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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Real-life human centipede—of one. (Or something. Whatever you want to call it, your brain is going to hate this.)

Posted by on Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 11:10 PM

I cringe to tell you guys this—because I cringe to think that it's true—but some Japanese doctors in China really upstaged Mengele. Experiments included human vivisection, frequently without anesthesia, and victims who had "their stomach removed and their esophagus reattached to their intestines" just to see what would happen. And living teenage girls had their wombs cut out for Japanese soldiers to examine. "They knew very little about women," one of the doctors later confessed. "It was sex education."

[SCREAM. whimper.]

This British report, published in 2007, is wretched stuff for those of you who (like me) are only just hearing about "Unit 731." In a flourish of bureaucratic-euphemistic-diabolical inspiration, it was officially called the "Anti-Epidemic Water Supply and Purification Bureau."

Those [experiments] which did have a genuine medical value, such as finding the best treatment for frostbite - a valuable discovery for troops in the bitter Manchurian winters - were achieved by gratuitously cruel means.

On the frozen fields at Pingfan, prisoners were led out with bare arms and drenched with cold water to accelerate the freezing process.

Their arms were then hit with a stick. If they gave off a hard, hollow ring, the freezing process was complete. Separately, naked men and women were subjected to freezing temperatures and then defrosted to study the effects of rotting and gangrene on the flesh.

People were locked into high-pressure chambers until their eyes popped out, or they were put into centrifuges and spun to death like a cat in a washing machine. To study the effects of untreated venereal disease, male and female "logs" were deliberately infected with syphilis.

Ishii demanded a constant intake of prisoners, like a modern-day Count Dracula scouring the countryside for blood. His victims were tied to stakes to find the best range for flame-throwers, or used to test grenades and explosives positioned at different angles and distances. They were used as targets to test chemical weapons; they were bombarded with anthrax.

All of these atrocities had been banned by the Geneva Convention, which Japan signed but did not ratify. By a bitter irony, the Japanese were the first nation to use radiation against a wartime enemy. Years before Hiroshima, Ishii had prisoners' livers exposed to X-rays.

And to think that I was shocked to learn that police officers were casually spraying clouds of chemicals banned by the International Chemical Weapons Convention (ratified by the United States in 1993) all over political protesters and journalists (myself included) at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

But hell—that was kids' stuff.

(Footnote: I only found this horror-show because I was rooting around for Mark Twain's moral treatises—including those against vivisection—and stumbled into the moral cesspool of Unit 731. Thanks a lot, internet.)


Comments (39) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Helluva story. The detail one most wishes were surprising is that we pardoned them all to get their data.
The answer is that the Japanese were allowed to erase Unit 731 from the archives by the American government, which wanted Ishii's biological warfare findings for itself.

In the autumn of 1945, General MacArthur granted immunity to members of the Unit in exchange for research data on biological warfare.


Lawyers for the International Prosecution Section gathered evidence which was sent directly to President Truman. No more was heard of it.

The Americans took the view that all this valuable research data could end up in the hands of the Soviets if they did not act fast. This was, after all, the kind of information that no other nation would have had the ruthlessness to collect.
Posted by gloomy gus on November 27, 2010 at 11:43 PM · Report this
Maverick Biceps 3
Lol the United States did things JUST as bad in the 50's and 60's and should perhaps get off its high horse, check out the wikipedia page for unethical human experimentation in the United States, especially the fun sections on government-funded rape
Posted by Maverick Biceps on November 27, 2010 at 11:47 PM · Report this
Yeah, learning about Unit 731 is probably one of the most horrifying steps of the whole "discovering the depths of human capacity for depravity" process.
Posted by Ben on November 28, 2010 at 12:02 AM · Report this
At least now I don't have to feel bad about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Posted by Brandon J. on November 28, 2010 at 12:27 AM · Report this
@2 I don't really understand why you would do that in the first place. I would pardon them, only in order to obtain all their research data, and then I would have them all privately shot. The conquered are in no position to demand terms; the Japanese still haven't learned this; nuclear fire was too good a fate for them; MacArthur really dropped the ball on this one.
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on November 28, 2010 at 12:50 AM · Report this
Unregistered User 7

Really? Just as bad as Unit 731?
Posted by Unregistered User on November 28, 2010 at 1:24 AM · Report this
I'm glad this was posted here. The Japanese were completely on the same level of evil as the Nazis during WWII with the Second Sino-Japanese war (which spilled into WWII). I think that level of Asian other-ness has affected American knowledge and understanding of the situation in China especially during that time.

