The National Archives of Japan has disclosed the names of 3,607 members of the Imperial Japanese Army’s notorious Unit 731, which conducted germ warfare and other biological experiments mainly on prisoners in China before and during World War II, according to a researcher.
Katsuo Nishiyama, professor emeritus of Shiga University of Medical Science and head of the group that requested the disclosure, told The Japan Times on Monday that “it is the first time that almost all of the real names and addresses of the unit’s members have been unveiled as a definitive and official document.”
The history of secretive Unit 731 had long been concealed. Its commander, Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii, and others received immunity from prosecution by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after giving the United States its data on germ warfare.
The list, dated Jan. 1, 1945, includes names, ranks and personal information — such as addresses and family members — of 52 surgeons, 49 engineers, 38 nurses and 1,117 combat medics.
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At least 12,000 men, women, and children were murdered during the experimentation conducted by Unit 731 at the camp based in Pingfang alone. Prisoners of war were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia. Vivisections were performed on prisoners after infecting them with various diseases. Scientists performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results. Human targets were used to test grenades positioned at various distances and in different positions. Flame throwers were tested on humans.
When asked about the social impact Katsuo Nishiyama hoped the disclosure would have, he replied that he “personally believes that Unit 731 has a collective responsibility to account for its war crimes, and that those crimes must be atoned for as a way of showing that those crimes will never be repeated.”
The citizen’s group he leads is making a petition to have Kyoto University determine the legitimacy of a university degree conferred on a medical officer in the unit.