The Lingering Reek of Shiro Ishii

Warning: Bio-warfare, murder, genocide, war crimes

This is where the story of Shiro Ishii takes a dark turn. [stderr] [stderr]

First, a bit of background and some disclaimers. In this posting, I am going to speculate and sound like a conspiracy theorist. Why? I’m not a journalist and I don’t investigate things on deep background. I’m not a historian, either, and I have not built up the necessary network of access to archives containing what we presume is accurate information about reality. I’m just an interested person, a curious skeptic, and my agenda – if I have one – is to explain my world-view and how I got here. This particular topic came to me in the form of an email from a blog reader suggesting that it might be interesting to look into. Coincidentally, I was already familiar with Shiro Ishii and his history, and how he wound up at Ft Detrick – the email suggested something quite tangential that fit right into what I thought was an otherwise complete puzzle. Since then I have discovered that other people (“real journalists”) have also followed Ishii’s trail, and you get to make your own decision as to whether the whole thing is conspiracy theory, or not. It has taken me over a year of thinking about the topic, on and off, to conclude that this is not a conspiracy theory – that there was, in fact, a conspiracy to commit genocide, which had to have been green-lighted at a high level in the government.

Shiro Ishii was a horrible human being, who talked the Japanese government into starting a bio-warfare division, then performed experiments and field-tests amounting to attempted genocide against the Chinese in WWII. He was rescued and protected by the US government, which thought he might have useful information from his research, and died miserably of cancer at a ripe old age. That’s a pretty straightforward story arc, right?

Ishii’s methods lived on. And, I believe that they can be considered a “fingerprint”, of sorts. If one were to find out, even when Ishii was old and harmless, that a government was engaging in bio-warfare using Shiro Ishii”s preferred palette of diseases and distribution methods – and that the people doing so would have studied under Ishii – it’s a pretty reasonable inference. That’s why I believe, as others do, that the US engaged in a top-secret bio-warfare program against North Korea during the Korean war (1950-1953) Ishii died in 1949, in Tokyo – it’s perfectly possible that he was involved in some capacity, as a consultant to the US government. MacArthur, who was the provisional head of the Japanese post-war reconstruction and the commander of the US war effort in Korea, would have known about Ishii and his work. In fact, he was involved in approving Ishii’s whitewashing and installation at Ft Detrick. So, he’s in the right place at the right time and knew the right people.


Allegations that the United States military used biological weapons in the Korean War (June 1950 – July 1953) were raised by the governments of People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. The claims were first raised in 1951. The story was covered by the worldwide press and led to a highly publicized international investigation in 1952. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson and other US and allied government officials denounced the allegations as a hoax. Subsequent scholars are split about the truth of the claims.

The US media has a strong hold over the people, and at the time, if Walter Cronkite and the New York Times didn’t seem to believe something, it probably didn’t happen. It was the peak of the cold war and the media was in its new-found role of “guardian of democracy” and simultaneously had nearly zero access to the war zone. They believed what they were told to believe, and said what they were told to say. It wasn’t until the Vietnam war that the press corps began to realize that there was a higher duty to truth, to bring back and report on the stories that also showed the US was losing the war, and engaging in war crimes. Of course, they didn’t call them that, and Henry Kissinger got a Nobel prize, but the US went on to also engage in bio-warfare against Vietnam and Cambodia. But, the attacks on North Korea had Shiro Ishii’s fingerprints all over them, which is why I am inclined to believe the North Korean, Russian, and Chinese accounts of what happened.

On 28 January 1952, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army headquarters received a report of a smallpox outbreak southeast of Incheon. From February to March 1952, more bulletins reported disease outbreaks in the area of Chorwon, Pyongyang, Kimhwa and even Manchuria. The Chinese soon became concerned when 13 Korean and 16 Chinese soldiers contracted cholera and the plague, while another 44 recently deceased were tested positive for meningitis. Although the Chinese and the North Koreans did not know exactly how the soldiers contracted the diseases, the suspicions soon fell on the Americans.

War-time increases the stresses on a population, and increases the likelihood of disease outbreaks. For example, refugees fleeing a combat area might eat poorly prepared food, or drink water that has been contaminated. Or, damage to civilian infrastructure might spread pathogens. But it’s compelling evidence on the face of it, when we see Shiro Ishii’s palette of pathogens crop up like that. Dropping infected fleas in flea-bombs? Check.

