The subject matter called out to me nearly 30 years ago while I was living in Venice Beach, CA with my common law wife Nicole Su. Born Eisune Su in Taipei, Taiwan (ROC), her parents immigrated to the USA in 1960 to work as biology research scientists at UCLA while she grew up in affluence and privilege. At their luxurious home in Brentwood there were numerous photos of her parent in white lab coats posing with Japanese soldiers. Her mother would speak Japanese to her relatives which I found odd given they were Chinese Taiwanese and lived in the US over 25 years. Nicole didn't want to talk about their past nor about her life. After 7 years of silence on the subject and out of curiosity I pressed for any clear answers to these mysteries. Nicole finally said that during WWII her parents were given the choice of either collaborate with the Imperial Japanese Army or face dire consequences. Of course they relented and worked for the invaders within their expertise of biological research.
They began a collaboration with Japanese scientists at a mysterious biological camp in Manchuko, then captured Manchuria, China. Unit 731 was notorious for experimenting on captured Chinese civilians with infectious diseases, extreme cold torture, wounding people with conventional weapons and creating deadly biological weapons. Several smaller units assisted Unit 731 with data and materials for their heinous experiments.
Nicole's parents were complicit in aiding the enemy because of their unique skills: Fluent in Japanese and Chinese, accredited biological researchers, and working at labs at then named island of Formosa. After the war, General Douglas MacArthur along with the O.S.S. Office of Strategic Services (pre C.I.A.) decided without Congressional or Presidential review to allow all Japanese and Chinese scientists who collaborated with Unit 731 to be allowed NO prosecution of war crimes committed during WWII.
In exchange they would be awarded freedom, research jobs and a new life in America, all in the name of "National Security". In return these war criminals would divulge and translate all documents they had about the thousands of human experiments at Unit 731. Many scientists and doctors were whisked away to Ft. Derrick, MD to expand the already growing biological weapons creation and testing center. Other lucky ones were given safe passage to American universities and major chemical manufacturers like DuPont and Dow.
I then understood the secrecy and unspoken shame of their war experiences. In late 80's we had no Internet, no Google to investigate any of these claims and murky history. I would soon discover more than I had envisioned.
A decade later I was in China and married Danlu Wang in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province in northern most China. (Wang means King in Mandarin) She offhandedly mentioned several museums I might be interested in seeing. When she spoke of how terrible the japanese treated Chinese and that the proof is at the Unit 731 Museum near Harbin. I was blindsided by the revelation that this might be the very camp Nicole parents were involved in.
We visited in the of dead winter 2000 in temperatures at -25F to find a desolate, grave like atmosphere with us as the only museum visitors. They allowed me to videotape the entire museum and I promised to return to shoot more video along with interviewing historians and museum curators. Thus my documentary began.
Over the next 16 years I returned several times to the Unit 731 Museum and the story expanded hundreds of miles a way to Shenyang . During WWII Japanese built an Allied POW camp named Mukden designed to work prisoners at a nearby Mitsubishi munitions factory. As my investigation grew I began meeting aging veterans from across America connected with national group of survivors, historians and military experts. My documentary became a larger story about mistreatment of veterans by the Japanese but also the American government. I had uncovered the truth about the Japanese doctors and collaborators who were allowed to live out their lives in secrecy and safety from prosecution. All this while American POWs were sworn to secrecy without the rights to even tell anyone their wartime experiences.
During the war my father Fredrick King Ross had served in the U.S. Army under Gen. Douglas MacArthur beginning in Australia island hopping all the way Tokyo. Clearly he idolized this man so much he named me Douglas. The irony is that 70 years later I realize the General made a big mistake in allowing war criminals their freedom, Americans vets were dishonored and the Chinese people never received an apology nor reparations for the damage. Personally I've come full circle with this important history and will continue to promote the documentary to younger generations.