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Unit 731

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I was always interested in being a 'Nazi Hunter'. I kept watching and re-watching The Boys from Brazil, for one, so I guess it was more of a hobby combined with a flight of fancy. It turned out that 'Nazi Hunting' was done and dealt with- I was born a little late for that craze. Still, I kept researching, just as a side hobby. Operation Paperclip in particular continued to fascinate me. Many [ex-]Nazi scientists were recruited after the war by the US and given full pardons. This was no great secret, and many such scientists were well-known- Von Braun and Heisenberg being two prime examples. I eventually started to wonder, however. It is known that German scientists had been brought in, but what about the rest of the Axis? Surely they had some sort of scientific research that America would find valuable?

Italy turned out to be a dead end- I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Japan, on the other hand... Japan was apparently seriously invested in biological warfare. Military facilities with innocuous names like 'Warhorse Disease Prevention Shop' and 'Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department' were set up throughout occupied China in particular. The first facility was home to the rather infamous Unit 731, and the later Unit 100, both of which were involved in terrible things- human experimentation, cultivation of plagues and use of bio-weapons on civilians were all commonplace. They had plenty of involuntary test subjects, after all- all Chinese civilians within the occupied zone were deemed expendable. But I was interested in the aftermath, not the war, so I dug some more.

Since the Cold War is well over, more things were being de-classified- mostly useless white noise, but a few interesting tidbits emerged. There are practically no records on Unit 731 or Unit 100 during WWII. I have no idea if none were ever taken or if they were all destroyed near the end of the war. Shiro Ishii, Masaji Kitano, and Masami Kitaoka were the three names I managed to dig out of the scant records I could find, and most of that was from post-war investigations and testimonies. So what had happened to them after the war?

First of all, all members of Unit 731 and most members of Unit 100 were given full pardons for war crimes by the same people responsible for Operation Paperclip. By far the easiest to track of the three was Lieutenant Masami Kitaoka. He was arrested in 1956, after it was discovered that he had been using his work at the National Institute of Health Sciences to infect patients with different diseases. His victims were mostly mental health patients whose testimonies would not be believed. When the authorities arrived to arrest him March 23rd, 1956, the official report simply listed 'Suspect dead [Natural Causes]'. The exact 'natural cause' is unknown, as is the specific time of death, but this is far too convenient to be a coincidence. For one, his actions were organized, and performed with care, to the extent that it would have taken the work of at least one seasoned researcher, especially considering that all this was done in a clandestine manner. If Ishii wasn't involved with this from the beginning, he was almost certainly responsible for silencing Kitaoka. Ishii and Kitano were much more difficult to track than their subordinate Kitaoka, and each clue was only found after a good deal of research. I got a little... well, obsessed is too strong a word, but it was interesting.

Kitano and Ishii were both pardoned for all war crimes, in return for their research. After they had been thoroughly debriefed, they were released by the CIA and went their separate ways. Kitano remained in Japan, but Ishii went to America soon after. That's where the official story ends, and where my story gets a lot more... odd. Kitano practically vanished. No official record, nothing. The best I could find was a rough KGB report that a 'Lieutenant-General Kitano' was 'at large in Japan'.
The CIA, however, was much more thorough. The de-classified reports I dug up reported that one 'Dr. Ishii' was '[consulted] for research at Fort Detrick', dated 1947. Fort Detrick is fairly notorious as being an experimentation center for biomedical research. Thinking that this was part of the clause for his pardon, I had assumed that the CIA or some other agency had placed him there, but it seems that he was actually there of his own accord.

Knowing Ishii's 'habits', I went and dug up old medical records for Fort Detrick. Most of it was irrelevant, but then I managed to extract the files for the psychiatric ward. Back then, doctors didn't realize PTSD existed, and as such wrote it off as a form of insanity. Such was the diagnosis of one 'Private Richards'.

