Attack on Pearl Harbor which American high command was aware of it but still government let it happen. U.S high command never warned Pearl Harbor of possible Japanese attack. Americans took trophy skulls because they viewed the Japaneses as solely evil and less than human. Years after the end of world war 2, the bodies of Japanese soldiers who had died in the Mariana Islands were repatriated back to Japan for proper burial.
More than half of the bodies returned to Japan were turned without their heads. It turned out, heads of these bodies were taken by American soldiers and kept as morbid war trophies.
When soldiers came across the bodies or killed the soldiers themselves, beheading of body was the first thing to be taken as a war trophy. The head of the dead body would then be boiled to peel of skin and meat leaving just the clean skull behind to be used as the soldiers pleased. Soldiers called it ”skull stewing”.
Some of these heads where parceled home by Americans to their loved ones. While some were added to signage or used as decorations throughout soldier’s camps Finally, taking the trophy got out of hand and the U.S military had to officially prohibit it. By telling their soldiers taking trophy was violation of Geneva Convention. However the ruling hardly stopped the practice from taking place and it continued for the entire duration of war.
Keeping trophies was in large part due to the idea in America that Japanese were less than human and they deserved as such treatment. American media constantly referred to them as the ”yellow men” or ”yellow vermin”. Portraying them as having less intelligence than American. Especially after Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese became more pronounced. This is the reason when U.S dropped atomic bomb on Japanese civilians, it was celebrated in America there was hardly a backlash from American public.
Hatred in media implied Japanese as inherently evil which drove soldiers to dismember killed Japanese and send their body parts home as trophies.
The most common trophy was skull. It thought to be the most exciting piece to take. However other body parts were never spared either. Teeth, arm, bones, ears, nose, fingers, were often modified and turned into items of jewelry or decorations.
At the height of war, the U.S representative Francis E.Walter even gifted President Roosevelt a letter opener made from a Japanese solider’s arm bone.
After the war had ended, the trophies were for the most part repatriated or thrown away. Even 40 years after war has ended efforts were still taking place to return trophies to their intended resting place.