Category Archives: Science

My Dad, Fred, and the Hollywood cinema of yesteryear

When he was a little boy, perhaps around ten or twelve years of age, around 1933, my Dad, Fred along with some friends, walked the mile or so to nearby Swadlincote, to go to the cinema. Here is the cinema:

That’s not the best of views, so here is the “Empire” but in later years:

Swadlincote has always had two cinemas but never at the same time. The sequence is usually

Cinema 1 open

Cinema 1 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 2 open

Cinema 2 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 1 is reopened by over-optimistic idiot

Cinema 1 goes bust

Cinema 2 is eventually reopened by another over-optimistic idiot

And so on

Anyway, Fred and his pals, all around ten to twelve years old, weren’t there to see any old film. They were there to see Boris Karloff in “The Mummy”, one of the most frightening horror films of that decade. Feeling extremely brave, they sneaked in and settled down, waiting to be frightened:

Fred was not, of course, like the modern child, immured to fear by hour after hour of relentless television, and he came out chilled to the core by Karloff, completely terrified by the whole film. And so did the rest of them.

There could be no sharper contrast, however, than that between this Karloff chiller and Fred’s favourite, and funniest, Laurel and Hardy film. The latter was “Fra Diavolo”, which, again, he would have seen at the cinema in Swadlincote:

One other tiny detail that I can remember my Dad supplying, which must have come from this era, was how, when watching silent films at the cinema, however old you were, you were expected to read the words of the dialogue for yourself. Nobody would help you. If you asked for assistance, you would be told contemptuously, “Learn to read !”

Overall, Fred must have been very interested in the cinema. His collection of old magazines, kept for thirty or more years in the glass fronted bookcase in the front room of his parents’ house, contained ones which featured German expressionist cinema of the 1920s, including both Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”. The stills featured included Rotwang’s house, Maria the Robot and the somnambulist Conrad Veidt carrying his victim high above the rooftops.

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On one occasion, Fred was actually able to meet a real, genuine Hollywood star. Just after the war ended, he was in Brighton for some long forgotten reason. He decided to visit a very distant cousin who worked in a local cinema, and who may well have been one of the Sussex branch of the Knifton family.

At the time, this particular cinema was the centre of all attention, as it was being visited by Charles Laughton, the world famous English and Hollywood film actor. Laughton was there to give a little publicity to one of his less famous films, a rather unloved feature entitled “The Beachcomber”, made with his then wife Elsa Lanchester in 1938. All of the cinema employees lined up to meet their famous guest, and Fred, at the urgent bidding of his cousin, joined on to the very end of the line, thereby managing, eventually, to shake hands with the great man:

Years earlier, of course, Fred had watched the inimitable Laughton in the 1933 film, “The Private Life of Henry VIII”. In common with countless thousands of other cinema goers, he had particularly vivid memories of the greedy king eating a whole chicken with his bare hands, and then throwing bits of meat and bone over his shoulder to the waiting hounds:

Who said that table manners were a thing of the past?

But, please be aware. Restaurants of all types seem to frown on throwing bits of meat and bone over your shoulder, and there are very seldom any waiting hounds to tidy up the mess.

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Filed under Africa, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Science

Pictures from my past (3)

Last time we looked at the Romano-Scottish discussions of 148 AD about the height of the New Wall . Some limited progress was made towards a solution: As promised, though, here is “Where’s Wally?” on his visit to a famous battlefield, the “Battle of the Little Bighorn” where George Armstrong Custer finished a close second to the Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse and Tatanka Yotanka or Sitting Bull :

Wally takes some finding because he hasn’t got his usual shirt. Instead he is masquerading as a Lakota horseman on the far left of the picture. Bare chested, he has been forced to paint his skin with his trademark hoops, on this occasion in blood red:

Today though, I wanted to tell you about some pictures which were very important to me as a child, as I ploughed through the ten volumes of the Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia which had been owned by my Dad when he was a boy in the early 1930s. Arthur Mee was a wonderful contributor to the education of children:

The encyclopedias contained a good deal about dinosaurs. I was very struck by the picture of Mary Anning, the 11 year old girl who, in 1811, found the first ever ichthyosaur skeleton:

I hadn’t realised what an incredibly hard life Mary had. She was oppressed for six things she couldn’t help. She was working class. She was poor. She was a Dissenter, a group who were not members of the Church of England. Her father died when she was eleven. She was a woman. Furthermore she was not allowed to join the Geological Society, because she was working class, poor, a Dissenter and a woman.

