Pacific Ocean, 1944
published the 14th September, 2016
In September 1942, the daily ration of rice for a Japanese soldier stationed in New Guinea was 800 grams. A few months later, it was just fifty. The soldiers must have been literally starving.
Shigeru Mizuki, who survived the war in the Pacific, documented this extreme rationing in his manga Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, though he did not refer to cannibalism. He described how the soldiers ripened bananas by burying them in still-warm bomb craters.
Life magazine published a photo in May 1944 of a young American woman writing to thank her boyfriend for sending her a “Jap skull”. The photo was picked up by the Japanese propaganda machine which claimed deep shock that the remains of its brave fallen were being treated in such a cavalier fashion.
President Roosevelt turned down the bone letter opener – he could hardly keep it – but while the military authorities officially disapproved of such trophy hunting, they did little to discourage it. It should be acknowledged, however, that most American soldiers took swords or decorations from their enemies, not your actual body parts.