The fact that approximately 70 million people died during World War II will probably never lose its shock value, but what remains equally disturbing is that more than half of those deaths were civilians.
One particularly appalling attack took place in the autumn of 1940, when Japanese planes dropped fleas carrying the bubonic plague on the Chinese city of Ningbo. According to bacteriologist Huang Ketai, at least 109 citizens died from the disease, which carried "artificially intensified toxicity" due to the work of Unit 731, a notorious lab that carried out experiments aimed at empowering Japan's war machine.
The strain of disease was so powerful that hospitals and other buildings that had been affected by it were razed and the area left undeveloped for decades.
"This was a particularly virulent form of the plague that could only have been created artificially by Unit 731," Huang told a court in 2001. Huang was testifying in a trial for alleged victims of the activities of Unit 731, which had been so veiled in secrecy that its very existence was denied by Japan for decades.
The basics of biological warfare:
- Evidence of attempts to sicken or kill enemies with biological weapons date to antiquity, including the use of dead animals to contaminate water supplies as far back as 300 BC.
- In the French and Indian War, British Army officers discussed spreading smallpox to Native Americans by giving them blankets that had been used by victims of the disease.
- A week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, two U.S. senators and several media outlets were sent letters carrying anthrax; five people were killed and 17 others infected.