and gonorrhea. Diseased prisoners were then subjected to vivisections without anesthesia.

Yoshio Shinozuka, a former junior assistant of Unit 731, wrote in 2004: Unit 731 was developing an envelope vaccine of plague ..Karasawa Division, to which I belonged, also performed human experimentation and vivisection on five Chinese under the pretext of a virulence test of the germ. First we collected blood from them and measured their immunity. On the next day, we injected four kinds of plague vaccines to each of four subjects. No vaccine was given to one subject as control. A week later, vaccines were given again. A month later, we injected 1.0 cc liquid with the same number of plague germs in every subject. All five were infected with plague...The man that had no vaccine was infected first. Two or three days later he became feverish and pale. On the next day he was dying and his face grew darker. He was still alive but the members of the Special Division, which administered the special prison of "Maruta" ["logs"] brought him naked on the stretcher to the dissection room where we awaited him...Lieutenant Hosoda auscultated his heartbeat on his chest. At the moment the auscultation finished, Surgeon Colonel Ohyama ordered "Let's begin!" (Shinozuka & Takayanagi 2004, pp.78-82)

Other units developed and tested methods for deploying bioagents. Plague-infested fleas were spread with airplanes, killing an estimated 400,000 Chinese civilians during the resulting epidemic. By the end of World War II, the Japanese bioweapon program had stockpiled 400 kilograms of anthrax spores to be used in fragmentation bombs.

Picture of Manchurian Plague victims in 1910 -1911, Russian text states that these were "Dead plague bodies held in storage awaiting scientific research", Source: Wikimedia Commons and Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images

U.S. investigator N.H. Fell’s description of Japanese anthrax bombs reads: In most cases the human subjects were tied to stakes and protected with helmets and body armor. The bombs of various types were exploded either statically, or with time fuses after being dropped from aircraft...The Japanese were not satisfied with the field trials with anthrax. However, in one trial with 15 subjects, 8 were killed as a result of wounds from the bombs, and 4 were infected by bomb fragments (3 of these 4 subjects died). In another trial with a more efficient bomb ("Uji"), 6 of 10 subjects developed a definite bacteremia, and 4 of these were considered to have been infected by the respiratory route; all four of these latter subjects died. However, these four subjects were only 25 meters from the nearest of the 9 bombs that were exploded in a volley. (Fell 1947)

What happened to these men who tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of people for bioweapon research? Nothing. Ishii’s knowledge was of great value to the US Biological Weapons Developmental Program. He was granted immunity.

Investigator, Edwin V. Hill, reported to the Chief of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps: Evidence gathered in this investigation has greatly supplemented and amplified previous aspects of this field. It represents data which have been obtained by Japanese scientists at the expenditure of many millions of dollars and years of work. Information has accrued with respect to human susceptibility to these diseases as indicated by specific infectious doses of bacteria. Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation. These data were secured with a total outlay of \250,000 to date, a mere pittance by comparison with the actual cost of the studies. (Hill 1947)

 

Sources:

Living Weapons - Biological Warfare and International Security by Gregory Koblentz

The Imperial Japanese Atrocities and its Enduring Legacy in Japanese Research Ethics by Takashi Tsuchiya

Biological Weapons Program by the Federation of American Scientists

Deafening Silence, The Economist

Occupation Censored Unit 731 Ex-Members' Mail: Secret Paper, The Japan Times

An Ethical Blank Cheque, The Guardian

Unit 731, Wikipedia

Shiro Ishii, Wikipedia

 

 

* This line is product of the author's imagination and, to the author's best knowledge, nothing anyone has ever said.

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