Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Montgomery McFate's "Military Anthropology," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Military Anthropology: Soldiers, Scholars and Subjects at the Margins of Empire by Montgomery McFate.

The entry begins:
Military Anthropology has 9 chapters, each of which tells the story of an anthropologist in uniform who did something amazing, from the era of British colonialism in Africa all the way to the Vietnam War.

One of the chapters concerns Tom Harrisson, a British OSS officer who “went native” with a group of headhunting Kelabit tribe in Borneo during WWII. Harrisson was an iconoclastic military genius: he was ordered to build an intelligence network in Borneo, but instead built an army of barefoot warriors, armed with guns, spears, and blowpipes who eventually killed or captured over 1,500 Japanese with only eleven casualties. This was arguably one of the most successful unconventional warfare operations in history, yet it is almost entirely forgotten by both the military and anthropologists.

Harrisson was successful because he adopted the Kelabit mode of jungle stealth for hunting Japanese. He forced his men to go barefoot in Borneo so that their foot prints could not be identified by the Japanese. He forced his unit to eat the same food as the Kelabit, and live in their compounds. Harrisson also took one of the last surrenders of WWII. After the Armistice, a Japanese unit of 350 men was still marching through the Borneo jungle, unaware that the war had ended. Harrisson assembled a makeshift force, and set off into the jungle. After a two day battle, on the last day of October 1945, the Japanese commander handed Harrisson his sword.

Harrisson’s experiences in Borneo were the basis for Farewell to the King (1989), a terrible film. This time around, instead of a bare-chested Nick Nolte, the star should be Matt Damon or...[read on]
Visit Montgomery McFate's website.

My Book, The Movie: Military Anthropology.

--Marshal Zeringue