by Kelly Suen
Unit 731 was a biological and chemical weapons research and development unit of the Japanese Army. It operated covertly for ten years since 1935 in Harbin, China, and was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes committed by Imperial Japan, due to its extensive use of lethal human experimentation.
(continued) With science and medicine as its stated purpose, Unit 731 was called upon to develop cures for sexually transmitted diseases, which had begun to spread among the Japanese army due to soldiers’ rape of civilians and sex with comfort women. To study STDs, Unit 731 prisoners were used as human test subjects. Female prisoners, for example, were infected by syphilis either by forced sex with an infected male prisoner or by injections. These women were forced to become pregnant for use in STD experiments, and the babies born to these women were also used in experiments.
Pregnant women were infected with syphilis and other STDs for use in studying the effect it may have on the fetus. Female prisoners were systematically raped, sometimes by doctors, resulting in a large number of babies born in captivity. Babies born to women with syphilis were tested on the moment they were born. These babies were personally delivered by doctors instead of nurses, as it normally would be the case. Blood flow from mother to child would be stopped and released intermittently to take multiple blood samples. This was done to determine the intensity of syphilis transmitted from mother to child, and to study the progression of the disease from the time of birth.
Some women were forced to have sex to study the transmission of STDs. When the infection of STDs by injection was abandoned, the researchers started forcing prisoners to have sexual intercourse with each other. The process was handled by four or five Unit 731 members, dressed in white laboratory clothing which would cover the body entirely, leaving only eyes and mouth visible. A male and female, one infected with syphilis, would be brought into a cell together and forced to have sex with each other, under threat of getting shot if anyone resisted. Once the healthy partner was infected, researchers closely observed the progress of the disease to determine, for example, how far it advanced the first week, the second week, and so forth. Instead of looking for external changes, such as the condition of sexual organs, researchers performed live dissections to investigate the effect of the disease on the internal organs at different stages of the disease. Unsurprisingly, some women were impregnated from these sexual encounters.
Babies, whether born outside or in Unit 731, were also made use of in experiments. The ones born in Unit 731 were the results of rape. A few months after being impregnated, women would be dissected and their fetuses removed while they were awake. On one occasion, a pregnant woman was infected with syphilis, and when her child was born, they were both dissected. Another experiment conducted on children was for a frostbite cure. A temperature sensing needle was inserted into the hand of a three-month-old baby and the infant was immersed in ice water, then temperature changes were recorded.
With the prevalence of syphilis and other STDs among Japanese soldiers, Unit 731 was sought out to create cures. Unit 731 performed experiments that had caused the deaths of many female prisoners. Atrocities such as vivisections and forced pregnancies were committed for science. Women were infected with syphilis, and some were also forced to become pregnant. They were infected and impregnated by rape or forced sex with male prisoners. Scientists utilized pregnant women as well as the children they would later give birth to in their STD experiments. Pregnant women, women with syphilis, and babies were dissected alive. Despite knowledge of a large number of children born in Unit 731, there are no records of survivors. It is likely the children were killed along with other prisoners at the end of the war.