Excavation set for site of suspected Japanese biowarfare outfit

The Japanese government has started to excavate the site of a former medical school in Tokyo that may have ties to military Unit 731, which was a germ and biological warfare outfit during World War II.

While the secretive experiments conducted on war prisoners were never acknowledged by the government, they have been documented by participants and historians, the Himalayan Times reports. The government probe follows a former nurse’s revelations in 2006 that she had helped bury body parts there at the end of the war.

Kazuhiko Kuwauchi, an official of the health ministry, said that the excavation will determine if anything is buried in the plot.

“We are not certain if the survey will find anything,” Kawauchi said, according to the Himalayan Times. “If anything is dug up, it may not be related to Unit 731.”

Toyo Ishii, the former nurse who broke 60 years of silence in 2006, said that she and colleagues had to bury many bones, body parts and corpses after Japan surrendered in August 15, 1945, the Himalayan Times reports. This revelation led to a face-to-face meeting with the health minister and a pledge by the government to investigate.

“The site used to be the research headquarters of Unit 731,” Keiichi Tsuneishi, a Kanagawa University history professor who is also an expert on biological warfare, told the Himalayan Times. “If bones are found there, they are most likely related to Unit 731.”

Historians believe that Unit 731 and related units injected war prisoners with cholera, typhus and other diseases to research germ warfare.