Segments in this Video

Deadly Bacteria for War (01:31)


Shiro Ishii headed a vast, secret organization--Unit 731-- that manufactured deadly bacteria to be used in war. He experimented on more than 3,000 humans, including Allied POWs.

Germ Warfare Secrets (03:12)

Allied POWs, experimented on by Japanese scientists, share their experiences. The scientists were never punished because of a deal struck between the U.S. and Shiro Ishii and his men.

Japanese Deaths in Manchuria (01:59)

At the 1925 League of Nations, bacteriological warfare was banned. Ishii took the idea home for Japan's use. When the Japanese invaded Manchuria, 6,000 men died from cholera. Did the Chinese release the bacteria?

Vats of Bacteria (02:22)

In 1939 Shiro Ishii was funded to build a sprawling cluster of laboratories and living quarters. Huge vats of toxic bacteria were brewed--8 tons per month. In secret, Ishii murdered thousands of POWs and many ethnic groups in his experiments.

Process of Murder by Toxins (02:32)

Eyewitness accounts of the experimentation at Unit 731 describe the process of bringing in "marutas," or "blocks of wood," the name given to all prisoners used for experimentation. Many were killed in the process of dying from the diseases given to them. Dissections followed.

Retaliation (00:58)

A number of prisoners who tried to escape were gassed to death. In all, 60 died.

Revealing Facts about Unit 731 (03:21)

Documents from Unit 731 were discovered in a used book store in 1984. In meticulous detail, records showed the toxins used, methods of administration, analysis of damage incurred on prisoners, and more.

In Search of Murderers (05:41)

A doctor whose name appears on documents from Unit 731 refuses to talk with a British television reporter. A list of doctors and workers who experimented on humans was compiled. Many of the murderers now hold prestigious job at universities and medical facilities.

Confessions (03:38)

Shiro Kasahara, a participant in experiments at Unit 731, describes how he was recruited and what he did as an experimenter. He, like so many other scientists engaged in germ warfare and human experimentation, has escaped prosecution for war crimes.

Bacteriological Warfare (02:20)

When Shiro Ishii's toxic bombs and shells failed to work, he infected fleas, wheat, and rice with plague, anthrax, cholera, paratyphoid. He dropped them on civilians. Thousands died.

Experimentation with POWs (02:43)

By 1941, Britain and the U.S. were allies with China. They learned of Japanese germ warfare experiments. Japanese victory at Corregidor was bad for POWs. They were shipped to Mukden to be guinea pigs in Japanese experiments.

Dysentery Experiments (02:06)

Survivors of the Mukden camp relate their experiences. One scientist carrying out experiments with dysentery, Tsuneji Shimada, confirms that POWs were infected with dysentery.

Destruction of Unit 731 (01:19)

By 1944, the tide was turning against the Japanese. By 1945, Russia had joined the war. All evidence at Unit 731 headquarters had to be destroyed, including prisoners and biological material.

Japanese Surrender (01:38)

In August 1945, atom bombs brought Japan to her knees. Everything at Unit 731 having been destroyed, Ishii and his men escaped with the retreating army to avoid capture. Archival film footage covers the Japanese surrender.

Germ Warfare for Sale (04:07)

While the Allies hunted for Japanese war criminals, Ishii and his men hid. He understood that the U.S. would want in his germ warfare progress. The American negotiator was presented with a long list of Japanese males involved with Unit 731. The list included the Emperor.

America Seals a Deal (04:42)

Recently released documents show the U.S. spared Ishii and his “scientists” from war crimes trials in exchange for the horrific data they’d collected. Ishii, freed from fear of prosecution, handed over documents, records, and scientific analyses associated with Unit 731.

Human Experimentation: What MacArthur Knew (03:01)

Evidence suggests that MacArthur knew that Ishii carried out experiments on American POWs. He knew the truth would embarrass the U.S. He moved forward with the deal anyway. Ishii and his men escaped prosecution.

Protection of the Emperor (01:22)

Emperor Hirohito had escaped association with Shiro Ishii and his experimentation on human beings. The Allies needed Hirohito to create stability in a land reeling with defeat.

POW Survivors Want Compensation (01:10)

Surviving American POWs are fighting the U.S. government for compensation for their suffering. They are calling for a full Congressional investigation.

When Murderers Prosper (02:13)

Many of the members of Unit 731 are now prospering. Scores went to work for a new company called the Green Cross Corp. It has grown to be one of the laboratories in Japan. Ishii died from dysentery and internal inflammation.

Credits: Unit 731: Did Emperor Hirohito Know? (01:14)

Credits: Unit 731: Did Emperor Hirohito Know?

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Unit 731: Did Emperor Hirohito Know?

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Among the worst of the many atrocities committed during World War II were the germ warfare experiments by Japanese doctors with British and American prisoners of war as the guinea pigs. The germ warfare unit, code-named Unit 731, was set up in Manchuria and allegedly had secret Imperial approval. This shocking and powerful program examines a story kept secret for half a century, documenting the events and the people and tracking the deals made and the dirty secrets that finally emerged. (52 minutes)

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL2923

Copyright date: ©1985

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

"Dramatic and disturbing...fascinating details on the Pingfan research facility directed by General Ishii Shiro and its use of American POWs and other human subjects for experimentation."—Journal of Japanese Studies

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Only available in USA and Canada.