Final Paper Outline – Japanese Medical Experiments in World War II

Outline – Japanese Medical Experiments in World War II


  • Hook : Captured prisoners of war during World War II would sometimes witness the horrific pain that came with getting surgery performed without anesthesia as Japanese doctors would cut into flesh and prod at organs.
  • Thesis : Japanese medical experiments that occurred during World War II are know for the lethal research of biological warfare and extensive amounts of human experimentation, did these experiments break medical ethics and what medical results did these experiments find?



  • Unit 731 and Unit 100 were experiment camps located in Japan that held war crimes of medical experiments, some of these experiments included vivisections, frostbite testing, syphilis testing, testing weapons on humans, and testing of starvation effects. During these experiments rape was common to occur.
  • Japan during World War II is known for having lethal war crimes from biological and chemical warfare, to human experimentation. These crimes occurred during the 1930’s and 1940’s (with most occurring between 1935-1945) and these experiments were kept generally silent and not well know today. (David C. Rapoport. “Terrorism and Weapons of the Apocalypse”. In James M. Ludes, Henry Sokolski)


  • Unit 731 which was officially called the “Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification center of the Kwantong Army” was located in Pingfang and mainly commanded by General Shiro Ishii. This Unit was responsible for over 500,000 deaths through field experiments and inside experiments, referring to the experimentees as “logs”.  
    • This unit will be the highlight of the paper and  all experiments researched will have happened in this unit
  • Surgeon General Shiro Ishii : commander of Unit 731, he conducted biological warfare medical experiments testing germ warfare and killing thousands, he also artificially induced hypothermia, heart attacks, and strokes and would perform forced abortions and vivisections with some of these being done in medical lectures.  (Barenblatt, Daniel. A Plague Upon Humanity: the Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare Operation, HarperCollins, 2004)
  • Experiments performed were forced pregnancy to observe the effects of diseases passed down from parents, forced amputation and observation of the spread of gangrene, feeding infected candy and food to villages to observe the spread of disease, freezing limbs to observe frostbite, flamethrower and grenade testing, observing the effects of starvation, and more.  

Medical Findings

  • Many of the medical findings related towards biological warfare, consequently the most deaths from the humans experiments were causes of testing biological warfare. Some of these results were the creation of bombs such as the flea bomb and defoliation bacilli bomb which spread the bubonic plague. (Kristof, Nicholas D. “Unmasking Horror – A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity”)
    • Doctors that worked in Unit 731 were required to keep quiet and carry deadly pills on them because they must keep the information found in Unit 731 to the grave.


Medical ethics

  • Definition of Medical ethics: Moral principles that govern the practice of medicine.” (
    • If a doctor supports and works for a political system are they still breaking the ethic medical codes by performing inhumane work for that political system?

Japan and War Crimes

  • Japan was not tried for war crimes because they were granted immunity through the U.S. by releasing the information they found from these experiments. This information could help aid the U.S. in their research in biological warfare.

Comparison to other Medical Experiments

  • Medical experiments were also occurring in Auschwitz such as Operation Paperclip
    • The U.S. also granted immunity for Nazi Germany who conducted these experiments under the same conditions as Japan, release the information that was found to the U.S. this information was also used for U.S. study of biological warfare. (Jacobsen, Annie (2014). Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America)



  • The experiments in Unit 731 did not yield great medical results and inflicted pain upon many causing thousands of deaths. These experiments should be more taught and the United States ignorance of processing this as a war crime is inhumane. Hopefully human experiments will no longer be done and no longer be ignored in the future.



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