The UK Telegraph reports that a new exhibit at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan has broken a seven-decade taboo about discussing the use of American POWs for medical experiments during World War II. The men were subjected to unspeakable horrors, including “medical” dissections while still alive.
The controversial exhibit is a small part of a large museum dedicated to advances pioneered by the prominent medical school. It tells the story of a dozen Americans who bailed out of a B-29 over Guam. The survivors were taken to Japan as prisoners. Most of them ended up as test subjects at what was then called Kyoto Imperial University, trapped in a chamber of horrors.
“In testimony against 30 doctors and university personnel presented to a hearing of the Allied War Crimes tribunal in Yokohama in 1948, it was claimed that doctors gave the POWs intravenous injections of seawater to test if it could serve as a substitute for sterile saline solution,” the Telegraph writes. “Others had parts of their livers removed to determine if they could survive. Another experiment was to determine whether epilepsy could be controlled through the removal of part of the brain.”
There were also allegations of cannibalism that were never proven, but 23 people associated with the university were “found guilty of carrying out vivisection or the wrongful removal of body parts” during postwar trials. General MacArthur commuted the stiffest sentences handed down against them, so they were all out of jail by 1958. The American POWs they used as experimental subjects all died in captivity, and ended the war preserved in jars of formaldehyde, barely escaping an effort by the doctors to cover up their crimes by destroying the evidence.
A report on the new exhibit at Japan Times mentions that the Allied war crimes tribunal did not hold the university institutionally responsible for the atrocities perpetrated there; the charges were all filed against individual staff members. The decision to put records related to the incident on display in the new museum was made at a meeting of Kyushu University professors in March.
“Human vivisections are also known to have been conducted in northern China by the infamous Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army,” adds Japan Times.