Unit 731's Exploration of Biological Experimentation
Sections of Unit 731's Divisions 1, 2, and 4 were responsible for biological experimentation. Unit 731 focused its attention on battlefield diseases , but it also studied the effects of lesser known diseases on the human body.
Thousands of people interred at prisoner of war camps, including US POWs, were subjected to vivisections. Researchers infected the prisoners and dissected them to understand the effects of the diseases on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results.
"The fellow knew that it was over for him, and so he didn't struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down. But when I picked up the scalpel, that's when he began screaming. I cut him open from the chest to the stomach, and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped. This was all in a day's work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time.” - Anonymous former Unit 731 member
"I cut with strength. It was soft inside and I could not find the organ, so I cut again. I put my hand inside and that was how I found it. Then I moved on to the trachea. The person used for the experiment was still laughing, when I cut the neck and the blood gushed out. I can still remember everything clearly... I think I've turned into a devil, not a human anymore."- Ken Yuasa, former Unit 731 surgeon.
Prisoners were infected with many diseases, so the physicians could study the effects of the diseases. Plague fleas hidden in bombs were dropped on targets. These bombs were dropped on China, killing an estimated 400,000 people. These bombs were dropped by low-flying planes on China's Hunan Province.
"People were taken to a field and tied to posts. Helmets and iron shields were put on them to protect the vital parts of their bodies, leaving only arms, legs and hips outside. Then planes dropped bombs carrying plague bacillus and collectotricium. When the bombs exploded the bacteria liquid fell like rain, and the victims started to scream."-Sadao Koshi, a former driver at Unit 731
"At the time of the medical team's visit, none of us had dysentery. They gave us all an injection, which they said was vitamin shots, and within 72 hours, all of us had dysentery."- Walter Middleton, former Unit 731 POW
Frostbite testing was conducted under the leadership of Dr. Yoshimura Hisato. An anonymous Unit 731 member reported, "Captives were taken outside and dipped different appendages into water until their limbs froze. The effects of different temperatures was determined by bludgeoning the victim to see if any areas were still frozen."
Forced sex experiments took place between infected and non infected prisoners to transmit disease. A testimony of a prison guard stated, "Infection of venereal disease by injection was abandoned, and the researchers started forcing the prisoners into sexual acts with each other. Four or five unit members, dressed in white laboratory clothing completely cover the body with only eyes and mouth visible, handled the tests. A male and female, one infected with syphilis, would be brought together in a cell and forced into sex with each other. It was made clear that anyone resisting would be shot."
Japanese researchers experimented with diseases such as anthrax and dysentery. Pathogen bombs were dropped by Unit 731 on Chinese towns. An estimated 580,000 people were killed as a result of these experiments.
"In addition to reports coming out of China, American investigators found ampoules of cholera in Burma that locals reported where dropped from planes by the Japanese. In September 1944, Thailand also experienced a plague although there had been no recent plague activity in the area. The Thais and Americans both concluded that these outbreaks in Burma and Thailand were acts of biological warfare by Japan."- Sheldon H. Harris, author of Factories of Death
Dehumanization of Test Subjects
The staff dehumanized their victims, terming them "Maruta" (logs). These humans were considered inferior to the Japanese. This also played on the lie perpetuated to the local populace by the Japanese that the Pingfang complex was simply a lumber mill.
"I was very shocked when I arrived and found out about the human experiments. Very few of those scientists had a sense of conscience. They treated the prisoners like animals. The prisoners were the enemy, they would eventually be sentenced to death. They thought the prisoners would die and honorable death if, in the process, they contributed to the progress of medical science...I was very frightened although my work involved no human experiments. I wrote my resignation to Maj-Gen Kikuchi, the research chief, three or four times. But there was no way to get out. I was told that if I left I might secretly be executed."- Dr. Sueo Akimoto, former Unit 731 member