Secret Operations

Churchill once said that if Hitler invaded hell he’d praise the Devil in the House of Commons. If Lucifer had claimed to be a staunch opponent of Marxism you can bet that post-war he’d have been on the Allies’ payroll. After the release of thousands of World War Two documents Professors Richard Breitman and Norman Goda have written a study(pdf) on the curious shenanigans that followed. One chapter discusses the U.S. and U.K.’s employment of Ukrainian collaborationists and murderers.

Mykola Lebed and Stephan Bandera were Ukrainian partisans who’d long fought for their nation’s ethnic purity. After the Nazis occupied Europe their guerrilla force, the OUN, began on-off relations with the Third Reich. They received funding and Lebed was trained by the Gestapo but they were too independent to maintain a firm alliance. “On the one hand, [they] fought German rule,” Breitman and Goda report, “On the other, [they] pursued [their] own ethnic cleansing policies complementing German aims.” “You welcomed Stalin with flowers,” they warned local Jews, “We will lay your heads at Hitler’s feet.” Bandera was arrested in 1941 but under Lebed the OUN only grew more fearsome: many Jews were killed while hundreds of Poles were massacred.

After the war Bandera was employed by MI6, who began to train his agents and transport them to Ukraine. They saw him as a “bandit type” with a “terrorist background“; “no better or worse than others of his kind“. How encouraging. Lebed, meanwhile, was aligned with the U.S.. They described him as a “well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans“, responsible for “wholesale murders of Ukrainians, Poles and Jew[s]“. This, apparently, did not preclude him from being a fine employee and they signed him up to fight against the Soviets. He was shielded from demands for justice and flown New York where he worked in intelligence for nearly thirty years. “As late as 1991 the CIA tried to dissuade [investigators] from approaching the German, Polish, and Soviet governments for war-related records [pertaining] to the OUN.” In 1992 they claimed they had no files on the man, which suggests that they were buried very deep or the agency was still quite embarrassed. It’s the soulless realpolitik of the playground. “Him? No, don’t know ‘im mate. Not my type.”

More on this theme…

Operation Gladio and the Nazis

The U.S. cover-up of Unit 731

Mobsters? War Criminals? Just call ‘em anti-Communists


There’s an argument doing the rounds that the fairly unspectacular disclosures of the Wikileaks suggests the notion of political conspiracies is bunk. I’m not convinced by this. Firstly, it ignores the fact that beings compartmentalise: all institutions, from the U.S. state to the council of Alfreton, Derbyshire have varied levels at which data and ideas may be exchanged. Being exposed to one doesn’t mean that you can judge it all.

Say that you believe your partner is conducting an affair. You might steal their mobile phone and, finding nothing juicy in the inbox, feel relieved. But their email – which is shielded by a sturdy password – may contain all sorts of filth. Similarly, these new cables were taken from Siprnet: a secret network used by the DoD and State Department to exchange information. Millions have access so you’d have to be a dunce to bung the most sensitive info there. They don’t, in fact: “top-secret” information is kept well away. Assuming that there’s nothing more extraordinary elsewhere is like being shown the ground floor of a house and surmising that it has to be a bungalow. These new cables, then, give us an insight on a certain level of political maneuvering; it’s quite wrong to think that they define the limits of it, though.

To continue this bleak historical discursion, here’s some notes on the U.S. employment of their Asian foes. General Charles Willoughby – the Chief of Intelligence who bragged about the “invaluable” research his men had bought off Unit 731′s killers – was a fanatical anti-communist, happy to recruit Japanese war criminals if they’d oppose the Soviets. Thus, as on the Western front, old enemies became new friends if they could fight against old friends who’d now become new enemies.

It seems Charles Willoughby was more inclined to embrace fascists than he’d been to work with Commies. It’s claimed[1] that he lauded Mussolini for “re-establishing the…military supremacy of the white race” and he later made a pilgramage to Spain to offer his respects to an object of his regard, General Francisco Franco[2]. Closer to home, he wrote[3] for the newspaper of the eccentric John Bircher and “Red Conspiracy” opponent Billy James Hargis.

