[Homestead] Jap Unit 731 atrocities

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sat Sep 18 16:57:30 EDT 2004

One of the many reasons I wanted to kill every Jap I could find, by any 
means possible after the Panay Incident, the Jap invasion of Manchuria. 
Pearl Harbor where many of the guys I enlisted with died, and the 
Philippines where other guys I enlisted with died in ancient Boeing 
P-26's with two .30 caliber machine guns and 130 mph top speed against 
Japanese Zero's.

Didn't help when we held one end of a grass airstrip, Japanese held the 
other, and one of our sargeant-pilots went down on take-off and we heard 
his screams for two hours when he tried to get back to us, having been 
skinned to the waist.

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Saturday, September 18

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'I Will Never Be Forgiven': Facing His Own Mortality, a Veteran of 
Japan's Bio-Warfare Program Seeks to Atone

*By Eric Talmadge* Associated Press Writer
Published: Sep 18, 2004


YOKAICHIBA, Japan (AP) - Yoshio Shinozuka sits on the wooden steps of an 
old Buddhist temple just down the road from his home and the place where 
he will be buried. Surrounded by pine trees and rice paddies, the temple 
is quiet save for the incessant buzzing of cicadas.

Frail and fast approaching his 83rd birthday, he points to a small 
cemetery guarded by a statue of the Goddess of Mercy that will be his 
final resting place. "I've already chosen the plot," he says.

Shinozuka has had a lot of time to reflect on his youth, and his 
memories of those days are crystal clear.

But they are laced with poison.

A member of Japan's Unit 731 in northeast China in the 1930s and '40s, 
Shinozuka belonged to perhaps the most advanced biological weapons 
operation of its time. As a teenager, he participated in atrocities - 
vivisections and other experiments on humans - that for millions of 
Chinese epitomize Japan's imperial rampage through Asia.

Conservative estimates place the number of the unit's victims in the 
thousands - as many as 250,000, some historians believe.

For many years, Japan's government denied Unit 731 existed.

In a landmark ruling in 2002, a Japanese court finally acknowledged the 
unit's operations caused "immense" suffering and were "clearly 
inhumane." But like previous courts, it said the government had no legal 
obligation to atone to the victims.

As far as many Asians are concerned, Japan has never faced up to its 
past. World War II remains an open wound deeply affecting its relations 
with its neighbors.

Shinozuka, however, has devoted himself to making amends.

He testified on behalf of his Chinese victims. He has written a book for 
schoolchildren. In 1998, he tried to speak at peace conferences in the 
United States and Canada - but immigration inspectors turned him away as 
a war criminal.

He accepts that label.

"It took me a long time to get beyond the excuse that I was just 
following orders," he said. "I was doing what I was told. And I might 
very well have been killed had I disobeyed. But what we did was so 
terrible that I should have refused, even if that meant my own death.

"But I didn't do that. And I will never be forgiven."


In February 1939, as Japan's war machine was devouring China, a 
recruiter came to Shinozuka's rural high school, dressed in an army 
aviator's uniform and promising a bright future for those who signed up. 
There would be college scholarships and possible careers in medicine or 
aviation, lots of travel, the satisfaction of serving the emperor.

"We were all impressed," Shinozuka recalls. "It seemed like quite an 

Shinozuka aced the examination. "I think everybody passed that test," he 
said. "It was very easy."

He was 15 years old.

Two months later, he was ordered to join Unit 731 of the Epidemic 
Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army and 
was shipped off to its sprawling headquarters in the city of Pingfan, 
just outside Harbin in Japan-controlled northeast China.

"The idea was that we would be responsible for providing our soldiers 
with safe drinking water," he said.

As a civilian with the unit's youth corps, Shinozuka spent most of his 
time in a classroom learning about basic medicine, sanitation and the 
spread of germs.

In the spring of 1940, he was given a more hands-on mission.

"Our unit was raising fleas and infecting them with the plague," he 
said. "My job was to see that they had live rats to grow on."

It was a simple operation - the rats and their fleas, along with grains 
of wheat, were kept in small cages in a dark room. When a rat died, the 
fleas would naturally move away from its corpse and were then corralled 
by carefully placed red lights through a bathtub into a glass cylinder 
attached to the drain.

"What happened to the fleas next wasn't our concern," he said.

But soon after Shinozuka got his new assignment, Chinese began dying of 
the plague.

According to documents filed by a group of Chinese victims with the 
Tokyo District Court in the 2002 compensation suit, Japanese military 
planes on the morning of Oct. 4, 1940, dropped wheat with 
plague-infected fleas over the city of Quxian.

Despite intense efforts by townspeople to burn the infected materials, 
at least two dozen deaths from bubonic plague were reported there by 
year's end. A railworker infected by the Quxian strain then spread the 
disease to Yiwu, where more than 300 died. Hundreds more plague deaths 
followed in nearby areas.

