- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: HarperPerennial (January 4, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060933879
- ISBN-13: 978-0060933876
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Plague upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program Paperback – January 4, 2005
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“Barenblatt exposes horrors that test the limits of human imagination ... A timely, important book.” (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking)
“An important book, A Plague upon Humanity is as alarming as it is compelling.” (James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys)
“Daniel Barenblatt’s account could not be more timely. A revealing complement to today’s WMD debate.” (James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly, and author of Looking at the Sun)
“Delivers gripping testimony and long-needed justice to one of the great untold evils of World War II.” (Craig Nelson, author of The First Heroes)
“Eye-opening. Daniel Barenblatt has written a powerful and disturbing book.” (Ross Terrill, author of Mao and The New Chinese Empire)
About the Author
Daniel Barenblatt holds degrees from Harvard and UCLA, and his writing about the Japanese germ warfare program has appeared in the Washington Post. He lives in New York City.
Top customer reviews
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This book, however, was a real disappointment, for a few reasons. First, the author doesn't really have a command of the subject matter about which he's writing. He has no background in history, instead having a degree in cognitive psychology. The lack of that background is especially telling in a quick glance through the endnotes. Instead of specific sources for specific facts, he uses individual notes to cover sentences in which multiple facts are stated. And to add to this problem, it seems that the author isn't proficient in Japanese. His sources are all English, and often secondary sources. The fact that he uses secondary sources so heavily is surprising, given that he states multiple times near the beginning of the book that the public is unaware of Japanese bioweapons because they have been covered up.
Add to these problems the fact that the book doesn't have a thesis that I can make out, except perhaps, "Japan's crimes against humanity are bad." How brave. Presumably he can't make out much more than that because of his lack of proficiency in Japanese.
In addition to these issues, there's just sloppiness throughout the book. For example, referring to dissections of live human beings when he means vivisections. And then, in the last chapter, "What The Deal Bought," he strongly suggests that the US used biological weapons in the Korean war, though he admits that "U.S. historians" deny it. Given that the academy is hardly a hotbed of pro-American sentiment, one would think that if there were good evidence for the charge, it would have been found by groups other than far-left organizations.
Generally, the book has some decent value as a primer. If all you want is a basic introduction to Unit 731, skimming this book is worthwhile. Otherwise, Factories of Death is a much more scholarly book with more evidence behind it, and Unit 731 Testimony is more direct. If you're only going to read one book on the topic, read those instead.
and it fills in a gap in the literature on the subject
of Japanese wartime atrocities and US complicity in
The review by "Harkius" below contains false
statements that need to be challenged.
First, contrary to Harkius' statement, this book
definitely uses a number of primary sources, and
quite valuable and dramatic ones at that. They are
clearly listed in the endnotes and sometimes in the
body of the chapter texts as well.
Harkius writes that the book errs in calling the
agent of typus by the name Eberthella typhosa. In
fact, this was the common name used for the bacteria
in the time period examined in the book, the years
of Imperial Japanese germ warfare and Unit 731, so
it is perfectly acceptable to use the term. It is
precisely the same bacteria that would later go by the
name Salmonella typhi.
The book's narrative of the unfolding history is
quite clear, easy to read and chronological. I had
no problem following the details of the story and
cannot comprehend why he would characterize its style
Exactly the opposite is true.
Harkius completely misquotes the author by saying
that he writes that a girl's vivisection by Japanese
invaders was "the exact act of a devil." Author
Barenblatt did NOT say that, rather that is a quote
from the testimony of a Chinese woman from the
girl's village and it is presented in the book as
the account of a Chinese survivor and an eyewitness.
And it is perfectly appropriate for her to describe
the horrific medical atrocity this way. Once again,
Harkius has it completely wrong. The actual quote of
the woman, Wang Lijun, is: "an 18-year-old girl,
named Wu Xiaonai, was disssected alive, and had her
internal organs taken out while she was still alive,
which was exactly a devil's act. Zhang Julian who
saw that bloodcurdling scene was frightened and
barely escaped with her life ..."
As for the book he recommends, "Alibekov's
Biohazard", I am quite familiar with it and it has
only a brief, error-filled mention
of Japan's germ warfare and human experiments, and
it completely omits the U.S. secret recruitment of
Japan's criminal doctors after the war. This is not
surprising since co-author Alibek (who also uses the
name "Alibekov") himself
unapologetically worked in the US biowar program and
so cannot be trusted to give an unbiased, truthful
I would say that if you are interested in this
subject, you will find it quite difficult if not
impossible to find any work aside from Barenblatt's A
Plague Upon Humanity that is as readable and that is based
upon as much up-to-date independent research as his.