“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (1)

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.



Filed under Criminology, History, Personal, Politics, Science

31 responses to ““The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (1)

  1. I agree with you, John. This sort of thing needs to see the light of air. All this has been hidden, deliberately or not, for far too many years.

    • Absolutely. If evil behaviour has been put on public trial, as at Nuremberg, I am reasonably happy with that. These deeds by the Japanese were,in fact, hushed up for political reasons, but that will become apparent in the next few posts in this series.

      • We idolize McArthur, but I wonder what he had to do with keeping situations such as this quiet. I wonder if anyone has any comments.

  2. Horrific indeed – and you have spared most details

    • There are more posts to come yet, Derrick, so “some details” at least, will be made known. One thing I haven’t included is the Japanese treatment of the indigenous populations, particularly the Chinese and the Koreans who both still hate their erstwhile oppressors to this day.

  3. Absolutely horrific – will any justice come to anyone? or will the commercial trade between Japan and the West be more ‘important’? I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance.
    But I’m glad you have highlighted it for us.

  4. Horrific, only humans can be so cruel. It is happening in every age and every place.

    • And nowadays it is pharmaceutical and chemical companies who are quite capable of testing their products on unsuspecting people. They don’t really care about any side effects in nature either. Here in England, bees are nowhere near as common as they used to be thanks to various insecticides on farmers’ crops.

    • My knowledge comes more or less exclusively from Mark Felton’s book. I bought it at a reduced price and was both captivated and appalled by the story it told. The Japanese got away with a very great deal at the end of WW2, mostly, because, like the Germans, they were thought to be needed in any war against the Soviets.
      Thanks very much for the link, by the way. It was very kind of you. As soon as I’ve finished replying to these comments, I’ll take a look.

  5. OH man. John, you know how sensitive I am, yet I read this post. I had tears in my eyes and my stomach was clenched. How these atrocities were committed by humans to humans is beyond my understanding. The horrors inflicted! That’s all I can say. I’ve got to put my head back in flower land.

    • I just don’t know how human beings can do this sort of thing to each other. I would never sleep again if I did it. I think a huge clue is that the Japanese were such racists at the time. If you think that somebody is automatically inferior to you, you aren’t quite so reluctant to harm them.

  6. That must have been very difficult reading let alone writing. The horrors of these camps is beyond belief and anyone involved should have been punished for what they did.

    • Alas, they were not. And if you don’t know what happened to the Head War Criminal then stand by to be appalled in the next few posts. Joking apart though, these people were just as bad as any crazy German scientist and nothing was done to them. Indeed, as you will see, quite the contrary.

  7. atcDave

    Wow, that’s really dark stuff. “Devil’s Doctors” indeed.

  8. Chris Waller.

    This is a revelation to me. I was well aware of the appalling treatment they meted out to their POWs but had no idea that they also engaged in the same ghastly experiments as Mengele et al.

    • Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as the saying goes. And it’s not just the Japanese, it’s a number of countries who seem to forget which one you are supposed to do…Good or Bad.

  9. Pingback: Japanese Unit 731 | Pacific Paratrooper

  10. Pingback: Featured Report: Japanese Unit 731 // Pacific Paratrooper #AceHistoryDesk reports | ' Ace Worldwide History '

  11. Can’t like this, but I knew about other nasty acts that can’t be excused even with the fact that it was “war”.

    • You are absolutely 100% right, and the great tragedy is that the men who perpetrated these vile acts were for the most part, never punished and indeed, were brought over to the USA with complete immunity from prosecution so that they could share their Dr Frankenstein type knowledge with their American counterparts.

  12. Thank you for speaking out about this horrifying part of Japanese history. I commend you for this review and for this post

    • I’m glad you enjoyed my review, and you are wholly right that such appalling behaviour should never be hidden away. Just as an example of their normal behaviour, the Japanese starved to death at least three ex-pupils of our school, two of them building the Burma-0Siam railway.

      Many, many years ago, I met a Jew called Josef Perl when we took our Year 9 classes to the Holocaust Memorial Centre near Ollerton in north Nottinghamshire.

      Mr Perl told me how he had got off his train, where Dr Mengele, the Angel of Death, had selected him to be experimented on, rather than be taken to the gas chambers. Mr Perl then asked me that, as a teacher, I should tell as many people as possible what had happened in the Holocaust, so that it could never happen again.
      I have never forgotten Josef Perl, or his request.

      While respecting Mr Perl immensely, I do not see why the Japanese should enjoy their own private diplomatic immunity. They were absolutely as bad as the Germans. They did everything that the Germans did and were just as pleased to do it. From eating their prisoners, there was nothing the Japanese wouldn’t do and it should be known about.

      But we should accept too, that the Japanese nation have all repented these evil ways. Like the Germans, the crazy people who carried out all of those insane acts, are now long dead, and the Japanese and the Germans can now be welcomed back into the human race.

      Josef Perl told me that too. He hated every German born before May 8th 1945 and bore no antagonism whatsoever towards the ones born after May 8th 1945.

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