A Preliminary Review of Studies of Japanese Biological Warfare Unit 731 in the United States
Table of contents:
In the midst of continuous denial by important members of the Japanese government individually or collectively that Japan was an aggressor in World War II, the planned exhibition of the Smithsonian Institute to commemorate the end of WWII in Asia has turned into an unusually fervid debate, with which an interest in discussing and writing on Japan's wartime atrocities has been aroused. Most prominent among numerous writings on the subject is "Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity" penned by Nicholas D. Kristof and published inNew York Times on March 17, 1995. The article has given us a detailed account of the most shocking, heinous, cruel crime the civilized world has ever known: Japanese Unit 731 used human beings for vivisection in order to develop biological weapons. Equally unbelievable is that the United States has covered up the crime in exchange for the data on human experiments, an act utterly ignoring international laws and human justice. What a great irony to the lofty ideal of democracy and the so-called "American civilization" of the 20th century!
The shock created by Kristof's article has been felt primarily in the U.S. and a few Western countries. However, as early as 1949, the Soviet Union held a week long trial at Khabarovsk of the Japanese war criminals for biological warfare. Among those tried, 12 people were associated with 731, including General Yamada Otozo, Commander-in-Chief of the Kuantung Army, Lt. Gen. Ryuiji Kajitsuka, Chief of the Medical Administration, and Lt. Gen. Takaatsu Takahashi, Chief of the Veterinary Division, both in the Kuantung Army; Maj. Gen. Kiyoshi Kawashima, longtime head of Unit 731's production department; Maj. Gen. Shunji Sato, head of Unit 731's Canton branch; and Lt. Col. Toshihide Nishi, Major Tomio Karasawa, Maj. Maso Onoue, Lt. Zensaku Hirazakura, Senior Sergeant Kazuo Mitomo, Corporal Norimitsu Kikuchi, and Private Yuji Kurushima, all of Unit 731. The entire proceedings of the trial were published under the title "The Trial of Former Servicemen of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons" by Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, 1950.
Since 1940, in Chinese theater, Ishii Shiro had led his Unit 731 to engage in biological warfare by attacking Ningpo, Chinhua, Chuchou of Chechiang province (during the Japanese-Soviet war at Nomonhan, Mongolia in the summer of 1939, Unit 731 was dispatched to the front to make bacterial assault). To retaliate the U.S. air raid of Tokyo led by Col. Doolittle in April 1942, from which over 60 U.S. airmen were rescued in Chechiang area, Japan launched a largescale mopping-up campaign, in which several hundred men from Unit 731 and its subsidiary Unit 1644 of Nanking took part. Early in November 1941, Unit 731 dispatched an airplane to spread bubonic plague at Changte, Hunan, which was verified by Dr. E. J. Bannon of American Presbyterian Church hospital at Changte. The event was well known to American and British intelligence agencies at Chungking and besides the Chinese government had fully informed the American and British government of it through its ambassadors Wellington Koo at London and Hu Shih at Washington. Chinese authorities had long learned that Japan used biological warfare against China and had repeatedly appealed to international communities for help. Before making their escape at the time of Japanese surrender, Japanese in Unit 731 set free scores of thousands of infected rats that caused widespread plague in 22 counties of Heilungchiang and Kirin provinces that took more than 20,000 Chinese lives. As the plague was well publicized in newspapers and periodicals, many Chinese became aware of Japan's employing biological warfare in China during the war. While the Korean was raging, North Korea and China accused the United States of using biological warfare that rekindled the public interest in probing Unit 73 1. Among thousands of Japanese prisoners of war (POW) repatriated from Siberia, some belonged to Unit 73 1. Together with those Japanese POWs then detained in China, they were tried in a special court at Shenyang (Mukden) in June 1956. Strikingly one of them was Ken Yuasa, the doctor mentioned in Kristof's article in the New York Times. Some others under trial included important members of Unit 73 1: Major Hideo Sakakihara who was in charge of Hailar branch of Unit 731 (there were four branches under Unit 731: Hailer, Sunwu, Linkou, and Mutanchiang), Dr. Yataro Ueda, Yukio Yoshizawa, Masauji Hata, etc. and also police affairs chief of the Kuantung Army Mibu Saito as well as many captains of Kempeitai (military police) who were responsible for providing Unit 731 with victims for vivisection (their oral and written testimonies were reprinted in a book entitled Chemical and Biological Warfares published by Chunghua Book Company in 1989).
