Currently, Israel is the only modern nation that has not signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (refusal to engage in offensive biological warfare, stockpiling, and use of biological weapons). Also, Israel is the only modern nation that has signed but not ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (refusal to produce, stockpile and use chemical weapons). Should the world suffer a major bio-terror attack or pandemic, Israel will be the #1 suspect.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Abstract: Gazing at Gruinard Island across a stretch of blue water, Bill Richardson says dreamily: "It's bathed in sunshine and is quite lovely. It's not at all foreboding or evil."
Just a decade ago, though, the tiny Scottish isle was probably the most dangerous place in Britain. During World War II, British scientists secretly detonated several anthrax-laden bombs on Gruinard to study their potential for biological warfare against the Germans. Scores of sheep died after inhaling the bacteria.
Amid an expanding number of cases of anthrax exposure in the U.S., the Gruinard experiment may hold valuable lessons. It showed that a carefully calibrated explosion could turn liquid anthrax into a deadly inhalable form, the same type that killed a man in Florida and has been found in the U.S. Senate's offices. The British test also demonstrated that once anthrax is unleashed, it has amazing staying power: Gruinard was off-limits to people for more than 40 years because its soil continued to harbor vast amounts of highly infective anthrax spores.
It took an unprecedented four-year effort -- and vast quantities of formaldehyde mixed in seawater -- before the island was rid of the deadly bacteria. "It was possible to decontaminate an area of limited size," says Richard Manchee, the British microbiologist who led the cleanup, "but a large area would be very expensive and difficult."
Today, Gruinard is a lot like it was before the war -- an idyllic and remote 500-acre island, home to rabbits, birds and seals but no people. There probably is still some anthrax lying around, but not enough to cause harm, say scientists. Sheep were recently allowed to graze there, and none contracted the disease. Signs that once warned people to "Keep Off" have been pulled down.
Still, few locals venture there. "There's very little reason to go," says Mr. Richardson, who runs a post office on the mainland a mile away and has never set foot on Gruinard.
Britain began its tests on the island in October 1940 in response to rumors that Germany had launched a bioweapons program. British scientists had already tested anthrax in sheep and guinea pigs at a military lab called Porton Down, but to test the bacteria's effectiveness in the open air, they needed a remote location.
Gruinard Island, in the northwest of Scotland, was perfect. Owned by a local family, it sat in the middle of a blue bay and was surrounded by craggy mountains. For security reasons, it was given a new name: X Base.
The anthrax project was led by Dr. Paul Fildes, a microbiologist who had also been a naval surgeon in World War I. In July 1942, Dr. Fildes and his team placed a "wet culture" of anthrax in a bomb and used a gantry to suspend the device six feet above the ground. Several sheep were placed in open wooden crates downwind, and the bomb was exploded electrically. Within three days, the sheep began to die from inhaling the anthrax spores. Even animals placed 250 feet away succumbed.
"The reality of bioterror warfare had been proven," says an official at Porton Down familiar with the tests.
Emboldened by the results, the British team tried alternative methods. They fired anthrax bombs from mortar guns into the ground. One was dropped from an airplane, but it was badly aimed and fell harmlessly into a marsh. In October 1942, a similar device dropped from a Blenheim bomber on a seashore in South Wales did detonate; several sheep died of anthrax.
The data collected from such experiments were clear-cut. "On a weight for weight basis, [anthrax] was 100 to 1,000 times more potent than any then known chemical agent," writes Graden Carter, a historian at the Porton Down lab, in a book about the lab's various activities. "It was deduced that death in personnel were certain to follow an exposure."
By this time British scientists had also successfully carried out experiments with "cluster bombs," devices that carried 100 four-pound individual bombs. Gruinard was too small to test such devices, but other countries were willing to help. Under a project known as N bomb, the U.S. agreed to produce anthrax at a plant in Terre Haute, Ind., while Canada agreed to test cluster bombs loaded with the deadly bacteria.
But the war ended, and the N bomb plan was abandoned. The Porton Down scientists now faced a problem. To preserve the secrecy of their project, and because the island was heavily contaminated with anthrax, they couldn't return Gruinard to its original owners. So in 1946 Britain acquired it for 500 pounds (about $725 at today's rate of exchange), with the promise that the owners could eventually reacquire it for the same amount.
