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March 13, 1996

Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45, and the American Cover-up

Author Affiliations

Pennsylvania State University University Park

JAMA. 1996;275(10):808-809. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530340072038

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The Nazi medical crimes against humanity are familiar. Much less familiar are the medical crimes inflicted by Japanese army physicians in Manchuria during much of this same period—crimes that match, both in scope and brutality, anything performed by the Nazi physicians in Europe.

In Factories of Death, Sheldon Harris, emeritus professor of history at California State University at Northridge, provides the most comprehensive account to date of the Japanese medical experiments, an impressive piece of scholarship that tells how doctors abused human bodies to test biowarfare agents and how US government authorities after the war refused to prosecute, choosing instead to exploit the information gathered for the American biowarfare effort at Fort Detrick.

The story begins in 1932, when the Japanese army gave 200 000 yen and a command of 300 men to Ishii Shiro, a young professor of immunology with the rank of major in the medical corps, to