Japan’s Legacy of War Crimes in China

Hits: 1114

During World War II, Japan’s imperialist military invaded Northeast China and afterward spread throughout Southeast Asia, then on to an ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese crimes were many during the war and included the coerced services of ianfu (comfort women) for Japanese troops, slave labor, and experimentation on living humans.

Today Japanese right-wingers clamor for a re-expansion of Japanese militarism; prime minister Abe Shinzo pays visits to a shrine venerating Japanese dead — among them war criminals; the Diet demonstrates belligerence toward North Korea, a country Japan had formerly occupied; Okinawans’ (Japanese living on the southern archipelago) call for the removal of US military bases goes unheeded; and Japanese grapple with racism still rife toward ethnic Koreans in Japan. The current status post-WWII is not pretty and does not bode well for a Japan aspiring to a permanent United Nations Security Council seat.

Chinese seem particularly well-informed about the situation in Japan albeit biased.

A few months back, a neighbor in Harbin expressed her disdain for the Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo. This was in response to Abe having visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which houses the kami (spirits) of Japanese war criminals. Such is the palpable acrimony still felt by many Chinese people toward Japan. The criticism of Japan is widespread, but seems especially strident among all age groups in the northeastern city of Harbin – understandably so.

Seeking a better understanding for the animosity, I boarded the 338 bus in the Nangang district of Harbin and headed south to Ping Fang on the outskirts of Harbin. I asked the bus driver to inform me when we reached the stop for the Unit 731 Museum, founded on the site where many Japanese war crimes took place. The Japanese dissembled Unit 731 as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (the Imperial Japanese Army of that WWII era), which was set up on secret decree from Japanese emperor Hirohito. [1]

Ruins of Unit 731 boiler room

After alighting the bus, I walked down a side street and came to a gravel field surrounded by barbed wire fencing; in the near distance stood the ruins of Unit 731’s boiler. I crossed the gravel field to see the ruins close up and then proceeded to the Exhibition Hall of Evidence of War Crimes by Japanese Army Unit 731 (Unit 731 Museum). The museum opened to the public on 15 August 2015; admission is free and translations of the evidence are available in English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

The museum’s darkened entrance to the exhibits features an imposing spotlighted stone wall informing the visitor that evidence of inhuman atrocities lies beyond.

I was aware of Japanese World War II crimes and atrocities in China, having visited the Nanjing Massacre Hall in 2003. There the number 300000 is on bold display for the claimed number of victims. The memorial hall’s evidence drives home the horrors that the late author Iris Chang wrote of in her book, The Rape of Nanking.

Inside the Unit 731 Museum, visitors will see evidence of biological and chemical weapons experiments that used squirrels, rats, fleas, and humans as guinea pigs. Clearly such experiments constituted insidious forms of torture. The victims were mainly Chinese, but included Koreans and Russians, and even some Americans. To the Japanese, however, their victims were not humans; they were maruta (logs).

Group photo of members from Training and Education Division of Unit 731

The physician-/torturer-in-charge was lieutenant-general Ishii Shiro whose name has not been accorded the widespread infamy of the German SS physician/torturer Josef Mengele. Proceeding further in the museum, a photo captured my attention. There were six rows of people, men and women of the Training and Education division of Unit 731. Much as one might have no difficulty envisioning horns and a piked tail attached to Ishii, the everydayness of these people quite embodies the banality of evil. These Japanese were associated with the freezing, gassing, infecting, and live vivisection of maruta.

The prisoners were infected with 29 major species of bacteria such as typhoid, plague, anthrax, and cholera. Plague rats were bred, as well as plague-bearing fleas, and these were dropped onto Chinese villages and the results recorded. At other times, prisoners were bound to wooden crosses in a clearing to which ceramic, poison gas-filled canisters were dropped from the sky.

Frost-bite experiments were often carried out in the extreme cold of Inner Mongolia.

