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Drugs - Imperial Japan

Since the beginning of organized combat, armed forces have prescribed drugs to their members for two general purposes: to enhance performance during combat and to counter the trauma of killing and witnessing violence after it is over. Stimulants (e.g. alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines) have been used to temporarily create better soldiers by that improving stamina, overcoming sleeplessness, eliminating fatigue, and increasing fighting spirit. Downers (e.g. alcohol, opiates, morphine, heroin, marijuana, barbiturates) have also been useful in dealing with the soldier's greatest enemy - shattered nerves.

Known as shabu in Japanese, plain methamphetamine was first synthesized from ephedrine by Japanese chemist Nagai Nagayoshi in 1893. Methamphetamine was first synthesized in 1919, and in the 1940s Japan used methamphetamine - a sort of bottled bravery - to increase work output by factory workers. Under the brand name Philopon/Hiropon, anyone who needed to stave off hunger and stay awake took this form of methamphetamine.

Germanys decision to issue its armed forces methamphetamine was a fateful one, as it encouraged other countries to evaluate its utility as well. Axis ally Japan quickly followed Germanys example, and in a wartime one- upmanship, began supplying not only the troops on the battlefield with the drug, but also the Japanese industrial workers, seeking to boost productivity in a war-directed economy. The German blitzkrieg strikes and suicidal Japanese kamikaze and banzai attacks may have been inspired by something more than fearless nationalism, as both Germanys and Japans military leadership were supplying their armies with Pervitin and Isophan, brand names for methamphetamine.

The Allies quickly followed suit, which led to methamphetamine and amphetamines being widely used by the military in the US and Great Britain. Benzedrine, a similar compound that releases adrenaline, was used by Americans. While never approaching the levels of the Axis powers, significant wartime use among military personnel in every branch of the US Armed Forces existed. Amphetamines were used mainly by the Army for combat situations, by the Air Force for long flying missions, or by the Navy for sailors who needed to stay awake on night watch. The alarming amounts of the drug consumed on both side of the conflict left some veterans of the war in the South Pacific wondering if the protracted, bloody nature of the battles had something to do with the fact that both sides were high on amphetamines.

Amphetamines were a useful way to stimulate the population to exert itself more effectively in factories and on the battlefield. The whole Japanese army basically ran on meth. Under the trade name Philopon (by Sumitomo Pharma), meth was freely distributed the combat units, and Sumitomo Pharma had a dedicated methamphetamine factory to fulfill the needs of the army. The whole army basically was on tweek until 1944 (when logistics became a problem). The generals considered the side effects as assets - the dulling, emotion dumbing and empathy killing side effects of the meth were actually desired effects. The Japanese army wanted their soldiers to become drug-induced pseudo-psychopaths. The result was wanton cruelty in unassumable scale. Most Japanese war crimes were committed on methamphetamine.

The Japanese soldiers took the stuff all the time, it's one of the reasons why they could actually do a 'banzai' charge. Shabu (synthetic methamphetamine), and alcohol usually played a larger part in the banzai charges for the rank and file to ensure that they had the proper "aggressive spirit". After a cup of ceremonial saki laced with methamphetamine, the pilot climbed into his plane and was sent on his one-way trip by comrades who waved flags and hats, yelling Banzai!

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Page last modified: 10-04-2017 19:36:34 ZULU