In Vietnam, cutting off the body parts of the enemy was less a counting aid than a status symbol. “We had a thing in the Nam. We used to cut their ears off. We had a trophy. If a guy would have a necklace of ears, he was a good killer, a good trooper. It was encouraged to cut ears off, to cut the nose off, to cut the guy’s penis off. A female, you cut her breast off. It was encouraged to do these things. The officers expected you to do it or something was wrong with you.” — Page 65.
Reading this passage, which I found not in Nam but in The Corpse: A History, by Christine Quigley, reminded me of a former Marine I knew in Yokohama in 1962. (I won’t mention his name, as his daughter found my last reference to him.) He told me that, during the Korean War, he had gone from village to village, looking for people to kill. Then, after each “kill”, he had cut off an ear and pinned it to his belt — until he was encircled by his trophies.
When I asked him how he could do that sort of thing, he replied: “That’s the way it is.”