Many of the war crimes committed during World War II in Nazi concentration camps are well known. However, the war crimes committed by the Japanese are less known, and some would argue that they are more brutal.
One of these locations of grotesque human experimentations was Unit 731, or the “Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department,” which operated from 1938-1945. Located in Japanese-occupied China, many of the victims were Chinese, but there are indications that some of the victims were Korean, Russian, Mongolian, and possibly a few American POWs. These victims, none of whom survived, were referred to as “logs,” as the lab was located near a logging center. Estimates of those killed at Unit 731 range between 3,000 and 12,000, a widely varying number since most of the documents written here were destroyed
It was believed that anesthesia or bodily decay would alter the results done in experimentation; thus, live humans were necessary. Victims were exposed to freezing temperatures in order to determine the best way to fight frostbite, and after this, the limb(s) would be amputated and reattached to a different area of the body. Some were cut open, with no anesthesia, to remove their stomach and have their esophagus attached to their intestines. Others were put in pressure chambers to see how long until they’re eyes would pop out. Many were exposed to anthrax and bubonic plague to see how quickly it affected human tissue.
As a result of the experimentation done at Unit 731, many biological weapons were used by the Japanese against the Chinese, which resulted in the death of 200,000 Chinese during the war, and some 30,000 after the war when many of the infected lab rats were released into the local area. Several of these biological weapons were planned to be used against the United States. It is often speculated that the balloons that the Japanese sent over to the Pacific Northwest were a test for sending balloons carrying biological weapons. A Japanese submarine had been ordered to launch biological weapons on the US forces on Saipan, but the submarine was sunk before this could happen. Another attempt was Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night, which planned to send airplanes filled with plague-infested fleas, into San Diego via kamikaze pilots. It was scheduled for September 22, 1945, but the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945.
Despite the horrific deeds done by the scientists at Unit 731, the scientists were granted immunity by the United States as part of Operation Paperclip, in exchange for the results of their experimentation. Some of the scientists who did their work at Unit 731 went on to become the governor of Tokyo, the President of the Japan Medical Association, the president of the Green Cross Corp., and the heads of multiple Japanese schools, such as Kyoto University and Kinki University. The Japanese only acknowledged the existence of Unit 731 in the 1990s. No formal statement has been made regarding these war crimes.
Written by Drew Stapleton