While most Westerners are familiar with the Holocaust and Nazi war crimes, fewer Westerners know much about the war crimes committed by the Japanese military throughout Asia, particularly the human medical experiments conducted by Unit 731.
The human medical experiments run by Unit 731 was one of the most extreme activities conducted by the Japanese army. They included subjecting prisoners of war to germ warfare, weapons testing, and a stunning array of experiments in vivisection
without anesthesia, as well as experiments that seemed simply to test the effects of miscellaneous ways humans could die.
Over 10,000 victims are reported to have been subject to these experiments, most of them Chinese and Korean, and included women, children and infants.
After the surrender of the Japanese, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur granted immunity to several of the physicians of 731 in exchange for their research. The article states, "Some former members of Unit 731 became part of the Japanese medical establishment. Dr. Masaji Kitano led Japan's largest pharmaceutical company, the Green Cross. Others headed U.S.-backed medical schools or worked for the Japanese health ministry. Shirō Ishii moved to Maryland to work on bio-weapons research."
Much of the research provided by Unit 731 is still classified by the U.S. government, based on the belief that it could expose data that would lead to the development of biological weapons.
In February 2011, excavations began at the site of 731's former Tokyo headquarters, digging up the remains of former victims. The Economist reports
that the Japanese press is oddly silent about excavation, and notes, "Since 2002 Tokyo courts have at least acknowledged that Unit 731 took part in experiments in germ warfare...yet the government has never acknowledged Unit 731’s atrocities, even after mutilated skulls and bones were discovered in 1989 a few hundred yards from the excavation site."
Akiko Azumitami's documentary "Silent Shame" explores why very little of Unit 731 and other war atrocities are not discussed today in Japan. She interviews people who have experienced both sides of the war and its atrocities. Trailer here.