I didn’t ever realise that, in order to supplement her income, Ann used to sell those delightful Henry de la Beche scenes from prehistoric life. There were some beautiful ones in Arthur Mee’s “Children’s Encyclopædia”:

The first image occupied only the top part of the page, and on the lower half there was a representation of the fossils created by those splendid creatures:

To help children learn the names of the dinosaurs, they were added to the second picture. There were Ammonites, Cetiosaurus, Chelonian, Rhamphorynchus,  Scelidosaurus and Teleosaurus. Go on, have a go, you know you want to!

Every volume of the Arthur Mee encyclopedia had a full colour frontispiece. For this volume, not surprisingly, there was a picture of an Iguanodon. It is probably the most striking image of my childhood:

I love the way that this iguanodon has exactly the same enigmatic smile as the Mona Lisa. And as an added bonus, his eyes follow you all round the room, just like the world’s greatest artists do in all their pictures. Such greats as Michelangelo. Raphael. Leonardo. And Donatello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under History, Humour, military, Science, Wildlife and Nature

What would you do ? (7) The Solution

Here’s the emergency from last time:

And here’s the situation:

So, twenty seconds have already passed, and it’s already a dilly of a space pickle.

The space craft is still floating helplessly after the failure of the atomic motors. The crew have their space suits but they have had very little time to start the repairs to the motors before the alarm suddenly goes off. An extremely large meteorite is approaching them at ten miles a second. The time remaining before impact is less than forty seconds and decisive action is required.

What can the crew do ?

Well, page 2 of “Boys’ World” says that the correct solution is:

“There is only one thing they can do. They re-open both doors of the port airlock, allowing all the air to rush out of the ship. The rushing air acts like a rocket jet in the vacuum of space, and propels the ship away from the meteorite. Later the ship can be re-pressurised from their emergency air cylinders. “

And just to prove it, here’s the slightly blurry page of the comic:

“Why”, said the nine year old Ridley Scott. “What an amazing idea. When I’m a famous Hollywood director, I shall make use of it.”

“Stop daydreaming”, said his mother. “Have you done your paper round, Ridley? And have you done your English homework? That story about that woman on that space rocket?”

One intriguing thought is that Ridley Scott is known to have been a subscriber to “Eagle” comic. Did he used to read “Boys’ World” as well?

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the Supermarine Southampton at Hendon

You don’t always expect to see a flying boat in a museum in London, but the RAF Museum at Hendon has, among many other seaplanes, a Supermarine Southampton, a type which, between the two wars, was an extremely successful aircraft in Royal Air Force service:

The Southampton was designed by the famous R J Mitchell and it immediately brought Mitchell’s name to the fore as an aircraft designer. At the same time, it also gave Supermarine an enormous amount of publicity, affording a much greater chance that their later designs might be approved:

The first 18 examples of the Mark I were made completely of wood. They were delivered in August 1925. The RAF, however, was now beginning to express a growing preference for metal aircraft and when the Mark IIs were delivered, they were made entirely of metal. They were much preferred to the older wooden Southamptons which, from 1929 onwards, were all gradually converted to have metal hulls:


The aircraft was amazingly durable and reliable and each one had an average service life of around eleven years. One source of their fame was a series of long distance formation flights to many different parts of the world. In 1927-1928, the “Far East Flight” travelled from Felixstowe to the Mediterranean and then on to India and Singapore, a total of some 27,000 miles:

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The museum aircraft is a Mark I, N9899, from the very first ever batch of Mark Is which were numbered N9896-N9901. It was used by No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight at Calshot in Hampshire. Here’s a general view. Not many aircraft have a ladder. At least, not on the outside.:

On September 7th 1925 the crew had an engine failure just off Wicklow Head in Ireland and had to be towed more than one hundred miles over the sea to Belfast Lough by HMS Calliope. On November 23rd 1928 N9899 was one of three Southamptons moored near Portland when it broke loose from its moorings in a gale and crashed violently into a breakwater. Only its engines were salvageable. In 1929 it was purchased privately so that its fuselage could be used as a houseboat, one of five flying boats to suffer such a fate at this time. N9899 then seems to have been towed to Felixstowe where it remained until the RAF bought it back and began a restoration scheme in the late 1960s.

What struck me about the aircraft was its vast collection of amazing old fashioned rivets and apparently heavy ironwork. Here is a closer view of the hull, revealing just how many rivets are holding the aircraft together. I haven’t bothered to count, but I bet there must be the best part of a couple of thousand. It’s a good job Mitchell’s most famous design, the Spitfire, was not too much like a Southampton!:

Notice the beautiful flowing lines of that tight, superbly graceful, bottom, or perhaps “hull” would be a better word. The museum still has that purple light to stop excessive fading of fragile old colours. I would think that aviation experts will see in the Southampton much of the design that Mitchell took forward to the Walrus.

