Can you imagine your body being an object for experimentation while youre still alive? Thats one of the things the Japanese did to the Chinese during the forgotten holocaust, the Chinese holocaust. Among the universal disputes between many countries, Japanese aggression on the Chinese was one of the worst events in history to ever take place. The Japanese also destroyed many cities of China. Specifically, they destroyed the city of NanJing by conducting mass bombings and remorseless killings. Other examples of Japanese horrific actions against the Chinese happened in a place called Unit 731.
During the 1920s, NanJing only had a population of 250,000. However, during the 1930s, the city was highly populated with over one million residents. This increase was a result of the Japanese occupation and countless refugees fleeing to the city from Manchuria and other Chinese areas to the east of NanJing. The city of NanJing was a safe city for the Chinese until Japanese forces advanced towards it from Shanghai on November 11th, 1937. The Japanese planes bombed the wealthy and more populated areas of the city. The most devastating bombing occurred on September 25th, 1937. Its targets were focused upon hospitals with a red cross on the roof, refugee camps, power plants, water works, and radio stations. About 500 bombs were dropped from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and as a result, there were over 600 civilian casualties.
On November 25th, Japanese forces attacked NanJing from three different directions. The Chinese city soon fell to the Japanese Imperial Army. As the Japanese entered the city, a massacre began which lasted six weeks. During that time, the Chinese were not simply murdered, but were humiliated, and tortured. The Japanese used unthinkable methods of murder. They chased the Chinese into the Yangtze River with machine guns, drowning them. They poured gasoline on people, shot them, and watched them flicker up. The Japanese cut the eyeballs out of men and then burned them while they were still alive.2 Some Chinese had their hearts cut out. Even babies were skewered and tossed into boiling water.
The Japanese soldiers showed to be heartless when they made games out of these atrocities and used the victims as toys. Japanese generals organized contests of who could kill the most Chinese. Whoever killed to most would be the winner. Sometimes the number of bodies reached as high as five hundred in a single contest.3 News reporters came and observed the barbaric competitions and the victors were praised back in Japan. Their generals encouraged the Japanese soldiers to rape whenever they please, and so they did. After which they killed off the women. The victims has their stomachs cut open or their breasts chopped off. Comfort women were kept as sex slaves to serve the Japanese soldiers throughout the day. The Massacre of NanJing was therefore also known as the Rape of NanJing.
The Japanese army finally left NanJing when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the six weeks of horror, NanJing was left in ruins. Nothing was left except the dead bodies that emitted an unbearable smell for miles around.
The Japanese started a secret research program during and after World War II. The program was set up to develop weapons of biological warfare, including plague, anthrax, cholera, and a dozen other pathogens.4 Even after the Geneva Protocol was signed by 145 countries, including Japan, to ban all gas and biological weapons. By field testing, Chinese cities were invaded by plague bombs dropped by the Japanese to see if they could start plague outbreaksthey did. The Japanese planes dropped plague-infected fleas over Ningbo in eastern China and over Changde in north central China. No accounts were found regarding how many died of this. The plague caused high fever, vomiting of blood, shivering, respiratory failure, and body pains that resulted in a dark purple body color. Three out of every 4 who contracted this disease died.5 The Japanese hoped to use the soon to be developed weapons on the United States. They proposed using balloon bombs to carry disease to America and they had a plan in the summer of 1945 to use kamikaze pilots to dump plague infected fleas on San Diego.6 And yet only the Chinese were largely effected by this plague.
In a place called Unit 731, a part of the research program, human experimentation on Chinese people took place. The Japanese army, which was then occupying a large chunk of China, evicted villages near the city of Harbin in Manchuria to make way for the headquarters of Unit 731. Head of Unit 731 was a man called Shiro Ishii. He was born in 1892 to a wealthy Japanese family. He grew up arrogant and had no regards for those who he considered lower than him. After the emperor approved his dream of building the unit, the horror began.