The Japanese massacred over 23 million ethnic Chinese from 1930-1940. The experimenting mentioned here is one of many fucked up things that went on. The story Nanjing massacre/rape is at least getting told more commonly these days-- at least 20,000 females (ranging from infants to the elderly) were raped by Japanese soldiers over a six week period. Sickening stuff like fathers being forced to rape their kids, etc.

The west was never going to help China (even though they asked and asked and the only ones to kick them any support were Russia and Nazi fucking Germany) and so if the Japanese hadn't bombed Pearl Harbor (which they actually so they could keep fighting the Chinese) who knows how that would have turned out.

I think it's really important for people to learn about this, because the Japanese have been notably terrible about suppressing and mitigating the horrible truth. I know people like @3 will point out that lol so does America. Not saying that isn't true, dude, but you look at the scale of this shit and tell me it's the same.
Posted by Catbot on November 28, 2010 at 1:41 AM · Report this
Packeteer 9…

The Soviets did it. The USA did it. Japan did it. Germany did it. War is hell and every country commits war crimes in every war. Be surprised only if they are not revealed.
Posted by Packeteer on November 28, 2010 at 2:15 AM · Report this
@6 What the Japanese did in WW2 was disgusting. So is the death of thousands of civilians in a nuclear strike -you ass.
Posted by weevz on November 28, 2010 at 2:18 AM · Report this
Vince 11
Human history is loaded with horrible cruelty. Just more proof, if any were needed, that we are not divine but just another animal.
Posted by Vince on November 28, 2010 at 4:02 AM · Report this
Cynic Romantic 12
11: I think the fact we can recognise it as horrible cruelty indicates we are not "just another animal". It's problematic that we judge ourselves according to a scale of good and evil when very, very few (if any) of us are entirely one or the other.
Posted by Cynic Romantic on November 28, 2010 at 4:35 AM · Report this
CharlesYFarley 13
You may be able to find a copy of the movie "The Sea and Poison." If so, watch it and discover the way the Japanese dissected living American soldiers to see how long they could live when organs were removed, among other experiments. This film was included in the 1988 or 1989 SIFF.

Moving right along, the "human centipede" reminds me of a great joke, originally by "Henry Gibson."
The Croco-Gator (a joke)

The corco-gator is the meanest animal in the world.

He has the head of a crocodile at one end,
and the head of an alligator at the other end.

You may ask, "If he has the head of a crocodile at one end,
and the head of an alligator at the other end,
how do he shit?"

He don't! That's what makes him so mean!
To really appreciate this joke, you need to know that it also describes anyone from the GOP or TP, when adjusted for gender (if necessary).
Posted by CharlesYFarley on November 28, 2010 at 5:14 AM · Report this
Sometimes I wish humans would go extinct.
Posted by rhymeswithlibrarian on November 28, 2010 at 6:53 AM · Report this
Wait, so this happened before WWII? Might want to make that clear at the top -- at first I thought this was something going on NOW, in China.
Posted by vitaminwater on November 28, 2010 at 7:09 AM · Report this
svensken 17
LOL Thats what I thought before I read the article.
Posted by svensken on November 28, 2010 at 7:19 AM · Report this
@7 & 8, I just read the Wikipedia article on "Unethical human experimentation in the United States." I don't see how they were any less gruesome than the Japanese experiments. I need to go watch some cute kitten videos now.
Posted by lenore on November 28, 2010 at 7:50 AM · Report this
Vince 19
@12 I'm not sure knowing how horrible this is changes the fact that, given the right circumstances, who knows what a human, any human, is capable of?
Posted by Vince on November 28, 2010 at 7:54 AM · Report this
Red Spandex Guy from Airpocalypse 20
When will Slayer write a song about it?
Posted by Red Spandex Guy from Airpocalypse on November 28, 2010 at 8:17 AM · Report this
Last of the Time Lords 21
And there is so much worse that the human race is yet to do to itself.
Posted by Last of the Time Lords on November 28, 2010 at 9:27 AM · Report this
sirkowski 22
Hiroshima, meet karma.
Posted by sirkowski on November 28, 2010 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Badger 23
@13 The Sea and Poison has never been released on video, but I think that the book (by Shusako Endo) is still in print.
Posted by Badger on November 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Check out Philosophy of a Knife, a 4.5 hour russian-made film about the atrocities. The first 3 hours or so is detailed re-enactments of some of the "experiments' conducted by Ishii. It's the one of the few gore films I've been completely unable to make it through.
Posted by the shape on November 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Kitts 25
This is one of the reasons China and Korea get really angry when Japanese Prime Ministers visit the Yasukuni Shrine, or when Japanese textbooks come out denying any of this. Unlike Germany, the Japanese government has never shown the sort of widespread public remorse for their war atrocities, and because most of the victims were Asian, the west tends to give it less attention. Much of the Japanese government's actions during the Pacific War were breathtakingly horrifying, and I would like to see public awareness of them here in the US on the same scale that we remember the Nazis.

