by Christopher Reed
MAY 27, 2006
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Editors’ note: Under the overall codename Project Paperclip US intelligence agencies made similarly diligent efforts to acquire the research records of Nazi doctors working in the death camps. They also brought over several of the Nazi medical experimenters and set them to work in US military research centers such as Ft. Detrick. The Nazi research was quickly put into play in the field. In 1950, the CIA’s Office of Security, headed at the time by Sheffield Edwards, opened a project called Bluebird whose object was to get an individual “to do our bidding against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature as self-preservation.” The first Bluebird operations were conducted in Japan in October 1950 and were reportedly witnessed by Richard Helms, who would later run the Agency. Twenty-five North Korean POWs were given alternating doses of depressants and stimulants. The POWs were shot up with barbitutes, putting them to sleep, then abruptly awoken with injections of amphetamines, put under hypnosis, then interrogated. The operation was, of course, in total contravention of international protocols. The Bluebird interrogations continued through the duration of the Korean War. This history is laid out in detail in our book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press, Verso, available from our office. AC/JSC.
Everyone has heard of Auschwitz, but what about Pingfan? This Japanese germ warfare headquarters and laboratory in Manchuria, northern China, did not hold as many victims, but atrocities committed there were physically worse than in the Nazi concentration camp, and lasted much longer.
Many people know of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi SS “Angel of Death” and a physician (though not chief medical officer) at Auschwitz from 1943-45. There, he deliberately infected prisoners with deadly diseases and conducted fatal surgeries, often without anesthetic. He escaped and lived in South America undiscovered until after his death at 68 in 1979 in Brazil.
But who has heard of Dr. Shiro Ishii? He was the chief of Japan’s well financed, scientifically coordinated and government approved biological warfare program from 1932-45. Ishii rose to general and supervised deliberate infection of thousands of captives with deadly diseases. He also conducted grotesque surgeries, but the unique medical specialty of Ishii and his surgical team were dissections, without anesthetic, on an estimated 3,000 live, conscious humans. In 1959, Ishii, a wealthy man, died peacefully at home in Japan at the age of 67.
Why the discrepancy of knowledge about these two monsters ? After so long, why does it still matter? The answer to both questions lies in policies of secrecy and complicity that continue today. They should concern Japanese, of course, but also Americans.
It is because of U.S. connivance in Japanese secrecy that Tokyo’s biological war has yet to be fully disclosed. Its estimated 400,000 disease deaths, almost all Chinese, remain uncompensated. Japan, unlike Germany with its commendable atonement and billions of dollars in reparations, has yet even to apologize specifically for biological war victims, let alone pay compensation for suffering from its nationally driven medical torture program.
On my desk are two documents previously marked Top Secret and dated July 1947. They show not only full U.S. participation in allowing the Japanese medical torturers who escaped to Tokyo to go free in exchange for information, but that the Pentagon actually paid them. As General Charles Willoughby, chief of U.S. Military Intelligence (known as G-2) gleefully noted to his headquarters, these pay-offs were “a mere pittance… netting the U.S. the fruit of 20 years’ laboratory tests and research” in this “critically serious form of warfare.”
Meanwhile, as Ishii and his cohorts pocketed U.S. taxpayers’ money, the Soviet Union was preparing a criminal court hearing for 12 Japanese bug scientists they caught at Pingfan, just after its demolition by Ishii’s men.
The trial in Khabarovsk resulted in all 12 being sentenced from 2-25 years, but three years earlier, in 1946, the Soviet prosecutor had given his U.S. equivalent in Tokyo the main evidence. Nothing happened. After the Khabarovsk verdict, the Soviet newspaper Izvestia demanded Ishii’s arrest and trial. General Douglas MacArthur, Japan’s occupation supremo, denounced Izvestia and the trial as “false communist propaganda”. Obedient Western media ignored the Soviet charges. Silence then reigned for decades.
Then in 1981 American journalist John Powell, who had obtained the Khabarovsk transcript, published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists details of open-air germ tests on captured Chinese and Russian men, women and children. Some were bound to stakes in a large field and bombarded with anthrax. Others were subjected to germs of bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, typhus and typhoid, and women to syphilis.
And, in an excruciating irony, he told how Chinese captives had been killed by their livers being exposed to X-rays. Persistent rumors of Japanese eating livers of bio-victims have never been proved. But, the world’s first use of radiation against a wartime enemy was carried out by… Japan. Its biological warfare (BW) was also illegal, since all such experiments were banned by the 1925 Geneva Convention, which Japan signed.
