Talk:American mutilation of Japanese war dead/Archive 1

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Could the person(s) that wrote this biased article make it any more clear that they hate Americans? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bamafader (talkcontribs) 11:03, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Single source tag[edit]

The article is based mainly on 2 scholarly articles that pretty much sum up the state of knowledge available in other books. The tag is therefore in error. But I will add some of the references they use to the further reading section. --Stor stark7 Talk 02:53, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

The Steinbeck Quote[edit]

John Steinbeck in 1958 wrote this about his period as a war correspondent. “We were all part of the war effort. We went along with it, and not only that, we abetted it... I don't mean that the correspondents were liars.. It is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies. "The foolish reporter who broke the rules would not be printed at home, and in addition would be put out of the theater by the command..."[1], [2]

The following motivation was given for the deletion of the quote: "removed misleading Steinbeck quote - it seems to be on another topic, and he didn't report from the Pacific)"

I have a few problems with this. The quote is used in the main source provided for it [3], not a high quality source by all means (they got the year wrong for the Life magazine picture), but it puts it in context to help explain why so little is known about the skulls by the average american "john doe" on the street.

I did not know that Steinbeck as a war corespondent only reported for his newspaper from Europe, are you really sure he never was in the Pacific too?

Even if so, does it matter? The same circumstances as regards reporting presumably applied in Europe as in the Pacific. In fact, I'd personally expect the informal censorship would be even stricter in the Pacific arena.--Stor stark7 Talk 22:34, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

That would probably be fine for an essay, but Wikipedia aims to be an Encylopedia, and using the quote in anything but a literal context (eg, Steinbeck's personal experiances as a correspondent in Europe) violates the policy Wikipedia:No original research. This policy states that "Interpretations and syntheses must be attributable to reliable sources that make these interpretations and syntheses". If you want to write about war correspondents not reporting attrocities in the Pacific then you need to cite a reference on this specific topic. --Nick Dowling (talk) 07:08, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
I don't understand. Are you confirming that you have verified that Steinbeck only reported from Europe and never from the Pacific?
MACABRE MYSTERY from The Pueblo Chieftain Online 2003 uses the Steinbeck quote to try to explain the trophy skull they discovered there, or rather how media reporting was downplayed at the time. But okay, using your definition we can use another war correspondent quote from the same article directly related to the war.
"Edward L. Jones, a U.S. war correspondent in the Pacific, wrote about the practice in the February 1946 edition of The Atlantic Monthly: "We boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers."" Although I prefer the full quote.
WE Americans have the dangerous tendency in our international thinking to take a holier-than-thou attitude toward other nations. We consider ourselves to be more noble and decent than other peoples, and consequently in a better position to decide what is right and wrong in the world. What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought, anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers. We topped off our saturation bombing and burning of enemy civilians by dropping atomic bombs on two nearly defenseless cities, thereby setting an all-time record for instantaneous mass slaughter. One War Is Enough by Edgar L. Jones

--Stor stark7 Talk 22:03, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

The quote is from Steinbeck's introduction to his book of war correspondance 'Once There was a War' (page 13 in the 1975 Pan Books edition I own) and refers to the general inability to report on topics which were judged to be detrimental to the war effort (due to self-censorship and the military censors) and is in no way a reference to Allied war crimes - the examples he gives of stories he couldn't report are things like the vanity of senior officers and soldiers showing fear. All of the reports in the book were filed from Britain, North Africa and Italy. As such, the Steinbeck quote has no specific reference to Allied warcrimes in the Pacific and doesn't belong in the article. --Nick Dowling (talk) 10:03, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Lindbergh's Wartime Journals[edit]

Another good source on the subject:

--Saintjust (talk) 08:54, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm pretty skeptical of whether that website should be considered a reliable source - it's run by Nobukatsu Fujioka, who seems pretty controversial, and most of Lindbergh's claims (if they're accurate quotes - I suspect that the book itself should be quoted) seem to be second-hand stories. As the NY Times article makes clear, Lindbergh himself was very sympathetic towards the Axis so what he wrote should be taken with a lot of salt. There are reliable and scholarly sources on this topic, so there's no reason to use bad sources. --Nick Dowling (talk) 09:48, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Lindbergh is a notable figure and that he was one of the very early critics of this issue is notable also. I don't see any reason to suspect Fujioka for misquoting the journals. If you can't use a source just because it is provided by someone who supports one side of an issue, then you can't use the majority of evidences and witnesses on Japanese war crimes such as Nanking massacre and comfort women that are provided from by the Chinese and the Koreans. --Saintjust (talk) 10:16, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Given that neither Lindbergh or Fujioka are unbiased and that reliable and unbiased sources exist on this topic, why make any use of them? The same obviously applies to all other unreliable historical sources, including those on Japanese war crimes - there's no shortage of good material to draw on when writing about World War II. --Nick Dowling (talk) 10:24, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
What do you mean by "unbiased"? It's only natural that most of people who take interest in an issue like this are involved with the issue themselves in some way or the other. The majority of scholars who study American war crimes in the Pasific War are either American or Japanese and not of some totally unrelated nationality/ethnicity like Uganda for an obvious reason. The majority of victims and witnesses of such war crimes are naturally involved with one of the concerned parties also. Mark Twain, the vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League, has an entire section dedicated to himself in the article "Philippine-American War." --Saintjust (talk) 10:42, 7 January 2008 (UTC)


