Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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Island of Chichi Jima; an island of cannibalism during WW2

The horrors experienced during World War Two are well documented and spanned the entire global theatre of war. Whilst the atrocities experienced on the Eastern Front and during the Holocaust, utterly abhorrent though they were, are the most well-known. What is less acknowledged are the acts perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese military. Principally, there were acts of actual cannibalism on the island of Chichi Jima.

The island lies in the Pacific Ocean, about 150 miles north of Iwo Jima. At 24 square kilometres, it is the largest in a small chain of islands known as the Ogasawara archipelago. During the Second World War, the island was home to over 5,000 Imperial Japanese army and navy troops at the beginning of the war, increasing to 25,000 towards its end. It was also one of the major locations for the nation’s long ranging radio communication network and seaplane base. It posed a credible target, therefore, to US aerial bombardment in 1944 and 1945.

Over those two years, over a hundred US airmen were shot down. Of those that survived and were captured, nearly all were subjected to torture and a variety of death penalties. However, despite these extreme treatments, there were also far more horrific practices that they were subjected to.

Accounts have described that at least four servicemen were beheaded, and their livers and thigh muscles were later served up at banquets attended by senior Japanese officers. Indeed, one witness claimed during a war crimes trial that he saw one US serviceman beheaded as he was forced to kneel by an open grave.  Following this, his flesh, including the man’s liver, was served to Japanese officers for dinner.

Evidence collected at various war crimes trials culminated in the sentencing to death of Rear Admiral Kunizo Mori and Army Major General Yoshio Tachibana by hanging for their part in ordering these acts of murder and cannibalism.

Contemporaries were silenced from broadcasting these horrors at the time, as they were considered too distressing to the families of the dead men involved. These military files were classified as secret as a result.


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