In November 1941, Unit 731 aircraft also dropped cotton, grains and 
other flea-infested materials on the town of Changde, causing two 
outbreaks - the second beginning the following spring when infected rats 
became active after surviving the winter. Overall, as many as 7,643 died.

"I never asked why we did what we did," Shinozuka said. "Nobody did. We 
weren't given any time to think about what we were doing. And there was 
an unspoken rule to hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. But there 
is no doubt in my mind that what the Chinese say is true."


Shinozuka's studies continued.

Back in the classroom, he learned about the mass production of typhus, 
cholera, anthrax, dysentery. Then, in 1942, he was given another task - 
prepping plague-infected people to be cut up alive.

Prisoners were infected so that the unit could study the progress and 
potency of their biological weapons. Samples removed from the prisoners 
were used to produce more bacteria.

"The first time, my legs were shaking so badly I could hardly stand up," 
Shinozuka said.

He knew the person on the operating table.

"I'd seen him a few times," he said. "He seemed like an intellectual. He 
wasn't even 30. But by the time he was brought in to the dissection 
room, he was so black with the plague that he looked like a different 
person. He was clearly on the verge of death."

In a tiled operating room, Shinozuka cleaned the victim with a scrub 
brush, front then back, then dried him off. Another man used a 
stethoscope to make sure the victim was still alive and then assisted a 
third man who quickly but methodically cut the victim open and removed 
his organs.

"We were told that it was crucial to extract the specimens before 
putrefaction had time to set in and contaminate our research," Shinozuka 
said. "The room didn't have a clock, but I guess the operations took 
about four hours. I will never forget the feeling of being there."

Shinozuka personally participated in three more vivisections.

"We called the victims 'logs,'" he said. "We didn't want to think of 
them as people. We didn't want to admit that we were taking lives. So we 
convinced ourselves that what we were doing was like cutting down a 
tree. When you see someone in that state, you just can't move. Your mind 
goes blank. The fear is overwhelming."

Shinozuka was now 20 years old.

The next year, he was formally drafted into the army.


When the war ended in August 1945, Shinozuka was a lance corporal with a 
medical unit near the Korean border.

Separated from his superiors in the chaos of defeat, he was caught up in 
the Chinese civil war and imprisoned for a year by Mao Zedong's 
communists. When he got out many of his countrymen had been repatriated. 
Alone and forgotten, he had nowhere to go.

"But the People's Liberation Army took me in," he said. "They treated me 
well, and I enjoyed serving with them."

After six years, his past with Unit 731 was discovered. He was sent to a 
re-education camp, where he remained until 1956. Oddly enough, he says, 
he has fond memories of his detention there.

"The camp was built by the Japanese, and it was quite spacious and 
comfortable," he said. "We ate better than the guards. They showed us 
movies and played music for us. We were allowed to play sports. It was 
much better than life in Pingfan."

In the camp, Shinozuka began to reflect on his actions with Unit 731.

"I began to be a human again," he said. "Had they been harsh with me, I 
might have gone into my shell. But they treated me as a person, and I 
had to think of them as people. I began to think of the victims as 
people, too."

Shinozuka said that although he initially lied about his Unit 731 
activities, saying he was researching new vaccines, he gradually began 
confessing the truth.

"I don't think they had much use for what I was telling them," he said. 
"But they sent me home with a pardon. I was never charged."


Every May, a couple dozen of Shinozuka's comrades from the re-education 
camp join him at the temple in Yokaichiba, a village about 60 miles east 
of Tokyo. Near the Shinozuka family plot, they have built a simple stone 
monument to Japan's Chinese victims.

"We express our bottomless gratitude to the Chinese people, and our 
deepest apologies," the monument says.

Of the 1,109 prisoners returned from the camp in 1956, few if any were 
Unit 731 members. Those unit leaders who made it back to Japan were 
spared prosecution in exchange for turning over information to the 
United States. One rose to prominence in Japan's pharmaceutical 
industry. Others went to work for the Health Ministry.

Back in Japan, but with no home to return to, Shinozuka managed to get a 
job with the local government office and kept it until his retirement.

Though he often wanted to tell his story, "No one wanted to hear what I 
was saying," he said. "The Japanese prefer to think of themselves as 
victims in the war. Even the peace movement people told me that talking 
about Japan's role as an aggressor wasn't constructive.

"But I couldn't let this piece of history remain in the dark."

In 1997, the same year he raised the monument, he testified on behalf of 
the 180 Chinese suing Japan for compensation. The court denied them 
compensation and they began an appeal Sept. 2. Health permitting, 
Shinozuka intends to be at some of the hearings.

In recent years he has visited China often and has been back to Unit 
731's former headquarters. The site is now a museum.

"The Chinese have been very generous with me," he said. "They tell me 
that I, too, am a victim."

AP-ES-09-18-04 1234EDT


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