A single Australian example is mentioned - is this to illustrate the practice was not limited to US personnel or that examples by (for instance Commonwealth) other troops were unusual? GraemeLeggett (talk) 11:44, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

No, there was no particular intention behind it. Originally the sentence was in a section called "Types of Trophies", but the article has morphed since I started it. I had intended that particular section to list the various types of trophies that were taken, and how they could be further "processed". I thought turning a skull into a tobacco-jar was worthy of inclusion, and included Australian just because the source said it was an Australian that was known to have created one.
The sources are focused on Americans, hence the title. I cant remember any comparison with other Allied nationalities in the area, although I haven't re-read the entire papers. I went back to the source for that information and found in a footnote the comment that some Australians just as Americans also collected skulls, and points the reader to the following sources.
  • Clarke,P. & M.McKinney 2004. The equal heart and mind: letters between Judith Wright and Jack McKinney. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press. p. 68-9
  • Johnston,M. 2000. Fighting the enemy: Australian soldiers and their adversaries in World War II. Cambridge: University Press. p. 82
  • Stanley, P. 1997. Tarakan: an Australian tragedy. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. p. 140
The tobaco jar is from Johnston. Maybe it should be briefly mentioned in the context section that some Australians also collected skulls? --Stor stark7 Talk 21:29, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
I have the Stanley book, and that page confirms that Australian troops rarely took prisoners during the Battle of Tarakan (1945) (though it was very rare for Japanese soldiers to try to surrender during this or most other battles as they were indoctrinated and forced to fight to the death) and that some Australian veterans of this battle recall their comrades mutilating Japanese corpses to extract gold teath and some occasional collection of skulls. Stanley is the former chief historian at the Australian War Memorial (and was in that job at the time the book was published, I think) so this is a very reliable source on Australian soldiers in this battle. --Nick Dowling (talk) 10:13, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
This newspaper-story contains mainly anecdotal evidence from single witnesses, not scholarly enough for this slightly controversial article so we cant really use it in the article, but since it is in relation to the question that started this section it might be noted here in the talk page that it mentions that "There are also stories of Japanese ears and heads being collected by British-led troops - particularly by Gurkhas and Nigerians."--Stor stark7 Talk 00:30, 18 January 2008 (UTC)
Ok, it took me a while to figure out which Channel 4 TV series was being referred to in the above Guardian/Observer article. This Japanese article on the book that followed helped [4]. The TV series was first aired in the summer of 2001, and was called "HELL IN THE PACIFIC: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Beyond". Some quotes from the article on the colour film footage available:
The film, shot in colour, was taken by an unknown combat cameraman in 1944 during fighting on the Pacific Island of Peleliu. It includes scenes of American soldiers shooting Japanese wounded as they lie prone on the ground.
In another scene on the Japanese island of Okinawa a year later, a US soldier is filmed dragging a wounded enemy from a hiding place. Although the man has his ankles tied together, two bullets are fired into his knees and then, while he is still moving, shots are fired into his chest and head.
Other footage from Hell in the Pacific shows American soldiers using bayonets to hack at Japanese corpses while looting them. Former servicemen interviewed by researchers spoke of the widespread practice of looting gold teeth from the dead - and sometimes from the living.
Others spoke of units throwing away their bayonets to avoid being ordered by 'over-enthusiastic' officers to charge, and of machine-gunning villages full of civilians and clubbing wounded Japanese soldiers to death as they tried to surrender.
I suppose the raw footage must be public domain. I wonder if Wikipedia will evolve to the point where we easily can include videos of such footage and not only images.--Stor stark7 Talk 15:57, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Picture Needed[edit]

The article needs a picture or more. I posted the text below (copied from Wikipedia:Media copyright questions/Archive/2008/January) to the, duh, media copyright page. Any suggestions are welcome:--Stor stark7 Talk 23:23, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

I need a picture for the article American mutilation of Japanese war dead. I would have preferred to use this "picture of the week" from May 1944 but somehow I think Life Magazine would not agree to it.

This image would also be ok, but I suppose the copyright can be owned by an individual.

