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Viruses, Epidemics and Experiments: The History of Biological Warfare

Max Anderson
Max Anderson - 103 Views
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103 Views
Published on 12 Feb 2020 / In Film and Animation

Viruses, Epidemics and Experiments: The History of Biological Warfare - The use of bacteria, viruses and other biological agents as weapons of war has a long and gut-wrenching history. Despite some early examples, it was not until the 20th century that biological warfare truly became scientifically callous. During the First World War, the German military was a notable practitioner of this art of warfare.

The Japanese were particularly interested in this area of warfare, intensifying their efforts through the Second World War. One of the most prominent advocates of the use of biowarfare was the Japanese Surgeon General and microbiologist, Shiro Ishii, who went on to head the central unit of Imperial Japan’s biological warfare programme during WWII: Unit 731, which was based in occupied China. As part of their biowarfare program, the Japanese army tested a minimum of 25 biological agents on civilians and prisoners of war, with operations including the poisoning of over 1,000 Chinese water wells with typhus and cholera, and dropping fleas infested with plague on Chinese cities. At least thousands of people were killed by this programme, with some even arguing that approximately 200,000 Chinese were killed.

What makes all of this worst however is that fact that the US government gave immunity to many of these Japanese biowarfare officers in exchange for getting the data from the Japanese biological warfare programme, akin to Operation Paperclip. There are also numerous examples of militaries conducting biological warfare experiments on their own, unsuspecting citizens. Aside from civilians being used as guinea pigs by biowarfare units, biological warfare programmes can also pose another risk to civilians: in the form of pathogens accidently escaping from biowarfare facilities.

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