In Japan, Willoughby became close to Lt. General Arisue Seizo, an important figure of the Imperial Japanese Army. He asked him to set up a secret communications group within G-2, Doug MacArthur’s intelligence arm. This, historian Michael Petersen has written, was intended to “target communist elements in Japan“. Arisue employed several criminals to the group, including Kodama Yoshio, a gangster, opiate smuggler and profiteer, and Colonel Tsuji Masanobu, a fanatical killer who organised the notorious Bataan Death March[4].

In Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld, David Kaplan and Alex Dubro write of how this ragbag assortment of fascistic gangsters and war criminals went on to form and foster Japan’s criminal far-right. Kodama particularly “created a powerful rightist bloc inside and outside…government“, and “tried to foment internal strife” with the aid of ultranationalist yakuza gangs. The G-2 – and, later, the CIA’s – employees “sp[ied] on and disrupt[ed] the left in Japan“, and it’s even speculated that they might have played a role in false flag attacks aimed at discrediting socialists. The extent of their activities under Willoughby’s command, however, are unknown. Kaplan and Dubro report an official saying that – like his ass-covering offspring – “Willoughby was a burner[5].

[1] Textor, Robert, Success in Japan (pg.16)

[2] Klukhohn, Frank, “Heidelberg to Madrid — The Story of General Willoughby“, The New York Journal, 19.8.52

[3] Wilkerson, Keith, “Founder Dr. Billy James Hargis dead at age 79″, Christian Crusade Newspaper, January – February 2005

[4] Petersen, Michael, “The Intelligence That Wasn’t”, Researching Japanese War Crimes: Introductory Essays.

[5] Kaplan, David and Dubro, Alex, “The Kodama Years”, Yakuza: Japan’s criminal underworld

Below I copy in a fascinating memo from General Charles Willoughby[*] – Doug MacArthur’s Chief of Intelligence – which shows the U.S. military’s eagerness to get their hands on Unit 731′s “invaluable” research into “BW” – biological warfare. He reveals the Japanese were sweetened with “direct payments” and “payments in kind” (“food, miscellanious gift items“) and boasts that it was a “mere pittance“. At 150 to 200,ooo yen it was indeed a snip for the U.S., but one might feel that justice for the thousands of Chinese, Manchurian, Russian and, perhaps, British and American victims should be factored somewhere amongst the expenditure. Willoughby goes on to claim that since their pampered captives have revealed so much they might go on to offer findings related to “chemical warfare” and “death rays“.

Bert Roling, a Judge at Asia’s Nuremburg, later said it was “a bitter experience for [him] that centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the Court by the U.S. government“. At the expense of truth and justice the atrocities of one war were forgotten in the cause of those assumed to follow it.


It’s one of the sicker jokes of our recent history that Unit 731 is best known for the infamously noxious Chinese film, Men Behind The Sun. The violence that it portrays is – in the West, at least – more notorious than the horrors it was based upon. While the Japanese program of human experimentation differs from the Holocaust in scope and intention it’s not entirely unlike the final solution being eclipsed by the reputation of The Night Porter. This, from what I’ve read, isn’t all that accidental.

Unit 731 was established in the 1930s to conduct chemical and biological research. It was the headquarters of many other giant units, based around China, Manchuria and Singapore. Under General Shirō Ishii, a Japanese officer and scientist, its programmes largely centred on human experimentation. In gigantic labs of awful, clinical indifference prisoners were infected with disease, exposed to intense cold or chopped apart while still alive. In the midst of pain and death they were carefully studied. The sick rigor of the Japanese inquiry is borne out by just how influential their findings remain. Dr Yoshimura Hisato’s torture of frozen captives[1], for example, now informs our research into frostbite[2].

The Unit also carried out biological weapons research. Captives were infected with spores inside laboratories, and attacks were launched against Chinese villages and towns. Tainted rats and fleas were spread[3] and it’s claimed that poisoned sweets were distributed[4]. Their victims weren’t treated like lab rats – those tests are regulated. This was a dearth of fellow feeling.

