New Caledonia and the New Yorker?

From time to time I’ve talked about the little World War II-vintage booklets produced to familiarize Army and Navy personnel with various places around the world that the fight against the Axis might compel them to go. Some of those places are still hot spots, like Iraq. Others were obscure then and remain so today, unless you’re a specialist or someone with an inordinate curiosity about things in general (me).

For out of the way places, you can’t beat New Caledonia. This large island in the Southwest Pacific, a French territory only now looking towards a future referendum on independence, is populated by Melanesian Kanaks and French settlers and has an economy centered on nickel mining. During the war, however, it was the island’s strategic position that made it the subject of a Pocket Guide to New Caledonia. Not long after the fall of France in 1940, the French colonials on the island revolted against their pro-Vichy governor and declared for the Free French, so the island and the harbor at Noumea, the colony’s capital, became a huge naval repair, troop transit, and logistical nexus for America’s armed forces. TheU.S. presence had a huge and generally positive economic, political, and cultural impact on the Kanak population, but stimulated an almost paranoid reaction among Free French officials, who saw the American “occupation” as a threat to their colonial dominance. Clearly, our soldiers and sailors needed some guidance on how to handle these complicated crosscurrents!

Pocket Guide to New Caledonia does a very good job of outlining New Caledonia’s history and cultures, with an emphasis on tolerance and understanding of the customs and faiths of others, whether French or Kanak. It also manages a light touch when discussing some topics, to wit:

“People living in the tropics or subtropics are likely to be exposed to       hookworm and other intestinal parasites, and to be bothered by dysentery. To check this latter ailment, the natives eat a certain grass which is called ‘dysentery grass’ and is supposed to have a herbaceous effect. Our troops have made not a few noble experiments with this particular variety of hay, and up to date nobody has been hurt, though the record is confused as to whether anybody has been helped. So if you see a creature eating grass inNew Caledonia, don’t shoot! It may be the corporal.”

Like other wartime publications, this booklet also benefited from the work of a well-known artist. While Dr. Seuss handled malaria prevention, the great New Yorker cartoonist George Price drew theNew Caledonia short straw (see left) and provides a comic glimpse at GI life in the tropics.

I enjoyed browsing through Pocket Guide to New Caledonia. The Government did a good job of prepping folks for trips to places that most of them never imagined going, and now we can make the same visit thought these little time capsules. You can read it here or in a library.

13 Responses to New Caledonia and the New Yorker?

  1. Avni says:

    The first settlements occurred around 1795, but the first known permanent settlement began in 1797. The Town of Caledonia was established in 1803 as the “Town of Southampton,” having previously been known as Northampton. Keep posting.

  2. Styela says:

    Thanks for the information I do much reading but “New Caledonia” must have got past me somehow. I never heard of it. I will catch up thanks to your post. Good job, Thanks.

  3. Guy myers says:

    Hello Govbooktalk,
    Thanks for that, All countries have their scallywags, men and women who prefer to live outside the law. They exist on their wits in a hostile and lonely environment, not unlike marriage perhaps but still a desperate place. The outlaws’ life has brought fame to some, infamy to others but very short careers usually with a bloody end to most.
    Keep up the posts!

  4. David Bueford says:

    Thanks for the information I do much reading but “New Caledonia” must have got past me somehow. I never heard of it. I will catch up thanks to your post. Good job, Thanks.

  5. alohamac says:

    My friend Dye Ogata , was buried in a fox hole in New Caldonia when a Japanese bomb landed in the fox hole next to him , which fortunately was unoccupied. If his buddies had not seen him dive in the fox hole he would still be there today. The free french are not properly recognized for their many efforts in WWII IMO.

  6. Several additional Pocket Guides are available as part of the
    HyperWar project at:
    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref/PG/index.html

  7. NGIH THOMAS says:

    Thank You so very much for priceless generosity.
    We not have more noble and important but painful memory.
    I never meet enymore sameone llike the wonderful Person.
    My Father was participant in release campouts: Aushwits and
    other. There Father meet US Army Soldier’s.
    My Father born in 2009

  8. zannias vasilis says:

    ACTUALLY , NEW CALEDONIA BELONG TO FRANCE.MOREOVER THE
    EVENTS DURING WORLD WAR II ARE CORRECT!I HAVE MENTIONED
    THAT IN AN WAR EVERYTHING IS ALLOWED IN ORDER TO WIN!
    IN THIS AREA , PACIFIC OCEAN THE BIGGEST POWER WAS THE
    U.S. , AND WILL BE THE U.S. FOR MANY YEARS!PERSONALLY ,
    I ADMIRE THE METHOD BY THE U.S.ARMY AND NAVY VIA THIS
    VINTAGE-BOOKLETS , SO MENY YEARS AGO!CONGRATULATIONS!
    ON THE OTHER HAND , I HAVE TO NOTICE THE FOLLOWING:
    -DURING WORLD WAR II , GERMAN WON FRANCE IN A WEEK!
    -SMALL GREECE WON ITALY , AND THE GREEKS FORTS LIKE
    “ROUPEL” WERE NOT OCCUPIED!GERMAN ARMY WAS IN SALONIKA , AND THE GREEK ARMY WAS BEN FIGHTING THE
    “VERMAHT”!
    THE POWERS OF AXON (GERMAN , ITALY , JAPAN) WERE THE
    OVERLORDS IN WORLD WAR II UNTIL U.S.TAKE PART IN WAR!
    -AMD SOMETHING ELSE:WHAT ABOUT THE GOLD OF CCCP?THE
    CORRECT ANSWER IS THAT BEFORE HITLER HITS THE CCCP ,
    STALIN HAD GIVEN ALL THE GOLD OF CCCP TO THE USA!!!
    AND UNTIL TODAY USA PAY INTEREST FOR THIS GOLD TO
    RUSSIA!

  9. My tax dollars at work, and worth every penny. This is an excellent article, with just enough humor to keep the reader’s interest, without becoming a candidate for Reader’s Digest “Laughter is the best medicine.” I would enjoy more of these forays into other countries.

  10. mananagagulashvilli says:

    Thank You so very much for priceless generosity.
    We not have more noble and important but painful memory.
    I never meet enymore sameone llike the wonderful Person.
    My Father was participant in release campouts: Aushwits and
    other. There Father meet US Army Soldier’s.
    My Father born in 1929 year and dide when
    was 61 years old , in 1982 year.
    I left Soviet Yunion in 1979, so I never so him again

  11. mananagagulashvilli says:

    Hello.
    Thank For Your interest .If I have make mistake , please just
    ignore this comments.
    Recently I draw attention on same strange peculiarity : I have
    oppinion the delicate affair concern to my most of dear
    Person : my Father ,who waged II Wopld war from 1939 year
    mobilized as volunteer to Finland war, and come take Berlin
    in 1945. My Father was signaller and pass through all
    II World war. Was participant : Stalingrad in 1942;
    Was in blokade of Leningrad in 1942. Pass on foot because
    was infantry man : Hungary, Poland, Roumania;
    Come back in 1946 year, after my grandmother receive bury
    talegram in 1945, and grandmother already not was hope the
    Father living.

  12. Ted C says:

    Always love these wartime guidebooks– they reveal just how the sites of conflict or occupation were viewed at the time before history had played out and transformed them forever.

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