Unit 731 & the American Cover Up

Dyson, Daniel (2022) Unit 731 & the American Cover Up. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Digital ID: http://doi.org/10.17030/uclan.thesis.00048605


Prior to the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial Army quickly became one of the world leaders in the development of both chemical and biological warfare research. This thesis focuses on one operation of that military machine, Unit 731, and their research in to biological warfare which was encouraged to flourish under Emperor Hirohito’s rule.

The founder of Unit 731, Shiro Ishii, would guide his researchers in their exploitation and mass murder of the innocent civilians of occupied Manchuria. The Unit committed state-sponsored, wide-scale field experiments and research on human beings without their consent, akin to the atrocities committed in concentration camps across Europe by Nazi-Germany. While one would expect such criminals to face the hangman’s noose, the key players of Unit 731 would avoid prosecution for their barbaric acts. Instead, many would be rewarded with financial gain by the United States, who offered immunity in return for research data collected from human experimentation. Others would prosper in post-war Japan, obtaining high-ranking jobs. Because of the nature of the immunity deal, little is known in the Western world about the prosecution of Japanese war criminals at Tokyo.

This thesis will argue that the Allied powers, in particular the United States, negligently failed to administer justice against all Japanese war criminals. Worse than that, they deliberately prevented the victims of Unit 731 from seeing justice, as well as stifling academic insight for nearly four decades after the Trial of Japanese war criminals had concluded.

However, this thesis will not take the same path of previous literature, which has tended to focus on distinctly separate topics: modern Japan, Unit 731, Japanese war crimes, immunity deals and their implications, and the Tokyo Trials. While this thesis is not intended to be as comprehensive as the respective work academics such as Bix on Hirohito; Gold, Harris or Barenblatt on Unit 731; or Boister & Cryer on the Tokyo Trial, this thesis will bridge the gaps by collating the evidence on all issues to give the reader a well-rounded and comprehensive understanding of how Unit 731 came to fruition and flourished in modern Japan, under the control of Shiro Ishii and Emperor Hirohito.

This thesis, in the final chapter, will expand upon the current academic understanding of Unit 731 by providing critical analysis of the atrocities committed by members of that deadly Unit and then apply the legal framework created by the Allies following the end of the Second World War. This thesis will then advance arguments that both Emperor Hirohito and Shiro Ishii ought to properly have been prosecuted at the end of the Second World War specifically for their involvement in Unit 731.

This thesis provides fresh insight on the variety of topics covered, in particular in addressing the lack of accountability by those individuals who committed such atrocities, the failure of the Allies to instil adequate justice and the reasons why Japan are perceived to have shown a lack of accountability for the atrocities committed by them both before and during the Second World War. This thesis will highlight how many key members of Unit 731 would go on to thrive in the post-war years, without fear of retribution or penalty.

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