The scientists were in for a surprise. While many expected that the anthrax spores would die away or disappear in the wind, they didn't. Scientists measuring the contamination each year between 1947 and 1979 found that the infestation levels stayed the same. Puzzled members of Parliament began to ask why Britain continued to own the island -- and why it remained off limits. There were few answers.
Finally, in 1986, the British government decided to undertake a large-scale cleanup of Gruinard. After testing various chemical agents, the scientists hit upon the best one -- formaldehyde. They built an entire irrigation system on the island, an intricate network of spray tubes, and soaked the ground in 280 tons of formaldehyde, diluted in 2,000 tons of seawater, for about one year. Soil samples were tested at various distances away from the center of the anthrax bomb explosions. "When we got three samples that weren't contaminated, we stopped," says Mr. Manchee, the cleanup leader.
In April 1990, a junior defense minister was taken by boat to the island, where he declared Gruinard safe and removed the warning signs. The next month, "Anthrax Island," as it had come to be called, was returned to its original owners.
These days, few people visit this remote bit of Scotland. Occasionally, bird-watchers show up to seek a pair of white-tailed eagles that make their nest on Gruinard. But they don't row across.
Title: Doctors Of Depravity
Date: March 2, 2007
Source: Daily Mail
Abstract: After more than 60 years of silence, World War II's most enduring and horrible secret is being nudged into the light of day. One by one the participants, white-haired and mildmannered, line up to tell their dreadful stories before they die.
Akira Makino is a frail widower living near Osaka in Japan. His only unusual habit is to regularly visit an obscure little town in the southern Philippines, where he gives clothes to poor children and has set up war memorials.
Mr Makino was stationed there during the war. What he never told anybody, including his wife, was that during the four months before Japan's defeat in March 1945, he dissected ten Filipino prisoners of war, including two teenage girls. He cut out their livers, kidneys and wombs while they were still alive. Only when he cut open their hearts did they finally perish.
These barbaric acts were, he said this week, "educational", to improve his knowledge of anatomy. "We removed some of the organs and amputated legs and arms. Two of the victims were young women, 18 or 19 years old. I hesitate to say it but we opened up their wombs to show the younger soldiers. They knew very little about women - it was sex education."
Why did he do it? "It was the order of the emperor, and the emperor was a god. I had no choice. If I had disobeyed I would have been killed." But the vivisections were also a revenge on the "enemy" - Filipino tribespeople whom the Japanese suspected of spying for the Americans.
Mr Makino's prisoners seem to have been luckier than some: he anaesthetised them before cutting them up. But the secret government department which organised such experiments in Japanese-occupied China took delight in experimenting on their subjects while they were still alive.
A jovial old Japanese farmer who in the war had been a medical assistant in a Japanese army unit in China described to a U.S. reporter recently what it was like to dissect a Chinese prisoner who was still alive.
Munching rice cakes, he reminisced: "The fellow knew it was over for him, and so he didn't struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down. But when I picked up the scalpel, that's when he began screaming. I cut him open from the chest to the stomach and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony.
"He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped.
"This was all in a day's work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time." The man could not be sedated, added the farmer, because it might have distorted the experiment.
The place where these atrocities occurred was an undercover medical experimentation unit of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was known officially as the Anti-Epidemic Water Supply and Purification Bureau - but all the Japanese who worked there knew it simply as Unit 731.
It had been set up as a biological warfare unit in 1936 by a physician and army officer, Shiro Ishii. A graduate of Kyoto Imperial University, Ishii had been attracted to germ warfare by the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning biological weapons. If they had to be banned under international law, reasoned Ishii, they must be extremely powerful.
Ishii prospered under the patronage of Japan's army minister. He invented a water filter which was used by the army, and allegedly demonstrated its effectiveness to Emperor Hirohito by urinating into it and offering the results to the emperor to drink. Hirohito declined, so Ishii drank it himself.
A swashbuckling womaniser who could afford to frequent Tokyo's upmarket geisha houses, Ishii remained assiduous in promoting the cause of germ warfare. His chance came when the Japanese invaded Manchuria, the region in eastern China closest to Japan, and turned it into a puppet state.
Given a large budget by Tokyo, Ishii razed eight villages to build a huge compound - more than 150 buildings over four square miles - at Pingfan near Harbin, a remote, desolate part of the Manchurian Peninsula.
