‘Our Earth Shook’: New Guinean Histories of the Pacific War

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

In the histories of the Pacific War, and its impact on Papua and New Guinea, accounts of the war reconstruct and analyze battles and troop movements in great detail. In contrast, this chapter focuses on the actions and plight of villagers, using rare documents written by senior New Guinean men during and shortly after the war. During the Pacific War, the strategically important yet confined area, the Huon Peninsula in New Guinea, was a contested space. A former German protectorate, administered by Australia as a C Mandate of the League of Nations, it was occupied by the Japanese in early 1942, and regained by the Allies in late 1943, early 1944. Members of all 3 nations which had claimed formal colonial control were present throughout these eventful 2 years - occupying Japanese, Australian coastwatchers operating behind enemy lines, and German missionaries - imposing on New Guineans for assistance and cooperation. By bringing New Guinean experiences to the fore, this chapter is narrating localized histories which are more than simply small, local micro-histories. They represent a fundamental change in outlook. The late influential Tongan intellectual, historian and theorist, Epeli Hau'ofa, re-conceptualized the Pacific as a 'sea of islands' in which local identity is not dissolved, but embedded in a shared Ocean. He argues a strategic and moral concept of Pacific-Oceanic identity and history as a process. Focusing on New Guinea villagers, this chapter intends to create grounded and localized histories as a first step in a bigger process of creating shared histories.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld War II Re-explored
Subtitle of host publicationSome New Millenium Studies in the History of the Global Conflict
PublisherPeter Lang
Pages89-111
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783631777664, 9783631777671
ISBN (Print)978-3-631-77740-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Civilian experiences
  • German Lutheran Mission Finschhafen
  • Japanese occupation
  • New Guinea villagers
  • Operation Cartwheel
  • Pacific War

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