Guests of the Emperor: Secret History Japan’s Mukden POW Slave Labor Camp

The truth is slowly making itself known regarding Japan’s ghastly treatment of American prisoners of war during WWII. After more than five decades of denial, prevarication and outright lying on the part of its government, its military, its neonationalist historians and corporate leaders, Japan’s criminal behavior has been ferreted out and documented.

“Within six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s entire Army of the Pacific, some 78,000 American and Filipino men, had either been killed or captured by Japanese forces. Never in our military history had so many Americans been captured at one time.” (Guests of the Emperor, 2010)

“During World War II, over 36,000 American men, mostly military but some civilian, were thrown into Japanese POW camps and forced to labor for companies working for Japan’s war effort. At Japan’s largest fixed military prison camp, Mitsubishi’s huge factory complex at Mukden, Manchuria, more than 2,000 American prisoners where subjected to cold, starvation, beatings, and even medical experiments, while manufacturing parts for Zero fighter planes. Those lucky enough to survive the ordeal required the efforts of an OSS rescue team and a special recovery unit to make it home alive.”

Mitsubishi not only failed to provide decent housing and heating (in 40-degree-below weather) but fed the prisoners slops, made them work long, arduous hours, and beat them mercilessly for the slightest infraction of the rules. On top of that, many of the prisoners were forced to become guinea pigs for the infamous Japanese biological warfare team, Unit 731. Hideous experiments were conducted upon them, such as injecting them with amoebic dysentery or making them brush their teeth with infected powder.

Everything about the camp and its policies were in clear violation of the Geneva Convention, which even the Nazis made a pretense of obeying. Not so the Japanese–to this date, Japan has refused to become a signatory to the Geneva Convention. Nor did it allow the International Red Cross to have free access to Mukden. Even more outrageously, Japanese officers and soldiers stole the food and medicine that the IRC managed to deliver to the camp. (Linda Goetz Holmes.  Guests Of The Emperor–The Secret History Of Japan’s Mukden Camp, 2010)

Linda Goetz Holmes is the author of three books about the Pacific War:
Four Thousand Bowls of Rice: A Prisoner of War Comes Home (August 1994).
Unjust Enrichment (December 1, 2000).
Guests of the Emperor: The Secret History of Japan’s Mukden POW Camp (June 15, 2010).

Holmes has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and several state legislatures, and is the first Pacific War historian appointed to the government’s Interagency Working Group declassifying documents on World War II crimes which was established after passage of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act of 2000. The Act was introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein in 1999, after learning that documents relating to Japanese medical experiments were being destroyed at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah; at Ft. Detrick, Md.; and the Pentagon, which had decided to rid itself of all biological warfare documents in its holdings prior to 1949. (Read professor Sheldon Harris’ testimony in The Congressional Record Nov. 10, 1999, pp S14533-S14571; Cited at China History Forum)

Holmes spent two decades tracking down the American prisoners of war. Her research shows conclusively for the first time that some Americans at Mukden were singled out for experiments by Japan’s infamous biological warfare team.

“If Saddam Houssein had succeeded in developing biological weapons to use on American troops in Iraq, here’s where he would have gotten the blueprints for experimentation: a laboratory in Ping-Fan, near Harbin, Manchuria, operated by the infamous General Shiro Ishii and his team during the 1930s and 1940s…Ishii’s medical team experimented with biological toxins on human subjects. Nearly all were Chinese…

…But General Ishii yearned to test his toxins on Caucasians, especially Americans, who, he correctly guessed, would eventually try to invade Japan’s home islands…Ishii hoped to disrupt that invasion by finding a way to drop toxin-infested materials, including fleas, on the advancing troop ships…he needed to develop formula strengths that could be effectively applied to Caucasians…he needed to experiment on American subjects… he saw his chance, when 1,200 American prisoners arrived at Mitsubishi’s Mukden factory complex, about three hundred miles from Ping Fan.”

Holmes obtained the first English translation of a key military order from Japan’s commanding general in Manchuria, ordering the medical team from Ishii’s Unit 731 to visit the Mukden POW camp. Until the publication of Guests Of The Emperor, Mitsubishi had vigorously denied that it used slave labor in WWII. The CEO of the company, Kiyoshi Goko, was never prosecuted for his crimes, nor did the company (or the Japanese government) ever offer compensation to those who labored, suffered and died while in captivity at Mukden.

Appallingly, the U.S. State Department also betrayed the Mukden survivors–and all Pacific War POWs– by filing a “Statement of Interest” with two California courts which wanted to hear the cases against Japanese corporations. This in effect prevented the cases from going to trial. The German government has paid billions in reparation while the Japanese government and companies haven’t paid one dime in compensation. Holmes states in her book,

“faced with a dead end in the courts, former POWs of the Pacific have turned to Congress in hopes of getting an ex gratia payment similar to the twenty thousand dollars authorized in 1988 by Congress to be given to each American of Japanese descent interned in the United States during World War II (none of whom performed slave labor or died from starvation or beatings; they were interned only after the Japanese had rounded up every white man, woman and child in Asia and thrown them into prisons or internment camps).”

Several bills have been introduced in recent years, only to be deleted by the House Senate Conference Committee at the request of the White House or by the insistence of a senator with his own agenda…In recent years the governments of Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and even the Isle of Man have offered their citizens who suffered in Japanese captivity a one-time payment of between twenty and twenty-four thousand dollars. Alone among the Allied nations, the United States has not done so.”