A live teleconference Monday between Tokyo and Los Angeles enabled two former members of the Imperial Japanese Army — both banned from entering the United States — to testify before American citizens.

Shiro Azuma, 86, and Yoshio Shinozuka 74, have been denied entry into the U.S. and Canada because their names are on a list of suspected war criminals, spurring the conference, according to sponsors.

Azuma testified about how he and other Japanese soldiers raped and killed Chinese in Nanjing. Shinozuka and two others are former members of Unit 731, which conducted biological experiments and vivisections on live prisoners, mostly Chinese, in northeastern China during World War II.

The former soldiers said they were instructed to follows orders without question. “I don’t know what to say to express how sorry I am,” said Hakudo Nagatomi, one of the former 731 Unit members. Each took 10 to 15 minutes to detail what they witnessed during a war that lasted years.

Seven other panelists in Japan, including historians, specialists and journalists, spoke on the issue from their standpoints. Among them was Wang Xuan, a Chinese plaintiff in the damages suit against the Japanese government over atrocities attributed to Unit 731.

A group of American panelists that included historians and journalists praised the former soldiers for having the courage to speak about their wartime experiences and stressed that revealing the past is important for everyone since it will help prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

Panelists on both sides mentioned that more materials and information on Unit 731 should be revealed by the governments of both countries.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.