February 17, 1947: 'Subject describing vivid memories, is often agitated. Running mild fever. Keeps insisting that he's being tortured by a Jap. Probably another one of his 'flashbacks', but according to his records, Richards was never listed as a POW.'
March 2, 1947: 'Richards is getting worse. Classify as insane and transfer to solitary confinement- he assaulted one of the nurses, claiming that the poor man was his tormentor, evidently on the sole basis that the victim was of Japanese descent. Had to apologize to the man in person. I didn't recognize him, though. Odd, I thought I knew everyone."

March 5, 1947: '0800 hours. Subject dead, natural causes. Symptoms leading to death similar to Typhus, though subject's records show no illness. I'll have to track down the nurse.'
The case file fit neatly within Ishii's known profile- experimenting on people who were deemed too insane or unstable to testify against him.

An after-note in a review of convicted war criminals described Ishii as running a clinic in Japan, where he performed examinations and vaccinations for free. It was dated 1948- it seems likely to me that this was actually Kitano- though it is entirely possible, if not probable, that Ishii was spotted visiting his colleague at the clinic. The free examinations and vaccinations were far from philanthropic- it was simply a way to lure the poor in to use as test subjects without their knowledge. This seems to be confirmed with a few stray reports of death from disease that simply didn't make any sense- in some cases, the onset was far too sudden, and in others, unheard of strains would appear as if from nowhere within isolated communities.

I initially continued to search for Ishii within documents detailing project MKULTRA, but after a while, I realized I had been distracted from the main trail by unfounded rumor and hearsay. That being said, I lost track of him for a while.
It was not all for naught, however, as I discovered a photocopy of a Japanese newspaper article from 1961 supposedly linking Kitano to the CIA. The article described how a man posing as a health official arrived at a small government office in Fukuoka and gave the six employees present 'antibiotics' in the form of pills. While it's impossible to be certain, it seems to me that the actual content of the pills was a toxin isolated from the Burkholderia mallei bacteria. The pills caused convulsions and blood poisoning leading to shock, which killed two and hospitalized the remaining four. Supposedly, $25,000 was stolen, and it was written off- poorly- as a robbery. The exotic substance that would have to have been used led me to believe that Kitano, active in the area, was responsible. Unable to find the details of which office was burglarized, I can only guess as to why such a risky operation was carried out in this fashion.

Things went quiet again, for a while. Then, in the late 1980s, Green Cross, a pharmaceutical company based in Japan, was accused of distributing blood known to be contaminated with HIV. Up to 3,000 individuals were received tainted blood transfusions. While researching this, I found a small fringe site run by a Japanese whistle-blower, which cast new light in what had seemed to me to be an unrelated event. According to evidence he brought forth, the tainted blood was not only known as such, but specifically marked as such. All blood that tested positive for HIV contamination was from lot number 18440-B. Of the 800 documented cases where individuals received blood transfusions of this lot number, 432 contracted the HIV virus. The common claim was that this scandal was a result of poor quality control- but this lot was specifically tracked, with records of recipients. Other lot number records show that this was far from common practice.
Kitano was still alive when the infected blood was distributed, and deeply involved in Green Cross. Indeed, he was a founder of the company. I found it hard to believe that this was a coincidence, but his name was never mentioned. He was reported dead in a car accident soon after- another impossibly convenient coincidence.

In 2008, Doctor Radovan Karadžic, a wanted war criminal for his participation in the Bosnian War, was finally arrested. He had been hiding from the authorities using falsified identification showing him to be a 'Dr. Dragan David Dabic', and ran a small clinic specializing in 'alternative medicine'. A small-time reporter went to all known patients of 'Dabic', and a recurring theme emerged. Of the 12 patients interviewed, 11 reported that they were 'surprised at how wealthy [Dabic] seemed [considering his employment]'. 7 reported being 'attended to by a foreign nurse'. 4 had died of diseases.

But who was this 'nurse'? Shiro Ishii and Masaji Kitano were surely dead by now- they would have both been over a hundred years old. Both Ishii and Kitano ran clinics, they must have had nurses- successors? But what was the motivation of the two men? Misplaced and warped patriotism for a long-dead Empire? Money? Power? Or perhaps that was the only life they knew?
I don't know. At at this point, I don't ever want to know.

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