Saturday, August 18, 2012

American Holocaust excerpts from the book American Holocaust by David Stannard Oxford University Press, 1992 Epilogue excerpted from the book American Holocaust by David Stannard Oxford University Press, 1992
From time to time during the past half-century Americans have edged across that line, if only temporarily, under conditions of foreign war. Thus, as John W. Dower has demonstrated, the eruption of war in the Pacific in the 1940s caused a crucial shift in American perceptions of the Japanese from a prewar attitude of racial disdain and dismissiveness (the curator of the Smithsonian Institution's Division of Anthropology had advised the President that the Japanese skull was "some 2,000 years less developed than ours, ' while it was widely believed by Western military experts that the Japanese were incompetent pilots who "could not shoot straight because their eyes were slanted") to a wartime view of them as super-competent warriors, but morally subhuman beasts. This transformation became a license for American military men to torture and mutilate Japanese troops with impunity-just as the Japanese did to Americans, but in their own ways, following the cultural reshaping of their own racial images of Americans. As one American war correspondent in the Pacific recalled in an Atlantic Monthly article: 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. Dower provides other examples of what he calls the "fetish" of "collecting grisly battlefield trophies from the Japanese dead or near dead, in the form of gold teeth, ears, bones, scalps, and skulls"-practices receiving sufficient approval on the home front that in 1944 Life magazine published a "human interest" story along with "a full-page photograph of an attractive blonde posing with a Japanese skull she had been sent by her fiancée in the Pacific." (Following the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend in 1814, Andrew Jackson oversaw not only the stripping away of dead Indians' flesh for manufacture into bridle reins, but he saw to it that souvenirs from the corpses were distributed "to the ladies of Tennessee.")

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