Both chemical and biological warfares were banned by the Geneva Convention of 1925. Totally disregarding international laws and human morality, Japan employed poison gas bombs in the Wusung-Shanghai campaign at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese war in August 1937. But not until Japan dropped bacterial bombs at Changte, did President Roosevelt issue a strong statement of protest on June 5, 1942, warning against Japan by saying that if Japan continued to use poison gases or other forms of inhuman warfare, it would invite U.S. retaliation in full measure. It was about this time, U.S. started its own biological warfare research with the approval of Roosevelt, but that ever since has been kept secret from the public. Also kept from the public is the U.S. role in suppressing all efforts to put Unit 731 on trial in the Tokyo Trial and its subsequent cover-up. As a result, unlike hundreds of Nazi doctors who were duly tried and sentenced in accordance with the "crime against humanity," Ishii and members of Unit 731 have not been brought to justice.
In the United States, the first person who uncovered serious atrocities committed by Unit 731 and raised the issue of possible U.S. cover-up was John W. Powell, Jr. (who took over his father's publication, The China Weekly, at Shanghai, which was suspended in June 1953, followed by his return to America. After his return, he had suffered from inexorable persecution). In the October 1981 issue of Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, jointly with Gomer and Rolling, he published "Japan's Biological Weapons, 1930-1945." However, a detailed, book-length account of the Japanese biological warfare Unit 731 and U.S. cover-up had not been available until Peter Williams and David Wallace, two British journalists, published their book, Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989; a translation was made by Tien-wei Wu and published by Academia Historica, Taipei, 1992).
On the foundation of the joint work of Williams and Wallace, Professor Sheldon Harris completed his monumental book, Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and The American Cover-up (New York: Routledge, 1994). This article will try to compare Harris's work with that of Williams and Wallace and see whether Harris has succeeded in solving those questions first raised by Williams and Wallace and what remains for further academic inquiries. Before making the comparison between the two works, this writer will first report on what has been regarded as new or unheard-of in Kristof s article. So far as atrocities committed by Unit 731 are concerned, the most shocking revelation made by Kristof may be: (1) without giving anesthetic to the victim, vivisection was performed by Unit 731 doctors; (2) even three-day old baby was used for experimentation; and (3) Japan planned to use biological warfare against the United States.
In December 1944, Japan started a balloon assault on the U.S. by sending about 200 balloon bombs, but not germ bombs, to the west coast, each 30 feet in diameter and 91 feet round. They caused the deaths of 7 people. The person taking charge of the investigation of the balloons was none other than Murry Sanders, the man who was first sent to Japan to investigate Unit 731. Forty years later, Sanders recalled:
The only explanation I had, and still have, is that Ishii wasn't ready to deliver what he was making in Pingfang; that he hadn't worked out the technology. If they had been, we were at Ishii's mercy.
Moreover, Tojo had been the staunch supporter of Ishii and biological warfare. Dating back to his days as commander of Kempeitai of the Kuantung Army, Tojo was responsible for supplying Unit 731 with live experiment victims. Upon assumming premiereship in October 1941, Tojo personally presented an award to Ishii for his contribution to developing biological weapons and had a picture taken with him, which appeared in major newspapers. Unfortunately Tojo's responsibility for making biological weapons and using them was not charged at the Tokyo Trial. If Tojo indeed was opposed to using biological assault on the U.S. as Kristof believes, he did it probably not out of fear of U.S. retaliation rather than Japan's inability to deliver biological weapons.