This photograph shows a view from the rear, with the squadron letters of QN. I have the distinct feeling that every one of those silver metal panels might have a few rivets. The section around the gun turret, above the roundel, certainly does:

Here’s my final view, with the wheels used to bring the aircraft into the museum still in situ. They are not part of the aircraft because the Southampton was a flying boat, rather than an amphibian like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, which had its own undercarriage:

Notice behind the Southampton a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal Australian Air Force. Can you spot the kangaroo? Here’s a better view:

The Japanese used the Southampton as well as the RAF. Here’s a photograph of a modern day Polish construction kit:

I think that “IJNAF” stands for “Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force” (or something very like it.)

 

 

 

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On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.

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“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (4)

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. Dr Felton also broadens the scope of his writing to include events after the war, when large numbers of Japanese doctors were found guilty of war crimes, in many cases on American personnel, but no sentences were ever carried out. “Why did this happen?” the author asks, but quickly reveals the real truth. The Americans were now thinking about war with their erstwhile allies, the Soviets:

To wage the next war and win, the American government wanted to know immediately everything about the Japanese biological weapons so that they could use the information for their own purposes. On August 13th 1945, before even the end of this war, in Operation Flamingo, the American government set up an OSS team to

“secure all Japanese documents and dossiers, and other information useful to the United States government”.

Indeed, fifteen military intelligence operatives were about to be parachuted into Pingfan to gather up scientists and data, when the Japanese, terrified by the thought of Stalin’s savage soldiers invading the sacred Japanese homeland, suddenly surrendered:

Shiro Ischii and his colleagues fled from Manchuria to Japan with all their data. According to the author, they eventually finished up talking to Columbia University’s Dr Murray Sanders to whom General MacArthur had personally given the job of investigating the Japanese biological warfare programme. Here’s Ischii again:

Everything that Dr Sanders found out was taken to MacArthur who decided that the Japanese data was “almost incalculable and incredibly valuable to the United States”. He wanted it “on an exclusive basis”. The Americans offered Ischii and his colleagues from Pingfan a “blanket immunity from prosecution in perpetuity”. The people who made this offer were well aware that living Allied prisoners had been experimented on. Both Pacific Stars and Stripes and the New York Times had published allegations in 1946 and in 1947 American Military Intelligence found 12 independent witnesses all giving the same details about the live vivisection of Allied POWs. Here’s MacArthur:

According to the author, when J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, tried to look into the affair, he was told by MacArthur’s investigating agent that “information of the type in question is closely controlled and regarded as highly sensitive”. In other words, he was told to get lost. Here’s Hoover, who does not seem to have pressed the point:


So Ishii and all of the rest got their lifelong immunity and were never put on trial. Had they appeared in court, the British and the Soviets would have acquired all of the data that only the Americans had at the time. Ishii went to live the American Dream in Maryland where he died in 1959. According to the author, the prominent Unit 731 vivisectionist, Masaji Kitano, went back to Japan and became the president of a large pharmaceutical firm. Here’s Kitano:

Sadly, the author, Dr Felton, does not name the vivisectionist who became Governor of Tokyo, nor the one who was President of the Japan Medical Association nor the one who headed the Japan Olympic Committee. Even so his research at this point could not be bettered, with some very dark and disgusting political stones being overturned.

As the war slipped away, the Japanese were keen to use their new Biological Weapons in the USA. Again, the author’s research into events at this point could not be bettered. A first feasibility trial consisted of a submarine launched spotter plane which dropped incendiary bombs in the forests of the West Coast. It was too wet and not a lot happened.

In August 1943, the Japanese Navy tested  large paper balloons, again launched from submarines, and again with the intention of setting fire to the forests. That project was abandoned in favour of an Army project to use bigger balloons carrying incendiary and anti-personnel bombs. Sadly, six people were killed near Bly in Oregon, possibly because the powers-that-be did not release news of what the Japanese were doing, because it might have caused mass panic.

The final piece in this well researched jigsaw came when the Japanese Navy commissioned the huge I-400 submarines which would have carried three aircraft each, Aichi M6A1 Seiran torpedo bombers:

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These aircraft would have overflown San Francisco, Los Angeles and other American cities and then  dropped canister type bombs or possible even crop sprayed them with Today’s Maniac Special… bubonic plague, typhoid, dysentery, perhaps even a nerve gas. Shiro Ishii would surely have had some ideas about what to do?