After the war, and the odd speculative news report, Ishii was arrested by U.S. intelligence agents. Sheldon Harris writes, in his Factories of Death[5]

Ishii was permitted to live in style at his Tokyo residence and was considered under house arrest. He was not transported to the prison where the principal war criminals were held.

Indeed, Harris claims that the U.S. suppressed the evidence of Ishii’s guilt, leaning on Ralph Teatsworth, the United Press Association’s bureau chief.

Several investigations were launched into Unit 713 but in contrast with the coming trial of Nazi doctors they weren’t undertaken with an eye on justice. Tsuneishi Keiichi writes that [6]

…not one of the members of Unit 731 who returned to Japan was tried as a war criminal. Instead…unit officers were asked to provide information about their wartime research, not as evidence of war crimes, but for the purpose of scientific data gathering. In other words, they were granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for supplying their research data.

The first…two reports contained information on the unit’s bacteria bombs, but did not address the subject of human experimentation or the trial use of biological weapons. Kitano Masaji…was instructed by Lt. Gen. Arisue Seizo, the Japanese chief of intelligence, that he should not talk about “human experimentation and biological weapons trials”…In other words, until that time, these two subjects had been effectively concealed.

At the end of 1946, however, the U.S. caught wind that Russia was planning to try cases involving human experimentation and biological weapons. Two further reports were produced to deal with the claims. One, by Dr Edwin Hill and Dr Joseph Victor, discussed the information that the Unit had acquired; information that “could not [have been] obtained in our…laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation”. Hill hoped that the scientists he’d bought this information from “w[ould] be spared embarrassment”.

He needn’t have worried. An internal memorandum claimed “any ‘war crimes’ trial would completely reveal [their] data to all nations” and, thus, “publicity must be avoided”. In a lengthy article for The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Jonathan Powell revealed the fruits of some of this data[7]

U.S. biological warfare experts learned a lot from their Japanese counterparts. While we do not know exactly how much this information advanced the American program, we have the Fort Detrick doctors’ testimony that it was “invaluable”. And it is known that some of the biological weapons developed later were at least similar to ones that had been part of the Japanese project. Infecting feathers with spore diseases was one of Ishii’s achievements and feather bombs later became a weapon in America’s biological warfare arsenal.

While the U.S. did its bit to cover up the Unit’s crimes Japan was never going to admit its armed force’s misdeeds. Its programmes have hardly been recognised since. Some of the criminals oozed into a peaceful retirement; others became widely respected professionals. Masaji Kitano became a director for the profitable pharma company, the Green Cross. Hisato was made President of the Medical Faculty of the University of Kyoto. General Shiro Ishii died a calm, quiet death in total freedom. I’ll bet Mengele would have kicked himself if he’d known. If only he’d done more research into biological weapons he might have been immune rather than a morality tale.

There’s a decent documentary on Unit 731 on youtube (1, 2, 3, 4). I wrote on the Allies’ employment of German fascists here. Some notes on human experimentation are here, here and here.

[1] Eckhart, Man, Medicine, and the State (pg. 189)

[2] Just try googling “Studies on the Reactivity of Skin Vessels to Extreme Cold

[3] Harbin and Kattoulas, Time, “Black Death

[4] Michael Brockhoff, Unit 731: Nightmare in Manchuria

[5] Harris, Factories of Death (pg. 243)

[6] Tsuneishi, Z-Net, “Unit 731 and the Japanese Imperial Army’s Biological Warfare Program

[7] Powell, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “A Hidden Chapter in History

A new swathe of documents regarding, as the National Security Archive puts it, the U.S. Government’s “Nazi hunting (and Nazi protecting)” gives me an opportunity to do more research on NATO’s Operation Gladio[*]: a network of secret groups intended to ensure that Europe maintained its allegiance with the Western block. One such organisation – among the less successful – involved two former SS agents, one of whom the CIA described as an “unreconstituted Nazi“. A paper(pdf) by Timothy Naftali details its failure…

The large Kibitz-15 network, “a group with Nazi tendencies” run by ["unreconstituted Nazi"] Walter Kopp, had become a potential political liability for the US government. “No doubt you are aware of the political hay that the opposition party could make of our Kibitz-15 net if they managed to roll it out on the front page of the German press,” wrote CIA headquarters in April 1953. “The present furore over the resurgence of the Nazi or neo-Nazi groups is a fair example – in miniature – of what we would be faced with.” In 1952 the CIA estimated that there were 125 agents in Kopp’s network.

