[...]The patrols filtered along the trails behind the Japanese lines. In great numbers they threaded all the aisles of the maze, hacked through the jungle itself to find any survivors who might have crawled up a game trail. From early in the morning until twilight, the patrols were out and always with the same mission.
It was simple, a lark. After months of standing guard at night, of patrolling up-trails which could explode into ambush at any moment, the mopping up was comparatively pleasant, almost exciting. The killing lost all dimension, bothered the men far less than discovering some ants in their bedding.
Certain things were SOP. The Japanese had set up many small hospitals in the last weeks of the campaign, and in retreating they had killed many of their wounded. The Americans who came in would finish whatever wounded men were left, smashing their heads with rifle butts or shooting them point-blank.
But there were other, more distinctive ways. One patrol out at dawn discovered four Japanese lying in stupor across a trail, their ponchos covering them. The lead man halted, picked up some pebbles and flipped them into the air. The pebbles landed on the first sleeping soldier with a light pattering sound like hail. He awakened slowly, stretched under the poncho, yawned, groaned a little, and stretched with the busy stupid sounds of a man rousing himself in the morning. Then he poked his head out from under the poncho. The lead man waited until the Jap saw him and then, as he was about to scream, the American sent a burst of tommy-gun slugs through him. He followed this by ripping his gun down the middle of the trail, stitching holes neatly through the ponchos. Only one Jap was left still alive, and his leg protruded from the poncho, twitching aimlessly with the last unconscious shudders of a dying animal. Another soldier walked up, nuzzled the body under the poncho with the muzzle of his gun, located the wounded man’s head, and pulled the trigger.
Occasionally they would take prisoners, but if this was late in the day and the patrol was hurrying to get back before dark, it was better if the prisoners did not slow them. One squad picked up three prisoners late in the afternoon, and was delayed grievously by them. One prisoner was so sick he could hardly walk, and another, a big sullen man, was looking for a way to escape. The third had gigantically swollen testicles which were so painful that he had to cut away his trousers from his groin the way a man with bunions slits the toe off an old shoe. He walked pathetically, hobbling along and groaning as he held his testes.
The platoon leader looked at his watch at last and sighed.
"We’re going to have to dump them," he said.
The sullen Jap seemed to know what he meant, for he stepped off the trail and waited with his back turned. The shot caught him behind the ear.
Another soldier came up behind the prisoner with the swollen genitals and gave him a shove which sprawled him on the ground. He gave a single scream of pain before he was killed.
The third one was half in coma and had no idea of what happened.[...]
(From "The Naked and the Dead", by Norman Mailer. "The best war novel to come out of the United States", according to The Times.)