was a microbiologist
and the lieutenant general
of Unit 731
, a biological warfare
unit of the Imperial Japanese Army
during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Ishii was born in the former Shibayama Village
of Sanbu District
in Chiba Prefecture
, and studied medicine
at Kyoto Imperial University
. Although he was considered a selfish, pushy, and sometimes disturbed individual, he excelled in his studies, and in 1922 was assigned to the 1st Army Hospital and Army Medical School in Tokyo
. There his work impressed his superiors enough to gain him, two years later, post-graduate medical schooling back at the Kyoto Imperial University
Beginning in 1928, Ishii took a two-year tour of the West. In his travels, he did extensive research on the effects of biological warfare and chemical warfare developments from World War I onwards. It was a highly successful mission and helped win him the patronage of Sadao Araki, Minister of the Army.
Biological warfare project
In 1932, he began his preliminary experiments in biological warfare as a secret project for the Japanese military. In 1936, Unit 731
was formed. Ishii built a huge compound -- more than 150 buildings over six square kilometers -- outside the city of Harbin
. The research was secret, and the cover story was that Unit 731 was engaged in water-purification
From 1940, Ishii was appointed Chief of the Biological Warfare Section of the Kwangtung Army, holding the post simultaneously with that of the Bacteriological Department of the Army Medical Academy.
In 1942, Ishii began field tests of germ warfare agents developed, and various methods of dispersion (i.e. via firearms, bombs etc.) both on Chinese prisoners of war and operationally on battlefields and against civilians in Chinese cities. Some historians estimate that tens of thousands died as a result of the bio-weapons (including bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and others) deployed. His unit also conducted physiological experiments on human subjects, including vivisections, forced abortions, and simulated strokes and heart attacks.
From 1942-1945, Ishii was Chief of the Medical Section of the Japanese First Army
In 1945, in the final days of the Pacific War and in the face of imminent defeat, Japanese troops blew up the headquarters of Unit 731 in order to destroy evidence of the research done there. As part of the cover-up, Ishii ordered 150 remaining subjects killed. More than ten thousand people , from which around 600 every year were provided by the kempeitai , were subjects of the experimentation conducted by Unit 731. These where called by Ishii and his peers maruta (丸太) "logs," a reference to their view of subjects being inert, expendable entities.
Arrested by the American occupation authorities
at the end of World War II
, Ishii and Unit 731 leaders received immunity
in 1946 from war-crimes
prosecution before the Tokyo tribunal
in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation
. On 6 May 1947, Douglas MacArthur
wrote to Washington that "additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as 'War Crimes' evidence." The deal was concluded in 1948.
Ishii was never prosecuted for any war crimes
. According to Richard Drayton, he later moved to Maryland
where he conducted research into bio-weapons . But according to his daughter Harumi, he stayed in Japan , where he died of throat cancer
at the age of 67.
- Barenblatt, Daniel. A Plague Upon Humanity: the Secret Genocide of Axis Japan's Germ Warfare Operation, HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 0-06-018625-9
- Gold, Hal. Unit 731 Testimony, Charles E Tuttle Co., 1996. ISBN 4-900737-39-9
- Williams, Peter. Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II, Free Press, 1989. ISBN 0-02-935301-7
- Harris, Sheldon H. Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-Up, Routledge, 1994. ISBN 0-415-09105-5 ISBN 0-415-93214-9
- Endicott, Stephen and Hagerman, Edward. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, Indiana University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-253-33472-1
- Handelman, Stephen and Alibek, Ken. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It, Random House, 1999. ISBN 0-375-50231-9 ISBN 0-385-33496-6
- Harris, Robert and Paxman, Jeremy. A Higher Form of Killing : The Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Random House, 2002. ISBN 0-8129-6653-8
- Barnaby, Wendy. The Plague Makers: The Secret World of Biological Warfare, Frog Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-883319-85-4 ISBN 0-7567-5698-7 ISBN 0-8264-1258-0 ISBN 0-8264-1415-X