3607 members of Unit 731, 12 brought to trial at Khabarovsk. Did justice ever prevail?
Unit 731 was a biological and chemical warfare research unit of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was where the Japanese were getting ready for germ warfare. It established the headquarter in Harbin, China. Although Harbin belonged to China, it always had close ties to Russia due to its proximity to Russia. From 1896-1903, Harbin grew from a small village into a metropolitan city due to the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway financed by the Russian Empire. It was then extended to connect to the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Meanwhile, in Japan, industrialization was happening from the result of Commodore Matthew Perry’s visit. The visit in 1853 caused Japan to open its ports to connect to the western world. It had also opened its ambition to conquer the world to acquire more resources. Japan and Russia were engaged in Russo-Japanese War from 1904-5, where Russia used Harbin as a military base in Northeastern China. They fought in the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Manchuria. The Empire of Japan won, which led to the Treaty of Portsmouth negotiated by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Portsmouth Treaty gave the Empire of Japan control of Korea and a part of Manchuria, including Port Arthur and the railway that connected it with the rest of the region, as well as the southern half of Sakhalin Island.
By December 1918, over 100,000 Russian White Guards who were defeated during the Russian Civil War retreated to Harbin. Harbin then became a major hub of White Russian emigres and had the largest population of Russians outside of Soviet Union. As Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, the Empire of Japan established Manchukuo and took control of Harbin. Pingfang of Harbin became the Homebase for the biological weapon research of Unit 731, and it established other branches throughout the world during WW2. Its official name was “The Water Supply and Prophylaxis Administration of the Kwantung Army.” Led by General Shiro Ishii, the unit routinely performed human experimentation, developed chemical and biological weapons, and vivisection. It was funded by the Imperial Japanese Army and ceased operation by 1945 at the end of the war.
The scientists who worked at Unit 731 were top scientists of its time recruited in Japan. Although there were 3607 members of Unit 731, only 12 were brought to trial at Khabarovsk otherwise known as Khabarovsk War Crime Trial. The Khabarovsk War Crime Trial were hearings held between 25-31st of December 1949. The 12 former servicemen of the Japanese Army were Yamada Otozoo, Kajitsuka Ryuji, Takahashi Takaatsu, Katashima Kiyoshi, Nishi Toshihide, Karasawa Tomio, Onoue Masao, Sato Shunji, Hirazakura Zensaku, Mitomo Kazuo, Kikuchi Norimitsu, and Kurushima Yuji. The defendants were allegedly charged with manufacturing and employing bacteriological weapons.