Unbroken: Japan Still in Deep Denial Over Cannibalism Against US Soldiers

"The corporal said he saw flesh being cut from prisoners who were still alive."

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Unlike Germany, Japan never came to terms in any way with its wartime history. The Japanese are fed on a diet of official history and pop culture history which makes them out to be the victims of American aggression. This history typically starts with American planes suddenly bombing Japan for no reason and then concludes with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So Unbroken has led to the expected outrage and denial.

Angelina Jolie’s new movie “Unbroken” has not been released in Japan yet, but it has already struck a nerve in a country still fighting over its wartime past.

And the buzz on social networks and in online chatter is decidedly negative over the film that depicts a U.S. Olympic runner who endures torture at a Japanese World War II prisoner-of-war camp.

Because Japan did nothing wrong.

Especially provocative is a passage in the book that refers to cannibalism among the troops. It is not clear how much of that will be in the movie, but that is too much for some.

“But there was absolutely no cannibalism,” said Mutsuhiro Takeuchi, a nationalist-leaning educator and a priest in the traditional Shinto religion. “That is not our custom.”

Custom or no custom, there was plenty of cannibalism.

The former President George Bush narrowly escaped being beheaded and eaten by Japanese soldiers when he was shot down over the Pacific in the Second World War, a shocking new history published in America has revealed.

Lt George Bush, then a 20-year-old pilot, was among nine airmen who escaped from their planes after being shot down during bombing raids on Chichi Jima, a tiny island 700 miles south of Tokyo, in September 1944 - and was the only one to evade capture by the Japanese.

The horrific fate of the other eight "flyboys" was established in subsequent war crimes trials on the island of Guam, but details were sealed in top secret files in Washington to spare their families distress.

Mr Bradley has established that they were tortured, beaten and then executed, either by beheading with swords or by multiple stab-wounds from bayonets and sharpened bamboo stakes. Four were then butchered by the island garrison's surgeons and their livers and meat from their thighs eaten by senior Japanese officers.

The next day a Japanese officer, Major Sueo Matoba, decided to include American flesh in a sake-fuelled feast he laid on for officers including the commander-in-chief on the island, Gen Yoshio Tachibana. Both men were later tried and executed for war crimes.

A Japanese medical orderly who helped the surgeon prepare the ingredients said: "Dr Teraki cut open the chest and took out the liver. I removed a piece of flesh from the flyer's thigh, weighing about six pounds and measuring four inches wide, about a foot long."

Another crewman, Floyd Hall, met a similar fate. Adml Kinizo Mori, the senior naval officer on Chichi Jima, told the court that Major Matoba brought "a delicacy" to a party at his quarters - a specially prepared dish of Floyd Hall's liver.

According to Adml Mori, Matoba told him: "I had it pierced with bamboo sticks and cooked with soy sauce and vegetables." They ate it in "very small pieces", believing it "good medicine for the stomach", the admiral recalled.

A third victim of cannibalism, Jimmy Dye, had been put to work as a translator when, several weeks later, Capt Shizuo Yoshii - who was later tried and executed - called for his liver to be served at a party for fellow officers. Parts of a fourth airman, Warren Earl Vaughn, were also eaten and the remaining four were executed, one by being clubbed to death.

That wasn't one aberrant incident. This happened a lot.

One of the first to level charges of cannibalism against the Japanese was Jemadar Abdul Latif of 4/9 Jat Regiment of the Indian Army, a VCO who was rescued by the Australians at Sepik Bay in 1945. He alleged that not just Indian PoWs but even locals in New Guinea were killed and eaten by the Japanese. "At the village of Suaid, a Japanese medical officer periodically visited the Indian compound and selected each time the healthiest men. These men were taken away ostensibly for carrying out duties, but they never reappeared," the Melbourne correspondent of The Times, London, cabled this version of Jemadar Latif on November 5, 1946.