On 22 February 1952, the North Korean Foreign Minister, Bak Hon Yon, made a formal allegation that American planes had been dropping infected insects onto North Korea. He added that the Americans were “openly collaborating with the Japanese bacteriological war criminals, the former jackals of the Japanese militarists whose crimes are attested to by irrefutable evidence. Among the Japanese war criminals sent to Korea were Shiro Ishii, Jiro Wakamatsu and Masajo Kitano.” Yon’s accusations were immediately denied by the US government. The accusation was supported by eye-witness accounts by the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett and others.


In February 1953, China and North Korea produced two captured US Marine Corps pilots to support the allegations. Colonel Frank Schwable was reported to have stated that: “The basic objective was at that time to get under field conditions various elements of bacteriological warfare and possibly expand field tests at a later date into an element of regular combat operations.” Schwable’s statement said that B-29s flew biological warfare missions to Korea from airfields in American-occupied Okinawa starting in November 1951. Schwable’s statement was obtained following months of torture and abuse at the hands of his captors, according to the US military. Other captured Americans such as Colonel Walker “Bud” Mahurin made similar statements.

Upon release the prisoners of war repudiated their confessions which they said had been extracted by torture. However, the retractions happened in front of military cameras after the United States government threatened to charge the POWs with treason for cooperating with their captors.

Burchett, the Australian journalist who reported on the bio-attacks (and was one of the first journalists at Hiroshima reporting on the effects of fallout) was pilloried as a communist and a traitor. He’s an interesting character [apjjf]

What distinguished Burchett from other Australian communists in their sights, however, was the widespread belief that he had committed treason while working as a journalist accredited to the communist side of the Korean War. He was suspected of interrogating and even brainwashing Allied soldiers, and of extracting and publicising their confessions to engaging in biological warfare, thereby acting as an enemy propagandist. Burchett was even widely seen as an agent for the KGB and the numerous other communist countries in which he worked.

It was a time when propagandists accused other propagandists of propaganda. It’s hard to sort out – which is, sort of, the point. Either side would have had to invest considerable effort in creating fake narratives, but both sides had the manpower and the pull and were up to the task.


The interrogated American pilots is an interesting angle. Remember, this is from back before the US government had decided that torture works. Or, doesn’t it? I forget. I think it’s only “good evidence” if the torture is performed by credentialed psychologists, or something like that. One of the captured pilots’ statements is [here] – it’s pretty long and dry and, of course it could all be fabricated. Meanwhile, there are alleged Soviet intelligence documents that have Beria reporting to Stalin about efforts to fake the incidents. [cpp] Who to believe? Certainly, the US would never engage in propaganda, would it? I mean, except for the whole “Iraq WMD” thing, etc.

I’m left unsatisfied and unsure, but on the whole I’m inclined to believe the North Koreans. Asking, in effect, “would the US use a new weapon on civilians because it could?” seems to answer itself. I’m also skeptical of the idea that the North Koreans would have found out about Shiro Ishii, and said, “I know! Let’s do a massive disinformation campaign!” It’s not like they had a war to fight, or anything – they had copious spare time. Over at Counterpunch Jeffrey Kaye has also reported on this topic, digging into recently declassified CIA messages. [cp]

Another CIA report stated that on 3 March a “North Korean coastal security unit in eastern Korea reported… that UN bacteriological warfare agents in the surrounding area had prevented the movement of transportation since 21 February. Later in the day the unit reported to Pyongyang that ‘Pupyong (just southwest of Hamhung)… is the contaminated area. According to the correct news, no one can pass through it. If you do not act quickly, the 12th and 13th guard stations will have fallen into starvation conditions.’” [Parenthesis in original]

Then we have the following from a 6 March report: “Two coastal security stations in northeastern Korea reported on 11 March that ‘the bacteria bomb classified as mosquito, fly, and flea were dispersed,’ and ‘an enemy plane dropped ants, fleas, mosquitos, flies and crickets.’” The emphasis on insects reminds us that the Communists alleged at the time that the U.S. was working secretly with the former scientists of Japan’s Unit 731, who experimented extensively with the use of insect vectors in germ warfare. During this period and for years afterward, the U.S. falsely denied that Japan’s scientists had committed war crimes and attacked China with biological weapons during World War II.