Complete with an aerodrome, railway line, barracks, dungeons, laboratories, operating rooms, crematoria, cinema, bar and Shinto temple, it rivalled for size the Nazis' infamous death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The numbers of prisoners were lower. From 1936 to 1942 between 3,000 and 12,000 men, women and children were murdered in Unit 731. But the atrocities committed there were physically worse
than in the Nazi death camps. Their suffering lasted much longer - and not one prisoner survived.
At Unit 731, Ishii made his mission crystal clear. "A doctor's God-given mission is to block and treat disease," he told his staff, "but the work on which we are now to embark is the complete opposite of those principles."
The strategy was to develop biological weapons which would assist the Japanese army's invasion of south-east China, towards Peking.
There were at least seven other units dotted across Japanese-occupied Asia, but they all came under Ishii's command. One studied plagues; another ran a bacteria factory; another conducted experiments in human food and water deprivation, and waterborne typhus.
Another factory back in Japan produced chemical weapons for the army. Typhoid, cholera and dysentery bacteria were farmed for battlefield use.
Most of these facilities were combined at Unit 731 so that Ishii could play with his box of horrors. His word was law. When he wanted a human brain to experiment on, guards grabbed a prisoner and held him down while one of them cleaved open his skull with an axe. The brain was removed and rushed to Ishii's laboratory.
Human beings used for experiments were nicknamed "maruta" or "logs" because the cover story given to the local authorities was that Unit 731 was a lumber mill. Logs were inert matter, a form of plant life, and that was how the Japanese regarded the Chinese "bandits", "criminals" and "suspicious persons" brought in from the surrounding countryside.
Shackled hand and foot, they were fed well and exercised regularly. "Unless you work with a healthy body you can't get results," recalled a member of the Unit.
But the torture inflicted upon them is unimaginable: they were exposed to phosgene gas to discover the effect on their lungs, or given electrical charges which slowly roasted them. Prisoners were decapitated in order for Japanese soldiers to test the sharpness of their swords.
Others had limbs amputated to study blood loss - limbs that were sometimes stitched back on the opposite sides of the body. Other victims had various parts of their brains, lungs or liver removed, or their stomach removed and their oesophagus reattached to their intestines.
Kamada, one of several veterans who felt able to speak out after the death of Emperor Hirohito, remembered extracting the plague-infested organs of a fully conscious "log" with a scalpel.
"I inserted the scalpel directly into the log's neck and opened the chest," he said. "At first there was a terrible scream, but the voice soon fell silent."
Other experiments involved hanging prisoners upside down to discover how long it took for them to choke to death, and injecting air into their arteries to test for the onset of embolisms.
Some appear to have had no medical purpose except the administering of indescribable pain, such as injecting horse urine into prisoners' kidneys.
Those which did have a genuine medical value, such as finding the best treatment for frostbite - a valuable discovery for troops in the bitter Manchurian winters - were achieved by gratuitously cruel means.
On the frozen fields at Pingfan, prisoners were led out with bare arms and drenched with cold water to accelerate the freezing process.
Their arms were then hit with a stick. If they gave off a hard, hollow ring, the freezing process was complete. Separately, naked men and women were subjected to freezing temperatures and then defrosted to study the effects of rotting and gangrene on the flesh.
People were locked into high-pressure chambers until their eyes popped out, or they were put into centrifuges and spun to death like a cat in a washing machine. To study the effects of untreated venereal disease, male and female "logs" were deliberately infected with syphilis.
Ishii demanded a constant intake of prisoners, like a modern-day Count Dracula scouring the countryside for blood. His victims were tied to stakes to find the best range for flame-throwers, or used to test grenades and explosives positioned at different angles and distances. They were used as targets to test chemical weapons; they were bombarded with anthrax.
All of these atrocities had been banned by the Geneva Convention, which Japan signed but did not ratify. By a bitter irony, the Japanese were the first nation to use radiation against a wartime enemy. Years before Hiroshima, Ishii had prisoners' livers exposed to X-rays.
His work at Pingfan was applauded. Emperor Hirohito may not have known about Unit 731, but his family did. Hirohito's younger brother toured the Unit, and noted in his memoirs that he saw films showing mass poison gas experiments on Chinese prisoners.
Japan's prime minister Hideki Tojo, who was executed for war crimes in 1948, personally presented an award to Ishii for his contribution in developing biological weapons. Vast quantities of anthrax and bubonic plague bacteria were stored at Unit 731. Ishii manufactured plague bombs which could spread fatal diseases far and wide. Thousands of white rats were bred as plague carriers, and fleas introduced to feed on them.