So why did it not happen? Well, the author’s persistent research has turned up a good few reasons. Firstly, Japan found it difficult to produce the huge I-400 submarines and the planes to go with them. Furthermore, a “morally bankrupt” Imperial Army still had one or two who remembered dimly how decent human beings led their lives. Quite simply, the Chief of the General Staff, Yoshijiro Umezu put a stop to it. He told his officers:

“If bacteriological war is conducted it will grow from the dimension of war between Japan and America to an endless battle of humanity against bacteria. Japan will earn the derision of the world”.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this book which lays bare the extremely dirty secrets of the Japanese and the Americans, and I suppose those of the Soviets too, because, although they never received any of the material scooped up and taken away by their American allies, they definitely wanted to have it. So too did the British, and there is a lengthy section about their activities with plagues and nerve gases, centred on the top secret centre at Porton Down in Wiltshire. The book is 198 pages and if you can buy yourself a copy, then you really should. It’s a fine tale about just where a Master Race complex can lead you.

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“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.

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“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (2)

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. This is Manchuria:

The events at Mukden were not a unique series of atrocities, however. By no means:

The author relates the dreadful events which took place on May 5th 1945 when a B-29 was rammed and brought down over Japan by a kamikaze fighter pilot. Of the crew, the first fatality had his parachute lines cut in mid-air by the wing of a second Japanese fighter aircraft. A second American was attacked by a mob of Japanese civilians who came running across a field to kill him. With the six bullets in his revolver he shot five of them and then himself. A third man was shot by civilians. A fourth man was never found. A fifth was sent to Tokyo to be questioned under torture. The rest were rounded up and taken to Kyushu Imperial University where they were murdered by the medical staff who dissected them alive in the post mortem room. The witness to all this was Dr Toshio Tono, a young medical assistant at the time.

In the 1980s he wrote a book about the event which named names, most of whom were, by then, in senior posts within the university. According to the author, the dissection of the prisoners paid particular attention to the brain, heart, liver and stomach. Times and places are given. On May 17th 1945, two Americans were dissected, on May 22nd two more, on the 25th a single man and on June 2nd, the last three men died. The horror is not over yet. On June 3rd the last victim’s liver was preserved for a party that evening in the Officers’ Hospital. More than one witness has come forward to say that the meat was chargrilled, seasoned with soy sauce and served as an hors-d’œuvre to the military and civilian guests, who knew what they were eating and enjoyed the meal.

I suspect that this incident may well have inspired Hannibal Lecter.

 

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Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, History, Pacific Theatre, Politics, Science, the Japanese, war crimes

Eagle Comic (5)

On the front cover, Eagle featured Dan Dare, the lantern jawed squeaky clean hero:

He could easily dominate the whole front page:

He was always helped, and occasionally hindered, by Digby, his rather podgy sidekick:

Presumably, he was named after an extremely obscure aircraft called the Digby, which was the name given to the Douglas B-18 Bolo in Canadian Air Force service. You can see this lost aircraft in action in the Powell and Pressburger film “49th Parallel” made in 1941 with Leslie Howard and Laurence Olivier. It’s a thriller well worth keeping an eye out for, and a film which portrays perfectly the repulsive attitudes of the Nazis:

Here’s another picture of Digby:

And, yes, he is using an electric hairdryer as a weapon:

I shouldn’t poke fun, though. Some of the science was years ahead of its time. Who else had heard of nuclear fusion in 1950?:

Dan Dare and Digby had their nemesis in the extraterrestrial figure of “The Mekon”:

Dan, Digby and the Mekon caused a revolution in the unchanging comic world of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. Issue N0 2 of Eagle came out on April 21st and the comic was on its way. Here’s the top half of that second issue:

And the bottom half of the same page:

Sometimes the price of the comic was rather strange. This issue cost 4½ old pence which even in the days of a pound made up of 240 pence was an unusual price. I can’t get enough of that eagle personally:

On the other hand, there was a 4½d  stamp at the time. Here’s a special one for National Nature Week:

The Eagle went from strength to strength, with its brightly coloured, vigorous art work…

It always had futuristic machines…

Here’s that orange caption:

There are occasional monsters…

And the Dan Dare stories always had lots of alien species. Was it this type of picture that inspired the bars and cafes of “Star Wars” ?

Why, they even had girls from time to time…

 

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“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.

 

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