Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial
Columbia University Press
In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied intent to bring Axis crimes to light led to both the Nuremberg trials and their counterpart in Tokyo, the International Military Tribunal of the Far East.
Yet the Tokyo Trial failed to prosecute imperial Japanese leaders for the worst of war crimes: inhumane medical experimentation, including vivisection and open-air pathogen and chemical tests, which rivaled Nazi atrocities. Mass attacks using plague, anthrax, and cholera killed thousands of Chinese civilians.
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Lemkin Award from the Institute for the Study of Genocide, and for the Robert K. Merton Award from the American Sociological Society.
A representation of an experiment being done with anthrax aerosols (courtesy Harbin Museum).
In a report on the Japanese autopsies of victims of disease experiments, US Army pathologists urge continued protection of the Unit 731 scientists. (Chapter 10)
In Hidden Atrocities, Jeanne Guillemin goes behind the scenes at the trial to reveal the American obstruction that denied justice to Japan’s victims.
Responsibility for Japan’s secret germ-warfare program, organized as Unit 731 in Harbin, China, extended to top government leaders and many respected scientists, all of whom escaped indictment. Instead, motivated by early Cold War tensions, U.S. military intelligence in Tokyo insinuated itself into the Tokyo Trial by blocking prosecution access to key witnesses and then classifying incriminating documents.
Washington decision makers, supported by the American occupation leader, General Douglas MacArthur, sought to acquire Japan’s biological-warfare expertise to gain an advantage over the Soviet Union, suspected of developing both biological and nuclear weapons. Ultimately, U.S. national-security goals left the victims of Unit 731 without vindication. Decades later, evidence of the Unit 731 atrocities still troubles relations between China and Japan.
Guillemin’s vivid account of the cover-up at the Tokyo Trial shows how without guarantees of transparency, power politics can jeopardize international justice, with persistent consequences.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeanne Guillemin is senior advisor at the Security Studies Program in the MIT Center for International Studies. Her books include Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak (1999); Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism (Columbia, 2004); and American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation’s Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack (2011).
Other books by Jeanne Guillemin:
To investigate how government secrecy can undermine a major international war crimes trial—for me it was an irresistible challenge.Jeanne Guillemin
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