The media headlined what they called Unit 731. This was the name of the commanding Pingfan imperial army group, and the one that became best known, but at least nine units functioned with apparently random numbers, dotted over China and Japanese-occupied Asia. All came under Pingfan, which had been specially constructed near the town of Harbin. It occupied 65 square kilometers, contained 150 buildings with cinema, a swimming pool, Shinto temple, lounge, bar, and laboratories, operating theaters, and prison cells. It was serviced by its own rail branch line and had fleets of vehicles and airplanes.
During the 1981 burst of publicity, Justice B.V.A Roling, a Dutchman and the only surviving judge from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo, Asia’s Nuremberg, complained that no word about biological warfare had been offered in evidence. He wrote: “It is a bitter experience for me to be informed now that centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the court by the U.S. government.”
General Willoughby and officials of MacArthur’s Supreme Command for the Allied Powers in Tokyo had succeeded in suppressing evidence from Ishii and colleagues, but separate inquiries were made by the International Prosecution Section (IPS). Its lawyers gathered evidence including detailed statements from defecting Japanese bio-scientists from Pingfan. The latter testified to human live vivisection, the dumping of lethal germs in Chinese water supplies and food stores, as well as aerial spraying. Yet all was silenced even though the information went to the top.
IPS documents stamped “to be read by the Commander-in-Chief U.S. forces” were sent to President Harry Truman in 1947. No word has ever emerged on what Truman thought or said about this evidence. It is one of many still unknown facts about the Japanese-American conspiracy to conceal the complete account of the Japanese bio-warfare horror.
At Fort Detrick, Maryland, the main U.S. installation for BW, records remain on file of the thousands of tissue slides, preserved organs (some labeled “American”) removed from living bodies, with medical schedules and reports on perverse surgical procedures on screaming and writhing human specimens.
General Willoughby listed the five most important items providing “the greatest value in future development of the United States BW program.” These included the Japanese scientists’ “complete report” of “BW against man” that Willoughby described as “the only information available in world”; “field trials against Chinese” such as Powell described; using animals as deadly bacteria conveyors” (“U.S. has done little work in this field”); and a “summary of the human experiments.” The G-2 heard it all.
The general’s conclusion: “Data on human experiments may prove invaluable… and Japanese may now reveal research in chemical warfare [and] death rays.” Did they? We do not know.
Next came the self-praise and grumbles in which military men like to indulge. The results, said G-2, “were only obtainable through skillful psychological approach to top-flight pathologists bound by mutual oath not to incriminate each other in these disclosures. They were assisted by direct payments, payments in-kind (food, miscellaneous gift items, entertainment), hotel bills, board (in areas of search for buried evidence, etc.) All of these actions did not amount to more that 150/200,000 Yen.” This amounted to only $2,000 in today’s money, not allowing for inflation.
Then came the grumbles. The “pittance” in funds came from the military intelligence department’s budget, but this was now restricted. Willoughby wrote to his boss in Washington D.C., General S.J. Chamberlin: “We shall find it successively more difficult to induce these people to disclose information” without more money. He mentioned “unanimous protests” from the spooks against “the absurdity of these restrictions.”
Today those crimes live on. It becomes clearer as time passes that the U.S.A. did indeed use the “fruits” of its Japanese information in germ attacks during the Korean War (1950-53) still officially denied. Meanwhile, Japan continues to conceal other details of its wartime research. Masses of documents may have been destroyed. In 2002 in Japan, 180 Chinese victims and relatives from Hunan and Zhejiang provinces brought a court case. The Japanese judge agreed they had been infected by plague-carrying fleas dropped by Unit 731 planes, but rejected their compensation claim on legal grounds. The case continues on appeal.
Chinese anger against this and other unresolved Japanese war crimes increases as a new generation reviews the past. The issue will gain momentum while Japan continues to shunt aside its wrongs against Asian neighbors. The world should take notice . Why should Pingfan, Unit 731, and Dr. Shiro Ishii remain obscure names known mainly to historians?
CHRISTOPHER REED is a journalist, living outside Tokyo. He can be reached at email@example.com
I was never able to rectify the purpose behind the biological technology that Robert Booth Nichols was involved in developing with the Japanese. Why did his patents stress the "Method for Induction and Activation" of Cytotoxic T-Lymphocytes? It is noteworthy that Harold Okimoto, Nichols' godfather and a member of his Board of Directors, had allegedly been a high ranking intelligence officer during World War II.
