Map of Borneo.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Airmen and headhunters

The picture above is part of a map of Borneo. In November of 1944, shortly after the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the crew of a B-24 liberator crashed in Borneo, and were rescued by natives who had been, in the not too distant past, headhunters. The story told in The Airmen and the Headhunters by Judith M. Heimann covers the period from their crash to their ultimate rescue. One item that I found interesting is that the natives, who evidently saw the distressed plane, insisted that men could not have come out of an object as small as the one they saw crash. In other words, they apparently had no concept or experience with perspective. On reflection that may not be so unusual. I would think their primary visual experience would be limited to near objects within the forests and jungles of Borneo, and not to vast open landscapes. Heimann doesn’t make much of this point, and focuses closely on the narrative of the airmen’s escape, and the temporary revival of headhunting (for Japanese heads) among the natives.

An interesting read for anyone interested in the Pacific war, or in escape narratives.