Hei tai yang 731 (Men Behind the Sun) (1988)




Director:     Tun Fei Mou. 

Starring:     Hsu Gou,  Tie Long Jin,  Zhaohua Mei,  Zhe Quan,  Gang Wang (Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii),  Runsheng Wang,  Dai Yao Wu,  Andrew Yu.

Japanese atrocities in the prison camp Manchu 731



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.   

Prior to the Second World War, the Japanese militarists had occupied northeast China and had established the puppet state of Manchuko.  In Manchuria there was considerable experimentation into bacterial weapons carried out by the Manchurian 731 Squadron.  They had many sub-stations for these experiments.  The headquarters were at Pin-Fang district of Harbin. 

In February 1945 the Japanese were suffering from very high loses on all fronts.  So they reinstated Lt. General Ishi Shiro, a medical doctor, to be the 731 Squadron commander.  This general had been previously removed from the position for corruption.  At the same time a new group of fresh soldiers from the Youth Corps is sent to the 731 Squadron. 

In the snow the Japanese boys are waiting to be picked up.  They are waiting for Captain Takahara.  Ishikawa tells his comrades that they are stuck here.  Some of the guys say that Ishikawa is just a momma's boy.  Three of the fellows had their fathers killed here in China.  They see a raggedy-looking Chinese fellow about their age and try to give him something to eat, but the fellow just sniffs it and throws it on the ground.  This makes the boys mad and they start smashing the food into the Chinese boy's mouth.  When they let him up, he gets up and slowly pushes the remnants of the rice cakes back out of his mouth and lets them fall to the ground.  Then he walks away. 

At headquarters the men line up waiting for their new commander. He arrives.  General Kukuchi comes out to greet him.  At about the same time the new fellows arrive.  Sgt. Kawasaki goes over to the new-comers and starts getting them in shape.  He knocks a ball out of the hand of one of the newcomers, Yoshino.  He then welcomes the boys to the Kuontong (?) army.  A Japanese soldier operates the crematorium.  He throws pieces of stacked up human beings into the fires. 

Ishii is formally welcomed by all the officers.  The new commander tells everyone that they must increase the quantity and quality of the bacteria they produce.  Then he offers a toast to victory. 

Three of the boys come to look into the barbed wire area.  One tells Yoshino that they should leave or they will get into trouble.  Yoshino says he's not stopping until he gets back his ball, which his brother had given him before he left Japan.  An officer comes into the barracks of the newcomers and finds three boys missing.  He asks where these missing boys are and they say they don't know.  For this the officer slaps the face of one man after another. 

After getting back the ball, the boys try to return to their barracks.  But they have to dive into another room to avoid being caught.  The room is filled with rats.  They come out of the room and make a hard run for their barracks.  Two men in gas masks and biological suits catch two of the boys.  Yoshino escapes. He goes outside and tries to make a run for it.  The officer that slapped the boys grabs a machine gun and shoots Yoshino, who falls upon the barbed wire and is electriocuted.  The boys are shocked at what happened. 

Ishii speaks to his officers.  Nothing like what just happened can be allowed to happen again.  There must be discipline for the training among the Youth Corps.  He adds that what they have to do here will help the Japanese win the war, so the experiments must be sped up.  One of the officers, General Kukuchi, talks with Ishii.  Ishii says that back home there are a lot of shortages.  But the families seem to be coping.  Ishii then asks about the morale at the camp.  Kukuchi says that it is alright.  He adds that they found out that it was an informer, Colonel Nakatomi, that turned Ishii in for corruption. 

At an assembly Colonel Nakatomi is brought up to the front of the troops.  He is told to piss into a container.  As the urine goes in, some type of liquid comes out of the spigot below into a glass.  Ishii then goes and drinks the liquid in the glass.  Nakatomi goes on his knees and asks Ishii to please forgive him.  Ishii ignores him.  He then tells Sgt. Kawasaki to make sure he treats these youths well. 

Kawasaki does not treat them well.  He slaps one of the boys.  Then he makes them crawl on their bellies through the snow.  Meanwhile he kicks them to keep them moving. 

At night civilians (men, women and children) are brought into the camp under guard.  One of the babies is crying, so they take it from the mother and then throw it on the ground away from her after she begs to get her baby back.  They throw the woman into a prison cell.  Meanwhile they cover the baby in snow until it no longer cries. 

The boys try to figure out what kind of place is this 731 camp.  One says it's like a hospital, another says it's more like a medical school.  When the boys sees a mute Chinese boy playing with Yoshino's ball they run to get it back.  They catch up with him, but the ball is not like the one owned by Yoshino.  The let him up and the boy runs for it.  A fellow picks up the ball, shouts to the Chinese fellow and throws his ball back to him.  The fellow picks it up and then starts running again. 

