Eamonn Fingleton is an Irish journalist and author. His books, written for a general audience, deal with global economics and globalism. Wikipedia
Born: August 19, 1948 (age 65), Ireland
Education: Trinity College, Dublin
London, NYC, Tokyo, wherever – the world is my oyster.
BUSINESS | 3/03/2014 @ 12:57午後 |6,794 views
Forget The "Comfort Women" Row: Here's Postwar Japan's Biggest Abomination And It Is Still Unresolved
26 comments, 17 called-out Comment Now
The New York Times the other day suggested that Japan may revoke its apology to the so-called comfort women, the sex slaves used by the Japanese imperial army during World War II. The Times was vague about the details – probably because it has next to nothing to go on. For anyone who knows Tokyo, the story is a storm in a teacup. Irrespective of the often preposterous mutterings of some Orwellian thugs in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s entourage, the Japanese nation qua nation is surely not going to revoke the apology. To do so would risk economic sanctions.
The pity is that while the American press has devoted acres of space over the years to the comfort women issue, it has largely ignored even more shocking instances of postwar Japanese callousness. There is for a start the issue of brutalized prisoners of war. Conditions in Japan’s POW camps and slave-labor factories were so appalling that on figures compiled by Charles A. Stenger, formerly of the Veterans Administration, more than 40 percent of prisoners died in detention (other sources put the figure considerably higher, most notably author Linda Goetz Holmes who has suggested the rate may have approached 90 percent). What is not in dispute is that the death rate in German POW camps ran just a fraction over 1 percent. Those who survived Japanese detention were later compensated at a rate of $1 per day of captivity. Few received more than three or four hundred dollars — because dead men don’t claim benefits. Thus by comparison with Japan’s normal not-a-penny standards, the comfort women were treated “generously,” and even Abe, a reptilian shape changer, cannot take the money back.
The U.S. press has demonstrated even greater pusillanimity in dealing with another skeleton in Tokyo’s cupboard: the Unit 731 abomination and its literally unbelievable postwar sequel.
Lavishly funded by the Imperial army, Unit 731 was a secret germ warfare research organization based near Harbin in northern China. Conducted mainly by top graduates of Japan’s two most prestigious universities, its medical
English: Japan Medical Association Headquarter...
Headquarters of the Japan Medical Association: What would Hippocrates think? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
experiments on prisoners-of-war count as some of the most horrific atrocities in history. The victims were mostly Chinese but, according to John W. Powell, a Shanghai-born American journalist who first exposed the scandal in a scholarly journal in 1980, they also included Americans. Stateless White Russians and Jewish residents of Harbin may also have been targeted.
Some victims were injected with horse blood. Others died an agonizing death suspended upside down (the researchers wanted to know how long someone might survive in such a position). One unfortunate was placed in a centrifugal separator to extract the blood from his body.
Then there was research on gangrene, in which victims were first kept out in the cold until their limbs froze. A variant was to expose a victim’s buttocks to shrapnel. Either way victims were then allowed to die slowly as gangrene set in. Meanwhile there were the vivisection experiments, in which victims were carved up alive and without an anesthetic (anesthetics would have compromised the “purity” of the experiments).
As recounted by the historian Sheldon Harris, author of Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-up, perhaps as many as 12,000 people were exterminated in laboratory experiments. Most were wiped out by infection in four to six weeks, but sometimes death took as long as six months.
If the experiments were gruesome even by the standards of a war that was on all sides truly gruesome (remember Hiroshima), the really shocking thing was the postwar sequel. U.S. government officials have generally cooperated with Tokyo in sweeping the scandal under the rug. For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained (and have never been investigated by the American press), a vast stash of confiscated Imperial Japanese records concerning Unit 731 and other atrocities was returned unread by the U.S. Army to Japan in 1958. The Japanese government has subsequently stonewalled all requests from American researchers to access these records. Meanwhile Japanese researchers have been permitted privileged access to stacks of remaining U.S.-based records, ostensibly for the purposes of cataloging and reorganizing them. Another obstacle has been that some key records were lost in a fire in St. Louis in 1973.
Even when Powell used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the extent of the scandal, his article was largely ignored by the mainstream American press. The press got another chance in June 1982 when evidence from former POW Warren W. Whelchel alerted a Congressional committee to the enormity of what Japanese medical scientists had done. His evidence also seems to have gone largely unreported at the time.