On the other hand, let's separate the Japanese government from the Japanese people. The Japanese government was facist and brutal, and many of the wartime leaders were kept in power by the American government after the war, with the thought that they would prevent Japan from going communist. But wartime Japan was not democracy, and even with widespread propaganda efforts, not everyone supported the government wholeheartedly. There were anti-war activists in Japan during the war, many of whom were imprisoned, tortured, or killed for their beliefs. Even today, the Japanese government tends to be to the right of the general population (and until pretty recently, Japan was effectively a one-party state, hardly a functional democracy). There are people inside Japan who draw attention to Japanese war atrocities and don't approve of the "revised" textbooks. Hiroshima may have been militarily necessary (I don't really know enough military history to tel), but we shouldn't be happy about widespread loss of civilian life.

All of this is to say that it's complicated! And we should try and find a balance between remembering and condemning facist Japan on the one hand, and not sliding into knee-jerk hating of Japanese people on the other.

Sorry for the long rant. I study Chinese history, so this issue is particularly important to me.
Posted by Kitts on November 28, 2010 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Roma 26
Mankind is capable of wondrous achievements and humanitarian acts but is also capable of unfathomable cruelty. You wonder how human beings can treat each other with such barbarity.
Posted by Roma on November 28, 2010 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Brandon J:
How many US civilians should die to make up for the millions of Afghan, Hawaiian, Seminole, Cuban, Filipino, Creek, Colombian, Haitian Vietnamese, Iraqis, Iranians, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, etc., etc., etc., that were murdered to add to or protect the profits of our Banksters?
How many Gringos deserve to die for the Guatemalan or Tuskegee Experiments?
PS The bombing of Nagasaki did almost as good as job eliminating the Christians in Japan as Operation Iraq Liberation did in in Iraq.
Posted by tombaxter on November 28, 2010 at 1:33 PM · Report this
OuterCow 28
This is what happens when no one pulls the plug on a Milgram experiment.

A decent percentage of the world population is capable of similar cruelty given the right circumstances, war being chief among them. The most important thing is to build a society that no longer tolerates such government sanctioned activities. This is why the Obama administration needs to prosecute Bush administration officials for torture. If we allow ourselves to live in a society where some people are allowed to torture, the problem will only grow.
Posted by OuterCow on November 28, 2010 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Roma 29
OuterCow, re: A decent percentage of the world population is capable of similar cruelty given the right circumstances, war being chief among them.

One of those "right circumstances" is self-preservation, a fundamental drive for any human being. If you know, or believe, that you are going to be killed for refusing orders to be cruel, most people (I feel) will not refuse. I'm not suggesting, by the way, that all Japanese soldiers during the "Rape of Nanking" or all German soldiers in concentration camps were merely following orders, orders they found morally repugnant. It may very well be that most of them cheerfully raped and slaughtered Chinese, Jews and others due to personal animus.

Posted by Roma on November 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Roma 30
27/tombaxter: re PS The bombing of Nagasaki did almost as good as job eliminating the Christians in Japan as Operation Iraq Liberation did in in Iraq.