Finally Kristof reports that one month before Japan surrendered, it still tried to send the "Kami kazi" suicide airplane with plague bombs carried by a submarine to attack San Diego on the west coast. Undoubtedly this is a piece of new information to fortify the belief that Japan on the eve of surrender still clung to a hope that the wheel of fortune might turn to its favor so as to escape the fate of unconditional surrender. The rest of Kristof s report was largely borrowed from the two books in question, which will be discussed in the ensuing pages.
I. The Origin of Unit 731
At the conclusion of World War I in 1918, the medical bureau of Japanese army set out to study biological warfare and assigned Major Terunobu Hasebe to head the research team, who was soon succeeded by Dr. Ito with a team of 40 scientists. This lasted a few years. However, the real beginning of Japan's biological warfare came only with the rise of Ishii Shiro. Ishii was graduated from the medical department of Kyoto University in 1920, and immediately joined the army. In 1924, he returned to Kyoto University for graduate studies, during which he married the daughter of President Torasaburo Akira of the University. He was awarded with Ph.D. in 1927. He rejoined the army and began to propagate biological warfare.
Harnessing the rising tide of Japanese militarism, Ishii rose to power which was redounded to three elements. First, in the name of a military attache, Ishii was sent to Europe in 1928. He pent the next two years in Europe and America to survey biological research in Western countries. After his return, he was promoted to major, and devoted himself to promoting research and manufacturing of biological weapons buttressed up by a theory that modem war could only be won by science and technology and that manufacturing biological weapons is most economical, particularly suitable for a country like Japan who is poor in natural resources. Second, Ishii found willing, powerful supporters in the army: Col. Tetsuzan Nagata, chief of military affairs; Col. Yoriniichi Suzuki, chief of lst tactical section of Army General Staff Headquarters; Col. Ryuiji Kajitsuka of medical bureau of the army; and Col. Chikahiko Koizumi, the Army's surgeon general (at the end of the war, he served as Minister of Public Health and comniitted suicide for fear of being prosecuted on war crimes), known as "father of Japanese chemical warfare; and the Minister of the Army and later as Education Minister Sadao Araki, leader of the "imperial way" faction in the Japanese army. Third, shortly after Ishii's return from Europe, a kind of meningitis erupted in Shikoku, for which Ishii designed his water filter which helped stop the spread of the disease, thereby making his name known, especially in the army where he became the most famous bacteriologist. In spite of all this, Ishii's greatest asset to his success probably lies in his lack of morality strongly required for a physician. He apparently excelled others in being sycophantic to his peers, while oppressive to his subordinates. Finally he was so lavish with money as he became a frequent, valuable customer of geisha houses.
Less than half a year after Japan launched the September 18 Mukden Incident in 1931, Japan occupied the whole of China's northeast or Manchuria. Ishii and Japanese military seized the opportunity to move the center for bacteriological research at the Army's Medical College established in 1930 to northern Manchuria for expansion with a view to making the Soviet Union the hypothetic enemy. A special advantage for this move was that the Kuantung Army could kill Chinese at will and provide for unlimited supply of human experiment materials. With Chinese lives at no cost, Japan could lead the world in biological warfare.
At the end of August, 1932, Ishii led a group of 10 scientists from the Army's Medical College to make a tour of Manchuria and came back with the decision to make Harbin the center biological research, while choosing a site at Peiyin River, 20 kilometers south of Harbin. to build a factory for human experiments. To confuse the public, Ishii's center inaugurated at the end of 1932 was sometimes called Kamo Unit and other times Togo Unit. Then Ishii was promoted to lieutenant colonel and the 1933 budget of Kamo Unit was a staggering some of 200,000 yen.
The year 1936 marked the establishment of two units by order of Emperor Hirohito: one was Ishii's unit (to the outside it was called "Epidemic Prevention and Water purification Department of the Kuantung Army," whose name was not changed to Unit 731 until 1941), which was to be relocated to a new base at Pingfan, 20 kilometers southwest of Harbin. The other was the Wakamatsu Unit (after the name of its commander Yujiro Wakamatsu, later changed to Unit 100) to be built at Mengchiatun, near Changchun; to the outside it was called Department of Veterinary Disease Prevention of the Kuantung Army. In June 1938, Unit 731 moved to its new location at Pingfang occupying an area of 32 sq. kilometers which was marked off as "no man's land." In the meantime, Ishii had a promotion to full colonel with 3,000 Japanese working under him.
