Report on Japanese army’s use of chemical weapons in China during WWII published in Tokyo

A detailed report documenting how chemical weapons were used by the Japanese Army in China during World War II was published here Monday, the first discovery of a report in which the army itself detailed the use of poison gases, according a Japanese historian.

Although the Japanese army systematically destroyed records of the war after its defeat in 1945, the discovered report may have been kept personally by a member of the army.

The report, compiled by a frontline poison gas battalion posted in northern China, recorded that the unit used munitions containing a blister agent and a sternutatory agent in 1939 during WWII. The blister agent inflamed the skin and mucous membranes, and the sternutatory agent caused extreme pain in the respiratory system.

Historian Seiya Matsuno, the Japanese collector of the document, gave an introduction of the materials. “It’s not the overall picture of the war and what we know is just the tip of the iceberg. Many historical facts remain for further investigation,” he said.

The report consists of three parts. The first is battle details, which includes records of shelling and copies of orders to use poison gas munitions. The second is summary of chemical warfare implementation, and the last is relevant maps.

According to the document, the battalion mapped out plans to use “yellow” shells, containing the blister agent, and “red” shells, containing the sternutatory agent, after receiving orders from their superiors.

During a battle on July 6, 1939, the Japanese army fired 31 red shells at a Chinese army position equipped with machine guns, according to the report. It launched another attack on July 17, 1939 firing 60 red shells and 28 yellow shells to provide backup to infantry. The following day, the Japanese fired 140 red shells and 20 yellow shells, the report showed.

The document also indicated that after an analysis of the Chinese forces’ strength, the use of red shells was considered necessary to shake the “enemy” from its base in the mountains. The yellow shells were rated as “extremely effective,” in what Matsuno said is the first confirmed record of Japanese ground forces using a weapon containing the blister agent in China.

Akira Yamada, professor of Meiji University, said the report is of high value. He told Xinhua that it is decisive historical data in showing how the Japanese army used chemical weapons during the war.

Meanwhile, the report is valuable and important for the study of the history of the Japanese invasion of China, said Yamada

Ryuji Ishida, a researcher at Meiji Gakuin University, pointed out that in the second half of the 1990s, there was a strong tendency of historical revisionism in Japan to glorify the aggression. Although historical documents on chemical weapons have long been found, some Japanese right-wing forces try to deny the history of the war of aggression on the grounds that no documents on the use of poison gas have been found.

The first-hand data collected by Matsuno, which was written by the Japanese army, smashed the lies of the right-wing forces, he added.

Matsuno failed to find a job in Japanese research institutions because his research subject remains sensitive in Japan after he got a PhD degree. However, he spent his spare time to carry out the research, according to Ishida.

Meanwhile, Matsuno spent all his savings to purchase the documents and then gave them to the publishing organization for free. He said it is his mission to present the real history to the society and leave it for the future generations.