It was a laboratory conceived in hell. A place where death was routinely met. Those who entered never left. When the war was over the United States covered up the atrocities to get the medical data to further our own biological weapons program. The unit formed in Manchuria would later be compared to Nazi Germany death camps and to this day the war crimes have gone unpunished (Williams & Wallace, 1989).
The Japanese first entered continental Asia in 1895 with the annexation of Korea, then moved into southern Manchuria following the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 (Williams & Wallace, 1989). Japan finished their takeover of Manchuria with the Manchurian Incident of 1931 (Japan invades Manchuria, n.d.).
Unit 731 was started in Harbin, Manchuria after an imperial order by Emperor Hirohito 1936 (Harris, 2002; Mangold & Goldberg, 2000; Williams & Wallace, 1989). Commanded by then Maj. Ishii Shiro, the unit was referred to as an epidemic prevention and water supply unit (Williams & Wallace, 1989). Manchuria was selected because it was far from the eyes of the homeland of Japan and it would give them their “Maruta” (wooden logs in Japanese) or people to test on and perfect the new biological weapons program of Japan (Harris, 2002).
It took until 1939 for the construction of over 75 structures on an area of six square kilometers in the suburb of Pingfan to be completed (Williams & Wallace, 1989). The compound consisted of an immense administrative building, multiple laboratories, dormitories for civilian workers, barracks, stables, barns, an autopsy and dissection building, green houses, three furnaces to dispose of bodies, and more (Harris, 2002). A special railroad connected the facility to Harbin, along with an air field that would assist in the testing of bomblets (Harris, 2002).
Ishii was interested in using many different biological agents. They primarily tested two biological agents Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax) and Yesinia pestis (Plague) (Harris, 2002; Mangold & Goldberg, 2000; Williams & Wallace, 1989). In preparing the plague the unit harvested up to 60,000 grams of fleas in four weeks in order to safely store the plague organisms for over a month (Williams & Wallace, 1989). They used the pulex irritans, a variety of flea that would specifically attack humans (Williams & Wallace, 1989). If the rat population of a town were to become infected by these fleas, an outbreak would persist for months (Williams & Wallace, 1989). The first attempts at releasing the fleas came with little success. A plan to release an aerosolized spray from a plane was deemed to be infeasible. The plane would have to fly low in order for the dispersal pattern to be effective, placing the plane at risk of being shot down, or fly high enough to avoid being shot down but have an ineffective dispersal pattern (Harris, 2002; Williams & Wallace, 1989).
After the failures with the aerosol, Ishii ordered the unit to try artillery (Harris, 2002; Williams & Wallace, 1989)....