Thursday, February 19, 2015

Contemplating Cruelty: An Infamous Life Magazine Photo from 1944

This photograph of an Arizona war worker posing with the skull of a Japanese soldier that her Navy boyfriend had sent her appeared in Life (the preeminent photojournalism magazine) in 1944 and soon became famous. (I was recently fortunate enough to acquire a copy of the issue for my collection.)

It reflects the vicious hatred that US and Japanese combatants brought to their struggle after Pearl Harbor. Although the US military condemned the practice of collecting human trophies, Life noted this in passing, treating the incident as a sort of human interest story.

We like to think that we have advanced beyond this stage. Certainly no coverage of a comparable incident on the part of US troops would pass with such understated commentary. (Meanwhile, ISIS decapitates and incinerates.)

Read the full story on the tumblr.

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