Tue, Nov 06, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Japanese war veteran speaks of atrocities in the Philippines

By Harumi Ozawa  /  AFP , OSAKA, JAPAN

The frail old man recalled that many others were kept alive as human guinea pigs for his superior combat doctor, who wanted to show young medics like himself how to conduct surgical operations.

"We first anesthetized them -- we usually used injections or oxygen gas," he said. "Then they passed out in a few seconds."

The combat doctor would tell him to watch as he sliced open a hostage's stomach, a scene that Makino says made him so ill he couldn't eat or drink for days following the ordeals.

"When cooking chicken, the doctor would get amused and say, `Oh, this is just like human intestines,'" he said.

But Makino said he eventually became accustomed to what he had to do.

"I was desperate," he said. "I didn't want to do anything like that if possible. But I had to follow the orders of my superior as a military man, otherwise I'd have been beaten up."

He was unable to put a definitive number on how many of the 50 people that the unit killed were vivisected or how many of the operations he took part in.

He did say he could never forget those days on the tropical island and even six decades later he could barely talk about his experiences without breaking down.

As he talked about his experiences and memories, he lowered his eyes and said he felt the most profound guilt over the way the bodies were handled afterwards.

The Japanese made Moros dig holes in the ground, he said, and then they hurled in the bodies with the stomachs still open.

"The mud got in all over the human stomach. My captain said there was no need to close the wounds because that would just be a waste of suture thread," Makino said.

His voice suggesting the troops had some mercy, Makino added: "But we didn't leave any of the bodies out on the ground."


Makino's confession revives memories of Imperial Japan's "mad scientist" Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii, who led the infamous Unit 731 in northeastern China, where the Japanese made their colonial base of Manchukuo and conducted germ warfare tests on prisoners.

Ishii is believed to have attempted the mass production of biological weapons by testing deadly germs such as anthrax, dysentery and cholera on prisoners of war, mainly Chinese, and dropping plague-carrying fleas and rats on their villages.

Makino said his unit in the Philippines did not have any organized plan and that it did not test plague germs.

"It was a one-off thing," he said. "We didn't take data or anything."

Another veteran, one of only a handful surviving from the Philippine battlefield, said the final days of the war were so desperate that Japanese soldiers who were still alive did whatever they thought necessary just to survive.

Yoshihiko Terashima, 86, a former naval chief commander, said he did not commit any living-body experiments himself but added: "That could have easily happened."

"It must have been natural for military doctors to come up with the idea of using whatever they had for tryouts in such destitute situations," he said in a separate interview.

"They had no medicine and no supplies, so then of course they would have had to come up with ways with whatever they had. And they must have done the same thing to injured Japanese soldiers as well," Terashima said.

He contrasted the situation in the Philippines with that in northeastern China, then known as Manchuria.

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