While reading Dick Russell's book, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," I came across a chapter referencing Japanese biological experiments conducted during World War II. In one passage (pp. 125-126), Russell noted that, at the end of World War II, Charles Willoughby, General Douglas MacArthur's chief of intelligence, had seized Japanese lab records on germ warfare. When the Pentagon determined that the biological research might prove useful in the Cold War, the Japanese responsible for the experiments received immunity from prosecution in exchange for their cooperation.
At least three thousand people died as a result of those experiments, including an unknown number of captured U.S. military personnel. "Only in 1982 did this seamy story come to light, including the Pentagon's 1947 acknowledgement of Willoughby's `wholehearted cooperation' in arranging examination of the human pathological material which had been transferred to Japan from the biological warfare installations," wrote Russell.
Another publication, entitled "Unit 731" by Peter Williams and David Wallace, gave a detailed background on bacteriological warfare experiments conducted by all of the major combatants during World War II. When the United States government determined that the Axis Powers, including Russia, were evaluating this weapon, it became necessary to study the possibilities. This lead to the thought that if one prepared for offensive bacteriological warfare, then one must also prepare for defensive bacteriological warfare.
However, history shows that that reasoning broke down with the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States in Japan to finish the war in the East quickly. That action saved American lives if a land attack on the islands had been effected, but the principle is obvious. Would the U.S. do the same thing with viruses and bacteria?
In 1939 the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York studied the virulent, unmodified strain of yellow fever virus, ostensibly for the purpose of developing a cure for the disease. The laboratory at that time was under the direction of Dr. Wilbur Sawyer. It was in 1939 that a Japanese Army doctor, Dr. Ryoichi Naito, visited the laboratory with credentials from the Japanese military attache in Washington to obtain a sample of that strain of the Yellow Fever virus.
A report of that incident was subsequently sent to the Army Surgeon General and after evaluation of similar incidents, it was determined by Army Intelligence that Japan was interested in the yellow fever virus for bacteriological warfare purposes.
Based on that information, along with other corollary information, the decision was made to build Fort Detrick near Frederick, Maryland to provide a secret laboratory for the study and development of defensive and offensive capability to wage bacteriological warfare (BW).
The secrecy of the project was of the same magnitude as the nuclear work done within the Manhattan Project. From the writings and speeches given by the military men associated with this project, it is apparent that they were genuinely concerned for the security of the United States, but inside this organization and within the government at large, was a potential for ulterior motives. (More on that later).
By 1944, more than sufficient evidence had been gathered by American intelligence units to indicate that Japan was deeply involved in bacteriological warfare. Thirty thousand bombs, manufactured at the Osaka Chemical Research Institute in Japan, containing typhus, diptheria and bubonic plague were sent to the Chinese front.
By then, overwhelming evidence was coming in, particularly regarding research being conducted by Major General Shiro Ishii who was awarded a Technical Meritorious Medal with highest degrees. After the war, American intelligence learned that General Ishii, through an organization called "Unit 731," conducted his more serious research at a camp in northern Manchuria. It was here that General Ishii experimented on human beings.
The experiments conducted on those human beings made Japan the world's leading authority on offensive and defensive bacteriological warfare systems. No other country, Ishii reasoned, would have equivalent technical data on how epidemics spread and how to protect against them.
Japan's fascination with biological warfare dates as far back as 1932, when experimentation on prisoners already sentenced to death was conducted at Harbin, but later during the war with China, the Japanese used prisoners of war. White Russians, caught in the area of Japan's war with China were also used, according to an interrogated Japanese army officer.
Each prisoner was placed in a closely guarded cell where the experiments were conducted. After each prisoner died, they were cremated in an electric furnace to remove all evidence of what had occurred. Starting in 1935, motion pictures of the experiments were taken and these were shown to senior army officers. It was reported that 3,000 were sacrificed at a separate test site called Pingfan. Why was it required to use so many humans?
The Japanese had learned that epidemics occurred naturally but the method for inducing and activating them artificially was more difficult. In order to find the most efficient method of transmittal, many experiments were needed to find the lethal doses required to spread the agent. What would work with animals might not necessarily work with humans. Also, a method was needed for immunization and only humans could be used for that purpose.
General Ishii thought that the West's moral codes would not allow for such experimentation and that alone would put Japan on the leading edge of such technology. Healthy humans were needed, so extensive medical tests were even conducted on prospective prisoners. Diseases were forcibly injected or administered with a special stick shaped gun. Some prisoners were infected through food or drink. Cholera, anthrax, TB, typhoid, rickettsia and dysentery were but a few of the bacteria used in the tests.
