Humans are terrible at numbers. You can easily see a difference between one apple and four apples, but what about 1000, 10000, 100000, etc? It becomes more and more difficult. To understand history and current events better, it is good to put numbers in perspective.
Art by Hiroe Rei
Unit 731 (731 部隊, Nana-san-ichi butai) was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese personnel.
From 1936 to 1942 approximately 12,000 men, women and children were murdered in Unit 731, but the atrocities committed there were physically worse than in the Nazi death camps: their suffering lasted much longer, and not one prisoner survived.
“Battleship Island” is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself. The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. In 1959, its population density was 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district, the highest population density ever recorded worldwide.
Sixty-seven years ago this month, on April 9, 1942, I was surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. At my first prison camp, the Japanese commandant turned to the American prisoners of war (POWs) and told us that we were “lower than dogs” and “they (the Japanese) would treat us that way for the rest of our lives.” Then he said, “We will never be friends with the piggish Americans.”