There is evidence to show Japanese troops used glanders bacterium to kill innocent Chinese civilians around 1942, says U.S. doctor Michael Franzblau after visiting surviving victims in east China's Zhejiang Province.
Franzblau, an 81-year-old professor of dermatology at the University of California, visited more than 10 victims in Jiangshan and Jinhua cities from Friday to Tuesday.
In Tangxi Town, the professor saw 80-year-old Li Meitou, one of the 19 surviving victims of glanders in the town. In Tangxi, 69 out of 72 villages have reported glanders victims.
Glanders is a contagious disease which mostly occurs in horses, mules and donkeys. Humans can get the disease. As a weapon, glanders may be aerosolized and released into the air. Victims have swelling and sores at the site of the skin infection.
Li said her calves showed symptoms of itching and cankering a few days after she washed her feet in a river near her village when she was 15 years old.
"The cankering stopped last year, but swelling occurred on the wounds," she told Franzblau.
According to what the victims said about their initial symptoms and then war situation, it can be proved that what they contracted was glanders at that time, according to the professor.
The victims' memories were surprisingly in accord with each other. Part of their testimony says that Japanese planes air-dropped bombs containing germ weapons, the professor said.
In Wucheng district of Jinhua city, a total of 511 people suffered from the disease, among whom 362 have died and 149 were still alive, according to a survey conducted by Fu Zili, a retired middle school teacher in Tangxi.
Historians say at least 270,000 Chinese in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces were victims of Japanese germ warfare which was mainly conducted by the notorious Unit 731 based in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, during World War II.
Unit 731 conducted biochemical experiments mainly on Chinese civilians to develop ghastly germ warfare weapons that could spread bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax and cholera.
Franzblau said as a doctor he abhors the crime as it is against medical ethics.
The professor said he began to study the germ warfare history of Japanese troops after reading "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up" by American historian Sheldon Harris.
In March 2002, he came to Zhejiang for the first time with Harris, who has since died, to investigate the germ victims. Now he felt obligated to continue Harris' cause.
Since 1996, Franzblau had put forward bills in 11 consecutive years to the World Medical Association demanding the Japan Medical Association admit Japanese medical workers participated in the germ troops such as Unit 731 in World War II.
He also advised Chinese medical circles to record the history of germ warfare carried out by Japanese troops in China as quickly as possible.
This is the most vivid textbook and the best way to commemorate history, he said.
In August 1997, 180 Chinese germ warfare victims launched the first lawsuit in a Tokyo District Court demanding an apology and compensation from the Japanese government.
In a ruling on Aug. 27, 2002, the district court turned down the demand by the plaintiffs but acknowledged that the Japanese army conducted germ warfare in China -- the first court to do so.
The plaintiffs subsequently appealed to the Tokyo High Court, which dismissed the appeal on July 19, 2005. In handing down the ruling, the high court acknowledged that the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731 waged germ warfare in China resulting in the agonizing deaths of many Chinese people.