True, Christians in Iraq were safer under Saddam. One of the things a totalitarian ruler like Saddam can achieve is a greater degree of order in a country. I wouldn't be surprised if people are safer from violent attacks by fellow citizens in North Korea than they are in South Korea, or if people were similarly safer under Stalin than they are in today's Russia. Likewise, if we had a totalitarian regime in the U.S. -- one which had a policy to, say, imprison people who seemed threatening to others -- that guy on Capitol Hill would still be alive instead of being murdered by a hatchet-wielding crazy man.
Posted by Roma on November 28, 2010 at 2:33 PM · Report this
scojomojo 31
I heard Mengele wrote them a letter to tell them to stop when he read the reports of their experiments. If MENGELE considered them wrong, yeesh.
Posted by scojomojo on November 28, 2010 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Unregistered User 32
No seriously, I agree that the unethical experimentation in the US listed in the wiki article is seriously atrocious, but it's also a compilation of unethical experimentation over the entirety of the history of the United States, not a single unit that operated during WWII.

Maybe it's silly to argue about which terrible atrocity was more atrocious, but no human experimentation I've read about anywhere else (yet, I probably just haven't found it yet or it hasn't been found out yet) makes me cringe and shudder like the stuff described that unit 137 did.
Posted by Unregistered User on November 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM · Report this
What chemicals were sprayed on people at the 2004 Republican convention?
Posted by fun times on November 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM · Report this
venomlash 34
@33: Well, LSD might explain why people thought that the Republicans had good ideas.
Posted by venomlash on November 28, 2010 at 7:08 PM · Report this
Reutte 35
I've visited Unit 731 in Harbin. There's not much left and the main building has been converted to a museum. But it was still very sad to learn about.
Posted by Reutte on November 28, 2010 at 7:43 PM · Report this
mr. herriman 36
@4, well put. this was the first i'd ever heard of it, and in the hours since reading this, the link, and a few other related pieces, i have been staggering around in a traumatized state. i have had waves of feeling like i'm going to pass out and have not really been able to have a conversation with anyone. nightmares are a certainty tonight.

Posted by mr. herriman on November 28, 2010 at 8:12 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 37
There is no god. See?

By the way, the human centipede movie i've read of, heard of but probably won't watch? The most disgusting thing about it is that you know some crazy tyrant, in the future, is going to emulate that fictional experiment, having watched it. You know, the kind of person who is so power-hungry that they would get a huge high from holding that much control over someone else. There probably will be human centipedes some day. FTW
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on November 29, 2010 at 12:54 AM · Report this
@25: Well-put, Kitts. I'm the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, and sometimes we have heated discussions on the topic of the Japanese gov't vs. civilian population, especially the current population.

I'm evaluating myself now ... I've known about these things for some years, but never really reconciled that knowledge with the vacuum in my more formal education, and seeing that some people here weren't aware of this history kind of opens my eyes. Maybe I should be talking about it more.
Posted by Gloria on November 29, 2010 at 11:06 AM · Report this
mr. herriman 39
for me this was a tidal wave of horror.

i don't know how it was for any of you, but when the school system taught me and my classmates about the holocaust, it was a slow trickle of information. each year as we aged there would be a little more information handed to us, metered so as not to overwhelm us. we didn't start talking about the real atrocities and the massive numbers of dead until years into it. (i know my husband didn't have that experience - he was told everything all at once at a very young age).

to have to swallow this whole is really freaking me out. it's just too much to process.

i agree that people should know about this, and we should be talking about it more. i asked my husband last night if he had ever heard of Unit 731 and he said no. he started to ask me a little, but i just couldn't tell him anything beyond the most basic facts. i told him he should read it but to be prepared to be horrified on a whole new level, but he declined for the time being. he said he was not up for anything soul-destroying at the moment. given the soul-destroying nature of this, i didn't press. but i hope he will look into it at some point before too long, because i feel like i need to have him to talk to about it.

i'm just so sick.
Posted by mr. herriman on November 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM · Report this
thecheesegirl 40
@18: I recommend this one:…
Posted by thecheesegirl on November 29, 2010 at 8:41 PM · Report this
Posted by thecheesegirl on November 29, 2010 at 8:52 PM · Report this

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