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by Lamont Lindstrom
& Geoffrey White
Smithsonian Institute  1990
194 pages
Index, photos

Pacific Encounters Website

Island Encounters
Photo Exhibit
at the PNG Museum
ISBN: 0874744571
Cover Price:
Language: English

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Island Encounters
Black and White Memories of the Pacific War

This book is illustrated with dozens of photographs from WWII, depicting Pacific Islanders.  Drawing from a variety of collections in Australia, Japan and the United States the authors present a series of interesting photographers rarely, and in most cases never seen before by the average reader. 

Chapters cover a range of topics, including encounters with outsiders - Japanese, American and Australians, combat, suffering, working, cargo, exchange, ceremony, music and religion.  Written by two anthropologist, the books chaters cover the war history of the islanders of the Pacific.  Islanders are an important part of WWII Pacific history, be it the beatiful island girls, carriers on difficult jungle trails, or as oddities the likes of which had never seen before.  For the islanders themselves, the war was a major event as it brought them in contact with outsiders, their technology. These interactions were positive on one hand, giving them work, and improved their lives. 

The negative side of the war, were those touched by the violence and destruction, especially traumatic for islanders who had never seen a plane or tank before.  Their suffering and displacement is a topic overlooked by most accounts of the damages of war. Many islanders made enormous contributions to the war effort, while their allies got their credit.  Serving as coast watchers, guides, scouts and carriers.  Additionally, distinguishing themselves as infantry soldiers in combat, along side their Allies.

The book also explores the equally fascinating impacts of the war, in ways that accelerated post war movements for independence of countries like Indonesia, New Guinea and later the Solomons from their pre-war colonial masters.  Also, the exposure to unexplainable mountains of materials that arrived into tiny islands - from planes and ships, to bottles of coke and canned goods.  These influences lead to the post-war belief in 'cargo cults' to covet or explain these influxes of war goods.

As both a photo book, and interesting historical text this book is highly recommended reading.

Review by  Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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