Therefore my hope lies with the image in this article:

The photos are "COURTESY PHOTOS/ OFFICE OF PUEBLO COUNTY CORONER". the relevant quote is "The signatures on the skull are quite legible in photographs released to The Chieftain by Pueblo County Coroner James Kramer after the newspaper submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request." Does this mean they are free for anyone to use? Or do you need to ask permission from the Pueblo Chieftain, and/or the Pueblo County Coroner? --Stor stark7 Talk 22:40, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

My suspicion - and hopefully User:Megapixie will stop by to spread a little of his/her mega pixie dust of knowing the answer to everything - is that those images are still the intellectual property of the Pueblo County Coroner, and that the newspaper was making fair use of them. My further suspicion is that a fair use rationale for use of the photo the Wikipedia article you mentioned wouldn't pass muster, but I don't pretend to be certain about any of this. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 00:18, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
All three images are not free enough to be free (for one reason or another), however because you discuss the image and its impact, you actually have an excellent case for using the Time Life image as fair-use. Find a low resolution unwatermarked version if possible (no larger than 300 pixels in any one dimension). Make sure you credit the source fully - i.e. Time Life, photographer, etc. Tag with {{Non-free historic image}} and add a WP:FURG. Same principle as Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, in that the image itself is famous, and we are commenting on the impact of the image. The other images would fail fair use, as they are not directly discussed. Megapixie (talk) 06:16, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
I found another Life picture, this time a display of what appears to be Japanese killed during the invasion of the Aleutian islands [5]

Picture of a Japanese skull being displayed during the battle of Peleliu with sign "Danger! Move Fast"

LIFE picture; Japanese skull being displayed on a US tank during the battle at Guadalcanal.

Picture from Brunei Museum; Australian soldiers searching dead Japanese; one in the background is holding the head of a decapitated Japanese soldier.


I've changed a line that previously read "The mixture of inate American racism, dehumanizing propaganda, and real and imagined Japanese atrocities lead to intense loathing of the Japanese." to "The mixture of racism, dehumanizing....". Whatever the racism of the US media and/or military during the war, there is no way it could be considered 'innate'. Somearemoreequal (talk) 10:11, 30 January 2008 (UTC)


Is it really necessary to have an entire Wikipedia article about the relatively trivial subject of Allied collecting of Japanese skulls during WWII? I mean, seriously.

Since most of the "worthwhile" bits of this drivel (I especially love the quote: "The U.S. armed forces had a long history of brutality in the pacific, beginning with the Philippine-American_War, where military operations lasted until 1913." - oh yes, those nasty brutish Americans! Ooooh!!!) are just replicated from the already ridiculous Allied war crimes during World War II article, I think the best course of action is to just merge this completely superfluous stinker into that one. -- Grandpafootsoldier (talk) 03:55, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

I found this article a very interesting read, and not "trivial" in the least. I suppose you could call it "relatively trivial", but about 99% of all articles on wikipedia are "relatively trivial". Odiumjunkie (talk) 06:49, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

i too find it (and the commentary here) thought-provoking: one has to wonder how otherwise decent young americans could think nothing of this kind of savagery, of doing something that, if done to a white man, would provoke nationwide outrage. it's a chilling reminder of the human capacity for evil: that headhunting wasn't confined to the distant past or to neolithic tribesmen from the remotest corners of the world, but was practiced by contemporaries of my grandparents. one also has to wonder why some people would rather suppress information about the practice than confront it honestly. those who cannot remember the past. . . (talk) 14:45, 22 March 2008 (UTC) Yes, I agree the article should be deleted, It is just as collection of sensationalist reporting a few occasional accidents to make a synthesis.--Molobo (talk) 17:04, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

I see that you have resumed following me around Molobo (talk · contribs).--Stor stark7 Talk 17:17, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Major reason not given in article[edit]

In Ken Burns' documentary on the war, I seem to remember on veteran recalling that they would stab Japanese soldiers on the ground as they passed because earlier, Japanese soldiers had pretended to be dead and then shot American soldiers in the back after they passed. I don't have the definite site so I won't include it, but someone must. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:31, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

I don't think that is relevant, but if you have a reliable source that links Japanese soldiers feigning death to Americans keeping body parts of their enemies as trophies, add it, on the other hand I think considering the plentiful supply of ammunition amongst Americans in the pacific, why wouldn't they just fire off a few more rounds rather than spend time mutilating and removing body parts of their enemies just to see if they were dead? Thisglad (talk) 01:18, 25 March 2008 (UTC)
Certainly relevant to the sections about the low numbers of Japanese POWs taken. My grandfather ran crash boats in the Adak campaign, and told me how they stopped picking up Japanese sailors after getting shot at from life rafts too often. I think it's important to provide some context. This is an difficult article to read; prior to Adak, my grandfather was on the Nevada at Pearl Harbor. I would hope anyone stumbling on this article can place it in the context of Bataan, Nanking, Manchukua, and so forth. Anyway, I'm ranting. I'll see if I can find some useful sources. (talk) 05:18, 1 June 2008 (UTC)