Episodes of Cannibalism throughout History
Episodes of Cannibalism throughout History

Episodes of Cannibalism throughout History

Larry Holzwarth - October 13, 2019

Episodes of Cannibalism throughout History
British and Australian former PoWs being evacuated by the US Navy at the end of World War II. US Navy

20. Japanese troops practiced cannibalism during the Second World War

That Japanese troops throughout the South Pacific practiced cannibalism during World War II is well documented as a result of the investigations of the Australian War Crimes Section of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-48). According to Toshiyuki Tanaka, an historian and author Japanese cannibalism was “conducted…by whole squads and under the commands of officers”. The Japanese performed amputations on the living that were medically unnecessary, and ate the limbs thus acquired. In early 1945 five American prisoners of war were killed and eaten by the Japanese on Chichi-Jima, and five senior Japanese officers including a general, an admiral, and a doctor were convicted after the war for the crime and hanged.

Over 100 cases of cannibalism by the Japanese on prisoners of war were documented by the Australian investigation following the war. In some cases it was evident that the Japanese attempted to hide the activity from other prisoners while in others, particularly in camps holding Indian prisoners, the killing and cooking of PoWs was conducted in plain view. Japanese cannibalization of prisoners increased later in the war. Among the documents held in Australia are internal Japanese Army memos which indicate the cannibalization of enemy prisoners was calculated to enhance unit cohesion, not to battle hunger, and the activity was known among the Japanese senior commanders.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Next Great Famine”. Amy Davidson, The New Yorker. January 11, 2016

“Captain Cook’s Journal During His First Voyage Round the World”. James Cook. 1768-71. Project Gutenberg. Online

“The Wars of the Jews, or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem”. Flavius Josephus. Project Gutenberg. Online

“100 Great Sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo”. Paul K. Davis. 2001

“The Conquest of New Spain”. Bernal Diaz del Castillo. 1963 edition.

“Jamestown Colonists Resorted to Cannibalism”. Paula Neely, National Geographic News. May 3, 2013

“Marion du Fresne”. Biography, New Zealand History Online.

“Pontiac and the Indian Uprising”. Howard H. Peckham. 1947

“Bible Verses about Cannibalism”. King James Bible Online.

“Orange and Stuart, 1641-1672”. Pieter Geyl. 1969

“An Account of the Loss of the Luxborough Galley”. William Boys. 1727. (2010 edition)

“A real life horror story of the Irish cannibal who terrorized Australia”. Staff, Irish Central. October 4, 2018. Online

“The Tsunami of Slime circa 1828: New York Magazine. June 15, 2012

“A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands”. John Williams. Cambridge Library Edition. 2010

“Journal of a cruise made to the Pacific Ocean”. David Porter, USN. 1822. Project Gutenberg. Online

“Human Flesh Looks Like Beef, But the Taste Is More Elusive”. Rachel Nuwer, Smithsonian.com. February 3, 2014

“Stronger than Spinach: The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons”. Steve Bierly.

“Japan Hears of World War II Cannibalism a Half Century Later”. Geoff Spencer, Associated Press. August 11, 1992