They weren’t sorry to do it but they would have been sorry to get caught out!

It seems the agents didn’t make for terribly effective spies. One, who the CIA were trying to resettle, was described as “immature” with “a personality not suited to clandestine activities“…

His main faults are his lack of regard for money and his attraction to members of the opposite sex.

In the years ahead, of course, Ian Fleming would depict James Bond as an extravagant, virile agent taking on Russian spies and their fascist comrades. The truth, it seems, is that the secret services were none pleased with the extravagant and virile nature of their fascist colleagues.

Soon afterwards, the CIA passed responsibility for their Nazis over to — a one-time Nazi…

In April 1953, the CIA briefed Hans Globke, Konrad Adenauer’s chief national security adviser, in general terms on US stay-behind operations in Germany. With the exception of the few remaining Kibitz agents that the CIA kept running, the CIA pledged to leave this activity to the Germans themselves and to finance a West-German stay-behind system.

Hans Globke was a former Nazi official who’d helped craft the Reich Citizenship Law, whichstripped Jews of their German citizenship“. The CIA and its European allies would cover up information relating to his unseemly past.

Kibitz – and the still mysterious network Pastime – was a minor element of NATO’s broader operations. It’s interesting how few qualms supposedly moral agents had for working with their one-time enemies, however: years after fighting with the Soviets against the Nazis, they were arming Nazis to oppose the Soviets. It shouldn’t surprise us when the U.S. or NATO employ Baathist torturers or Afghan warlords. It’s realpolitik for interests that are often quite beyond us.

[*] You can watch a three-part series on Gladio over at Google Videos (1, 2, 3).

“This won’t help a bit…”

The U.S. has “oh, gee, sorry!“-d for its 1940s program of infecting Guatamalans with syphilis and gonorrhea. The poor folks were tainted without their consent or even knowledge and, its claimed, were goaded into passing the diseases on. In a truly damning paper(pdf) Susan Reverby exposes the American physician’s gruesome practices…

On the women inmates…the inoculum was inserted after needles were used to abrade the women’s forearms, face or mouth. With the men, the inoculation was often much more direct…A doctor held the subject’s penis, pulled back the foreskin, abraded the penis slightly just short of drawing blood by scraping the skin with a hypodermic needle, introduced a cotton pledget (or small dressing) and dripped drops of the syphilitic emulsion onto the pad and through it to the roughed skin on the man’s penis for at least an hour, sometimes two.

In other studies of prophylaxis at an army barracks, the men were allowed to have sex with uninfected prostitutes, then had the syphilitic inoculum put into the meatus of their penis, told to urinate an hour later and apply differing kinds of chemical prophylaxis.42 In still other studies, the inoculum was placed on the cervix of prostitutes before they were allowed to have sex with the prisoners.

Without the vaguest desire to seem monomaniacal this affirms one o’ this weblog’s themes: the truth of conspiracies. Reverby informs us that the researchers involved had moral qualms but smothered them, believing, presumably, that it was all for a higher good. It’s also a lesson in the danger of staring so hard at your ultimate goal that you lose focus on what’s in between. This was just one of a series of medical machinations: in Tuskegee, poor black croppers, infected with syphilis, were researched on but never cured or even told of their disease. The rights of the subject – yes, whatever blasted species – shouldn’t be forgotten just ‘cos they won’t sabotage the test.

Elsewhere, Nafeez Ahmed writes on the U.S.’s long campaign in Guatamala…

In other documents, the US noted that the democratic revolution of 1944 had contributed to “a strong national movement to free Guatemala from the military dictatorship, social backwardness, and ‘economic colonialism’, which had been the pattern of the past”.