Latif's charges were buttressed by Captain R U Pirzai and Subedar Dr Gurcharan Singh. "Of 300 men who went to Wewak with me, only 50 got out. Nineteen were eaten. A Jap doctor —Lieutenant Tumisa, formed a party of three or four men and would send an Indian outside the camp for something. The Japs immediately would kill him and eat the flesh from his body. The liver, muscles from the buttocks, thighs, legs, and arms would be cut off and cooked," Captain Pirzai told Australian daily The Courier-Mail in a report dated August 25, 1945.

Then there were more similar testimonies by PoWs interned in other camps, such as Havildar Changdi Ram and Lance Naik Hatam Ali, who also gave details of cannibalism practised in their camps. John Baptist Crasta of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, also a PoW at Rabaul, wrote in his memoir (Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War) about Japanese eating Indian soldiers. He was made part of the Allied investigation into Japanese war crimes later.

All these soldiers gave sworn testimonies to the war crimes investigation commissions set up by the Allies, based on which several Japanese officers and men were tried. The senior-most Japanese officer found guilty of cannibalism and hanged was Lieutenant General Yoshio Tachibana.

The Japanese, though, were always dismissive of these charges. Then in 1992, a Japanese historian named Toshiyuki Tanaka found incontrovertible evidence of Japanese atrocities, including cannibalism, on Indians and other Allied prisoners. His initial findings were printed by The Japan Times. In 1997, Tanaka came out with his book, Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes In World War II. There, he refuted the Allies' conclusion that the Japanese resorted to cannibalism when their supplies dwindled. Tanaka said this was done under the supervision of senior officers and was perceived as a power projection tool.

It really happened a whole lot. There was a reason that Americans during WW2 viewed their enemies as savages. They weren't racists. They were dealing with the reality of fighting enemies with absolutely no moral code, only an honor-shame code.

Mr Tanaka, a 43-year-old scholar from Fukui in western Japan, is working at the Political Science Department in Melbourne University. The documents he found concerning cannibalism include captured Japanese army memos as well as sworn statements by Australian soldiers for war crimes investigations. Mr Tanaka says he has amassed at least 100 documented cases of cannibalism of Australian and Indian soldiers as well as Asian forced labourers in New Guinea. He has also found some evidence of cannibalism in the Philippines.

'In some cases the (Japanese) soldiers were suffering from starvation, but in many other cases they were not starving at all,' said Mr Tanaka. 'Many reports said the Japanese soldiers were fit and strong, and had potatoes, rice and dried fish.' Some Japanese press reports yesterday suggested the cannibalism was carried out simply because of shortage of food.

The researcher also denied it was a result of a breakdown in morale: 'The reports said morale was good. Often it was done in a group under instruction of a commander. I think it was to get a feeling for victory, and to give the soldiers nerves of steel.' He said it helped the soldiers to bond 'because the whole troop broke the taboo (of cannibalism) together'.

A Pakistani, who was captured when Japan overran Singapore and taken to New Guinea, testified that in his area Japanese soldiers killed and ate one prisoner a day for 'about 100' days. The corporal said he saw flesh being cut from prisoners who were still alive.

The actual details of it destroy our entire idea of what human civilization looks like.

If there can be a "worst" in such a litany of atrocities, it is the admission of Masayo Enomoto, a former sergeant major. Enomoto remembers raping a young woman, slicing her up with a meat cleaver, cooking her in a pot and distributing her as food to his troops, who were short of meat.

We can keep going, but I think that's more than enough. Japan has adopted the self-righteous pacifism of the left along with its complete refusal to engage in a moral accounting of its own actions. We constantly hear lectures about the atom bomb. This was the kind of society it was used to fight.

Takeuchi acknowledged Jolie is free to make whatever movie she wants, stressing that Shinto believes in forgive-and-forget.

I can't speak for Shinto, but it was Americans who forgot and forgave. A Japanese occupation of America would not have involved a lot of forgetting or forgiving. It would have involved the same mass murder, mass rape and ritual cannibalism as the Japanese occupations elsewhere.

Tags: Japan

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