One of the first casualties of war is truth, and it goes both ways – a government lies to its enemies and lies to its people, in order to make the situation look simultaneously better and worse than it is. Saddam Hussein is a huge threat, except, no he’s not because we can crush him like a zit. Authoritarian states quickly resort to double-think because it’s easier than actual thinking, and the people must be led to consensus by the enlightened elites. [When I hear republicans talking about “coastal elites” I am reminded that they are also elites; who cares if they’re coastal or deep south, they’re two different pieces of shit pointing at each other and shouting “Fewmet!”] It’s not as if the US has a good history of telling the truth, and refraining from propagandizing people. Look at what they’ve done: half of America is practically in a stupor.

To me, this topic is an interesting example of how we individually come to establish belief in a thing. We cannot simply walk around being skeptical about everything all the time, we have to believe that certain things have actually happened. Was there a war in Vietnam? Was there a war in North Korea? Did the US use chemical agents on civilians in Vietnam? Did the US use bio-weapons on North Korea? Does a bear shit in the woods? I suppose that none of this matters, except that the US will continue to use chemical weapons (White phosphorus and depleted uranium) on civilians in unfavored parts of the Middle East. But, would we grant the US credibility if it starts beating the war-drums about some other country’s use of WMD, when it appears to me to be the world’s largest practitioner of use of WMD. I still don’t understand why the world has not stood up and told the US, “enough!” but maybe they’ve been divided and conquered and cowed by our massive arsenal of first-strike WMD. It makes me totally believe agents of the US government who try to claim that COVID-19 may have been created in a lab in China. I keep expecting them to say, “we do bio-warfare research, that’s how we know.”

Another point that heightens my general suspicion is that the US has recently made moves to place itself outside of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Under Trump, Mike Pompeo even went so far as to threaten military action against the court if it attempted to try any US servicemember or politician. As innocent people do, of course. The US has consistently not made an argument why the ICC’s jurisdiction does not apply – other than that it has a really powerful army.


In devastating report, human rights experts call on international criminal court prosecutor to open an immediate investigation.

The systematic killing and maiming of unarmed African Americans by police amount to crimes against humanity that should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, an inquiry into US police brutality by leading human rights lawyers from around the globe has found.

A week after the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in George Floyd’s death, the unabated epidemic of police killings of Black men and women in the US has now attracted scorching international attention.

I guess blue lives don’t matter if they’re international police.

I am curious as to how many people believe the US did bio-warfare on North Korea. My guess is that most Americans have no idea, and if they did, more than half would not care.

Another overview of the swirl surrounding the US’ attacks:

More by Kaye on the topic:

working on ebola at USAMRIID

Ft Detrick (USAMRIID) has one of the US’ few BSL-4 (Bio Safety Level 4) labs – labs designed to handle the most infectious and dangerous pathogens, e.g.: Ebola, smallpox, etc. Conspiracy nuts keep going on about how COVID-19 may have escaped from a Chinese government lab, but studiously ignore the fact that the US maintains one of the world’s small number of supplies of smallpox. Also, they don’t appear to be particularly competent about it. First, there’s the lingering question of “who mailed the anthrax?” and “why was it the same strain that they work on at Ft Detrick?” but CDC inspectors felt it was necessary to shut down the lab because it had too many procedural violations. [wjla] The idea that there’s a bunch of smallpox in liquid nitrogen, at a government lab just outside of Washington, DC… What could possibly go wrong?


  1. nomenexrecto says

    The US has consistently not made an argument why the ICC’s jurisdiction does not apply – other than that it has a really powerful army.

    I suppose it’s quite simple: it would mean accepting a law above US Government policy. US (domestic) law trumps international law, even if the US signed up to that international law. Nothing may infringe on the slightest aspect of US Sovereignty.
    That other piece of excrement in No.10 acts the same way about the UK…
    Could it be that “Anglo-Saxon” thinking is the flaw…?
    I suppose a few other countries are quite similar actually, if even less powerful than the UK even… only very few are really into being good international citizens, come to think of it…

  2. says

    I suppose it’s quite simple: it would mean accepting a law above US Government policy.

    Yeah, and then there are all those nasty things like the Iraq war that have to be explained. I mean, the third reich accepted a law higher than theirs, I don’t see why the US can’t. If we were blameless and innocent there’d be no fear of prosecution, right?