Live human prisoners were also exposed to chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas, hydrogen cyanide, acetone cyanide and potassium cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide was given extensive study because of its potential for ease of delivery into water supplies. In some instances, live human victims were actually opened up to observe the progress of various diseases and chemicals.
At one point, American intelligence learned that Japan had developed techniques for efficient delivery of Botulinus, a germ that attacks the central nervous system followed by paralysis and rapid death. Vast quantities of Botulinus germs were developed at Fort Detrick and a vaccine was hurriedly injected into all military personnel involved in the invasion of Europe.
What the United States subsequently did with the technical data from the Japanese experiments, under the direction of General Charles Willoughby, was shocking. During the War Crimes Trials in Japan following World War II, "sweetheart deals" were arranged between the United States and Japan to secure that data. Colonel Murray Sanders was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur, along with General Charles Wiloughby (Chief of Intelligence) and Karl T. Compton (Chief of Scientific Intelligence). General MacArthur specifically assigned these men to investigate the Japanese bacteriological warfare experiments.
During the war, Lt. Col. Sanders, a medical doctor, had been responsible for investigating and analyzing the capabilities of the Japanese in bacteriological warfare. He had also overseen the Fort Detrick experiments. When the Legal Section of the U.S. government tried to obtain the Japanese lab records on human experimentation from General MacArthur's staff, they were stonewalled. MacArthur's staff reasoned that if the U.S. Army's investigative evidence was given to the Legal Section in Washington D.C., the Russians would have access to the records. This sounds logical on the surface, but the resulting memorandums tell another story.
The State War Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) responsible for coordinating and overseeing the war crimes trials in Japan, made an extraordinary statement which conclusively supported the intelligence community's stance on the matter. One excerpt read as follows:"Data already obtained from Ishii and his colleagues has proven to be of great value in confirming, supplementing and complementing several phases of U.S. research in BW, and may suggest new fields for future research. This Japanese information is the only known source of data from scientifically controlled experiments showing direct effect of BW [bacteriological warfare] agents on man. In the past it has been necessary to evaluate effects of BW agents on man from data through animal experimentation. Such evaluation is inconclusive and far less complete than results obtained from certain types of human experimentation.
"It is felt that the use of this information as a basis for war crimes evidence would be a grave detriment to Japanese cooperation with the United States occupation forces in Japan. For all practical purposes an agreement with Ishii and his associates that information given by them on the Japanese BW program will be retained in intelligence channels is equivalent to an agreement that this Government will not prosecute any of those involved in BW activities in which war crimes were committed. Such an understanding would be of great value to the security of the American people because of the information which Ishii and his associates have already furnished and will continue to furnish."
The astounding conclusion went as follows:"The value to the U.S. of Japanese BW data is of such importance to national security as to far outweigh the value accruing from `war crimes' prosecution. In the interests of national security it would not be advisable to make this information available to other nations as would be the case in the event of a `war crimes' trial of Japanese BW experts. The BW information obtained from Japanese sources should be retained in intelligence channels and should not be employed as `war crimes' evidence."
Communications between Washington D.C. and General MacArthur's headquarters in Japan were very revealing. One excerpt read as follows:" ... The feeling of several staff groups in Washington, including G2, is that this problem is more or less a family affair in the Far Eastern Command."
No mention was ever made during the war crimes trials in Japan about bacteriological warfare or chemical warfare experiments being conducted on human test specimens. No indictments were ever handed down against those who had perpetrated these crimes. Colonel Sanders was ordered back to the United States to brief scientists at Fort Detrick but shortly thereafter became ill with tuberculosis and spent the next two years in bed. Oddly, the expert who was sent to replace Colonel Sanders, Arvo Thompson, committed suicide following his work for the Far Eastern Command and the scientists at Fort Detrick.
What happened to all of the Japanese officers and scientists who worked in the Manchurian labs during World War II? The military officers were retired on sizable pensions and the civilian scientists continued their work with some of the largest chemical and medical companies in Japan. Some became presidents and professors at leading universities, others became a part of the industrial complex which so successfully competed with the West for international trade.
(NOTE: Insert names of Japanese scientists and officers and their relationship to the Japanese scientist's names on MIL [Nichols' corporation] agreements for development of biological technology with Japanese. )
Numerous board directors of F.I.D.C.O., of which Nichols was also a director, had been closely associated with General Douglas MacArthur. In fact, Clint Murchison, Sr. had helped finance MacArthur's presidential campaign.
-- The Last Circle, by Carol Marshall