Unit 731, Japanese Human Medical Experiments during the WW2

Picture, Shiro Ishii, commander of Unit 731, and master mind behind the operation.

Shiro Ishii, commander of Unit 731, and master mind behind the operation.

This is a transcript of a History Channel documentary of the Japanese Unit 731.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“They just killed people without an apparent reason to see how they will react when being killed”


In order to keep Japan’s biological and chemical weapons secret from the world, their laboratory, Unit 731, was deliberately located in a remote part of their newly concurred empire.

Shiro Ishii, the master mind behind the operation, knew that they needed complete impunity, isolation, and a constant supply of test subjects in order to successfully carry out his research. He chose to build in Ping Fan, a suburb of Harbin, with a population of 240 000 Chinese and 81 000 Russians and other non-Chinese. Harbin was remote, yet accessible and it’s prisons were well staffed with laboratory farther.

The Construction of Unite 731 began almost immediately, and Shito Ishi oversaw every detail. Nothing was left to chance. An unlimited supply of funds, was provided by the Japanese government for state of the art equipment and anything and everything Ishi required for himself and his staff

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“There was a huge building, that was called the Administrator Building. It was so big and so well constructed that at the end of the war, when all of Ping Fan was destroyed, they couldn’t blow up the building.”


Tucked away in the interior of the administrator building, was a prison, where up to 500 men, women and children, could be housed. This was the most secret part of this already top secret facility.

Unit 731 was staffed with the cream of the top of the Japanese scientists and research physicians. The scientists turned the compound into a nightmare laboratory, using humans as test animals. Not only could all types of debilitating biological weapons be developed to be used against Japan’s enemies. Advanced research was done into how to treat Japanese soldiers that might fall victims to such weapons, as well as conventional arms attacks.

The process of dehumanization began with a twist of a language based on the lie told to mislead the local population into a false sense of security. This cover story stated that Unit 731 was harmless lumber mill.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“These scientists had a weird sense of humor. They referred to their victims as “maturas” which is, loosely translated, is logs, and that’s how they thought about them, as pieces of wood, not as humans. They could cut them up, they could burn them in a fire place. Who cares?”


There was no shortage of this living wood, for the construction of Shiro Ishi’s fiendish dreams.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“If they ran short of candidates, the secret police would just literally sweep the streets of the city and pick up enough candidates for the lab”


They would be placed on an one way train ride to Unit 731.

Fang Zeng-Yu, Chinese slave laborer at Unit 731

“The train with eight box cars stopped. Soldiers opened the doors and removed what looked like straw mats wrapped in steel wires. I didn’t know what was happening. And then I noticed arms sticking out and heads moving and blood coming out. And then the Japanese soldiers yelled “logs”, so I knew those were people”


The fate of these prisoners, was ordained from the moment they entered the compound. Not one survived.

Yoshino Shinozuka (Unit 731, Medical Researcher)

“We were testing the effectiveness of germs to determine how many people would be killed without giving a vaccine. In other prisoners, we injected vaccines and waited a while for antibodies to react. As we expected those who didn’t get the vaccine got sick and died first. So we dissected them.”


The best way in the minds of the scientists to observe the human bodies defenses and battling the invasive pathogen by performing live vivo sections, rarely giving anesthesia.

Yoshino Shinozuka (Unit 731, Medical Researcher)

“I was ordered to wash that person’s body with a deck brush before he or she was taken into the dissection room, naked by a member of the special team. The first time, I trembled. One team member was listening to the heart beat with a stethoscope. One was standing holding a knife. The moment the stethoscope was removed from the ear, a knife went into the body. I did not know, but according to doctors, this timing was very important, because if the timing was wrong, we could get blood all over us, and then we could get infected.”


Not only were the prisoners deliberately infected with deadly diseases and dissected alive. They were also used for many more dramatic tests. Fifty different lethal experiments, many thought up spontaneously and capriciously by Ishi and his stuff.

Jin Cheng Ming (Vice Curator, Unite 731, Crime Evidence Museum, Ping Fan, Monchurio)

“This place was Unite 731 frost bite experiment lab built in 1943. All year long frost bite lab tests were conducted inside. What we still have today here is the base of their freezing machine, observation windows, etc.”

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“They had refrigerator chambers, and also, in Monchurio, the winters here were very severe, 40 to 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and they would expose prisoners to various parts of their bodies, to these temperatures, freeze them and then try various techniques to literally dehydrate them, to see what was the most effective way of dealing with frost bite, so that that could be used in warfare as well, both to protect Japanese troupes as well as to effect the enemy.”


Some experiments markedly more violent then others. To determine the best course of treatment of various degrees of shrapnel guns sustained in the field by Japanese soldiers, Chinese prisoners were exposed to direct bomb blast. They were strapped unprotected to wooden planks staked into the ground at increasing distances around the bomb which was then detonated. Afterwords, it was surgery for most, autopsies for the rest.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

”People who were experimented on generally lasted 4 to 7 weeks and then they were sacrificed. What is so hideous about this is that anyone was pray of these experiments. We are talking about men, women, children.”


Bodies was disposed of in a crematorium. Much like the one that was working overtime 3000 miles away, in Nazi occupied Europe.

Shoichi Matsumoto, Unit 731, Bomber Pilot

“There were always 2000 or 3000 logs prepared. There were two burning places and there were always burning dead bodies. I imagine that they died because of the research.”


Like their counterpart in the Nazi death camps, the dedicated Japanese who toiled away at unit 731 believed that they too, were only followed orders. Orders that came from the ultimate authority.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“They were serving the emperor, they were serving their country. That’s all they were interested in. The fact that people were being killed in these experiments, meant nothing to them. “


And Shiro Ishii had plans that spread far beyond the walls of his compound. He planned to create weapons that could reach as far as the United States, and he began to use the surrounding country side, as a laboratory.

Sheldon H. Harris, Author, Factories of Death

“They not only worked on humans in laboratories, but when they developed what they believed were prototypes or weapons of the future, they field tested them on cities and villages throughout China. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected of these tests. Many tens of thousands, were killed in these field tests.”



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