THE FALLEN: A True Story of American POWs and Japanese Wartime Atrocities
When a rumor first crossed Special Agent Philip Cheles’s desk in November 1945, there was no way to imagine the horror he would soon discover. Determined to uncover the truth behind an informant’s report of a downed B-29 plane–and the assertion that one or more of the survivors had perished at the hands of local villagers–Cheles ultimately learned that nine soldiers had been captured and placed in the custody of the infamous Kempei Tai, the much-feared Japanese police. Further details surfaced about American POWs and their shocking fate. A benign investigation eventually exploded into the most sensational war crimes trial to come out of Japan.
The Fallen at last reveals the full story of these terrifying war crimes, which grew out of the little-known inner workings of Japan’s World War II biological warfare program. In frank, riveting detail, Marc Landas unravels the story of thirty-nine American POWs who were beheaded by the Japanese military; of the B-29 crew, who suffered an even worse fate at the hands of Japanese scientists; and of the sole American survivor, Marvin Watkins, who refused to forget about his lost comrades even when his own country simply wanted to move on.
Drawing on meticulous research, Landas deftly traces the course of the investigation, from the elaborate cover-up by Japanese soldiers to Watkins’s return to occupied Japan and his role in uncovering the crew’s ultimate fate. Landas reveals the wretched conditions of Japanese POW camps, the astonishing witness testimony at the trial, and the awful truth about the missing G.I.s–that they had served as guinea pigs in unspeakable experiments by Japanese doctors. Landas pieces together the crewmen’s horrific fate and in the process sheds new light on Japan’s biological warfare program during World War II.
To compound the tragedy, the U.S. authorities released the convicted perpetrators for political gain. Landas explains how the push to establish a lasting friendship with Japan led to the cover-up of data and the granting of clemency. The result today is that the Japanese war crimes tribunal–and, indeed, the Americans who gave their lives–have all but been forgotten.
The Fallen at last reveals the truth about an episode that both Japanese and American authorities would rather have us overlook, offering an appalling, eye-opening tale of misguided science, corrupt justice, and man’s inhumanity.
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1. Japan revisits its darkest moments where American POWs became human experiments, The Guardian.
2. Man tells of his horror at discovering his airman grandfather was dissected alive..., The Daily Mail.