Ishii makes his rounds of the place.  He sees one of his men retching his insides out.  Ishii asks for an explanation.  The fellow with him says the guy just can't seem to get used to the sights of the job.  He throws up every time.  Colonel Nakatomi arrives to tell Ishii that he is being transferred to the south to fight.  Ishii congratulates him.  Ishii looks at one of the operations.  A experimentee has been injected with bubonic plague three different times but they can find no traces of it.  So they have decided to operate on him to find out why.   The fellows innards are all exposed. 

Kawasaki keeps abusing the boys.  He shows Chinese men being experimented upon.  He asks the boys who is that man being experimented upon?  They often say that it is a Chinese man which is the wrong wrong answer so the sergeant either slaps the boys in the face, hits them in the stomach or hits them on their fur caps with his baton. The correct answer is a maruta, a material that is to be experimented upon.  He has each boy shout out the correct answer.  Kawasaki then has the boys beat the man with their batons.  They draw blood from him.  The maruta is then thrown back in his prison cell. 

On the ice, the boys are given bayonet training.  The lessons on experiments will start tomorrow. 

The woman who lost her baby is take out of her cell.  She has her forearms tied to a hitching rail.  Then cold water is poured on her hands and forearms.  The water freezes.  After awhile more cold water is poured on her forearms and hands.  Then her hands and forearms are hit hard with a baton and she screams in pain.  More cold water is poured on her. 

The boys are shown the experimental rooms.  This is the culture medium production room.  Here is where the media are killed at high temperatures.  In front of the boys, the Chinese woman is brought in and told to stick her hands in water.  After awhile the doctor has her pull her hands out.  He then strips all the flesh off her forearms and arms with a mere pull of the flesh.  The woman screams at the sight.  The boys look away.

Another man has his hands frozen solid and then the doctor hits them with his baton breaking them into pieces.  Again the boys look away.  Their sadistic sergeant tells them that they must pay attention. 

The boys are invited to eat at the house of one of the officers.  A geisha woman serves them.  One of the men tells one of the boys, Ishikawa, that what has been going on at the camp is wrong.  But the boy refuses to believe him.  In fact, he becomes so upset that he leaves the dinner.   Outside he finds the ball and throws it back on the other side of the fence.  The Chinese boy is there smiling and he throws it back.  The boys soon are throwing the ball back and forth over the barbed wire. 

The other Japanese boys come out to get Ishikawa. They tell him that Kawasaki pushed one of their guys down the steps and now his leg is hurt.  Ishikawa tells them they have to obey the orders of their superiors.  The other boys call him a chicken, a coward. 

One of the boys gets a glance into the crematorium and is upset by the sight. 

Lt. Colonel Nakatomi has died fighting at the southern front. 

Ishii tells his officers that the success of the Empire depends on what they do here in Manchuria.  The group has produced a plague that is sixty times as strong as the normal plague.  And they have produced it in enough quantities to exterminate all of mankind. An officer reports that there have been many complaints from the Youth Corps about the abuses endured under Sgt. Kawasaki.  Ishii has Ono replace Kawasaki. 

Ishii has sex with some of the geisha women.  A young geisha comes in and he grabs her and sends the two others outside.  He starts acting very weird.  He may be somewhat of a sexual sadist. He likes inflicting pain on the geisha.  A bowl breaks into hundreds of small pieces and this amuses him.

Ishii calls everyone together and starts breaking the bowls by throwing the bowls up to burst on the rafters.  A shower of little pieces comes down from the ceiling.  He laughs hysterically.  Ishii then tells everyone that this is his newest invention: it is the low-temperature porcelain bacterial bomb.  The clapping starts slowly but then builds to a crescendo.  He then screams:  "To the empire!  Banzai!" 

The porcelain containers are brought together.  Chinese people are tied to crosses out in the field.  Bombs are exploded and many are terribly injured with missing limbs. 

Another man is subjected to very high pitched sounds.  His intestines come out through his anus. 

The men ask Kawasaki to find them a healthy young man.  He agrees. 

They subject a woman and her daughter to gas.  The Japanese coolly watch their suffering.  A dove is also in there and they watch it die.  They record the times of death. 

Kawasaki asks Ishikawa to get the Chinese mute for him.  He does so.  Ishikawa is told that he can take the boy back after the surgery.  Ishikawa is shocked to hear a mention of surgery and asks what surgery?  Kawasaki tells him to be quiet, it's none of his business.  The boy is placed on the operating table.  They place chloroform over his mouth and nose and he goes to sleep.  They split him open with a scalpel. 

When Ishikawa sees a bloody cart, he becomes concerned for the boy and knocks on the door.  They take out the boy's internal organs.  Kawasaki returns and tells Ishikawa that he can take the dead body away.  Ishikawa has to take the body to the crematorium.  He grabs the liquor drink from a man working there to numb his senses. 

Ishikawa wants to kill Sgt. Kawasaki.  They bring some pieces of lumber with them to be used as bats.  When Kawasaki shows up, they beat him viciously, but don't kill him. 