Unit 731 contained such jars with feet, heads, internal organs, all labeled. Medical researchers, doctors, dentists, technicians, and scientists all had part to do with this. Fifty different types of experiments were conducted in Unit 731. All chosen spontaneously. The researchers took the deliberately plague infected Chinese, who was not given a vaccine, and cut him open to see the effect of the disease to the mans inside while he was still alive. The Chinese subjects used for the experiments were called marutas, or logs. A former medical worker in Unit 731 said he once saw a 6-foot high glass jar in which a western man was pickled in formaldehyde.7 The man was cut into two pieces, vertically. Medical researchers also locked up diseased prisoners with healthy ones, to see how various ailments would spread. The doctors even locked victims in pressure chambers to see how long the body would withstand before the eyes popped out of its sockets. Doctors even experimented on a three-day-old baby, measuring the temperature inside the infants middle finger.8 The needle was stuck in the finger to keep the babys fist from clenching and making the experiment easier. One experiment was to see which method was best to treat frostbite. Part of the unit held a freezing machine where they froze different body parts of the logs and tried various ways to dehydrate it again.
The Chinese were used as dummies for other experiments outside of the unit. Tied to stakes in a pattern in a proving ground called Anda, the Chinese were used to see how effective the new technological weapons were. They wanted to know how many people the bomb would kill and the distance from the bomb the person was placed. Few survived that experiment so few Chinese had surgery, and those who died received autopsies. Ishiis soldiers even went so low as to hand out chocolate candy laced with anthrax to starving Chinese children. Japanese troops also dropped cholera and typhoid cultures in wells and ponds, but the results were often counterproductive. In 1942, germ warfare specialists distributed dysentery, cholera and typhoid in Zhejiang Province in China, but Japanese soldiers themselves became ill and 1,700 died of the diseases.9
A recollection of a doctor, Dr. Ken Yuasa, says he remembers two Chinese men being brought in and stripped naked. Then he began practicing various types of surgery and when finished, the patients were killed with an injection. Dr. Yuasa said that the Chinese brought in for vivisections were used for practice and that they were routine among Japanese doctors working in China in the War.
Years after the NanJing Massacre, criminal trials were held. The Japanese that were not class A criminals were tried near the homes of their victims. However, the class A war criminals were tried at the Tokyo Trials in Tokyo. Twenty-eight men were persecuted and twenty-five were found guilty. Two of the three not found guilty died during trial and the third experienced a mental breakdown. Although Japanese criminals were charged and convicted, many Japanese citizens slowly developed a denial of the NanJing Massacre. Few Japanese civilians heard about the atrocities because of the Japanese control over the media, they heard only of the heroic war figures.
In 1990, the Japanese began to officially deny the whole case with NanJing and stated that it was a lie. But, finally, in 1995 the Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama gave the first clear and formal apology.
With all these actions taken upon the Chinese civilians, why was the head of Unit 731, Shiro Ishii, allowed to live peacefully until his death from throat cancer in 1959? It was partly because the Americans helped cover up the biological warfare program in exchange for the data collected by the experiments. A farmer who was a member of Unit 731 justified the reason for vivisection without anesthetic by saying that it might have had an effect on the body organs and blood vessels being examined. He even justified the use of children in the experiments. He said that the fathers of the children were probably spies. These attitudes contributed to a collective amnesia in Japan toward war atrocities.10
The NanJing Massacre and the experiments of Unit 731 could never be erased out of the past and should never be erased out of our minds. The cost of the breakthrough of new knowledge was borne by the victims of medical experiments. The apology of Murayama doesnt include the apology of all, so rather than denying it, it should become excepted by Japan and a lesson for the rest of us in hopes that history wont repeat itself. And yet still we can ask ourselves Can history repeat itself? The answer is disappointing: Theres a possibilitybecause in war, you have to win.11 Seems like nothing else matters.