Both the joint work of Williams and Wallace and Harris's new book based their accounts of the early history of Unit 731 upon the Fifty Year History of the Tokyo Amy Medical College (Tokyo, 1988); Seiichi Morimura, The Devil's Gluttony. 3 volumes (Tokyo, 1982-85); and Kei'ichi Tsuneishi's two books, The Germ Warfare Unit That Disappeared (Tokyo, 198 1) and with Tomizo Asano, The Bacteriological Warfare Unit and the Suicide of Two Physicians (Tokyo 1982). Both works made a thorough use of the Khabarovsk Trial, particularly the testimony give by Ryuiji Kajitsuka who himself was a physician and a bacteriologist. Also both were consulted with a posthumous work by Saburo Endo who was a colonel in the general staff of the Kuantung Army and made an inspection tour of Unit 731 in 1933. Harris's work had even consulted Endo's diary which was published in 1985. Both works confirm the amount of Unit 731's 1933 budget as 200,000 yen and that Emperor Hirohito decreed the establishment of the two biological warfare Units 731 and 100 in Manchuria.
II. U.S. Authorities Well Aware of Japan's Using Biological Warfare in China
As mentioned earlier, at the outbreak of the Wusung-shanghai campaign on August 13, 1937 and in front of the watching eyes of the American and British navies and many Europeans and Americans, the Japanese army used poison gas against Chinese troops. In the succeeding eight years of war, Japan in 14 Chinese provinces had used poison gases for 1, 131 times.
In the book by Williams and Wallace, there is a translation of Chinese accusation of Japan's dropping from airplane plague bacteria at Changte, Hunan, submitted by Chinese Ambassador to London Wellington Koo to the British government and the Conunittee for the Pacific War which reads:
On at least five occasions during the first two years the Japanese armed forces have tried to employ bacteriological warfare in China. They have tried to produce epidemics of plague in Free China by scattering plague-infected materials with airplanes.
These five times are: October 4, 1940, when Japanese airplane dropped plague bacteria at Chuhsien in Chechiang province which caused the deaths of 21 people. On the 29th of the same month, Japanese airplane spread plague bacteria at Ningpo, Chechiang which caused the deaths of 99 people. On November 28 of the same year, Japanese airplanes dropped a large quantity of germs at Chinhua but no death was reported. In January 1941 Japan spread plague germs in Suiyuan and Ninghsia provinces and again in Shansi that caused serious epidemic outbreaks of plague in these areas.
Not that the U.S. was not aware of the fruitful research on biological warfare the Japanese had accomplished. However, she did not take the Japanese biological program seriously, Harris believes, simply because Japan was far away from U.S. homeland and could not launch a massive attack on America and also because Japanese being Asian were incapable of developing sophisticated biological weapons without the help of white men. In the August 1942 Rocky Mountain Medical Journal , there appeared a lengthy article under the heading "Japanese Use the Chinese as 'Guinea Pigs' to Test Germ Warfare."
With increasing number of Japanese prisoners of war captured in the South Pacific, the U.S. found out that not only was Japan engaged in significant Biological research; its program was on a far larger scale than previously suspected. Americans then knew that Tokyo was the center for biological experimentation and that Ishii was the forerunner of Japanese biological warfare with his epidemic prevention and water purification headquarters at Harbin. Also known to the Americans, mainly from Japanese naval sources, were the size of Unit 731 and germ bombs being manufactured.
Not until September 1943, did the U.S. begin its own research on biological weapons with Lt. Col. Murry Sanders, a young bacteriologist, heading the program and with Camp Detrick in Maryland as its base. Although the United States was almost four years behind England in biological warfare research, its program grew rapidly and was capable of mass production. For instance, a spoonful botulinus toxin multiplied to fill the vat in 72 hours, to produce enough poison to destroy 50,000 or more men. The most successful experimentation achieved by Detrick was the virus being freeze-dried that could be delivered to the enemy's territory. It is natural that American scientists wished to acquire the fruits of Unit 73 I's research.
III. The Deal Between the United States and Former Members of Unit 731
Only one week after Japan surrendered, Col. Sanders was among the first group of Americans to land in Japan. His mission was to locate as soon as possible the Japanese biological warfare machine and Ishii himself. In the next three months, Sanders had interrogated many important military leaders and Scientists of Unit 731, notably Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff and erstwhile Kuantung Army Commander-in-Chief, Ishii's deputy Col. Tomosa Masuda, germ bomb expert Major Jun'ichi Kaneko, but not Ishii himself.
Upon his arrival in Japan, Sanders was immediately under the deception of his interprete Lt. Col. Ryoichi Naito. He was a student of Ishii at the Tokyo Army Medical College. When serving as assistant professor at the college in 1939, Naito was sent to America. His mission was to get yellow fever strain from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York, which was refused. Later at Pingfang, he became the right-hand man of Ishii. Eager to secure the experiment data of Unit 73 1, Sanders approached General Douglas MacArthur saying: "My recommendation is that we promise Naito that no one involved in BW will be prosecuted as war criminal." The recommendation was readily accepted by MacArthur. By September, Sanders discovered that Unit 731 was involved in human experiments and he took the issue to MacArthur whose response was, "We need more evidence. We can't simply act on that. Keep going. Ask more questions. And keep quiet about it."
Sanders spent only ten weeks in Japan and was ordered home. The second stage of investigation was taken over by his Detrick colleague Lt. Col. Arvo T. Thompson, a veterinarian. After his return, Sanders was protracted to tuberculosis and invalid for the next two years, having forever lost the chance to come back to Japan to renew the investigation of Unit 73 1. Forty year later, he told Williams and Wallace:
I talked to Arvo Thompson [who committed suicide in 1948] who was to carry of the next stage of the investigations. And I remember telling "Tommy" Thompson about the anthrax bomb and the experiments on the human beings. I told him specifically to look the anthrax experiments and the Uji bomb.
When Col. Thompson arrived in Japan, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East just began the trial of Japanese Class A war criminals. In the meantime, Maj. Gen. Kitano, Commander of Unit 731 from August 1942 to March 1944, was brought back to Japan from China to face interrogation. Though Ishii was declared dead in newspapers and a mock funeral was held in Ishii's home town, he was available for Thompson's interrogation which was to last from January 17 to February 25, 1946. Ishii's tactics of resistance was to speak as little as he could and minimize the magnitude of biological warfare research as much as possible. He admitted neither human experiments nor Emperor Hirohito's involvement and instead took the entire responsibility upon himself. Yet sometimes he boasted of his knowledge of biological warfare, for which he could have written many volumes. Like Sanders before him, Thompson was fooled. He finished his investigation report at the end of May 1946, augmenting knowledge on manufacturing germ bombs and technique of mass production of germs achieved by Unit 73 1.
Taking a hint from MacArthur, Chief Prosecutor of the Tokyo Trial Joseph B. Keenan (a Democrat politician from Ohio) suppressed the Soviet accusation against Japanese biological warfare criminals. Maj. Gen. Charles Willoughby, MacArthur's intelligence chief, was in charge of the whole affair of Unit 731, shielding its former members from any outside contact in order to avoid any research data on biological warfare fallen into the Soviet hands. Despite the fact that Lt. Col. Thomas H. Morrow (a lawyer from Ohio) of International Prosecution Section of the Tokyo Trial and David N. Sutton, head of its Document Division, made a trip to China to collect evidenc on Japanese waging biological warfare in China, during the afternoon of August 29, 1946 no sooner was the Unit 731 case raised than it was dropped. MacArthur was empowered "to approve, reduce or otherwise alter any sentence imposed by "the International Military 'Tribunal the Far East." Chief Prosecutor Keenan, though deriving his powers from the US government, handed control of the whole International Prosecution Section to MacArthur.