Ishii and some other officers throw a cat to thousands of rats and watch as the cat is gradually killed.  The rats consume the cat. 

There is an uprising in the prison.  The Japanese shoot the prisoners with machine guns.  When Ishii learns that many of the maruta were killed he is furious.  He needs those people to experiment upon and now much of the material is ruined.  The Russo-Japanese War will soon be upon us, he tells his officers, but many of their tests have not been completed as of yet.  The 731 is the Empire's last hope.  Only they have the power to turn the tide and save the empire. 

Some of the maruta were sent off this morning for the experiment with the low-temperature porcelain bacterial bombs.   The men are tied to crosses. 

Urgent telegram.  August 9 Nakasaki was bombed.  The Russians have declared war.  The 731 must retreat independently.

The marutas are escaping.  The Japanese try to catch them.  They end up killing most of them.  One of the Japanese soldiers kills one of the Youth Corps by mistake.  Some of the Chinese are brought back alive and thrown into the crematorium room.   Ishii is informed of the terrible situation the Japanese find themselves in.  He tells his officers that it seems Japan's fate is sealed.  He issues the orders to exterminate all living maruta;  the compound will be destroyed totally;  destroy all data and documents; the Youth Corps will retreat;  all units commit suicide; all families and dependents will commit suicide as well.  No evidence may be left behind.  The officers reject these harsh demands.  So Ishii settles for less.  The officers and men will carry cyanide and, if captured, they will commit suicide. 

One of the officers tells Ishii that the data must be saved for Japan.  If he has to destroy the data, then let Ishii kill him with his own weapon.  He hold out his pistol and Ishi takes it.  He starts to leave, but suddenly turns around and shoots the kneeling officer in the face.

The remaining prisoners are gassed.  A mass grave is dug.  Hand grenades are thrown at the buildings.  Other buildings are dynamited.  The bodies of the prisoners are put into the mass grave and gasoline is poured over them.  The bodies are set afire.  The rats catch fire and run all over the place.  The Japanese of the 731 evacuate.  A lot of women and children are with them.  Ishii waits in his car for the rain to stop. 

The train is leaving in another five minutes.  Ishii addresses the men.  He says:  "This is not the end.  The Japanese Empire has not yet been defeated. Our base may have been destroyed, but our work will continue, I know.  We're now going home.  I trust all of you will realize the secret nature of  this base has got to be safeguarded at all times.  No contacts between squadron members is allowed.  Further more, under no circumstances will you reveal the nature of your work here.  And also, you are disbarred from taking up government posts. If any one of you contravenes any of these conditions, you will be severely punished.  I hope that's clear."

A Chinese boy is discovered amidst the Japanese and is killed.  A Japanese baby is born, but the mother dies.  The train moves out with the baby still crying.

August 11-15, 1945.  15 trains were were used to transport retreating troops.  The trains passed though An Dong, China and arrived at Pusan, Korea.   

August 18-25, 1945.  Squadron members took a boat from Pusan, Korea and arrived at such Japanese ports as Saseho, Ikaruga, Sensaki, etc. 

September 25, 1945.  Shiro Ishii returned to Japan and stayed at the Tokyo hotel of Wakamatsu in the Shinjuku district. 

December 1945.  After Shiro Ishii left Tokyo and returned home to Chiba Prefecture, he was arrested by American intelligence officers and brought back to Tokyo. 

1946.  Shiro Ishii reached an agreement with the Americans for immunity from war crimes prosecution.  He handed over his experiment results to the Americans. 

June 1946.  An epidemic of bubonic plague "Black Death" erupted in Ping Fang, Harbin from the plague-carrying fleas left behind the the 731 Squadron

April 10, 1947.  The Americans informed the Russians that Shiro Ishii and the others responsible for 731 Squadron were missing.  Therefore, they could not be brought to trial for war crimes.

1951.  Shiro Ishii arrived on the Korean War front from Tokyo. 

January 28-February 17, 1952.  Bacterial weapons appeared on the Korean battlefields. 

October 9, 1959.  Shiro Ishii died of illness in Chiba Prefecture.  Other members of the Squadron were scattered all over Japan.  Among the former Youth Corps members, many had difficult lives because their education was not recognized by society.  There was not a single survivor of the experiments conducted by the 731 Squadron.  Of the estimated 3,000 victims who were of Chinese, Korean, Russian and other nationalities, did they die in vain? 


Good movie.  More evidence that the Japanese were about as bad as the Nazis during World War II and before.  If you don't believe it, watch the film that tells you about some of the atrocities committed by the Japanese in the name of bacterial warfare.  Also provided is more evidence of the American not prosecuting war criminals.  Many Nazis war criminals were given a free pass and apparently many Japanese fascist war criminals were also given a free pass.  This type of film may be hard to watch because of sadistic violence in it.  But I think it's important to know just how bad state fascists can be. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)