US bomber crew shot down over Japan were dissected while ALIVE in horrific WW2 experiments: Japanese university acknowledges full details of atrocity 70 years on
- Parts of brain and livers of soldiers were dissected while they were alive
- Prisoners of war also injected with seawater at university's medical school
- Soldiers were still alive and thought doctors were going to treat them
- Actions of surgeons and university staff brought to light in grim exhibition
A Japanese university has opened a museum acknowledging that its staff dissected downed American airmen while they were still alive during World War Two.
The move is a striking step in a society where war crimes are still taboo and rarely discussed, although the incident has been extensively documented in books and by US officials.
A gruesome display at the newly-opened museum at Kyushu University explains how eight US POWs were taken to the centre’s medical school in Fukuoka after their plane was shot down over the skies of Japan in May 1945.
There, they were subjected to horrific medical experiments – as doctors dissected one soldier’s brain to see if epilepsy could be controlled by surgery, and removed parts of the livers of other prisoners as part of tests to see if they would survive.
Another soldier was injected with seawater, in an experiment to see if it could be used instead of sterile saline solution to help dehydration. All of the soldiers died from their ordeal.
The horrific episode has been described in previous books, one by a Japanese doctor who took part in the experiments, but the museum represents an official acknowledgement of the atrocity
When the incidents came to light during a discussion with professors in March, the university decided to include information about the experiments within their new museum.
About twelve airmen – the exact number is unclear – were aboard Captain Marvin Watkins’ B-29 when it took off from Guam on a bombing raid against an airfield in Fukuoka.
They all bailed out when their aircraft was rammed by a Japanese fighter.
One was killed when another Japanese fighter flew into his parachute. Local residents converged on the surviving airmen as they landed- one emptied his pistol at the crowd before shooting himself dead, another was stabbed to death by locals.
Of the remaining airmen Captain Watkins was taken for interrogation and survived the war, he is believed to have died in Virginia in 1989. The rest died during the horrific vivisection experiments.
Todoshi Tono, one of the doctors involved in the experiments, later dedicated his life to exposing the atrocities after the war and wrote a book against the wishes of colleagues who wanted their crimes to be lost in the mists of time.
In 1995, he told the The Baltimore Sun that one of the US soldiers Teddy Ponczka had been stabbed by locals after his plane had crashed – and presumed he was going to be treated for the wound when he was taken to the operating theatre.
Instead, surgeons allegedly removed one of Ponczka’s lungs to see what effect surgery has on the respiratory system, before injecting him with seawater.
‘I could never again wear a white smock,’ Dr Toshio Tono told the newspaper 50 years on.
‘It’s because the prisoners thought that we were doctors, since they could see the white smocks, that they didn’t struggle. They never dreamed they would be dissected.’
After the prisoners were killed, Japanese doctors preserved their remains in formaldehyde until the end of the war.
Evidence of the experiments was heard at an Allied War Crimes tribunal in 1948 against 30 doctors and university staff, by which time the body parts had been destroyed.
In total 23 people were found guilty of vivisection – dissecting and performing surgery on a living thing – and five were sentenced to death.
General Douglas MacArthur later commuted all death sentences when he was military governor of Japan and all the perpetrators were released.