Williams and Wallace have ascribed the whole deal--that Ishii and members of Unit 731 were exonerated from being sued for war crimes in exchange for their human experiment data, a price paid by several thousand lives, most Chinese but some Soviets, Koreans, and Mongolians-largely to MacArthur. This is not quite true. Harris's new book has proved that U.S. scientists, mainly those from Detrick, were equally willing to make the deal, therefore bearing considerable responsibility.
In April 1947, General Allen Waitt, Commander of U.S. Chemical Corps, sent Camp Detrick bacteriologist Norbert Fell to Japan for investigation to assess the progress and level of achievement in biological warfare. To Fell, Ishii, Maj. Gen. Hitoshi Kikuchi, Col. Tomosada Masuda and Dr. Kan'ichiro Kamei, particularly the last mentioned, who earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University, had repeatedly expressed that more valuable data were forthcoming on condition of their immunity from war crimes. They insisted that verbal promise would not do. On May 5, 1947, MacArthur sent a radio message to Washington making the following recommendation:
Ishii states that if guaranteed inmmunity from "war crimes" in documentary form for himself, superiors and subordinates, he can describe program in detail ... Complete story, to include plans and theories of Ishii and superiors, probably can be obtained by document immunity to Ishii and associates.
The above message put the State-War-Navy Co-ordinating Conunittee at Washington into crucial dilemma. Its sub-committee for the Far East did not complete its report on MacArthur's May 6 recommendation until August 1, and in the report a comparison of Nazi scientists and doctors as war criminals was drawn:
Experiments on human beings similar to those conducted by the Ishii group have been condemned as war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the trial of major Nazi war criminals in its decision handed down at Nuremberg on September 30, 1946. This Government is at present prosecuting leading German Scientists and medical doctors at Nuremberg for offenses which included experiments on human beings which resulted in the suffering and death of most of those experimented on.
Ironically, the conclusion the Committee for the Far East reached was: "The value to the U.S. of Japanese BW data is of such importance to national security as to far outweigh the value accruing from war crimes' prosecution." In spite of the State Department strongly dissenting as such a course would be a violation of international laws and detrimental to human morality and once revealed, it would be a source of serious embarrassment to the United States, the SWNCC accepted MacArthur's recommendation and decided that "the BW information obtained from Japanese sources should be retained in 'top secret' intelligence channels and not be employed as war crimes evidence" and not be fallen into the Soviet hands. However, the formal reply to MacArthur's recommendation had dragged on until March 13, 1948, when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent his cable of approval to Tokyo.
From Sanders's first investigation in the autumn of 1945, MacArthur acceded to granting immunity to members of Unit 731 in exchange for data of research on biological warfare. He also inculcated on Sanders to keep silence on "human experiments." And the belated reply from the Joint Chiefs to MacArthur's May 6, 1947 recommendation can only be construed on broad background. First, the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union began with Winston Churchill's March 1946 speech that the "iron curtain" was lowered in Eastern Europe, followed by Marshall's commencement speech at Harvard University next June which promised U.S. aids for rehabilitation of Western Europe. Then there was the Berlin blockade by the Soviet Union in June 1948, thus having constituted nearly 40 years of Cold War. Only viewed against this background, an we understand why the United States tried its utmost to get ahead in the biological warfare.
The second element which is also related to the first is that the granting of immunity from war crimes of Unit 731 fell in the province of MacArthur's authority. Then he was virtually a "super emperor of Japan." For the expediency of his rule in Japan or for his love for the Japanese that had been generated, by 1947 MacArthur had lost his interest in pursuing the issue of war criminals and in making Japan to pay war reparations to the victimized nations, particularly China. Just as Fell once said in connection with MacArthur Headquarter's secret funding for Unit 731: "The feeling of several staff groups in Washington, including G-2, is that this problem is more or less a 'family' affair in FEC [Far East Command]." Hence that Washington respected MacArthur's opinion was rather natural.