So in 1954, the US and British teamed up to violently overthrow Arbenz’s reformist democratic administration, and installed Col. Castillo Armas. To keep the new, illegitimate, counter-democratic dictatorship in power required extensive ‘force projection’, in particular the creation and support of a lethal network of government-backed right-wing death squads whose sole task was to slaughter peasants into submission.

The Guatamalan coup deserves to be notorious. It was quite extraordinary: in medical terms equivalent to “curing” a healthy patient with a dose of ebola. In fact, lots of modern interventions can be seen as more like viruses than antidotes.

Leafing through A Life in Darkness and Light, Patrick McGilligan’s brick-like bio of Alfred Hitchcock, I was fascinated by this little digression…

Pro-British activity in Hollywood was under scrutiny by American intelligence operatives, as well as by pro-German elements in the film industry. Although many U.S. citizens wanted to do anything possible to side with England, the government’s official policy was to do nothing, so America Firsters had law enforcement on their side, Foreign Correspondent – and now the Saboteur project – were exactly the kind of “message pictures” that isolationist Senators Burton K. Wheeler (D., Montana) and Gerald P. Nye, (R., North Dakota) inveighed against in widely publicized speeches, denouncing “alien” influences in Hollywood.

Indeed, in the fall of 1941, [Victor] Saville was among those publicly branded a British agent in Senate Interstate Commerce Committee hearings led by Wheeler and Nye, with testimony alleging that in Hollywood, Saville entertained “lavishly, and that each of his guests is served a full course of British propaganda”.

Alien pro-British influence sounds rather quaint (the Protocols of the Members of Lords never had the reach of its conspiratorial cousin). As I’ve mentioned before, however, there was a covert British effort to steer the Yanks into World War 2. According to modern accounts, press, film and publishing luminaries leant their services “through British-sponsored or -supported “front” organizations” or “consciously participat[ing] in a [secret] campaign for the British cause“. While the beleaguered Saville may have been an innocent, genial host, Hitchcock’s collaborator on Rebecca, the playwright Robert E. Sherwood, was apparently involved. The Hitch himself played a mild role…

Hitchcock arrived in the United States to take up a generous contract with Selznick International Studious. This was a natural career move, but Hitchcock also understood his duty to help the British cause. He had been reminded of this by two senior Conservative Party propagandists: Sir Patrick Gower, the chief publicity officer at the party’s central office; and Oliver Bell, director of the British Film Institute and a former Conservative Party press officer. They charged him with a special mission to work for “the better representation of British characters in Hollywood produced films.” On arriving in Hollywood, Hitchcock gave full details of this mission to the British Consul in Los Angeles, including his plans to amend all his screenplays to include “secondary characters whose representation will tend to correct American misrepresentations regarding the British people.” [Selling War: The British Propaganda Campaign against American "Neutrality" in World War II, Nicholas Cull, pg.18]

It’s a shame he didn’t pack his films with Brits who drank something other than tea and spoke in tones not quite as plummy as the HMQ’s. Sure, it wouldn’t have helped the war effort, but it would have saved us some crap television.

Rather more audaciously – and duplicitously – British agents fiddled with the polls; smeared noninterventionists and, it’s claimed, fabricated Nazi war crimes. This is widely acknowledged but rarely discussed, because, one supposes, it’s so dreadfully awkward. Awkward for the Atlanticists, whose shocking pink view of the “Special Relationship” would be rather tarnished: buddies cheating buddies doesn’t make for a very stirring tale. To other students of history – or drop-outs from the present – it raises counterintuitive puzzles. Is it ever right to deceive a public? Could you endorse fifth columnists within your own land? With those jolly questions sown, I shall turn in for the night. To return, no doubt, and gather the fruits of thought but ethics, history and the hours before dawn are a potentially lethal cocktail to imbibe.

Have as good a Thursday as you can. The forecast’s bad, I see. Bad all round.

« Previous Page


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers