Image Sources: National Archives of the United States; Wikimedia Commons; Gensuikan; Text Sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun, The New Yorker, Lonely Planet Guides, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, Eyewitness to History , edited by John Carey ( Avon Books, 1987), Compton’s Encyclopedia, History of Warfare by John Keegan, Vintage Books, Eyewitness to History.com, The Good War An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel, Hamish Hamilton, 1985, BBC’s People’s War website and various books and other publications. Scraps at first, then entire stories: the occasion he watched his best friend die; the day his older brother was threatened with execution in the camp, the time he and his fellow prisoners were forced to dig their own graves. ><, “His brother, who was a trainee pathologist, knew it was imperative to boil water before drinking it. The next thing you know there are Marines walking around with Jap ears stuck on their belts with safety pins. For example, at a hospital for injured British soldiers, the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 170 recuperating soldiers and a few hospital staff. Apparently, suffering in the hands of the Japanese did not lead to abhoring the practice and not doing it to others. Allied prisoners endured the Bataan Death March, prison camps throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific, slave-labor construction of the Siam-Burma railroad, transport by "hellships" back to Japan, and enslavement in Japan. Red Army soldiers would mass rape German women as a kind of revenge against their enemy: The German army. The U.S. media helped propagate this view of the Japanese, for example describing them as "yellow vermin". Soldiers in World War II: Not Taking Japanese Prisoners, American soldiers in the Pacific often deliberately killed Japanese soldiers who had surrendered. My thoughts turned to some mother back in Japan who would receive word that her son had been killed in battle. Small wonder that a Japanese soldier, or civilian, for that matter, would do whatever it took to keep from falling into Allied hands. We were out there to sabotage the place… You try to forget a lot. The account of the same Marine also states that Japanese troops booby-trapped some of their own dead as well as some dead Marines and also mutilated corpses; the effect on Marines being "We began to get down to their level". Such practices were in addition also in violation of the unwritten customary rules of land warfare and could lead to the death penalty. The atrocities committed by the Japanese military during WWII are so brutal that it is almost impossible to comprehend them. Over the next two weeks, GIs retaliated against German troops as the Americans fought to retake the lost territory. “If the Japanese were annoyed for some reason or other, we would be lined up one in front of the other and we had to punch each other and if we didn’t do it hard enough, the guards would beat us up with a stick and tell us to beat each other harder.” His eyes become veiled and tired. One entry reads, “September 2. Sook Ching Massacre.  This was because of the large number of souvenir bones discovered in customs, also including "green" (uncured) skulls. Looking back on the man in the stream it was impossible to decide, even though he was insane, which treatment was the best." Justin McCurry wrote in The Guardian, “One of the estimated 12 crew died when the cords of his parachute were sliced by another Japanese plane. The worst was the mutilation of Japanese corpses to take trophies such as their skulls. When I turned to look at Al he had tears running down his face. “I think it’s a very beautiful film, but completely beyond the truth.” They did not spend their time singing and dancing and putting on shows, he says. Prisoners of war... Accounts from Prisoners of War. American aviators weren’t the only ones to fall victim to Japanese troops practicing cannibalism. , There is some disagreement between historians over what the more common forms of "trophy hunting" undertaken by U.S. personnel were. The Japanese were infuriated by the strength of Chinese resistance, and when China's Nationalist capital Nanking fell in December 1937, Japanese troops immediately slaughtered thousands of Chinese soldiers who had surrendered to them. , Weingartner writes, however, that U.S. Marines were intent on taking gold teeth and making keepsakes of Japanese ears already while they were en route to Guadalcanal.. Some were used for medical experiments and target practice. Harrison concludes that, since this was the first real opportunity to take such items (the Battle of Guadalcanal), "[c]learly, the collection of body parts on a scale large enough to concern the military authorities had started as soon as the first living or dead Japanese bodies were encountered." It… it was a joke.” ><, Elizabeth Day wrote in The Guardian: “Extraordinary as it may seem, Bras regards his time on the railway as comparatively tolerable considering what came next.  (See also: Allied war crimes during World War II. According to Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by the American Mark Selden, the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned.". The Kempeitai reserved particular attention for British or American journalists who had reported on Japanese atrocities in China. , Australian soldiers also mutilated Japanese bodies at times, most commonly by taking gold teeth from corpses. Ferguson adds that measures by Allied commanders to improve the ratio of Japanese prisoners to Japanese dead, resulted in it reaching 1:7, by mid-1945. , According to Weingartner it is not possible to determine the percentage of U.S. troops that collected Japanese body parts, "but it is clear that the practice was not uncommon". It was so terrible in the mines. We found dead Japs that were booby-trapped. " A better-known example of those servicemen who left for battle already planning to send home a trophy is the Life Magazine picture of the week, whose caption begins: When he said goodbye two years ago to Natalie Nickerson, 20, a war worker of Phoenix, Ariz., a big, handsome Navy lieutenant promised her a Jap. In some cases, including those of the Americans on Chichi Jima, the leaders responsible were tried for war crimes … One of the most senior doctors, Fukujiro Ishiyama, killed himself before his trial.By the early 1950s the Korean peninsula was in the midst of a bloody civil war, while Japan had been officially recognised as a US ally under the terms of the San Francisco peace treaty.With a politically stable Japan regarded as key to preventing the spread of communism in the region, President Truman issued an executive order that led to freedom for imprisoned war criminals, including those awaiting execution. , According to Simon Harrison, all of the "trophy skulls" from the World War II era in the forensic record in the U.S., attributable to an ethnicity, are of Japanese origin; none come from Europe (a seemingly rare exception to this rule was the case of a German soldier scalped by an American soldier, falsely attributed to a Winnebago tribal custom, films shot by the Special Film Project 186 near Prague, Czechoslovakia, on May 8, 1945, display an M4 Sherman with a skull and bones fixed to it). Although the famous Nuremberg Trials held in Europe received the lion’s share of interest, especially from the world press, the Military Tribunal for the Far East managed to … In 1942 the Japanese won the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines and began the Bataan Death March, a forcible march of American and Filipino prisoners of war that resulted in thousands of deaths...sorry that I pined a gruesome historical event today but since I lived in the Philippines and have studied its history this is a subject of interest to me. They were normal men who felt that was what their loved ones wanted them to collect for them. “You were beaten by your own kind.” ><, “And yet, he says, the unexpected conflagrations of violence from their Japanese captors were much worse. Japanese war crimes occurred in many Asian and Pacific countries during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.These incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities. “It’s difficult to accept, but this really happened. After liberation in 1945, he was one of the first to walk through a decimated Nagasaki after the detonation of the atomic bomb. In 1945, as a first-year student at Kyushu Imperial University’s medical school in southern Japan, Tono became an unwilling witness to atrocities. It was “very dangerous” work, conducted underground amid the dark and soot, with the constant threat of death. He made a gurgling noise and thrashed wildly. Eight American airmen recovered from a B-29 shot down near the end of the war were taken to the anatomy department at Kyushu University where they had their organs ripped out of their body while they were still alive.  Harrison concludes that since this was the first real opportunity to take such items (the Battle of Guadalcanal), "Clearly, the collection of body parts on a scale large enough to concern the military authorities had started as soon as the first living or dead Japanese bodies were encountered. All I got for an answer was a cussing out. You'd find a dead Marine that the Japs had booby-trapped. However, that type of knowledge did not necessarily lead to revenge mutilations. Details of Japanese World War II atrocities are known all over Asia. Last week Natalie received a human skull, autographed by her lieutenant and 13 friends...., Another example of that type of press is Yank, which, in early 1943, published a cartoon showing the parents of a soldier receiving a pair of ears from their son. 3. The taking of the objects was socially accepted at the time, but after the war, when the Japanese in time became seen as fully human again, the objects for the most part became seen as unacceptable and unsuitable for display. +, Ulrich Straus, a U.S. Japanologist, suggests that frontline troops intensely hated Japanese military personnel and were "not easily persuaded" to take or protect prisoners, as they believed that Allied personnel who surrendered, got "no mercy" from the Japanese. John B. Powell, the editor of the China Weekly Review , was a typical case of the treatment meted out to prisoners: “When the questioning began, they had to remove all their clothing and kneel before their captors. The book reveals the unbelievable atrocities against our soldiers as well as what many would consider a "pass" to some of those who were responsible. I didn’t have to do hard labor because I was an officer, and I didn’t get that sick, and I was never that terribly mistreated.” *-*, Schwartz kept a diary while in the camp. ", About 36,000 Allied prisoners of war were held in Japan during the war. Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign. Then one of the Marines, who I found out later had been through other campaigns, reached over and roughly grabbed the Japanese soldier by the belt and ripped his shirt off. One man died for every sleeper laid. ", In October 1943, the U.S. High Command expressed alarm over recent newspaper articles, for example one where a soldier made a string of beads using Japanese teeth, and another about a soldier with pictures showing the steps in preparing a skull, involving cooking and scraping of the Japanese heads. Construction of the 415km railway cost the lives of around 13,000 PoWs and 100,000 native labourers. Historians have attributed the phenomenon to a campaign of dehumanization of the Japanese in the U.S. media, to various racist tropes latent in American society, to the depravity of warfare under desperate circumstances, to the inhuman cruelty of Imperial Japanese forces, lust for revenge, or any combination of those factors. In Japan the media made "a big deal of those who... had gone back to the Japanese lines and then killed themselves, or those who had heroically given their lives in suicide missions. D’Aquino was a U.S. citizen. Explained one American, himself equally outraged: “The thought of a Japanese soldier’s skull becoming an American ashtray was as horrifying in Tokyo as the thought of an American prisoner used for bayonet practice was in New York.” Of all the trophies, however, none … The Japanese's mouth glowed with huge gold-crowned teeth, and his captor wanted them. There, the two brothers joined forced labourers digging 5m trenches and setting down sleepers in desperate conditions. I couldn’t get to sleep without pills.”, “After the war, Tono spent years examining documents and revisiting relevant locations in an attempt to establish what had happened. However, unfortunately, it must be said that many rapists, were American soldiers. I did wonder if something unpleasant was going to happen to them, but I had no idea it was going to be that awful.” Inside, university doctors, at the urging of local military authorities, began the first of a series of experiments that none of the eight victims would survive. For a while he and his brother worked in Kingston, Jamaica, where Bras later met his wife, a Scottish doctor. It is amazing---he has killed him with one stroke. , From the Burma Campaign, there are recorded instances of Commonwealth troops removing gold teeth and displaying Japanese skulls as trophies. Allied soldiers believed that Japanese soldiers were inclined to feign surrender in order to make surprise attacks. He beat me up terribly, but he didn’t kick my testicles or my stomach. In book entitled Prisoners of the Japanese, Gavan Davis wrote, "The idea that a soldier would surrender rather than die, or stay alive in a prison camp rather than kill himself, was just alien to the Japanese.". “The remaining airmen were rounded up by police and placed in military custody in the nearby city of Fukuoka. Those who didn’t “died like flies”. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me. , "The taking and displaying of human body parts as trophies by Amerindians," Chacon and Dye, page 625, T. R. Moreman "The jungle, the Japanese and the British Commonwealth armies at war, 1941–45", p. 205, Stanley Coleman Jersey "Hell's islands: the untold story of Guadalcanal", p. 169, 170, The image depicts a young blond at a desk gazing at a skull. Mobs of civilians also killed several Allied airmen before the Japanese military arrived to take the airmen into custody. Burma Railway construction. The squadron’s commander, Marvin Watkins, was sent to Tokyo for questioning. Other footage from Hell in the Pacific shows American soldiers using bayonets to hack at Japanese corpses while looting them. War crimes have been defined by the Tokyo Charter as "violations of the laws or customs of war," which includes crimes against enemy combatants and enemy non-combatants. Many were killed in fire bomb attacks and atomic bomb blasts or died while being transported to Japan. " When Charles Lindbergh passed through customs at Hawaii in 1944, one of the customs declarations he was asked to make was whether or not he was carrying any bones. Rape was just as widespread. In acts of shocking brutality, Japanese soldiers and marines massacred tens of thousands of civilians as American troops advanced into Manila in early 1945 February 1945: a starving child in Manila clings to a box of U.S. Army rations. What a place.  According to Hoyt, "The thought of a Japanese soldier's skull becoming an American ashtray was as horrifying in Tokyo as the thought of an American prisoner used for bayonet practice was in New York. Those that did become prisoner were found unconscious or wandering in the jungle or were lured out of the caves and bunkers by skilled negotiators. But they were never punished.  The degree of acceptance of the practice varied between units. The mutilation of Japanese service personnel included the taking of body parts as "war souvenirs" and "war trophies". After it ended, Bras and his mother emigrated to Amsterdam, where he pursued medical studies. “Until now, I regret it,” Bras says. The Manila massacre was one of several major war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, as judged by the postwar military tribunal.The Japanese commanding general, Tomoyuki Yamashita, and his chief of staff Akira Mutō, were held responsible for the massacre and other war crimes in a trial which started in October 1945. Reasons of space permit only a small selection of the atrocities mentioned in the previous section to receive more detailed examination here, but a comprehensive treatment of Japanese atrocities can be found in the books and web-sites listed at the end of this chapter. boiling human heads, "were taken (and preserved for a lifetime) because the Marines were proud of their success". In 1942 the Japanese won the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines and began the Bataan Death