“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (3)

Last time I was talking about “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton which describes how, at Mukden POW Camp in Manchuria,  Allied prisoners of war, primarily Americans, were used to test Japanese biological weapons developed at Pingfan, the nearby headquarters of Unit 731:

The author then extends his account to some of the other atrocities carried out at other locations within the Japanese sphere of influence. In the last post I spoke of what happened to the crew of a B-29 Superfortress, brought down over Japan on May 5th 1945:

The crew were all murdered in the vilest fashion  and 30 Japanese eventually stood trial in an American court. Dr Fumio Ishiyama, the university’s chief of surgery, committed suicide to avoid justice. Of the remaining 29 Japanese, 23 were found guilty. There were five death sentences, four life imprisonments and prison for all the rest. Sadly, the sentences, awarded for war crimes up to and including cannibalism, were never carried out.

The author then reveals that the American government, having realised that their erstwhile allies, the Russians, were in actual fact, total savages and vile people and worse than that, a bunch of Commies, decided to do very little indeed with the guilty Japanese defendants. After all, the Japanese people were a lovely lot who well might fight on our side against the Russians if we were very, very kind to them. Nobody was hanged and every single war criminal was free as a bird by 1958. Personally, I’m only surprised that the thirty Japanese weren’t asked to write a best selling recipe book.

One of the most striking things in the author’s research is that the 700 page Official History of Kyushu Imperial University devotes just one page to the vivisection experiments it carried out for years on hundreds of innocent people. It reminded me of one German company’s attitude to the 80,000 concentration camp slave labourers they used. They don’t even get a mention.

The doctor in charge at Pingfan was Shiro Ischii:

Ischii wanted to discover how diseases affected the human body, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese people paid the ultimate price to help him. Aerial sprays were used from aircraft and bombs made of ceramic material but full of germs were dropped on Chinese civilians. It must have been a little bit like spraying forest fires nowadays:

Poisoned food and water was frequently offered to Chinese victims. Fleas carrying bubonic plague were released by Japanese aircraft over the Chinese cities of Ningbo (1940) and Changde (1941). At least 400,000 people died as a result of this. Here are the two cities nowadays:

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In comparison, casualties at Hiroshima were 90,000–146,000 and at Nagasaki between 39,000–80,000.
Dr Felton has researched Pingfan in enormous detail. The centre was divided into various ‘Divisions’, all under the command of Shiro Ischii. Division 1 worked with anthrax, bubonic plague, cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid, frequently introducing it to live people. As test volunteers, between 300-400 Chinese were kept confined at a local camp and numbers were always maintained around that level. Division 2 worked on weapons to deliver the toxins, trying to invent radical new ways to contaminate the western USA. Division 3 constructed artillery shells for shorter range operations and Division 4 developed new biological agents.
The book tells exactly what kind of medical and surgical war crimes were committed by Unit 731 personnel but I will not inflict them upon you. You will need to buy the book! Suffice it to say that the treatment meted out to these poor Chinese people was vile, beyond contempt. It still affects Sino-Japanese relationships today, mainly because of the extreme reluctance on the part of the Japanese to accept their guilt and to apologise in a meaningful and sincere way.


Filed under Criminology, History, Politics, Science

10 responses to ““The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (3)

  1. Chris Waller

    It’s difficult not to be cynical about politicians, isn’t it? That said, I suppose one could argue that the desire for retribution merely creates the conditions for the next war – one thinks of the Treaty of Versailles. I read some years ago of the behaviour of Russian troops during their advance in to Germany and, as you say, they were every bit as bad as the Nazis and the Japanese military. One feels that a certain cohort of Homo Sapiens has a long way to go to merit the term ‘human’.

    • I’ve read a fair bit by Sir Max Hastings and I think it was he who said that however you treat your enemy, when the time comes, your enemy will treat you in the same way.
      In the Battle of the Bulge, for example, I have read elsewhere that the Germans seem to have shot a good number of their prisoners. This was paid back by the Allied troops who supposedly took revenge on their own captives, The Russians had seen the German atrocities in the USSR where as many as 2,000 villages were burnt down and ploughed over, the population killed or taken to labour camps. That fuelled the desire among many of the Russians to do exactly the same to the Germans when their time came.
      I am currently reading a book which tries to relate the wartime behaviour of the Germans to the behaviour of us all, The author says that in every cohort of people, of whatever nationality, up to 10-15% are potential psychopaths. I don’t know if I believe that, but it certainly goes a long way to explaining some of my classmates at school.

  2. When you read about atrocities such as these it’s easy to understand the feelings of many held against he Japanese even today. They would do themselves a huge favour, in making some global decree in acceptance of what their forbears did and some gesture toward the building of bridges with the western world.

    • That’s a great idea but I don’t see it happening too soon. I fear that the Japanese still have healthy racist feelings about their own superiority and would not want to apologise for what the rest of the world considers were war crimes.
      Contemporary Japanese racist behaviour includes a blanket refusal to accept foreign help for the Fukushima disaster, a blanket refusal to accept any refugees from the United Nations and what is apparently a peculiar desire to preserve the purity of the race. A young man I used to teach is now a hospital doctor. He has an English mother and a Japanese father who was born in Japan. What he does not have is a Japanese passport as two Japanese parents are the most important requirement.
      Many ex-prisoners of the Japanese still hold a huge grudge against their ex-captors and rightly so. My Dad had virtually nothing to do with the war against Japan, but he still refused all Japanese products, and indeed, all German ones.
      When we cleared his house, the penny suddenly dropped that that was the reason for his Ferguson TV and his Philips microwave and a whole host of other rather obscure brands rather than anything Sony or Sanyo.

  3. Wonderful website. Plenty of helpful info here. I am sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And obviously, thanks on your effort!

  4. He doesn’t look like the sort of chap that you would invite to a dinner party that’s for sure!

    • And I don’t think that you’d be very keen when he invited you round to his place to watch the big sumo match, drink a little saké and eat a few snacks. I recently read an account of a group of Japanese soldiers who were doggedly fighting on in a cave system. Finally the Americans captured them and the interpreter asked the Japanese soldiers where their commanding officer was. They pointed to a pan on the fire which contained some soup and a few bones. Apparently, he had committed kara-kiri so that his men could eat him and continue the fight without the disgrace of surrendering.

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