Some Japanese military veterans recently confessed to a visiting Chinese delegation that they conducted germ warfare experiments on live Chinese during World War II.
Most of these revelations provided convincing evidence of Japan 's war crimes in China, said Shi Jiaxing, head of the four-men delegation from northeast China's Harbin, where the world's largest germ warfare experimental base is located.
Yoshio Shinotsuka, a former member of Unit 731, a Japanese military division notorious for its germ laboratory in China, said that he participated in an experiment during which five innocent and healthy Chinese were used as "material" for a test on plague bacteria.
"Before we injected the plague into these people, four of the Chinese were given plague vaccines we developed from different sources," Shinotsuka said.
One month later, laboratory tests on their blood showed that the one not vaccinated were the first to be infected with the bacteria. "After that, we dissected and gutted them alive," said Shinotsuka, admitting it was the first time that he had told this publicly.
In describing a field test of bacterial weapons in China, another veteran surnamed Obara, also a member of Unit 731, said, " When airdropped germ bombs exploded among Chinese test subjects tied fast onto crosses, I could see their pain as their faces became gradually distorted."
Obara said that he had participated in a total of seven such field tests in the city of Anda, in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
"Unit 731 experimented in the culture, research and testing of bacteria such as anthrax, cholera, the plague and typhoid fever," said former officer Kansuke Morioka.
He recalled that one Chinese was cut open with a scapel from neck to abdomen by a military surgeon surnamed Izu.
Those who were dissected alive lost consciousness gradually, said a veteran surnamed Yuasa.
He still remembered one operation he participated in, during which he was responsible for sawing bones and incising tracheae.
According to Yuasa, the dissected Chinese claimed to be a soldier from the Eighth Route Army kept puffing during the operations until after the head surgeon injected air into his heart several times in succession.
Listening to the confession made by aged Japanese veterans which have been recorded verbatim, Shi said that people's hunger to know the truth of the dark periods in history is intensifying as time passes.
Currently, Chinese researchers have found more than 1,200 evidentiary items from the remains of the slaughterhouse in Harbin, including syringes, high-pressure boilers used to destroy germs and the vestiges of germ bombs.
Experts estimated that as part of Japan's Kwantung Army, with headquarters in Harbin, Unit 731 experimented on more than 10,000 prisoners of war and civilians from China, the Korean Peninsula, Mongolia, and the former Soviet Union.
During World War II, more than 100,000 deaths were caused by the germ warfare experiments launched by the Japanese, mostly in China.
Although 5,570 Japanese war criminals were indicted by the allied countries at the end of the war, none of them were tried for participating in germ weapons research.
The Kwantung Army headquarters burned and buried the records of Unit 731 in an attempt to get rid of evidence before Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, leaving historians to rely on the personal accounts of the less than 300 living veterans to piece together the story.
To meet the veterans willing to tell the truth and to collect evidence of crimes of the Japanese Army during World War II, Shi and his delegation have visited many Japanese cities including Nagoya, Osaka, Kochi and Tokyo.
(People's Daily December 14, 2001)