The experiments/tortures included freezing prisoners in various states of undress to determine optimal thawing methods.

Another shocking exhibit was of an airtight cubicle in which two frightened, young girls were clinging to each other. Outside the cubicle stood four Japanese observing and recording the effects of the poison gas experiment. These experiments were repeated until the victims died.

The most grotesque experiments were vivisections performed on living humans, usually without anesthesia. The victims were strapped down and their mouths were stuffed with medical gauze to stifle their screams. [2]

Despite such grotesquerie, the 731 Museum exhibits are displayed in a thoroughly restrained manner. The intent is not to shock or repulse visitors, rather it is to inform. Japanese war criminals have testified to this. Yutaka Mitsuo, formerly with a Japanese military police in Dalian, said,

“The Chinese government has adopted a merciful and lenient attitude toward Japanese war criminals – that is, to hate the crimes rather than the sinners.” [3]

Conversely, the Japanese government has endeavored to cover up the war crimes. Japan has neither acknowledged nor apologized for the war crimes committed by Unit 731.

At the end of WWII, the Japanese were forced to destroy and flee their 100 biological and chemical weapons facilities in 19 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions of China. [4] The razed facilities left behind a ticking time bomb of plague for the Chinese. [5]

The United States was fully complicit in the cover up of Unit 731. In exchange for turning over documentation on Unit 731’s experiments, the US agreed to protect the Japanese war criminals from Edward Hill prosecution. , an American investigating Japanese biological warfare remarked of the research data obtained from Unit 731:

“Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation.” [emphasis added] [6]

Apparently such scruples did not apply to skirting justice to obtain the morbid information. The US cover-up has been criticized for “sacrificing and sabotaging the interests of China and the Soviet Union.” [7]

The Unit 731 Museum serves an educative function. The atrocities are meant to deter future war crimes and promote peace. The Unit 731 Museum is also a testament to a dark epoch in Japanese history for which the country has never taken responsibility. Having lived a number of years in Japan, my experience is that most Japanese are unaware of war crimes committed in WWII. The Japanese government’s elision of this shameful history has been effective. In 2010, a questionnaire given to Japanese medical students in Tokyo found that 62% knew nothing about Unit 731. [8] That is, these students knew nothing of the sordid history in which the Japanese medical establishment was deeply involved.

The present generation of Japanese did not commit the crimes. These sordid crimes belong to their ancestors. However, until Japanese society does what is right and just by its past victims, the war crimes will endure as a historical and present-day blight on Japan. Until Japan deals forthrightly with its unatoned-for militarism, the stain of war crimes will linger. [9]

Conclusion

Unit 731 Museum presents a conclusion, upon which I can not improve:

The exhibits of crime evidences of Unit 731 publically demonstrate the historical facts and crimes of Japanese biological warfare and Unit 731. The objective of disclosing its war crimes, responsibility and post-war damages to a full extent is to arouse awareness and remembrance of the history, from which lessons can be learnt, and deep reflection can be made about the relationship between war and medical science, war and conscience, as well as war and peace. From there, we should also learn how to respect human rights and freedom, in pursuit of peace and a civilized world.

Notes

1. Yang Yanjun, Japan’s Biological Warfare in China (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2016): 13.

2. Ibid, 57.

3. Ibid, 50.

4. Ibid, 109.

5. Ibid, 110-112.

6. Ibid, 133.

7. Ibid, 143.

8. Ibid, 179.

9. I write as a Canadian passport holder who resides in China. The present generation of “Canadians” did not commit the ethnic cleansing and extirpation of Turtle Island’s Indigenous peoples (albeit the racist attitudes and crimes continue on a lesser scale), but the genocide still demands political and societal atonement. For elaboration, see Kim Petersen, “Biological Warfare in the Pacific Northwest,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2013. See also Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Montreal: Black Rose, 1973); Tom Swanky, The Smallpox War in Nuxalk Territory(Lulu Press, 2016); James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013).


