MURDER AND CANNIBALISM - CAPTURED AMERICAN PILOTS
Reference has already been made in Murder and Cannibalism on the Kokoda Track to the facts that cannibalism of Allied prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese military was not a rare occurence in the Pacific islands and was not necessarily related to an absence of normal food.This disgusting practice is probably indicative of the depths of depravity to which the Imperial Japanese Army had sunk after several years of genocidal behaviour in China. Japan's brutal and unprovoked war against China began in 1937, and this war was used to train the Japanese military for Japan's wider aggression that began with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Having brutally murdered millions of captive Chinese civilians and prisoners of war, both men and women, children and elderly, it is really not surprising to find that Japanese troops were capable of engaging in the disgusting practice of cannibalism.
Lord Russell relates the story of a young American pilot who was captured, murdered, and eaten by Japanese officers on the island of New Britain. The story is narrated by Havildar Chandgi Ram who had been shipped to New Britain with other Indian Army prisoners of war and forced to work as a slave labourer for the Imperial Japanese Army.
"On 12 November 1944, I was digging a trench for the Japanese in the Totabil area of New Britain. About 1600 hours, a single-engined United States fighter plane made a forced landing about a hundred yards away from where I was working. The Japanese from Go Butai Kendebo Camp rushed to the spot and seized the pilot, who could not have been more than twenty years old, and had managed to scramble out of the plane before the Japs could reach him.
"About half an hour from the time of the forced landing, the Kempei Tai * beheaded the pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips and buttocks and carry it off to their quarters. I was so shocked at the scene and followed the Japanese just to find out what they would do with the flesh. They cut it in small pieces and fried it.
"Later that evening, a senior Japanese officer, of the rank of major general, addressed a large number of officers. At the conclusion of his speech, a piece of fried flesh was given to all present who ate it on the spot."
From "The Knights of Bushido" by Lord Russell of Liverpool, published 2002 by Greenhill Books, London, at pages 235-239.
* The Kempei Tai were the Japanese military secret police.
Being aware that some people would question the reliability of this eyewitness evidence of murder and cannibalism, and that it was condoned by senior Japanese army officers, Lord Russell provides extracts from the testimony of Major Matoba before a military tribunal on Guam after the Japanese surrender. Major Matoba describes a number of occasions on which the flesh of murdered prisoners of war was consumed in the Japanese officers' mess. This disgusting behaviour took on the character of a festive occasion, with the flesh being washed down with sake. Very senior army and navy officers attended the officers' mess when human flesh was consumed and Major Matoba claims that they encouraged this vile behaviour.
Lord Russell then cites the text of a Japanese Army order issued by Major Matoba. This battalion order explicitly deals with the procedure for cannibalism of a named American aviator Lieutenant (jg) H---. For the sake of the feelings of the family of this young pilot, I will not include the full surname here. The name is given by Lord Russell in "The Knights of Bushido" at page 236.
Although apologists for cannibalism by the Imperial Japanese military, including Major Matoba, suggest that shortage of normal food was the likely cause of this depraved behaviour, neither this story nor the cannibalism on the Kokoda Track can be attributed to starvation. New Britain is a very large island off the north-eastern coast of the main island of New Guinea. New Britain has rich volcanic soil and produces an abundance of easily grown natural foods, including paw paw, coconut, and various types of sweet potato.