It's a grisly and mysterious effort: Japan today began excavations at a former army medical school—in the search for human remains linked to the military's shadowy Unit 731. It ran a notorious World War II program that allegedly conducted live experiments on foreign prisoners of war, most of them Chinese. It reportedly injected them with typhus, cholera, and other diseases as part of the country's research into germ warfare, and reportedly performed vivisections and freezing prisoners to death in endurance tests.
The excavation follows a former nurse's revelation that she helped bury numerous corpses, bones, and body parts during the weeks following Japan's Aug. 15, 1945, surrender. There's no guarantee that anything will be discovered, but the AP notes that the dig is a sign that the government, which has never acknowledged Unit 731's activities, might be ready to loosen its lips regarding long-kept wartime secrets. "If the bones or organs with traces of live medical experiments are found, the government would have to admit a wartime medical crime," said the head of a civil group investigating the case. (Read more Japan stories.)