As for the perpetrators, they were granted an amnesty by the United States in a deal in which they promised to share their findings with American germ warfare scientists. Not only did they go on to live normal family lives but many of them enjoyed exceptionally distinguished careers in postwar Japanese medicine. As recounted by John W. Powell, nine served as medical school professors, four as top medical researchers, and 23 as medical doctors. Meanwhile 26 served as elite government bureaucrats, two of the most notorious set up Japan’s blood bank service, and two were awarded top Japanese prizes for service to society.
Most shockingly of all, Takeo Tamiya, a professor of medicine at Tokyo University who doubled as Unit 731′s chief recruiter, served twice as president of the Japan Medical Association. His first term in 1950 was cut short by U.S. officials but as the American occupation ended in 1952 he was reinstated (becoming the only person ever to serve on two separate occasions). He also, from 1948 until his death in 1963, headed the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences. The disgrace could hardly have been greater had Josef Mengele been feted as a medical leader of postwar Germany. At its website, however, the Japan Medical Association unblushingly states that its mission “is to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standards of medical ethics and education to protect the health of all Japanese citizens.”
To say the least, all this raises questions about the status of the Hippocratic oath in postwar Japan — a nation that, if U.S. Cold War propaganda is to believed, was miraculously converted to Western values in the space of a couple of weeks in the fall of 1945.
Of course, the victims’ families never received compensation and to this day neither the Japanese government nor the Japanese medical profession has issued an apology.
If you want to read more about the Unit 731 cover-up, an important study by Gary K. Reynolds of the Congressional Research Service is available here.
Expand All Comments
getty getty 2 days ago
Has US compensated 300,000 Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims?
Eamonn Fingleton Eamonn Fingleton, Contributor 2 days ago
A reply to getty:
Whether we like it or not, the U.S. government has left it to the Japanese government to compensate the victims of the nuclear bombs. The rationale is that it was Japan that started the war.
taikou taikou 2 days ago
The cause of the war was The U.S. not Japan. According to the dissenting judgment of Justice Pal,
after a series of diplomatic moves, the United States began to take mea-
sures, just short of war, against Japan. In July 1938, it laid a “moral embar-
go” on the export of aircraft to Japan. In July 1939, after the introduction of
Senator Vandenberg’s resolution, Secretary Hull served notice that the com-
mercial treaty of 1911 would expire at the end of six months. In the summer
of 1940 the United States began to impose export restrictions which, though
they were also designed to support the American armament program, brought
a large part of their exports to Japan under control. In June 1941 an Ameri-
can political adviser was appointed by General Chiang Kai-shek; Americans
were sent to reorganize traffic on the Burma Road; American aviators under
General Chennault were allowed to resign from the United States’ armed
forces and to volunteer with the Chinese Army. In August 1941 an American
military mission under Brigadier General John Magruder was sent to China.
On July 26, 1941, the United States froze Japanese assets in the United
States for the purpose of bringing all transactions with Japan under the con-
trol of the government.
This was a declaration of economic war and certainly was not neutral be-
haviour. Along with the other economic and military measures taken at the
same time by Australia, the Netherlands, and Great Britain, it was what the
Japanese called it: an “anti-Japanese encirclement policy.”
The U.S.’s violation of neutrality agaist Japan equals the U.S. declaration of war against Japan.
so Japan can conduct self-defensive war against the U.S.
+ expand comment
getty getty 1 day ago
Did Hiroshima women and children start the war?
taikou taikou 2 days ago
In official documents of the U.S. Army’s Psychological Warfare Team from 1944,
one can find recorded interviews of 20 Korean “comfort women,” occupants of a brothel
in Myitkyina, in northern Burma. According to their accounts, these “comfort women,”
for economic reasons, had been sold by their own parents to brokers to become
prostitutes. Their compensation was between 300 and 1,000 yen – at a time when the
monthly pay of a non-commissioned officer in the Japanese Army was approximately 30
According to the document, the women were keeping between 50 to 60 percent of
their fees, and their monthly income was dozens of times higher than that of servicemen.
When they had free time, they would enjoy themselves by playing sports or going on
picnics with the soldiers. They also participated in other recreation and went to dinner
parties. They had gramophones, and they were allowed to go into town to shop.
They also had the right to refuse customers. If a soldier was extremely drunk and
unruly, for example, the women could turn him away – and they frequently did so. The
investigation showed that these women were in good physical condition.
The details are in UNITED STATES OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION,
Psychological Warfare Team, Attached to the U.S. Army Forces India-Burma Theater
In the report, “comfort women” are explicitly declared to be “prostitutes.” There
are records detailing that some of the brokers committed illegal acts in recruiting comfort
women, but there were absolutely no identified instances of “kidnapping” or “rounding
up women” by the Japanese authorities or army.
Eamonn Fingleton Eamonn Fingleton, Contributor 2 days ago
A reply to taikou:
It is well known that some of the comfort women were plain prostitutes, but that hardly means they all were. As you know, some of the comfort women were Dutch nationals captured in the East Indies and it was these women who started the agitation for an apology. It is your contention that they have lied in alleging they were forced into sexual slavery?
In any case your comment fails to deal with the substance of my commentary: that the Japanese medical profession disgraced itself in accepting Takeo Tamiya as president of the Japan Medical Association after the war. What do you have to say about that?
Eido INOUE Eido INOUE 2 days ago
“It is well known that some of the comfort women were plain prostitutes”
Are you reading the same newspapers that I am? Because if all you did was read the papers, you’d never know this. This new trend in the press is to call all of the women “sex slaves”; the use of the word “comfort women” and especially “prostitute” is no longer allowed by many editors at major world papers.
Eamonn Fingleton Eamonn Fingleton, Contributor 2 days ago
A reply to Eido INOUE:
What is your point? Are you questioning my statement or not?
paburon paburon 2 days ago
“the Japanese medical profession disgraced itself in accepting Takeo Tamiya as president of the Japan Medical Association after the war”
What years did he serve as president? It’s very possible that the colleagues who selected him had no idea that he had been involved in Unit 731, as details about the atrocities had not yet been exposed to the general public.
+ expand comment
Eido INOUE Eido INOUE 2 days ago
I am disputing your assertion in your comment that it is “well known” that some (not all) were prostitutes.
Perhaps it is “well known” among scholars and historians in ivory towers. But it isn’t not among the general population and/or some politicians. And if the politicians DO know this, they keep their mouth shut for the purpose of political survival or exploitation.
My point is that while it is absolutely true that Imperial Japan committed war crimes and atrocities as you mention, it is also true that there is a “victor’s justice” rational that is changing the thought process of the readers: EVERYTHING the Imperial Japan did was awful, and EVERYBODY that was not Japanese was 100% innocent.
The deliberate omission of the fact that there is hard evidence (receipts, direct and timely debriefing by U.S. military written reports etc) that not all of the “comfort women” were “sex slaves” is one example of the press hiding what should be an obvious fact:
War, even the “Good War”, is rarely black and white with pure heroes and pure villains.
Eamonn Fingleton Eamonn Fingleton, Contributor 1 day ago
A further reply to Paburon:
You have suggested that major Japanese networks have done several documentaries on Unit 731. I have asked when was the last time such a program was broadcast. I await your reply.
In answer to your question about Tamiya, anyone who can read Japanese can easily find his record on the internet. He served briefly as JMA president in 1950 before being removed by the occupation and he served again in 1952-1954. You have suggested that in appointing Tamiya president of the Japan Medical Association, the medical profession may not have known of his Unit 731 background. That is truly preposterous in a society as tightly coiled as Japan. While the general public may not have known, the fact is that Tamiya was Unit 731′s chief recruiter and in that capacity had worked hard to get Japan’s best new medical graduates to join the project.
In any case, even if the medical profession somehow did not know who Tamiya was, there remains the matter of the numerous other medical men who worked for Unit 731 and then continued to enjoy “illustrious” careers for many years after they were outed in the early 1980s. Why were they not immediately struck off the Japanese medical register once their past was known? Why did not the Japanese health ministry and/or the JMA not launch an investigation?
