HOW THE WEST WAS WON Essay

This essay has a total of 2335 words and 10 pages.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON



World War II came without warning or invitation for the people of the South Pacific and
brought issues that few understood. The war became a period of excitement, hardship, and
at the same time, of material abundance. Their islands, the place they called their
homes, were abruptly exposed and used as never before to new outside influences and by
uninvited guests. "Their harbours were used by fleets of warships, while onshore bases
were built to house troops, and landing fields were constructed to service a suddenly
created aircraft traffic," (Howe 156). Pacific Islanders were for the most part,
observers of the war and the turmoil it generated, rather than constituents. Although
there were a number of them who were actively and directly entangled and played crucial
roles, there are still very few published accounts of Pacific Islanders’ camaraderie in
the war. Their involvement had gradually disappeared over the years in the record books,
as so did their island paradise.

World War II cast a dark shadow in the South Pacific. The Islanders were in no doubt
victims of the war, mere bystanders, innocent, and oblivious to the outside world before
the invasion. It was a terrible and untamed place to fight a war. The South Pacific was
home for a population that was quite large considering the lack of towns and economic
development during that time. "There were perhaps 2.5 million people living in New Guinea
and the Solomons during World War II," (Bergerud 104). Much of the Solomons was concealed
paradise, although colonized for centuries before. Large areas of the inland mountains of
New Guinea had no or little direct organized contact with the Western world whatsoever,
until the war.

The population consisted of scores of linguistic and ethnic groups that possessed markedly
different cultures in numerous ways. "A coastal villager from the Solomons might well
speak English, read the Bible, and periodically work at a nearby coconut plantation.
[While] a hill tribesman in the Stirling Mountains might carry a shrunken head, practice
cannibalism, or engage in periodic genocidal wars against neighbors," (Bergerud 105).
There were thousands of different practices, of cultures, of diversity in languages, in
religion and of beliefs.

The early stages of the war touched a small percentage of the indigenous population, those
who were swept up in the conflict, played vital roles. In the Marshalls, whole villages
were swept for all adult males, who were then shipped from atoll to atoll to help fight in
the war. With some few exceptions, some had a personal stake in the war and were
concerned of the outcome it would bring to the islands. There were areas where people
were barely aware that war was even taking place. There were many who could have cared
less if the Japanese came, or if the Americans left, or if the Japanese left, and the
Americans came.

The fighting that emitted in the Pacific spewed from the Japanese raid on the United
States’ naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 and infringed heavily on
the Pacific Islands. At that time the Japanese were an invincible force, moving, invading
island to island – victory to victory. "The battle lines were clearly drawn and provided
a basis on which Pacific Islanders could be classified according to the way they would
experience the war," (Howe 154). Some of the natives lived within the Japanese occupied
territories, while some, luckily, were out of arms way. Those who did were destined to
difficult times while their islands were turned into battlefields.

Almost everywhere the Japanese came, they found lush realms, with snow-white beaches,
frond hunts, coconut palms, and dark-skinned people who wore sarongs, grass skirts or
loincloths. The invaders made themselves at home and settled in with the Islanders. Many
local Japanese officers tried to establish good relationships with the indigenous people
and often succeeded in winning their trusts. The men went fishing in the lagoons or
streams; they climbed palm trees to gathered coconuts, and exchanged cigarettes and canned
goods with the Islanders for fresh fruits like bananas, papayas, and mangoes.

"Until the shipping lanes were cut off in late 1943, vessels from Japan regularly brought
news, letters, movies, dancers, singers, and packages filled with snacks and other
amenities," (Steinberg 8). There were also comfort women, prostitutes, who volunteered
their services in the battle zones to help ease the tensions of the troops. The war gave
the Islanders opportunities to obtain imported goods, by working for money, receiving
gifts and fraternizing with not only the Japanese but also with the Americans.

The Japanese, aggravated with numerous losses of battles to the Allies, began mistreating
the Islanders. Gradually, as the war increased pressures on the Japanese military, their
hostility also grew towards the natives. The Islanders soon began to acknowledge the
inequality and harshness they received from the Japanese and many started to welcome the
Americans and the Allied troops with open arms. When the Japanese understood the labor
supply nightmare they had initiated, they reacted with unsympathetic labor-conscription
measures that made the villagers more fearful and distrustful of them. "To make matters
worse, when the Japanese retreated, they murdered scores of laborers who might have
gathered important military information," (Bergerud 109). For these reasons, the natives
began to side with the United States and their Allies. Additionally, they were impressed
with the Americans’ kindness and generosity towards them and were grateful for liberating
them from the Japanese rule.

However, there was more to the war than many people perceive. The harsh climate and
terrain in the South Pacific was a guarantee that the men faced an extraordinary task.
Yet it was not the terrain and climate alone that made the Pacific Islands the most
horrible battlefield of World War II. "It was also the breeding ground for diseases so
numerous, pernicious, and debilitating that they pushed three armies to the breaking
point," (Bergerud 89). It was the primary killer during both world wars. Realizing this,
all of the major armies fighting in World War II had a major medical apparatus and
allocated substantial resources to educating troops in reducing diseases.

Many of the men came down with malaria – the worst medical problem throughout the South
Pacific during the nineteenth century. Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted
through the bite of the female anopheles mosquito. To make it worst, mosquitoes were
everywhere, coming in clouds during the tropical nights. Once in the blood, the parasites
travel to the liver and begin to reproduce asexually. Malaria can kill, but more commonly
at that time, it caused a high and prolonged fever, making fighting difficult. There was
no known cure for malaria and there was no alternative to enduring the attacks.

All soldiers were inoculated against yellow fever knowing that the climate in the South
Pacific was home to a bewildering host of microorganisms. However, the environment that
allowed the diseases to flourish in the first place made prevention and treatment all the
more difficult.

Unfortunately, malaria and yellow fever were not the only dangerous diseases that plagued
the armies in the South Pacific. There were dysentery, scarlet fever, dengue fever and
scrub typhus, another insect-borne disease. Yet there were thousands of native people who
over the centuries had made the South Pacific their homes and seem to have made peace with
its fierce nature and an unpredictable environment. They learned to get by with coconut
milk when they were without disease free water.

Although the early stage of the war touched only a small percentage of the indigenous
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