    Joking aside, I don’t expect George W Bush to leave the US ever again. I’m surprised any ex-presidents are willing to travel internationally. Filthy pack of criminals, the lot.

  3. xohjoh2n says

    I’ve yet to see an explanation of just what military actions they think they could take against a building complex in mainland Europe, surrounded by countries who are all on the same side and who have their own police forces, tactical response units, armies, navies, air forces, and special forces. Especially if they expect to get their people out alive.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    … half of America is practically in a stupor.

    While the other half runs around in a frenzy, shouting, “MAGA! MAGA!”


  5. sonofrojblake says

    I’ve yet to see an explanation of just what military actions [the US government/military] think they could take against a building complex in mainland Europe, surrounded by countries who are all on the same side and who have their own police forces, tactical response units, armies, navies, air forces, and special forces

    I think the answer is they could take whatever the fuck military actions they like, just like they do basically everywhere else. If by “all on the same side” you mean Europe and the USA, then that’s simply false – Europeans are by definition foreigners, and therefore not on the US’s side. If you mean that the Europeans are all on the same side then
    (a) ahaahhahahahahahahaaaaa
    (b) irrelevant. If you somehow piled up all the military might of Europe together the US could still swat it like a fly.
    If you think the US would be restrained by the concept of sovereignty then you haven’t been paying attention. It would not be complex or difficult for the US to storm any building holding one of their citizens and airlift them out from basically anywhere in the world, if they were minded to do so. Europe is not set up to detect or repel such an attack. They might think twice if the ICC was in Moscow… but it’s not. It might be expensive and it would certainly damage diplomatic relations, but the US clearly and demonstrably doesn’t give two shits about either of those things, so…

  6. StevoR says

    Interesting post and grim bit of history. Given the dehumanisation of Asian people that’s happening now – in Oz as well as the States – I have little doubt that the USA military would at least attempt and happily consider biowarfare against the Koreans and Chinese. I don’t often say this but I do believe the North Koreans at least have told much of the truth in this case though they may have embellished and exaggerated it a bit for their political ends.

    Tangential but re :

    It makes me totally believe agents of the US government who try to claim that COVID-19 may have been created in a lab in China. I keep expecting them to say, “we do bio-warfare research, that’s how we know.”

    Not sure how serious you are about this but I think all the evidence points towards the SARS-COv2 virus arising naturally in China & NOT being artificially developed as a bioweapon or released froma lab by mistake. Potholer54 has a good long detailed video on this here :

    Plus Pharyngula has this by PZ Myers :

    Which also rules out and concludes against the Chinese engineered covid idea.

    Also via the popular ABC Coronacast program by Dr Norman Swan who is a legitimate medical expert and science communicator :

    On another point :

    When I hear republicans talking about “coastal elites” I am reminded that they are also elites; who cares if they’re coastal or deep south, they’re two different pieces of shit pointing at each other and shouting “Fewmet!”]

    Could be mistaken but for me “elite” means the best as intehbest sportspeopel, mosteducated, most wealthy and powerful. Thos einthe Deep Soputh who appear lacking in information or brain-washed by Fozxand the Repubs, well, don’t seem very elite to me – some of teh better educated Repubs and opinion-makers and agenda drivers inthe party may qualify Iguess but I’d hestitate to aply that to that that many of them myself. I does make me think and have me wondering about the meaning of the word and just who it does apply to though.

  7. bmiller says

    SteveO: Some argue that contrary to the New York Times “Cletus Safaris”, the strongest support for Trump in 2016 was among a fairly affluent population. “The second largest Toyota dealer in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex who wants to be first” crowd. Don’t look for the Trump core support at Bubba’s Crawdad Café but in the freeway interchange megachurch and the gated subdivisions outside a place like Tyler, Texas. Even the January 6 “rebels” were all reasonably affluent. You have to be to drive a huge pickup truck modified to “Blow Coal”.

  8. StevoR says

    @ ^ Bmiller : Fiarly affluent yeah, agreed. I do see your point there. However. Elite? Nah, still not. I suspect most of truly wealthy and certainly the truly well informed and educated are likey to look on Trump with disdain & the standard contempt the Old Money have for the guache noveau riche x quite lot o f superscript zeroes..

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