April 23, 2024

By Don Cage

Joe Biden recently remarked that his uncle was shot down and eaten by cannibals in Papua New Guinea during WWII.  The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape quickly slammed him for his careless and reckless disparaging remarks.  The shot down part is historically true, the eaten by cannibals part is most probably not.  Joe’s characterization of the local tribesmen during WWII was blatantly racist, offensive, and flies in the face of historical truth.

The Airmen and the Headhunters is a book written by Judith Heimann about a US B24 bomber that was shot down by the Japanese over Papua New Guinea during WWII.  The surviving crew members bailed out as they went down, but at that speed, a few seconds’ delay meant hundreds or thousands of yards separation between them as they landed in dense jungle with no way to find each other.

Luckily for the airmen, they were eventually picked up by the local “Headhunters” who, instead of eating them, hid them from the Japanese soldiers who came looking for them, having seen their parachutes going down.  These Headhunters having endured years of abuse at the hands of the Japanese soldiers were more than happy to help the US airmen hide out for months and reunite until they could figure out a way to get back to the allied lines.  The Headhunters even endured torture at the hands of the Japanese soldiers without divulging the location of the Americans.

It's a heartwarming true story that crosses all racial and cultural lines during a desperate and brutal time in our history.  I highly recommend it.  ISBN 978-0-15-101434-7