Manchurian Stormtroopers: Skull Squadron in Manchuria 1933. Lt. Ikagami stands in the center just to the right of the regiments flag
One of the most unique Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) units to fight in the earliest portion of the great Sino-Japanese conflict of 1931-1945 was the Skull Regiment, known alternatively as the Skull Squadron and as the “Manchurian Stormtroopers” for their unique regimental iconography and symbols. The Japanese Skull Regiment was seemingly inspired by the German Totenkopf, or Death’s Head regiments/brigades of the 18th-20th centuries.
One of the Skull Squadrons most unique accouterments was the sinister looking red Skull & Crossbones arm band which they wore in several known pictures taken of the regiment during their service in Manchuria, 1931-1933. Though wearing these bands would have been greatly frowned upon by the high command of the Kwantung Army, Ikagami and his unit were most likely given special sanctions as an effective and semi-elite combat formation.
Ben Kuroki was the only American of Japanese descent in the United States Army Air Forces to serve in combat operations in the Pacific theater of World War II. Kuroki fought for the country that institutionalized racism against his ethnic background, in order to attempt an end of the biases themselves. Kuroki died on September 1st, 2015 at the age of 98