Plague fleas were then encased in bombs, with which Japanese troops launched biological attacks on reservoirs, wells and agricultural areas.
Infected clothing and food supplies were also dropped. Villages and whole towns were afflicted with cholera, anthrax and the plague, which between them killed over the years an estimated 400,000 Chinese.
One victim, Huang Yuefeng, aged 28, had no idea that by pulling his dead friend's socks on his feet before burying him he would be contaminated.
All he knew was that the dead were all around him, covered in purple splotches and lying in their own vomit. Yuefeng was lucky: he was removed from a quarantine centre by a friendly doctor and nursed back to health.
But four relatives died. Yuefeng told Time magazine: "I hate the Japanese so much that I cannot live with them under the same sky."
The plague bombing was suspended after the fifth bacterial bombing when the wind changed direction and 1,700 Japanese troops were killed.
Before Japan surrendered, Ishii and army leaders were planning to carry the war to the U.S. They proposed using "balloon bombs" loaded with biological weapons to carry cattle plague and anthrax on the jet stream to the west coast of America.
Another plan was to send a submarine to lie off San Diego and then use a light plane carried on board to launch a kamikaze mission against the city. The war ended before these suicidal attacks could be authorised.
As well as Chinese victims, Russians, Mongolians, Koreans and some prisoners of war from Europe and the U.S. also ended up in the hands of Ishii, though not all at Unit 731.
Major Robert Peaty, of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, was the senior British officer at Mukden, a prisoner-of-war camp 350 miles from Pingfan. Asked, after the war, what it was like, Peaty replied: "I was reminded of Dante's Inferno - abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
In a secret diary, Peaty recorded the regular injections of infectious diseases, disguised as harmless vaccinations, which were given to them by doctors visiting from Unit 731. His entry for January 30, 1943, records: "Everyone received a 5cc typhoid-paratyphoid A inoculation."
On February 23, his entry read: "Funeral service for 142 dead. 186 have died in 5 days, all Americans." Further "inoculations" followed.
Why, then, after the war, were nearly all the scientists at Unit 731 freed? Why did Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi 'Angel of Death' at Auschwitz, have to flee to South America and spend the rest of his life in hiding, while Dr Shiro Ishii died at home of throat cancer aged 67 after a prosperous and untroubled life?
The answer is that the Japanese were allowed to erase Unit 731 from the archives by the American government, which wanted Ishii's biological warfare findings for itself.
In the autumn of 1945, General MacArthur granted immunity to members of the Unit in exchange for research data on biological warfare.
After Japan's surrender, Ishii's team fled back across China to the safety of their homeland. Ishii ordered the slaughter of the remaining 150 "logs" in the compound and told every member of the group to "take the secret to the grave", threatening death to anybody who went public.
Vials of potassium cyanide were issued in case anyone was captured. The last of his troops blew up the compound.
From then on, a curtain of secrecy was lowered. Unit 731 was not part of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. One reference to "poisonous serums" being used on the Chinese was allowed to slip by for lack of evidence.
Lawyers for the International Prosecution Section gathered evidence which was sent directly to President Truman. No more was heard of it.
The Americans took the view that all this valuable research data could end up in the hands of the Soviets if they did not act fast. This was, after all, the kind of information that no other nation would have had the ruthlessness to collect.
Thus the Japanese were off the hook. Unlike Germany, which atoned for its war crimes, Japan has been able to deny the evidence of Unit 731. When, as now, it does admit its existence, it refuses Chinese demands for an apology and compensation on the grounds that there is no legal basis for them - since all compensation issues had been settled by a treaty with China in 1972.
Many of the staff at Unit 731 went on to prominent careers. The man who succeeded Ishii as commander of Unit 731, Dr Masaji Kitano, became head of Green Cross, once Japan's largest pharmaceutical company.
Many ordinary Japanese citizens today would like to witness a gesture of atonement by their government. Meanwhile, if they want to know what happened, they can visit the museum that the Chinese government has erected in the only building at Pingfan which was not destroyed.
It does not have the specimens kept at Unit 731: the jars containing feet, heads and internal organs, all neatly labelled; or the six-foot-high glass jar in which the naked body of a Western man, cut vertically in two pieces, was pickled in formaldehyde.
But it does give an idea of what this Asian Auschwitz was like.
In the words of its curator: "This is not just a Chinese concern;
it is a concern of humanity."(Daily Mail, 2007).