IV. U.S. Prisoners of War Used for Experiment by Unit 731 and the Issue of American Use of Biological Warfare in Korean War
As early as January 6, 1946, the Pacific Stars and Stripes, an official organ of the U.S. Army, reported that Americans were among the victims of Ishii's human experiments. A week later, similar reports was ensued in New York Times, hence news about Allied prisoners of war to have been used as human guinea pigs were sporadically divulged. An U.S. government document dated August 1947 has this to say:
It should be kept in mind that there is a remote-possibility that independent investigation conducted by the Soviets in the Mukden area may have disclosed evidence that American prisoners of war were used for experimental purposes of a BW nature and that they lost their lives as a result of these experiments.
Until 1956, the Federal Bureau of Investigation continued to accept as fact that U.S. prisoners of war were used in human experiments. In the 1960s, the issue no longer riveted the public interest. In 1976, Japanese television broadcast a documentary entitled "A Bruise-Terrors of the 731 corps," which rekindled the public interest which grew apace in America in the 1980s. Out of 1,485 Allied white prisoners of war taken to Mukden, 1, 174 were Americans. In their first winter (1942-43) at Mukden, 430 perished, most Americans. No matter how desperate American survivors from Mukden, like Gregory Rodriquez of Oklahoma, tried to tell how they were used by Unit 731 for human experiments, an accusation verified by Naoji Uezono, former member of Unit 731, U.S. Congress turned a deaf ear , thereby being irresponsible for paying their medical benefits and compensations. A British Major Robert Peaty kept a diary while detained in Mukden that gives sufficient evidence of Unit 731's using Allied prisoners of war as guinea pigs. Another Australian doctor R. J. Brennan also kept a diary, indicating that how the prisoners of war underwent experimentation. What bothered him most was one day 150 American prisoners were forced to march out of the camp, from which they never returned.
For over ten years, Rodriquez's son has persistently lobbied in Washington on behalf of his father and other survivors from Mukden. Not only does he ask for compensations to the victims; moreover he wants that the crimes of Japan using the prisoners of war for human experiments be known to the world. He told this writer that there is a former Mukden prisoner now living in Oklahoma who was taken to Pingfang, Harbin. The chapter "BW Experiments on Prisoners of War?" of Harris's new book has given great details, but had some discrepancies in figures. Also it is hard to accept his conclusion. He says that death rate at Mukden Camp was about 12 percent, almost all being Americans. Both Jack-Roberts of the royal Army Medical Corps and Frank James, a sergeant in the U.S. signal Company, confirmed that in that first winter, 430 men died. In the August 6, 1943 entry of Major Peaty's diary, "there are now 208 dead"; in the November 21, 1943 entry, "there are now over 230 dead." 430 plus 230 have made 44 percent of the Mukden POW population. Further, how many more deaths would have been in the next two years!
According to Harris's tally, there were only 238 POW dead at Mukden Camp and 1,617 survivors, figures which are far apart from those given by former British and American POWs at Mukden. His conclusion is that "American POWs may have been victims of BW tests, but there is no substantive evidence to prove that the experiments took place at Camp Mukden."
It is unthinkable that Harris wrote only two pages on the issue of U.S. using biological warfare in the Korean War, which he apparently did not want to talk about; in contrast, Williams and Wallace used 51 pages, one-sixth of the whole book dealing with the subject. China and North Korean began to accuse the United States of using CW and BW on March 5, 1951, a campaign which was stopped only with the conclusion of the war in 1953. Most importantly, International Science Committee composed of renown "Leftist" scientists sent a delegation to China and North Korea, whose investigation lent support to the accusation. This writer would take issue with Professor Harris for his using the term "Leftist." Could we ask: Is J. Robert Oppenheimer, "father of atomic bomb" also labeled Leftist scientist? Does being Leftist make one non-scientific? And then how about "Rightist" scientist? The six that came to China and North Korea included Dr. Joseph Needham who just died last March. Needham's studies of Chinese culture (he had studied the history of Chinese science and technology for over fifty years) and his concern for China had won esteem of Chinese intellectuals both in Taiwan and the Mainland, who would not question the results of his investigation and regard them as propaganda. Harris believes that the issue of American use of biological warfare cannot be clarified until archives of all countries concerned are open. Surely we hope this can be realized soon, but at the same time should point out that the release of more archival materials cannot overthrow a scientific investigation already made.