These are important questions that any apologist must answer. Over to you.
paburon paburon 1 day ago
I don’t have access to broadcasting records, and Japanese tv networks have a terrible tendency to remove old program pages after only a short time, so I don’t know when such programs were last shown on TV. A quick google search found a page describing a program that was made in 2006 (731部隊特集 on TBS). The most famous documentaries were created in the 1990s, and channels such as NHK often rebroadcast historical documentaries even years after they were first aired. In the 1990s it was still a sort of “new” topic. There haven’t been many new discoveries of evidence since then, not leaving much ground for new programs, so there haven’t been a stream of new documentaries.
Tamiya served in the 1950′s as head of the JMA – he was president in a period before the activities of Unit 731 were public knowledge.
If you have evidence that doctors throughout Japan were well aware of atrocities committed by a secret military program, please share it. The Japanese military authorities were very strict about keeping important military programs secret.
I don’t see how their Japanese-ness is reason enough to assume that other doctors would know the details of a secret military program. A “tightly coiled” culture is still capable of preventing military secrets from being widely known.
“Why were they not immediately struck off the Japanese medical register immediately their past became known? Why did not the Japanese health ministry and/or the JMA not launch an investigation?”
Those are good questions. I do wonder, however, how many of those involved were still practicing medicine in the 1980′s. Most doctors who practiced in the 1940′s would probably be in their 70′s or 80′s by that time.
It is my understanding that the Japanese government left all cases of wartime overseas crimes to be handled by the war crimes trials that were convened in the immediate years after the war. The people convicted of war crimes were not considered criminals under Japanese domestic law, and Japanese domestic courts did not seek to convict additional people of war crimes after the American occupation ended. It could be argued that Japan should have pursued punishments under domestic law towards certain people who did horrible things during the war. Germany, if I recall correctly, has laws that allow people to be convicted and tried today for wartime “crimes against humanity”, even if their crimes were committed in 1939-45.
Although I personally believe it to be stupid and think it should be eliminated, Japan has a statue of limitation on crimes such as murder (15 years? if I remember right). If the doctors in question had committed real crimes while working for Unit 731, they would be beyond any legal punishment by the 1980′s, putting them beyond governmental punishment. And if the JMA decided to punish them for their actions, they might have been able to sue the JMA for wrongful punishment, on the basis that they had not been legally found guilty of any crime.
If one were to treat every Japanese person who participated in atrocities as a criminal, there would be a lot more criminals in Japan than were convicted in war crimes trials. There were many soldiers and officers who had some role in what could be considered war crimes, but they were not convicted. Since the Japanese government had not adopted a policy of punishing people who were not convicted in the war crimes trials of international tribunals conducted in the immediate postwar years, people not convicted by those trials were left alone. I would agree that many, including Unit 731 members, deserved to be convicted in war crimes tribunals. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
However, while it was an injustice that Unit 731 was never properly punished for its actions (an injustice that was engineered by the United States), I don’t think it is at all fair to use the story of Unit 731 to question the overall morality of today’s Japanese people, or the professionalism and ethics of today’s Japanese doctors.
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(contributor_data.name)!?html Eamonn Fingleton
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A former editor for Forbes and the Financial Times, Eamonn Fingleton spent 27 years monitoring East Asian economics from a base in Tokyo. In September 1987 he issued the first of several predictions of the Tokyo banking crash and went on in "Blindside," a controversial 1995 analysis that was praised by John Kenneth Galbraith and Bill Clinton, to show that a heedless America was fast losing its formerly vaunted leadership in advanced manufacturing -- and particularly in so-called producers' goods -- to Japan. His 1999 book "In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity" anticipated the American Internet stock crash of 2000 and offered an early warning about the abuse of new financial instruments. In his 2008 book "In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony," he challenged the conventional view that China is converging to Western economic and political values. His books have been translated into French, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. They have been read into the U.S. Senate record and named among the ten best business books of the year by Business Week and Amazon.com.
The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
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London, NYC, Tokyo, wherever – the world is my oyster.
BUSINESS | 3/09/2014 @ 4:09午後 |1,088 views
Imperial Japan's Abominable Dr. Death, And The Most Disgraceful War Crime "Amnesia" In History
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In this space last week, I mentioned the strange story of Takeo Tamiya, who, in becoming president of the Japan Medical Association, rose to the highest pinnacle of the Japanese medical profession in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
To say the least this was an undeserved triumph. With the possible exception of Nazi Germany’s diabolical Dr. Josef Mengele, Tamiya must rank as the most notorious medical doctor in history. The fact is he had played a particularly significant role in Japan’s war effort as chief recruiter for Unit 731, the Japanese imperial army’s notorious biological warfare research organization. All the evidence is that he was highly effective in persuading the brightest young medical graduates to join the satanic effort.