Title: During World War II, Japan Plotted To Unleash A Plague On The United
Date: May 10, 2012
Abstract: Japan's Unit 731 is one of the best kept and most horrifying secrets of World War II. Unit 731 experimented on Japanese and Chinese civilians as well as Russian and American POWs during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s and throughout World War II.
Led by the enigmatic Dr. Shiro Ishii, Unit 731 committed thousands of macabre experiments and infected hundreds of thousands with the plague in China. Most of the scientists involved with Unit 731 escaped trial and entered mainstream society at the end of the war due to an agreement with Allied commanders, but a few are speaking of the horrors they committed in their old age.
The Japanese military actively sought biological and chemical weapons to use against China during the Second Second Sino-Japanese War, and later during World War II. Under General Shiro Ishii, a physician and officer in the Kwantung Army, Unit 731 conducted experiments on human subjects from China and Japan, with Russian and American prisoners of war along also becoming fodder for their sickening hypotheses.
Ishii drew the eye of Emperor Hirohito in a demonstration where Ishii filtered his own urineand offered it to Hirohito, seen by Japanese citizens as deity, to drink. The emperor declined, but Ishii consumed the filtered urine with joy. A Japanese company later mass produced the filter, with Ishii receiving a portion of the profits.
Unit 731 would come under the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army, through which Dr. Ishii received a substantial amount of funding from the Japanese government to spend on Unit 731. Under his orders, Unit 731 found a permanent home on a four-square-mile complex with hundreds of laboratories, a cinema, and its own railway line to go along with a crematorium and operating rooms.
Vivisection of hundreds of civilians occurred on the campus, with a lack of anesthesia and a live specimen believed essential to this group of scientist soldiers due to their desire to study the body prior to decomposition. In addition to opening up the bodies, the scientists often removed organs to observe the effect on an individual. At least one experiment removed a prisoner's stomach and then connected the esophagus to the intestines of the subject.
Unit 731 also performed forced inseminations and gave doses of syphilis under the guise of a vaccination. The group also observed how live human bodies froze in real time and how the body crumpled in extreme pressure experiments.
Several successful attacks carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army used plans devised by Unit 731. The plan consisted of dropping ceramic pots containing rice and wheat mixed with fleas carrying the plague on villages in Southern China. The pots, attached to parachutes and tossed from planes, indirectly killed hundreds of thousands Chinese civilians.
During the height of World War II, Unit 731 planned similar biological attacks for the United States. One early proposed mission involved a small kamikaze plane launched from a submarine that would unleash the plague upon the port of San Diego.
The best defined plot, codenamed Cherry Blossoms at Night, aimed to infect the majority of California with the plague during one night in 1945. Another plot involved the use of 10,000 balloon bombs carrying incendiary devices to create forest fires as far inland as Michigan.
As Russian and American forces pressed on Japanese soil in 1945, Unit 731 head Ishii initiated a massive cover-up; destroying several buildings on the Unit 731 campus and killing 150 captive subjects. Ishii also took steps to place former researchers in government or academic positions to maintain a modicum of control over their actions and words.
United States General Douglas MacArthur gave vast the majority of scientists in Japan's Unit 731 immunity, but with a condition — MacArthur expected the scientists to share their secrets with the United States and no other member country of the Allied powers. Only 30 soldiers connected to Unit 731 went on to be tried for war crimes, with five sentenced to death in 1948 and the rest paroled by 1958. Dr. Ishii avoided any prison time and went on to perform weapons research and advising in the United States.
With the passage of time, participants in Unit 731 are coming forward to tell their stories. Old men now speak of vivisecting young women in the Philippines in order to educate soldiers about female anatomy, as the Japanese military viewed the inhabitants as spies for the Allies. Toyo Ishii, a female nurse working for Unit 731, spoke of a watching human bone devoured by dogs before her eyes. Another elderly member of Unit 731 recounts viewing a display of a six-foot-tall Westerner cut in two pieces and preserved in a large vial of formaldehyde.
In time, physical remnants from Unit 731 have also surfaced. In
1989, routine construction work uncovered
a mass grave holding the bones of Chinese individuals involved in bizarre
experiments. Construction workers also found chemical weapons tied to Unit 731
buried underground in Heilongjiang, a Chinese province occupied by Japan until
1945. 49 workers have been injured trying
to retrieve these remnants of war (io9, 2012).