Also, Harris tried to water down the issue of confession given by U.S. airmen under captivity. Col. Frank H. Schwable was the chief of the First Marine Air Wing. After having been captured, Schwable and Major Roy Bley made "confessions" stating that "the joint Chiefs of Staff had directed U.S. forces to carry out planned germ warfare and that the order was part of a directive given to General Ridgway in October 1951" (New York Times, February 23, 1953).
At least as important as Schwable were Col. Walker F. Mahurin, World War II fighter ace and an assistant executive to US Secretary for Air Finletter, and Col. Andrew J. Evans, a former secretary to Air Chief of Staff Vandenberg. Before coming to Korea, Mahurin was commander of the First Fighter Interceptor Group in California which supplied men and equipment to the 51st and 4th fighter wings near Seoul. After being released, Mahurin was elected as spokesman for all POW fliers. All the 25 airmen who made confession under captivity had repudiated their confessions and denied BW charges. But Mahurin wrote his memoirs (Honest John published by Putnam of New York without date) which reveals and contradicts some of his sworn repudiation to his confession.
Any fair-minded person would not believe that the United States had tried to unleash a large-scale biological warfare in the Korean war. Needham said in reminiscence:
I felt then, and still feel, that attacks using toxic aerosols would have been far more dangerous, but I think the Americans just wanted to see what degree of success could be obtained with the essentially Japanese methods. My judgment was never based on anything which the downed airmen had said, but rather entirely on the circumstantial evidence.
As a matter of fact, over the issue of whether or not the United States was engaged in biological warfare, irrefutable evidence is still lacking; hopefully it could be resolved in the near future. Should it then prove that the U.S. indeed used biological warfare, one would not be surprised. Let us bear in mind that at his November 30, 1950 news conference, when asked "Does mean that there is active consideration of the use of the atomic bomb?" President Truman said: "There has always been active consideration of its use. I don't want to see it used. It is a terrible weapon."
The new work on Unit 731 by Harris as the joint work by Williams and Wallace certainly reflects years of studies, traveling for collecting archival materials which had long been closed and conducting interviews with former members of Unit 731 and others involved who otherwise would have kept silence on the sensitive issues of Japanese biological warfare and American cover-up. Despite the fact that the two works have not solved all the questions such as Japan's plan for using biological weapons to stop the invading Soviet army north of the Yalu River and to repel the landing of U.S. forces in Kyushu in the south, they together have given us a thorough understanding of the developments of Japanese and American biological warfare and how the immunity from war criminal charges granted to Ishii and members of Unit 731 had been done. Undoubtedly the two books combined represent a breakthrough in scholarship and have made a great contribution to the general public.
As in any excellent work, it is easy to carp some criticism, both works have made insufficient references to Chinese sources. Since Unit 731 caused a terrible havoc to the Chinese people, information about which has largely been found in Chinese materials. For instance, in the collection entitled Selected Archival Meterials of Japanese Imperialist Aggression against China: Biological Warfare and Poison Gas Warfare (Beijing: Chunghua Book Company, 1989), there are testimonies given by scores of members of Unit 731 and people aasociated with it are invaluable source materials. For the celebration of the 50th anniversary of China's victory in the War of Resistance against Japan, a comprehensive work treating the subject of Japanese biological warfare against China will make its appearance. Still, crucial to our knowledge of Unit 731 are Japanese sources. Recently a few former members of Unit 73 1, regardless of the pressure from the Japanese government, resolutely came out and gave their witnesses to truth and history and for their posterity.
It is anticipated that what remain to be riddles of Unit 731 will soon be revealed to the world.