Originally published on 2017-07-18

About the author: Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen.

Source: Global Research

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

READ MORE!
Target Orthodox Church: NATO’s Eastern Crusades
Needless to say, the important and portentous story of the attempted subversion of the Orthodox Church using the intelligence and political instruments still at the disposal of the moribund post-Christian West has gone virtually unreported, uncommented, and uncondemned. It concerns the multi-front offensive currently being unleashed against the most ancient and authentic Christian communion, the Orthodox Church.The epicenter of this externally induced commotion is at this moment in Montenegro, NATO’s latest “catch” in its persistent effort to secure or at least neutralize the Balkan rear, with a view to the projected conflict with Russia. One of the major remaining targets in ...
READ MORE
Cold War, Today, Tomorrow, Every Day till the End of the World
“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.”That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy ...
READ MORE
Zagreb, Independent State of Croatia, 1941
The consumption of history seems to be more widespread than ever: from general-interest history magazines and historical dramas and documentaries to historical fiction, popular history seems, well, unprecedentedly popular. The evolution of the TV historian reflects this trend: where once real working historians who had written serious books hosted television programmes, these days they are as likely to be photogenic media presenters with minimal, if any, actual history qualifications. The attraction of history and being a historian are not hard to work out. In the public imagination, historians are usually considered to be intelligent, objective people, if a little eccentric, who tell ...
READ MORE
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” — Seneca “When the CIA goes to church, it doesn’t go to pray.” — South American aphorism Let’s be clear. Syria is invading nobody. North Korea is attacking damn all. And Russia is threatening zilch. But on the eve of the apocalypse these nations are the ones being stoned. The sanctimonious are having a field day crucifying the leaders of these countries and stomping all over the humanity of their peoples. In a godless universe the tormentors of Syria, Russia and North Korea are behaving as if ...
READ MORE
Interview with Historian David Motadel: Islam and Nazi Germany’s War
In your book, "Islam and Nazi Germany's War", you write about the policies of the Nazis towards Islamic political entities. What form did they take?David Motadel: At the height of the war in 1941-1942, when German troops entered Muslim-populated territories in the Balkans, North Africa, Crimea and the Caucasus and were approaching the Middle East and Central Asia, Berlin began to see Islam as politically significant. Nazi Germany made significant attempts to promote an alliance with the "Muslim world" against their alleged common enemies – the British Empire, the Soviet Union, America and Jews.In the war zones, Germany engaged with ...
READ MORE
3rd November 1976:  James Earl Carter, 39th President of the United States of America, addressing a meeting at the end of his presidential campaign.  (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Former US President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with radio station “Voice of America”, said that the reunification of Russia and the Crimea was an inevitable event.Carter also says he is pleased with Russia’s commitment to implement the Minsk agreement.  He added that the Elders were also pleased with Russia’s allegiance to the Minsk agreement.  “There’s not any doubt in our mind that the Russians genuinely want to see all the aspects of that concluded.  I think that’s the only ballgame in town,” said Carter, “really as far as resolving the problems with Ukraine, is to get the Minsk agreement ...
READ MORE
Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys in front of Their Mothers
According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.According to various well respected journalists, including Seymour Hersh, the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed.Sadly, it seems that the evidence released years ago was only scratching the surface.While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it ...
READ MORE
The 6 Reasons China and Russia are Catching Up to the U.S. Military
Why the Gap In Military Superiority Is Closing? China and Russia are still behind the U.S. militarily. But they are both showing surprising breakthroughs that – sometime down the road in the future – could threaten U.S. hegemony. The Washington Times reported last month: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday warned Russia and China are quickly closing the military technology gap with the U.S. as inconsistent military budgets and slower innovation threaten America’s lead in the military world. *** “It’s evident that nations like Russia and China have been pursuing military modernization programs to close the technology gap with the United States,” he continued. “They’re ...
