UNIT 731 was one of around 26 biological warfare and medical experimentation organizations set up by Japans government before and during World War II. Of those 26, Unit 731 reportedly was the worst, but that may only seem so because most info obtained about Japans gruseome experiments on humans comes from scientists from Pinfan, where the unit was set up. Pingfan is an area south of Harbin in Manchuria where the notorious four-square mile compound of the grisly organisation was built.
Japanese "scientists" carried out the most gruseome experiments on humans imaginable, including vivisecting live people (sometimes pregnant women), exploding hand grenades at various distances to tied up children to test their effects, flamethrowing people, cooking them alive, injecting them with deadly germs, freezing and starving them to death, and exposing them to X-rays. Not that you will hear anything from that among the handwringing crocdile tear shedders in Hiroshima.
There's a ton of information about Unit 731 on the Internet, but check each one and sooner or later you will come across the inevitable paragraphs dealing with the near amnesty the US gave postwar to 731's top scientists, most notably to its head, Lieutenant General Ishii.
From a moral point of view, there is indeed little to be brought in against the charge that the US used a double standard, rightly prosecuting nazis but then giving protection to the most abominable war criminals - worse than their worst German counterparts - in exchange for "precious" information on biological warfare (8,000 vials with human tissues of the unit's victims were handed over).
Politics is not about morals alone however, although in a normal civilized state it should be the rockbed of it. Already in 1945, it was becoming clear that the next war would be fought with the USSR. Manchuria had a land border with the Soviet Union, and there was a serious possibility that Stalin's scientists had had themselves access to 731's files on biological warfare, possibly giving the country a lead on the US in that domain so that it would have a stick with which to retaliate in case of nuclear threat from the US.
And if you are fighting a war, you should fight to win it.
But yes, General Mac Arthur himself ensured that Ishii and his staff went free.
All of which does not explain why the spirit emanating from the articles on Unit 731 seems to imply that the US, in trying to obtain horrific data indeed, data which it could itself not gain, is on a moral par with the Pingfan monsters. When I first read about Unit 731, some 25 years ago in a Dutch popular scientific magazine called Kijk, the article ended with the telling line "The Devil had found an ally".
Such is the nature of Anti-Americanism.
Over here at DowneastBlog, we know better of course. While the whole world is shedding crocodile tears over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and secretly - or not so secretly - enjoying another opportunity to bash America, I have decided to dedicate a post to the tens of thousands - some say hundreds of thousands - who died in the most unimaginable agony, whether in Pingfan or deeper in China itself - as a result of Japanese horror that makes Auschwitz seem bearable by comparison.
Via Mail Online, March 2, 2007.
"...A jovial old Japanese farmer who in the war had been a medical assistant in a Japanese army unit in China described to a U.S. reporter recently what it was like to dissect a Chinese prisoner who was still alive.
Munching rice cakes, he reminisced: "The fellow knew it was over for him, and so he didn't struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down. But when I picked up the scalpel, that's when he began screaming. I cut him open from the chest to the stomach and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony.
"He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped.
"This was all in a day's work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time." The man could not be sedated, added the farmer, because it might have distorted the experiment.
Most of these facilities were combined at Unit 731 so that Ishii could play with his box of horrors. His word was law. When he wanted a human brain to experiment on, guards grabbed a prisoner and held him down while one of them cleaved open his skull with an axe. The brain was removed and rushed to Ishii's laboratory. 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."
Other experiments involved hanging prisoners upside down to discover how long it took for them to choke to death, and injecting air into their arteries to test for the onset of embolisms. Some appear to have had no medical purpose except the administering of indescribable pain, such as injecting horse urine into prisoners' kidneys...."
From CityJournal, Spring 2010 issue:
"...Jiang is one of 15 elderly Chinese men and women whom Zhu is treating in his simple village clinic for what locals label “rotten leg disease.” A definitive diagnosis is no longer possible so many decades after the initial exposure and secondary infections. But Chinese, American, and other Western physicians who have examined the survivors, documented their histories, and photographed their wounds claim that they are victims of the most gruesome biological warfare attacks in modern history.
These attacks, orchestrated by Japan’s infamous Unit 731 between 1932 and 1945, are the only documented mass use of germ weapons in modern times. Scholars say that we will never know exactly how many were killed. Sheldon H. Harris, the late American historian, estimated in a pioneering work that between 10,000 and 12,000 Chinese prisoners perished in the bloodcurdling experiments that Unit 731 performed in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Another 300,000 to 500,000 civilians died, he wrote, as a result of Japan’s massive germ assaults on more than 70 Chinese cities and towns. China itself has disclosed no official tally. In fact, for many years, Japan’s use of biological weapons in China was largely forgotten. Only recently has a resurgent China begun to remind Japan—and the world—of the atrocities...."
If you have still the stomach for it, watch this video:
Unit 731 was active since before the outbreak of the war in the Pacific. Ever after the 1931 Mukden Incident, used by Japan to annex Manchuria (it made a puppet state of it, named Manchukwo), countless Chinese suffered under the gruesome excesses of Japanese imperialism and militarism. Not even counting the horrors of Unit 731 and its 25 sister organizations (including a poison gas factory near... Hiroshima), China paid a terrible price in lives and property. Hundreds of thousands perished in 1937 in the infamous Nanking Massacre, for instance.
If you have a quiet moment today, please pray for these utterly hapless souls. Pray. for. them.
Now, at the occasion of the 65th birtday of the bombing of Hiroshima, I therefore want to extend my heartfelt THANKS to the country that ENDED a horrible agony that had been going on since the early thirties.