I haven’t done many book reviews over the course of my blog posts but every now and again, I come across a book which recounts almost unbelievably serious wrongdoing which has gone unpunished, often deliberately on somebody’s part. I feel that such incidents deserve to be given a little publicity. In such a category is “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton.
The book’s subtitle says it all: “Japanese Human Experiments on Allied Prisoners of War”. It recounts how the Japanese, terrified of the ultimate loss of face when they lose a war they themselves have started, make huge efforts to develop and perfect Biological Weapons, BWs. Before they are used, these weapons will need to be tested on both Europeans and Americans. The latter group are more important for the tests because Japanese attacks will target the West Coast of the USA, physically much closer to Japan.
“The Devil’s Doctors” concerns itself with the Allied prison camp at Mukden in Manchuria. Between one and three men are dying every day, only a short time after suddenly developing sickness and severe diarrhoea. On March 12th 1943, the senior officer records in his diary that 195 men have died in 126 days. All of the men who died were Americans with “not a single British, Australian or New Zealand prisoner“ involved. Here are some prisoners at Mukden during the time of the book:
As you can just about see in that photograph, conditions in the camp are infinitely better than the average Japanese POW camp, with clean fresh drinking water, hot water in the bathhouse and three meals a day, with as many as 3,000 calories consumed. Discipline is enforced in a much more lenient way, with no random beatings or beheadings. Why is this? Why are men dying when there seems little reason for this to happen? Why are conditions so much better than, say, the Burma-Siam railway? Are the Japanese trying to reproduce life in California so that their testing of biological weapons produces accurate results? Here are some typical Japanese POWs. They are nothing like the prisoners at Mukden:
The author carefully follows the dreadful trail to the truth. Is there a link between biological weapons tests and the “barrage of hypodermic injections” to which the prisoners at Mukden are subject. Why do the deaths increase just after the injections have been administered? Why do the deaths increase just after the distribution of fresh fruit to the prisoners? And what about the reports from prisoners about being awakened in bed by Japanese orderlies touching their faces with feathers. Just what is going on at Mukden?
The feather stories and the injections and the free fruit might all be construed as just silliness were it not for link the author makes with the proximity of Pingfan to the camp. Pingfan is the home of Unit 731, where Japanese doctors and scientists carry out acts of appalling barbarity and cruelty on thousands of Chinese nationals. Although there were seventeen other places in the South East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere where this frightful barbarism went on in secret, Pingfan was the undoubted capital of this Evil Empire. The author will spend most of the book exploring the idea, persistent over the last seventy years, that the doctors of the nearby Mukden POW Camp were testing BWs developed at nearby Pingfan on white men of varying origins. This is Pingfan:
It wasn’t as if such treatment of prisoners was unique among prisoners of the Japanese. The author quotes evidence of horrific medical experiments at Shinagawa Hospital in Tokyo where Captain Hisikichi Tokada injected the bile from prisoners with amoebic dysentery into prisoners with tuberculosis. POWs were sprayed facially with dysentery amoebas, a practice which is known to have been carried out at Mukden. And these were Tokada’s more responsible deeds:
You can read about Tokada’s other Mengele moments when you buy the book! Tokada, thank goodness, would be hanged after the war:
More to come next time.