As documented by, among other authors, Sheldon Harris (Factories of Death), and Peter Williams and David Wallace (Unit 731: The Japanese Army’s Secret of Secrets), Unit 731 committed some of the most abominable war crimes in history. In a shocking breach of one of the oldest and most universally observed rules in medicine, Unit 731 used human beings as guinea pigs in countless grotesquely cruel experiments.
The victims, most of them Chinese, may have numbered as many as 12,000, according to Harris. Some were injected with horse blood. Others died an agonizing death suspended upside down. One unfortunate was placed in a centrifugal separator to extract the blood from his body. Then there were the vivisection experiments — conducted without an anesthetic As the war ended in August 1945, those human guinea pigs who were still alive were summarily executed to keep Unit 731’s activities secret.
English: Josef Mengele (1911-1979), German SS ...
Police photograph of Dr. Josef Mengele: his Japanese counterpart was luckier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How come Tamiya went on to such a prestigious postwar career?
As the reaction to last week’s commentary has demonstrated, apologists continue to this day to suggest that postwar Japan somehow did not know who Tamiya was. For anyone familiar with Japan this is simply not credible.
As the late Sheldon Harris, a historian at California State University, has documented, the true significance of Unit 731’s “water purification plant” in Manchuria, where the most notorious experiments were conducted, was widely understood in the higher reaches of Japanese society even during the war. Over a fifteen-year period – from 1930 to 1945 – Unit 731’s military chiefs often spoke to large audiences at army medical colleges, civilian universities, and scientific conferences, and made little secret of the fact that humans were used. On occasion, they used motion pictures of human experiments and even showed preserved human parts to make their point.
Writing in 1994, Harris explained: “Knowledge of BW [biological warfare], including human experimentation, was shared by many Japanese who belonged to a certain stratum of society. The military, the scientific community, key elements within the Diet, and members of the extended royal family were privy to the secret…Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of army medical doctors, veterinarians, biologists, chemists, microbiologists, technical staff, and the like were rotated regularly to Manchuria and to occupied China. Many of these people were employed in the human experiment stations, and either participated directly in the experiments or were told about them by others who did work with humans. At the least, they heard rumors concerning offensive BW work with humans conducted in their workplace.”
Almost as soon as the war ended, Unit 731 leaders moved to do a deal with the U.S. Army, and in return for sharing their knowledge they received immunity from prosecution for war crimes. In a classic illustration of how Americans allow themselves to be out-negotiated in Japan, the deal was entered into by Colonel Murray Sanders, a young medical officer, before he discovered that human guinea pigs had been used.
Soon the truth began to leak out. In January 1946, the Japanese press carried allegations by Japanese Communist Party leaders that members of the Japanese army medical corps had infected Chinese and American prisoners of war with bubonic plague. These were also reported by the U.S. Army newspaper Pacific Stars and Stripes and the New York Times.
Then in a war crimes trial in the Soviet Union in 1949, many of the most appalling details of Unit 731 emerged for the first time, when twelve captured Japanese army officers were put on trial. Although the trial was dismissed by the Japanese establishment as a show trial, the Soviets subsequently demonstrated the validity of their charges beyond a reasonable doubt by making a massive dossier available in several languages including Japanese and English.
All this notwithstanding, Tamiya was appointed president of the Japan Medical Association in 1950. Although his tenure was cut short by officers of the American occupation, who forced him to stand down, as soon as the occupation ended in 1952, he was reinstated. He therefore ranked as the only person in the association’s history to serve two separate spells as president.
Although Tamiya is far beyond justice — he died in 1963 — this does not mean the case is closed. In a war in which particularly shocking things were done on all sides, the Japanese medical profession’s role in Unit 731 was uniquely shocking. If Americans have it within them to atone for Hiroshima (Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi have visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and U.S. Ambassador John Roos attended commemoration ceremonies in 2010 and 2012), it is past time the Japanese establishment got over its “amnesia” about Unit 731.
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