For forty years after World War 2, the Japanese managed to keep one of the most grotesque and inhumane war crimes a secret. This was their institution, unit 731. Here, groups of medical scientists and doctors conducted unbearable human experiments on captured POW’s or innocent civilians. These included weapons testing of biological warfare. Thesis: The aftermath of unit 731 still has a psychological and physiological affect today. Thesis: The events that occurred in unit 731 were unjustified Thesis: Those responsible for the actions of Unit 731 have not received fair punishment.
Unit 731 was located at Pingfan, Manchuria at a 6 square kilometer facility that was known by the public as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army. The activities and experiments carried out are now known as some of the most notorious war crimes in history. Prisoners were subject to live vivisections after infecting them with various diseases. Organs were removed in order to test the diseases’ effect. These were most commonly done without anesthetic, in fear that it would alter the results.
Prisoners had limbs amputated to study blood loss. Prisoners were tied up outside in temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and then had their limbs sprayed with salt water in order to study frostbite. Doctor would then find different ways of reheating the prisoners, most of which died from shock. But despite the death of more than 2,000 of innocent men, women, and even infants from these experiments, these were mostly isolated incidences. Unit 731 did a lot more long lasting damage that is still visible today.
They secretly dropped germ-releasing bombs on villages. Planes dropped plague infested fleas on Chinese cities of Changde and Ningbo to test the affects of this tactic on population centers. Despite being one of the worst war crimes in history, those involved received little to no punishment at all. After Japan surrenders in World War 2, Japan destroyed Unit 731 and executed the remaining prisoners. Shiro Ishii was captured by US forces in January 1946.
However, the US wanted to prevent his knowledge of biological weapons from being discovered by the Soviet Union, and wanted to use Ishii’s knowledge on biological weapons to their own advantage to beat the Soviet Union in the arms race. Therefore, Douglas McArthur proposed a deal granting Ishii and those involved in Unit 731 immunity from prosecution in exchange for their knowledge and data on biowarfare. Therefore, none of the biological warfare and chemical warfare unit was prosecuted.
A top secret document found in the US national Archives was a “report on bacteriological warfare”(what is it called? ) which was written for the chief of staff of the Far Eastern Commission, compiled by Brigader General Charles Willoughby, the chief of U. S military intelligence. The documents show how the US government even offered monetary rewards summing a total of 200,000 yen, which is an equivalent of 20-40 million yen today, just to get their hands on their intelligence on biological warfare.
But it doesn’t end there. Not only did they escape prosecution, but many of them also returned to Japan and took on high profile careers later on in their life. Dr. Masaji Kitano, the second commander of unit 731, went on to become the head of Green Cross, which was once Japans largest pharmaceutical company. Yoshimura Hisato, a physiologist in charge of the frostbite experiments became head of the Kyoto University of Medicine and was known as an outstanding scholar and researcher.
Many others took leading roles in medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and institutions, such as the National Cancer Center and the Japanese Medical Association. Even to this day, the horrific actions that took place in Unit 731 will never be forgotten, and those responsible still remain free without any punishment, or remorse for what they have done. But we can clearly see that not only were the doctors of unit 731 responsible, but also the United States for making military intelligence more important than justice.