READ MORE
Why London Presented Hitler with Vienna and Prague?
State frontiers are established by human beingsand may be changed by human beings.Adolf Hitler.  Mein KampfDiplomacy, with all the conventions of its forms,recognizes only real facts.Charles de GaullePart OneAll of Adolf Hitler’s actions, from the time he rose to power in 1933 until 1939, could be described as one triumph after another.  He met each challenge he faced: he took over as head of the country, returned Germany’s lost territories without a struggle, and was given permission from England and France to rearm.  But one further task lay before him, and failure now would make his previous achievements almost pointless.  ...
READ MORE
Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia: Expulsion of Roma from Kosovo
Once NATO’s 1999 war on Yugoslavia came to an end, units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) poured across the border. The KLA wasted little time in implementing its dream of an independent Kosovo purged of all other nationalities. Among those bearing the brunt of ethnic hatred were the Roma, commonly known in the West as Gypsies. Under the protective umbrella of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), the KLA was free to launch a pogrom in which they beat, tortured, murdered and drove out every non-Albanian and every non-secessionist Albanian they could lay their hands on. Not long after the war, I ...
READ MORE
What is the Concert of Powers in International Relations?
After the first decade after the Cold War, it became obvious that an idea of global governance is going to be impossible primarily due to an aggressive US foreign policy as Washington intended to become the world hegemon and global policeman. A turning point in the post-Cold War IR became the Kosovo War of 1998−1999, which resulted in the NATO’s occupation of the south-western region of Serbia based on an idea of „Just War“,[1] but in practice for the creation of the mafia state of the Kosovar Muslim Albanians.[2] As a direct consequence of the NATO’s aggression on Serbia and ...
READ MORE
The U.S. Friendly Dictators
Many of the world’s most repressive dictators have been friends of America. Tyrants, torturers, killers, and sundry dictators and corrupt puppet-presidents have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to US interests. Traditional dictators seize control through force, while constitutional dictators hold office through voting fraud or severely restricted elections, and are frequently puppets and apologists for the military juntas which control the ballot boxes. In any case, none have been democratically elected by the majority of their people in fair and open elections.They are democratic America’s undemocratic allies. They may rise to power through bloody ClA-backed coups ...
READ MORE
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) looks on as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi speaks during a meeting at the Plaza Hotel on September 19, 2016 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / DOMINICK REUTER
“Fool me once, shame on you; but fool me twice, shame on me.”Ancient proverb, (sometimes attributed to an Italian, Russian or Chinese proverb) “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst F. Schumacher (1911-1977) (in ‘Small is Beautiful’, an essay, in The Radical Humanist, Aug. 1973, p. 22). “The powers-that-be understand that to create the appropriate atmosphere for war, it’s necessary to create within the general populace a hatred, fear or mistrust of others regardless of whether those others belong ...
READ MORE
Two War Photographs: Bosnia vs. Vietnam
Bijeljina, Bosnia in 1992: Serb Volunteer Guard (Arkan's Tigers) led by Željko Ražnjatović Arkan after the action of "cleaning the town from the Muslim jihadists" (official Arkan's explanation). The victims are local Muslim family members. The guard was composed by volunteers of all moral kinds being independent on the front line and in fact waging its own private war. Bosnia is a neighbouring republic to Serbia with 1/3 of Serbian population. Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and (Roman Catholic) Croats committed terrible crimes of genocide against the local (Orthodox) Serb population during the WWII (the so called Magnum Crimen) while during the ...
READ MORE
Jomo Kenyatta on Africa and Europe
Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1891 – 22 August 1978) was a Kenyan politician and the first President of Kenya. Kenyatta was the leader of Kenya from independence in 1963 to his death in 1978, serving first as Prime Minister (1963–64) and then as President (1964–78). He is considered the founding father of the Kenyan nation. Kenyatta was a well-educated intellectual who authored several books, and is remembered as a Pan-Africanist. He is also the father of Kenya's fourth and current President, Uhuru Kenyatta (Source: Wikipedia)Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate ...
READ MORE
The Harvesting of Palestine. The Zionist Project Prevails?
With the recent failed bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League at the UN security council, to try and end Israelis’ occupation of Palestinian land and to create a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, it seems an appropriate moment to review the situation for Palestinians since 1915.What is the background to the demonization and brutalization of Palestinians? Most of all, why is the international community was assisting properly and why has it not assisted the Palestinians in protecting or restoring their inalienable rights over decades? Why is their situation so brutally upside-down almost a century after ...
READ MORE
U.S. Geopolitical Games in Montenegro and Proven Winning Approach by Đukanović
In December last year [2015], NATO officially invited Montenegro to become the 29th member state of the most powerful military organisation of our times, if not, in fact, of all time. The country’s Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović, assured the NATO secretary-general that “you can count on us at any time.” It is always nice to hear that someone has your back. But in Montenegro’s case, it means that they have our back with an entire active-duty military force of only two thousand personnel. It is not quite clear how the tiny nation of less than 700,000 people enhances U.S. security ...
READ MORE
Ethnic Intolerance Against Christians in Kosovostan
Recent episodes of ethnic intolerance against the Serbian minority exacerbate conditions in a country which is increasingly an “Islamic island” in the heart of Europe. Kosovo is once again the centre of attention in Orthodox Church circles. In addition to new instances of intolerance against the ethnic Serbian minority, recent actions taken by Russian Patriarch Kirill and Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), abbot of the Moscow monastery of Sretensky Stavropegic, have drawn attention. Violence against Orthodox Serbs is growing: unsurprisingly, some of them speak openly of cultural genocide. Approximately one hundred and fifteen churches were destroyed or severely damaged during the Albanian attacks, and ...
READ MORE
Neoliberalism and The Globalization of War. America’s Hegemonic Project
The world is at a dangerous crossroads.  The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The US-NATO military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.America’s hegemonic project is to destabilize and destroy countries through acts of war, covert operations in support of terrorist organizations, regime change and economic warfare. The latter includes the imposition of deadly macro-economic reforms ...
READ MORE
The Vietnam War is not History for Victims of Agent Orange
Watching the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick 18-hour series, “The Vietnam War,” is an emotional experience. Whether you served in the US military during the war or marched in the streets to end it, you cannot remain untouched by this documentary. The battle scenes are powerful, the stories of US veterans and Vietnamese soldiers who fought on both sides of the war compelling.The toll in human terms caused by the war is staggering.  Nearly 58,000 Americans and 2 to 3 million Vietnamese, many of them civilians, were killed in the war. Untold numbers were wounded. Many US veterans of the war suffer ...
READ MORE
Target Orthodox Church: NATO’s Eastern Crusades
Cold War, Today, Tomorrow, Every Day till the End of the World
How Holocaust Revisionists Remake History as Nationalist Sham
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea
Interview with Historian David Motadel: Islam and Nazi Germany’s War
Ex-US President Jimmy Carter: Return of the Crimea to Russia was Inevitable
Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys in front of Their Mothers
The 6 Reasons China and Russia are Catching Up to the U.S. Military
Why London Presented Hitler with Vienna and Prague?
Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia: Expulsion of Roma from Kosovo
What is the Concert of Powers in International Relations?
The U.S. Friendly Dictators
False Flags and the Trump Administration
Two War Photographs: Bosnia vs. Vietnam
Jomo Kenyatta on Africa and Europe
The Harvesting of Palestine. The Zionist Project Prevails?
U.S. Geopolitical Games in Montenegro and Proven Winning Approach by Đukanović
Ethnic Intolerance Against Christians in Kosovostan
Neoliberalism and The Globalization of War. America’s Hegemonic Project
The Vietnam War is not History for Victims of Agent Orange