March, a forcible march of American and Filipino prisoners of war that resulted in thousands of deaths...sorry that I pined a gruesome historical event today but since I lived in the Philippines and have studied its history this is a subject of interest to me. Americans were shocked by a photograph run in American newspapers showing a Japanese soldiers raising his sword to behead an Allied prisoner of war, bound and tied and bent over on his knees. " Since the Japanese were regarded as animals, it is not surprising that Japanese remains were treated in the same way as animal remains.. [Source: Eyewitness to History , edited by John Carey, Avon Books, 1987], "Now the time has come and the prisoner is made to kneel on the bank of a bomb crater, filled with water. Nevertheless, taking no prisoners was still standard practice among U.S. troops at the Battle of Okinawa, in April–June 1945. 5. U.S. historian James J. Weingartner attributes the very low number of Japanese in U.S. POW compounds to two important factors, a Japanese reluctance to surrender and a widespread American "conviction that the Japanese were "animals" or "subhuman'" and unworthy of the normal treatment accorded to POWs. Bras looked away, refusing to return the salute. [Source: Wikipedia], Bill Sanchez was an American prisoner of war at camps in Heiwa Jima and Tokyo in Japan in World War II. ><, “Bras and his older brother joined the Dutch army three months before war broke out.  According to Harrison only a minority of U.S. troops collected Japanese body parts as trophies, but "their behaviour reflected attitudes which were very widely shared".  Several weeks later it was reported that it had been given back with the explanation that the President did not want this type of object and recommended it be buried instead. [Source: Elizabeth Day, The Guardian, July 26, 2015 >, “Bras says the danger came not from the beatings the Japanese guards meted out at random intervals (“They passed,” he says phlegmatically, “and they didn’t want to kill us because they needed us to work”), but from the threat of cholera and malnutrition. As the War went against the Japanese, food became a major problem both on the Home Islands and Japanese field armies. , Trophy skulls are the most notorious of the souvenirs.  Edwin P. Hoyt in Japan's War: The Great Pacific Conflict argues that two U.S. media reports of Japanese skulls and bones being sent home were exploited by Japanese propaganda very effectively, coupled to the Shinto religion, which places much higher emotional value on the treatment of human remains contributed to a preference to death over surrender and occupation, shown, for example, in the mass civilian suicides on Saipan and Okinawa after the Allied landings. Captured B-29 bombardier Raymond "Hap" Halloran shrunk from 215 to 122 pounds and was displayed naked in a cage at the Tokyo Zoo, where people cursed and threw things at him. February 1, 1943 Life Magazine of japanese skull .p.27, The May 1944 Life Magazine picture of the week, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=American_mutilation_of_Japanese_war_dead&oldid=992719566, War crimes by the United States during World War II, Articles with unsourced statements from August 2018, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Paul Fussell "Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War", Bourke "An Intimate History of Killing" (pages 37–43), Fussel "Thank God for the Atom Bomb and other essays" (pages 45–52), Aldrich "The Faraway War: Personal diaries of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific", This page was last edited on 6 December 2020, at 19:19. “I found brain tissue on them.” [Source: Elizabeth Day, The Guardian, July 26, 2015 >, “The way he coped was “by trying to do as little as possible. This picture, captured from the Japanese, shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.” Philippines, May 1942. Allied prisoners tried to stave off disease by constructing spotless kitchens and latrines; using bamboo pipes, which brought in cholera-free water from spings miles away: and burning the dead in funeral pyres so they wouldn’t contaminate the living. The tribunals also heard claims from US lawyers that the liver of one victim had been removed, cooked and served to officers, although all charges of cannibalism were later dropped owing to a lack of evidence. Arrived at Yokohama at nine and took 10 minute ride to Kawasaki.  According to Dower, most U.S. combatants in the Pacific did not engage in "souvenir hunting" for bodyparts.  The junior officer who had sent the skull was also traced and officially reprimanded. [Source: Elizabeth Day, The Guardian, July 26, 2015 >, “He witnessed unimaginable terror, brutality and death. The prisoners carried out these tasks after torturous, 16-hours work stints, during time they could have spent sleeping.  The mixture of underlying American racism, which was added to by U.S. wartime propaganda, hatred caused by the Japanese war of aggression, and both real and also fabricated Japanese atrocities, led to a general loathing of the Japanese. Simon Harrison comes to the conclusion in his paper, "Skull trophies of the Pacific War: transgressive objects of remembrance", that the minority of U.S. personnel who collected Japanese skulls did so because they came from a society that placed much value in hunting as a symbol of masculinity, combined with a de-humanization of the enemy. Eugene Sledge relates a few instances of fellow Marines extracting gold teeth from the Japanese, including one from an enemy soldier who was still alive. 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