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Desecration of human remains

  1. #1

    Default Desecration of human remains

    Hello everyone,

    Not sure if this post belongs here or not, but I was curios to see if everyone was as shocked as I was by this.

    Not all that long ago I was at a militaria show where I was talking to a dealer about his Japanese relics. It seems this person ventures to the battlefields of the Pacific in search of relics. He was telling me that the caves at Peleui are particulalry good picking as they are largly ignored. He then showed me several photographs of Japanese skeletons that he found in a nearby cave. Being facinated with battlefield archaelogy, I questioned him at length on the grim find. It turns out that this person actually took both skeletons back to the states with him!! I was shocked and appalled that someone would do that! These are human remains and should be treated with respect. I chastized this individual for having not only desecrated a final resting place, but in effect, looted a war grave! He acted like it was no big deal at all, which is all the more revolting. I have to question the morals of some of these militaria vendors if they stoop to that level.

    In doing a bit more research, it turns out that the trade in human remains as a souvenir is not new. During WW2, Japanese skulls were taken as trophys and prizes. There was even a famous photo in Life magazine of a woman back in the states who was writting her sweetheart a thank you note for the Japanese skull he sent her. I suppose attitudes were different back then towards the treatment of enemy remains, as it seems to be in every war. Be that as it may, the removal of human remains from a wartime grave or a battlefield should not be allowed unless the remains are transfered to a proper military cemetary. Again, this is my opinion, but it seems that most decent people would probably agree with this.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  2. #2

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Bravo 20, I agree completely. It is a moral, if not a legal, obligation for all relic hunters/battlefield archaeologists to treat human remains with dignity and to do their utmost to inform authorities of the location of these remains in order for someone to make an effort to identify and give them a decent burial. I believe (I am not a lawyer nor do I know the laws on human remains) that it is a crime under US law to bring any human parts into the country without a permit and proper justification (i.e. museum acquisitions or medical research). The dealer you speak of should be reported to authorities for trafficking in human remains. I have read a few articles over the years of human skulls turning up in trash dumps and then being found to be those of Japanese soldiers. These skulls were vet souvenirs from the PTO and are often found by shocked family members when the vet dies. The family members don't often know what to do so they simply discard them and they end up causing a possible homicide investigation until law enforcement authorities can trace the origin.

    All in all, it is good for the hobby, as well as the correct thing to do, to ensure that remains of soldiers, no matter what side they fought for are treated with dignity. This would lessen the negative public image of those of us who are avid battlefield digging enthusiasts so that we are not classified as lowlife grave robbers. We need to police our own.

    Regards,

    George

  3. #3

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Tim, I agree with you 100%, sometimes there is no excuse for what some people do. On WRF you'll find numerous accounts of members on this site doing the right thing and notifying the proper authorities if they run across anything out in the field while relic hunting.
    its just plain wrong and makes you wonder. John

  4. #4
    ?

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Im amazed that he got through customs with two skeletons, i would expect that if he did not have credentials relating to either a natural history museum or similar they would have been confiscated and a lot of very awkward questions be asked, are you sure this guy was on the level as it seems to me that someone wouldnt want to draw the fact that he was graverobbing, i think he might have been stating this for reaction or shock value, i believe its also a very serious offence out there, one punishable by a lengthy prison sentence, during the war there were many acts of desecration even to the extent of headhunters being paid for every Japanese skull that was taken and paraded on sticks.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    I don't understand how he could get the remains home. Sounds like a story. If it were true it is a shame.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Quote by adlerfan53 View Post
    I don't understand how he could get the remains home. Sounds like a story. If it were true it is a shame.
    this is discusting but it works, peopel like this guy send the remains by post and there is no problem to do so as they only got scand and dont show explosives thats how it works, but this guy is a shame for every battelfield digger and for every seller as well and he needs to be reported to the police as there are big fines on things like this and he needs to pay for that in some how

  7. #7
    ?

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    There are low lifes around that will do anything for a dollar, pound , euro, etc.
    After saying that I think the dealer might be telling tall tales. "Stories" to sell his goods. Getting human remains past customs now a days would not be likely.
    Selling human remains on the open market would certainly bring attention from the authorities.
    It was a real problem For American Indians till federal laws were passed in the late 70's forbidding the desecration of Indian graves with fines and jail time.
    I honestly believe that remains should be left alone. Bad Karma.
    SteveR

  8. #8
    Reg
    Reg is offline
    ?

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Very interesting thread, just for my two pennys worth I dont think any of the militaria collectors that I know would even contemplate human remains as a military collectable, wonder how big such a dishonrable trade is?

    Point well raised! thanks B20

    Reg

  9. #9

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    On a similar note, at another show I attended, I was shown this very interesting lot of WW2 USMC items, including insignia, dog tags, photos and.............two Japanese teeth with gold fillings. The dealer told me he wasn't comfortable selling the teeth, but they were part of the lot that all came from one Marine. Needless to say there was no question......I passed on the lot and have not regretted it since. I have no doubt that those teeth were removed from a corpse as a souvenir....or at least I hope the soldier was dead when they were removed! It's very unsettling to think that our grandfathers could have been capable of such nasty things, but war does terrible things to all types of otherwise decent people.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Desecration of human remains

    Quote by Bravo 20 View Post
    It's very unsettling to think that our grandfathers could have been capable of such nasty things, but war does terrible things to all types of otherwise decent people.
    Walk a mile in their boots.

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