by Greg Campbell | April 8, 2015 10:09 pm
Americans are fascinated with the efforts of “The Greatest Generation.” We remember solemnly the evils of the Third Reich and the sacrifices made by so many to help stop the atrocities. However, it is also important to remember the evils of the Japanese Empire and the atrocities committed by the brutal enemy of the Pacific Theater. According to a report from the Daily Mail, the Japanese, after 70+ years, are finally admitting to a gruesome and horrific atrocity committed against Americans.
A Japanese university has opened a museum acknowledging that its staff dissected downed American airmen while they were still alive during World War Two.
The move is a striking step in a society where war crimes are still taboo and rarely discussed, although the incident has been extensively documented in books and by US officials.
A gruesome display at the newly-opened museum at Kyushu University explains how eight US POWs were taken to the centre’s medical school in Fukuoka after their plane was shot down over the skies of Japan in May 1945.
There, they were subjected to horrific medical experiments – as doctors dissected one soldier’s brain to see if epilepsy could be controlled by surgery, and removed parts of the livers of other prisoners as part of tests to see if they would survive.
Another soldier was injected with seawater, in an experiment to see if it could be used instead of sterile saline solution to help dehydration. All of the soldiers died from their ordeal.
The horrific episode has been described in previous books, one by a Japanese doctor who took part in the experiments, but the museum represents an official acknowledgement of the atrocity
When the incidents came to light during a discussion with professors in March, the university decided to include information about the experiments within their new museum.
About twelve airmen – the exact number is unclear – were aboard Captain Marvin Watkins’ B-29 when it took off from Guam on a bombing raid against an airfield in Fukuoka.
They all bailed out when their aircraft was rammed by a Japanese fighter.
One was killed when another Japanese fighter flew into his parachute. Local residents converged on the surviving airmen as they landed- one emptied his pistol at the crowd before shooting himself dead, another was stabbed to death by locals.
Of the remaining airmen Captain Watkins was taken for interrogation and survived the war, he is believed to have died in Virginia in 1989. The rest died during the horrific vivisection experiments.
Todoshi Tono, one of the doctors involved in the experiments, later dedicated his life to exposing the atrocities after the war and wrote a book against the wishes of colleagues who wanted their crimes to be lost in the mists of time.
In 1995, he told the The Baltimore Sun that one of the US soldiers Teddy Ponczka had been stabbed by locals after his plane had crashed – and presumed he was going to be treated for the wound when he was taken to the operating theatre.
Instead, surgeons allegedly removed one of Ponczka’s lungs to see what effect surgery has on the respiratory system, before injecting him with seawater.
‘I could never again wear a white smock,’ Dr Toshio Tono told the newspaper 50 years on.
‘It’s because the prisoners thought that we were doctors, since they could see the white smocks, that they didn’t struggle. They never dreamed they would be dissected.’
After the prisoners were killed, Japanese doctors preserved their remains in formaldehyde until the end of the war.
Evidence of the experiments was heard at an Allied War Crimes tribunal in 1948 against 30 doctors and university staff, by which time the body parts had been destroyed.
In total 23 people were found guilty of vivisection – dissecting and performing surgery on a living thing – and five were sentenced to death.
General Douglas MacArthur later commuted all death sentences when he was military governor of Japan and all the perpetrators were released.
My grandfather, the sole survivor of his B-17 bomber crew, seldom spoke of the war. After being shot down over Kiel, he spent much of the war in a POW camp where he was treated honorably. When he would speak of the war, he would always note how grateful he was that he had been shot-down over Germany, not in the Pacific.
My other grandfather, stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack, thankfully avoided capture in the Pacific throughout the war, but likewise noted his fear of being captured by the Japanese.
From Pearl Harbor to Bataan to Palawan, it is important to remember that each and every Allied soldier in the Pacific remained at great personal risk not only from combat with the enemy, but from the treatment of soldiers who were captured. We must never forget.
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