Published Date

October 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 45: What Future for the Islands of the Pacific? (1944)

Until Pearl Harbor few Americans understood how important to our national safety distant Pacific islands could be. Now we have no doubts on this point. After the war we, along with the British, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Dutch, and the French, will have some decisions to make about these islands.

Many of us know from personal experience how bad the climate of some of them is. The rest of us who read the papers and listen to the radio have a pretty good idea about, this too. We know the names of some and can pick out many on a map. But our information is spotty. How many islands are there? What kind of people live on them? What is their economic and strategic value? How arc they governed? What should be done about them after the war?

Such questions can be discussed on the basis of the historical facts and future possibilities described in this pamphlet.

In planning an informal discussion, select for your topic some question like “What should be done about the Pacific islands?” You might open this discussion with a 10-minute account of the various island groups—Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. (Be sure to have a wall map to help you with this. Have one drawn if necessary.) Indicate at the same time which islands were controlled before the war by the United States, the British, the French, the Dutch, and the Japanese. Then take tip any of the Questions for Discussion that seem likely to be interesting to your group.

There are other topics that may seem to you to offer a better springboard for discussion. One good one is “What should be done about the former Japanese islands?” Another is “Should the Pacific islands be placed under international supervision?”

Material in this pamphlet is also useful in planning a forum, a debate, or a panel discussion on any subject suggested above as well as on some others you may consider even better. For methods of organizing and conducting discussion groups and forums refer to EM 1, G. I. Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders.


Questions for Discussion

  1. What policies regarding the Pacific and its islands should the United States propose in the postwar settlement? What bases do you consider essential to American defense needs? To carrying out American obligations in the Pacific? What should be done about the former Japanese islands? Is Hawaii ready for statehood?
  2. Should some form of international authority be substituted for the colonial system? What does “colonial system” mean? How is it different from the “mandates” set up after World War I? What type of international control over the islands do you think might be set up? How would such a system compare with the colonial method of government? What strengths and weaknesses are there in the colonial system? In proposed plans for international control? What is the Canberra Agreement? What is likely to be the British, Dutch, and French attitude toward this problem of control?
  3. What is likely to be the future of the Pacific islands and their peoples in the long run? What influence do you think the airplane will have on the future of the islands? What policy should the United States adopt in developing transpacific airways?
  4. Are the economic resources of the islands important for the United States? Can the Pacific islands be kept as a native “preserve,” shutting out modern developments? Would this be desirable? Should the less heavily populated pares of the islands be opened to Asiatic migration? Do you think the islands might attract white settlers? Is it desirable to push rapidly ahead with efforts to educate the native islanders?


Suggestions for Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if it so happens that you have access to them. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they, give additional information and represent different points of view.

VIKINGS OF THE SUNRISE. By Peter H. Buck. Published by Frederick A. Stokes Co., 227 South 6th St., Philadelphia, Pa. (1938).

PACIFIC TREASURE ISLAND: NEW CALEDONIA. By Wilfred G. Burchett. Published by F. W. Cheshire, Melbourne, Australia (1941).

FIJI, LITTLE INDIA OF THE PACIFIC. By John W. Coulter. Published by University of Chicago Press, 5750 Ellis Ave., Hyde Park Station, Chicago, Ill. (1942).

ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC. By Hawthorne Daniel. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2 West 45th St., New York 19, N. Y. (1943).

THE SOUTH SEAS IN THE MODERN WORLD. By Felix M. Keesing. Published for the Institute of Pacific Relations by John Day Co., 2 West 45th St., New York, N. Y. (1941).

ISLAND PEOPLES OF THE WESTERN PACIFIC: MICRONESIA AND MELANESIA. By Herbert W. Krieger. No. 16 of War Background Studies published by Smithsonian Institution, Washington 25, D. C. (1943).

A YANKEE DOCTOR IN PARADISE. By Sylvester M. Lambert. Published by Little, Brown and Co., 34 Beacon St., Boston, Mass. (1941).

THE MAKING OF MODERN NEW GUINEA. By Stephen W. Reed. Published in cooperation with the Institute of Pacific. Relations by the American Philosophical Society, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa. (1943).

GUAM AND ITS PEOPLE. By Laura Thompson. Published by Institute of Pacific Relations, 1 East 54th St., New York 22, N: Y. (1943).

SAILING DIRECTIONS FOR THE PACIFIC ISLANDS. Issued under authority of the Secretary of the Navy by the United States Hydrographic Office. In two volumes. Printed by the Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. May be obtained from either the Printing Office or the Hydrographic Office.

POCKET GUIDE TO NEW CALEDONIA; POCKET GUIDE TO NEW GUINEA AND THE SOLOMONS. Pamphlets prepared by the Special Service Division, Army Service Forces, United States Army. War and Navy Departments, Washington, D. C.