After World War II, Japan’s history was fabricated into a glorified myth woven by hawkish right-wing nationalist Japanese historians, and assisted by General Douglas McArthur, who shielded the emperor and the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Japan’s fabricated mythological history was imbeded in government censored textbooks.
The Japanese government steadfastly denied that any atrocities had been committed by Japan; nationalist Japanese historians insisted that the accusations are fabrications of Chinese propaganda. Since 1947, the Ministry of Education was authorized to screen (censor) Japanese history textbooks, and Japanese history textbooks omit any mention of Japan’s record of wartime atrocities. No mention of forced labor, sex slaves (“comfort” women), the Nanjing Massacre, the Bataan Death March, or Japan’s human biological warfare medical experiments. The Japanese public only became vaguely aware of the atrocities 40 years after the war.
1949: Japan’s “Factories of Death” Exposed at Trial in Soviet Union
In 1949, the Soviet Union conducted War Crime Trials at Khbarovsk where they tried and convicted twelve Japanese physicians and military officers from Unit 731 — and Dr. Ishii Shiro in absentia — for crimes against humanity. The published transcript — which included the testimony of the accused, contained exhaustive details of Unit 731’s crimes. The Khbarovsk trial established beyond reasonable doubt that the Japanese army had prepared and deployed bacteriological weapons and that Japanese researchers had conducted diabolical inhumane experiments on living human beings.
Two high ranking defendants –General Kajitsuka and Major Tomio Karasawa –freely described Shiro Ishii’s research on resolving the problems of delivery of pathogenic bacteria in aerial bombs to spread diseases such as dysentery, typhus, paratyphoid, cholera and bubonic plague on targeted population centers. They testified that until effective ceramic bombs were developed, Unit 731 experimented with delivering the pathogenic bacteria to human populations in food – specifically in vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. The contaminated food was fed to prisoners and the results carefully monitored. The most effective carrier of disease was cabbage. Shiro Ishii had indicated that it was necessary to study human physiological peculiarities of ethnic groups in order to develop conditions of artificial arousal of epidemics. (Mark Felton. The Devil’s Doctors: Japanese Human Experiments on Allied Prisoners of War, 2012)
The first public indications that American prisoners of war were among the human victims appeared in the published summary of the Khabarovsk trial. Kawasawa stated that a researcher was sent to the camps where U.S. prisoners were held to “study the immunity of Anglo-Saxons to infectious diseases” “As early as 1943, Minata, a researcher belonging to Detachment 731, was sent to prisoner of war camps to test the properties of the blood and immunity to contagious diseases of American soldiers” (Robert Gromer, John Powell, and Burt Roling. Japan’s biological Weapons: 1930-1945, A Hidden Chapter in History, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1981)
But the revelations at the Soviet trial and the transcripts were largely ignored or dismissed in the West as “Communist propaganda.” Japan Times, 2001. In the 1980s, when independent, non-government Japanese and American scholars and journalists examined the evidence presented to the Soviet court; they determined that the court’s major findings were accurate.
On December 27, 1949, MacArthur’s Headquarters falsely announced to the world: “the Japanese had done some experimentation with animals, but that there was no evidence they ever had used human beings.” (The Other Holocaust, ) The announcement was made even as Top secret cables (1947) to Washington from Colonel Alva C. Carpenter, General Douglas MacArthur’s chief of legal staff and Cecil F. Hubbert, a member of the State, War, Navy Coordinating Committee, recommended covering up the story. However, Hubbert warned that it might leak out if the Russian prosecutor brought the subject up during the Tokyo war crimes trials. Hubbert added that the Soviets might have found out that “American prisoners of war were used for experimental purposes of a [biological warfare] nature and that they lost their lives as a result of these experiments.”
These high ranking U.S. officials clearly were not concerned with the victims of diabolical medical war crimes, nor that U.S. servicemen had been violated in heinous biological experiments; they were concerned with concealing the evidence and shielding the criminals responsible.
The first person who uncovered the unspeakable atrocities committed by Unit 731 and raised the issue of possible U.S. cover-up was John W. Powell, Jr. an American correspondent (who took over his father’s publication, The China Weekly, in Shanghai until June 1953 when he returned to America. Powell obtained the transcripts of the Khbarovsk trials, and in the October 1981 issue of Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Powel published “Japan’s Biological Weapons, 1930-1945” jointly with Robert Gomer and Rolling.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government steadfastly denied that any atrocities had been committed for six decades: hawkish right-wing nationalist Japanese historians have insisted that they are fabrications of Chinese propaganda. Japanese history textbooks omit any mention of Japan’s record of wartime atrocities — including, forced labor, sex slaves (“comfort” women), the Nanjing Massacre, the Bataan Death March, or Japan’s human biological warfare medical experiments. The Japanese public only became aware of the atrocities 40 years after the war.
Denial: History Betrayed by Tony Taylor pulls together ethnic, ideological, cultural, racist, and psychological elements involved in historical denial. The book surveys major examples of historical denial in the 20th and 21st century to illustrate the nature of prejudice and how it affects perceptions and judgments. He notes that lack of concern about the Japanese war crimes — the Nanking massacre, the sexual enslavement of “comfort women” and the medical atrocities of Unit 731 — was not solely, the Japanese effort to cover-up; the indifference was manifested by the U.S. government which sought ownership of the data of Unit 731; but also the suppression imposed by the Chinese Maoist government in the 1970s.