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Unit 731 Testimony Paperback – April 15, 2004
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Over the fifty years since World War II, we have been made aware of atrocities committed during those years. We are most aware of Nazi Germany; less in the consciousness, but still a part of the common knowledge, is Stalin's treatment of Russians during and after the war. But the actions of the Japanese army in China during the thirties and forties-- and their ultimate consequences-- have gone largely unreported in the Western press. Americans were first made aware of the scope and depth of Japan's war crimes in the late 1980s by two investigative journalists, Williams and Wallace, in their book Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II. Soon after, Godfrey Ho released the first of four exploitation films based on the activities of Unit 731, called Men Behind the Sun (a film partially subsidized by the Chinese government). Gradually, Americans became more aware of what happened (especially in the case of the Rape of Nanjing), but the numbers-- conservative estimates put the death toll in China between 1930 and 1945 at thirty million-- and the specific case of Unit 731 are still largely unknown to Americans.
Hal Gold fires another shot in the battle to set things right with his book Unit 731: Testimony. During 1993 and 1994, an exhibition based on the activities of Unit 731 toured Japan, and a handful of ex-Unit 731 personnel testified about their actions and the actions of others. It was the first time the Japanese government had allowed evidence that Unit 731 even existed to be publicized. Gold's book starts with a history of Unit 731, and then provides transcriptions of many of the testimonies given during the exhibition.Read more ›
What made these exhibits intereresting, and this book, is that it worked as a forum for veterans and victims alike to recount their stories. Privates, doctors, secret police all came out to speak (some anonimously) about their role in the horrific activities of Unit 731.
Unit 731 Testimonial does not describe the history of the Japanese Bilogical Warfare research. Rather it concentrates on the actual experiences of people involved in the human experiments. Some of those quoted were truly ignorant of what Unit 731 was really doing, others had suspicions, while a few knew in detail. Some of those quoted did not actually participate in Unit 731's activities, but had been personally involved in similar atrocities and compelled by the exhibit to recount.
Unit 731 is invaluable as a resource in understanding the mentality of the Japanese involved in BW related atrocities during World War II.
Among these were Stalin's Gulags, the Japanese comfort women, Bataan Death March and Rape of Nanking.
Gold's book, "Unit 731: Testimony," takes a look at another wartime atrocity the Japanese have refused to own up to for the past 50 years: a program set up by the military to experiment with biological weapons on humans and other heinous human tortures that were expounded as "scientific advancement."
Gold's book is divided into two sections, a Historical Overview in which he explains how the idea of a human experimentation lab began in the Russo-Japanese War and became a horrific reality due to one man, Ishii Shiro; and a second section in which testimonies are given on criminal acts by the participants, including researchers, Kenpeitai officers, nurses and professors.
The historical overview lays out factual groundwork of Unit 731 and gives explicit details on some of the experiments, including live autopsies, biological tests and frostbite trials; which is some of the most disturbing literature I have ever read. Even as the bilogical weapons scare makes the headlines today, Gold gives proof that this isn't a new event in the world as the Japanese unleashed fleas with the Cholera disease on the Chinese citizens. After the war is over in 1945, Gold continues to explain how Unit 731 was covered up (with American help), and how some of the war-time criminals became wealthy professors and businessmen in Japan and set up world-wide companies like Green Cross.Read more ›
Half of the book is a historical summary. Unit 731 had its roots in commendable Japanese efforts, beginning in the 1890s, to reduce loss of life among its soldiers to infection and disease. As a consequence, by the early twentieth century "Japanese military medicine and wartime bacteriology were the best in the world." However, along with the development of aggressive and racist imperialism, the "original bacteriological aims of Japan * * * warped in the direction of causing, rather than preventing and curing, disease."
Most of the activities of Unit 731 were conducted with Chinese subjects in Manchuria. What follows are some of those immensely disturbing activities, as recounted by Gold: Some people were starved to see how long they could live on water alone. Blood was withdrawn from others at periodic intervals to see how little blood was necessary for life. Diseases - such as plague, cholera, typhus, syphilis, and epidemic hemorrhagic fever -- were intentionally introduced into people and the progression of their destruction of the human organism was carefully charted.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed all the information contained in the book. I knew only a small amount about the subject but my eyes have definitely been opened.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
great book on something I didn't know happened. loved the book set up. great how the first have was the set up about it all and the second half was first hand accounts from the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by eugene f dunham III
OK book, but it seems a bit thinly written. Many details unnecessarily repeated, and I was expecting more details from the testimony about what was done.Published 7 months ago by Scott
This was something I did not know about. A lot in history about the Germans not so much about the JapanesePublished 9 months ago by SLS