WWII Japan Crimes: The Liver Eaters

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Japan FlagThe atrocities committed by the Japanese Military during WWII are well-known. Torture and the killing of POWs was commonplace and violated all rules of modern warfare.

One story stands out however as one of the most barbaric and inhuman acts of the biggest war in history. It began on the morning of September 2, 1944, as American pilots prepared for the days mission. The target of the American bombers was the island of Chichi Jima located about 700 miles south of Tokyo.

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The mission was launched but as U.S. bombers approached the target, a radio transmitter, they were met by massive anti-aircraft gunfire and 2 bombers were lost. 9 crewmen managed to bail out of their burning planes, 8 were captured almost immediately by the Japanese.

All 8 American POWs were tortured and eventually killed by beheading or were bayoneted. But what happened after the killings is the truly bizarre part of the story. It seems that some of the Japanese Officers had developed a taste for human flesh, especially liver cooked with soy sauce.

4 of the American crewmen shot down on September 2nd were cannibalized.

Major Sueo Matoba
Four charges of cannibalism upon American prisoners brought a death sentence by hanging to Major Sueo Matoba, shown here on trial.

Following the end of WWII war crimes trials were held on the island of Guam. Major Sueo Matoba, Captain Shizuo Yoshii and General Yoshio Tachibana were all found guilty for their role in the murder and cannibalization of the downed American airmen and executed.

The one American flyer that was not captured by the Japanese on September 2, 1944, was a 20-year-old Navy Lieutenant named George H. W. Bush. Bush was rescued by the American submarine USS Finback and went on to become the 41st President of the United States.

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