An excavation has begun in Tokyo to try to find human remains linked to a programme of biological warfare experiments inflicted on prisoners of war during World War Two. At a base in occupied northern China, the Japanese ran an operation known as Unit 731, in which thousands of prisoners were supposed to have been injected with agents causing diseases like typhus and cholera.
The unit is also alleged to have dissected victims alive and to have frozen prisoners to death. It is believed that some of the remains of those killed were taken back to Tokyo for analysis. In 2006, a former nurse, now aged 88, said that she and colleagues at an army hospital at the site now being investigated were ordered to bury numerous corpses, bones and body parts before the Americans came, following Japan’s surrender in August 1945.
According to a history professor at Kanagawa University, the site was the research headquarters of Unit 731. The slowness in looking into the former nurse’s claims will be seen as another example of Japan’s lack of enthusiasm for investigating the crimes the regime perpetrated during World War Two.
Fragments of bone, many showing saw marks, were found at a site nearby in 1989, but the government said they were not linked to Unit 731. In 2002, a Japanese court rejected claims for compensation from 180 Chinese people who claimed they had been victims of Japan’s biological warfare unit.