The taking of Human skull Trophies during the Pacific War

Apr 2015
1,704
Italy
#11
This sort of thing isn't unique. Armies throughout history, on multiple continents, collected skulls, body parts, hair, of defeated enemies. It was practiced in most regions of the world (the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Polynesia) by certain cultures in those regions for centuries.

The notion that this practice had a limited geographical spread is just a myth.
In japan was common practice during sengoku period to collect heads. You cut heads to prove how many enemies you killed and you get paid for that. Heads of prominent figures like generals or member of daimyo families were special trophies, where usually prepared with make up and presented as a gift to the winner. there was a whole protocol for heads taking during battles.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#12
This all hearsay---

That the local native allies in the Pacific, especially in New guinea took Japanese heads as trophies. Sounds about right, at that time , some of the New Guinea tribes were still cannibal

That during the rape of Nanking, Japanese soldiers often beheaded locals, as a form of execution and as sport. That also sounds about right, going on what I've read about the Rape of Nanking.

Addendum; The last recorded case of Australian aborigines being hunted and killed for sport is from the 1920's. Even when was I was growing up, in the 1950's and 60's, the general attitude towards Australian aborigines was one of callous indifference . Today, the indifference isn't quite as callous.
 
Dec 2018
89
Cheyenne
#13
War turns men into animals. I don't care if you are American, Japanese, Chinese or whatever. Every society has committed horrific atrocities during war. As to why it should be avoided at all costs. YouTube comments are a lot like war lol, when there is no repercussions for behavior you generally see the worst of men.
 
Jul 2016
9,320
USA
#14
Speaking as a former military combatant that saw combat, battle is maddening. Note, what I experienced wasn't remotely like what they did, but enough for me to understand it.

Some might think I'm using that word simply to add color. Wrong. I mean war will make EVERYONE go at least kind of crazy. Some more than others.

Often the insanity is temporary, sleep, time away from dangerous areas, time to just decompress with alcohol, a couple dozen drunk sessions where you relive all the emotions again, probably cry a bit, scream, go catatonic for a few hours, and then, poof, you're not totally insane, but you acknowledge that you're forever changed, a knowingly demented individual ruined for the rest of your life, as the things you experienced, saw, felt, heard, smelled, touched, can NEVER be unlearned. The things you did, not just to survive, but because at the time it just felt like the right thing to do...those things aren't forgotten or undone. And sometimes those things make all the sense in your mind when you're doing them. Because you were batshit nuts when you did it.

Taking heads probably counts in the Pacific is one of those things. It sounds crazy to people who haven't experienced the madness of combat, but its not that crazy really.

First, I doubt anyone was on a troop ship heading to some nightmarish Pacific island hellhole, thinking to themselves how much they want a human head/skull as a trophy. Nope, it doesn't work that way.

Imagine a setting where the environment, even without a battle, is constantly trying to kill you, at the very least make your life miserable. Add in constant sleep deprivation. Next, starvation. Even if your unit is well supplied (it wont be) you still won't be eating well, because when you're running on adrenaline and cortisol dumps from stress, combined with sleep deprivation, you lose your appetite and stop wanting to eat, which results in your body eating itself, fat and protein, where most combatants will lose about 10-30 lbs in a month, and continue till they're skeletons. When you're drained, barely eating, but still performing 3-4,000 calorie activities, your mood and psych are affected, you don't make good decisions in that condition, its basically impossible.

Now comes the really bad part. A complete breakdown of normalcy. An utter attack, a full scale offensive, on your personal understanding of morality, of ethics.

Ever see a dog eat a human being? Check that off your bucket list, its quite disgusting the first time, you desperately want to kill the dogs, and suddenly realize why certain warlike cultures in the past and present consider Fido the cute Puppy a disgusting and unclean animal. But after a while, its just something that happens a lot if dogs are around and bodies are buried. Things will eat them.

Did you ever find a bunch of corpses that were rotting in the sun and rain for a few days? They're disgusting. Now imagine someone with stripes or shiny rank insignia tells you that you have to grab them, move them, handle them. Note, the bodies are fly covered, bloated, leaking all sorts of brown fluids, and are starting to come apart. Nobody is giving you a hazmat suit, you're not even getting gloves. But you're going to move them, its a lawful order and you must obey it. After that, you're going to smell it for a while, literally, as the broken down flesh molecules will get sucked up your nostrils to embed in your nose hairs, so days later you're still smelling rotten corpses all the time.

Cruelty. Wow, there is a lot. If you cannot accept it you'll break quickly, you'll be one of those people who crack and just lay down and go catatonic or can't stop crying. Not good. So you accept it and move on. You tell yourself as bad as it all is, what doesn't kill you doesn't kill you, and you drive on. You're seeing new cruelties daily, like a sampler packet of misery to fellow human beings. Seeing any people die is traumatic. Seeing buddies hit horrifies you, when unkownn friendlies on your side get hit it angers you, but when its the enemy hit, that's quite enjoyable really. Most enjoyable.

At first you might see them as human, but after the first couple days of battle, you realize they deserve it. After all, that caused it all. If it wasn't for them, not only would you not be on that crappy island, there would be no war. You enjoy hearing about them dying. When someone tells you about such and such unit that was in the right place and right time for a good old slaughter of enemy, a regular turkey shoot, you're honest to God jealous of the guys. Forget all the crap about crying or peeing yourself after your first kill. Lol, liars. You cheered. You probably were the big man in your squad for a couple hours, where the other guys are jealous of you until they just their cherries too. Any harm you cause the enemy is a small victory, one to take pride in. One step closer to ultimate victory. Maiming is just as good, but a dead enemy can never hurt anyone again, so to be safe just kill them all. Kill them all. Kill them all. Kill them all. That is your mantra, that is what your life becomes. Kill them all. Everything your entire unit does is driven by it: Kill them all.

Now some of you are asking, where the heck are the NCOs and officers to ring in all this? They're right there with you, enduring every bit of it. In worse condition too, as they suffer usually worse, all the normal stuff plus extra stress of constant decision making, where every possible good idea is only slightly better than the worst. Where Catch 22 isn't a comedy, its life. Want to know what combat leadership is like? Spend 2 days awake and take the SATs. If you don't do great you die and everyone else you care about dies too. Leaders also are dealing with a thousand and one discipline problems where there are no real solutions to it. They know the troops are turning into monsters but they can't deal with it, refuse to deal with it, because guys that are still fighting but went crazy, they're still fighting, they're still able to help accomplish the mission. Trying to enforce rules of morality against an enemy you're trying to kill is itself insane, at least it appears so at the moment. So blind eyes are turned, war crimes are ignored, and discipline gets slack for the sake of accomplishing the greater mission, which is more important than life or death. The slacker it gets, the more leeway the men are given, the more they can explore their dark side, the worse it gets.

Now imagine it all. Your body is beyond its psychological breaking point. You don't really have any true morality anymore. Discipline in your unit is slack, small level war crimes are happening on a regular basis. You're utterly desensitized to gore to the point none of it really phases you anymore. You take utter joy in the suffering of the enemy.

Are you really going to be shocked if a squad mate starts carrying a human head around with him? Or if someone takes a skull they found while digging foxholes and wires it to the grill of a Jeep? Takes skulls and sells them to souvenir hunting Rear Echelon Mother F******, who are willing to pay top dollar for Jap uniform items, pistols, swords, and body parts, money you can spend on hooch and the occasional prostitute?

In that scenario, it's crazier not taking the skull.
 
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