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In 1937 Japanese troops launched an attack and seized Shanghai, Nanking, Beijing, and other Chinese cities. For two weeks in Nanking they burned stores, homes, and conducted mass executions. "5000 marched four abreast in a line ¾ a mile long to the bank on the Yangtze River. Men were tied five in a group with wrists tied behind their backs; men were shot by rifles and thrown into the river by the Japanese soldiers. This lasted from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m." In Nanking alone, 250,000 people were murdered in other cases the Japanese used prisoners for research in chemical and biological warfare and cruel medical experiments.

Japanese aggression continued over the next four years. Ever hungry for more natural resources, raw materials, and new markets. Japan also sought control of Southeast Asia and greedily eyed the East Indies. In 1940, Japan signed an alliance with Germany and Italy: The Tripartite Pact. Now all 3 of the world’s major facist powers were partners. Because Japan was secured in that alliance and also sought expansion, they invaded Southern Indochina in July of 1941. In response, the US cut off exports to Japan. In January of 1942 Japan invaded it’s primary target - the Netherlands’ East Indies. By March Japan controlled the oil rich islands. As in years past , when Japan invaded, it’s army often treated the civilian population in the areas it occupied with extraordinary brutality, viewing those who surrendered as being dishonorable. Prison camps were set up. The people put in them were scarred by starvation and disease, humiliation and brutality by the hands of their Japanese captors. Red Cross shipments arrived monthly, but Japanese officers would pilfer them, leaving little to go around. Half a can of food would be a Sunday dinner for five. And on top of that, there was Japan’s infamous unit 731, consisting of Japanese medical researchers performing experiments on Chinese, Russian and American prisoners of war. Japan’s leading medical schools had assigned doctors to unit 731. Former members are still alive; returned as pillars of the post war medical establishment, as deans of medical schools and heads of pharmaceutical companies. What unit 731 did to POW’s is unthinkable: POW’s were injected with various bacteria to test their immunity (most survived, but many died). White rats were bred as carriers of the Bubonic Plague. On a 500 gram rat, they would attach 3000 fleas. When the rats were released, the fleas would transmit the disease. Once infected, the prisoners would undergo an operation to remove the plague infected organs, without anesthetic Unless the 731 had a healthy body they wouldn’t get the right results. So if they had a POW who was unhealthy, they would feed him good food and make him exercise. It was the height of cruelty. All of the victims were disposed of in an incinerator. The doctors that made up unit 731 had no remorse at all. Instead, they complained of wasting the best years of their lives on medical research that could not be continued after the war. And, given the fact that Japan continually denies that unit 731 even existed, a public apology is not likely. Yes this was terrible, but then so was the whole war.

By Rebecca "The Giraffe" Bernard