Interesting Facts About Shiro Ishii: Wartime Japanese Doctor

Shiro Ishii; June 25, 1892 – October 9, 1959) was a Japanese army medical officer, microbiologist and the director of Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army involved in forced and frequently lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).
Shiro Ishii was born in Shibayama Village, Sanbu District, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. He studied medicine at the Kyoto Imperial University. In 1922, after joining the Japanese Army, he was assigned to the 1st Army Hospital and Army Medical School in Tokyo, Japan. In 1924, he returned to Kyoto Imperial University for post-graduate studies.
Ishii was born in the former Shibayama Village of Sanbu District in Chiba Prefecture and studied medicine at Kyoto Imperial University. He was commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1921 as an army surgeon, second class (surgeon lieutenant).
In 1922 he was assigned to the 1st Army Hospital and Army Medical School in Tokyo. There his work impressed his superiors enough to gain him post-graduate medical schooling at the Kyoto Imperial University two years later.
After the war, Ishii was arrested by American troops. As with all other Unit 731 leaders, he was granted immunity by Allied leaders in exchange for their knowledge in biological and chemical warfare after the Second World War ended.
According to Cambridge University lecturer Richard Drayton, Ishii moved to Maryland, the United States to continue his research of biological weapons, but his daughter Harumi noted that Ishii remained in Japan after the war. He passed away from throat cancer in Tokyo, Japan in 1959.
Let’s now look at some interesting facts about Surgeon General Shirō Ishii:
1. In 1932, he was chosen by the Japanese Army to begin biological warfare research at the Zhongma Fortress in Beiyinhe, which was outside of Harbin in Manchuria, northeast China (Manchukuo).
2. During his study at the Kyoto Imperial University, Ishii would often grow bacteria “pets” in multiple Petri dishes. His odd practice of raising bacteria as companions rather than as research subjects made Ishii notable to the staff of the university.
3. In 1942, Ishii began field tests of germ warfare agents developed, and various methods of dispersion (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 artificially induced strokes, heart attacks, frostbite, and hypothermia.
4. In 1935, Ishii shut down the Zhongma Fortress due to a security breach, and shortly after setting up a very large facility in Pingfang, which was 24 kilometers south of Harbin; the new facility had 150 buildings over six square kilometers of land, and the facility was publicly known as a water purification research center.
5. In 1945, as the end seemed near, Japanese troops attempted to destroy Unit 731’s headquarters to destroy all evidence; as part of this effort, Ishii ordered 150 remaining subjects killed.
6. Beginning in 1928, he 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. He received a promotion to the senior army surgeon, third class (surgeon-major), in January 1931.

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