About two million American servicemen spent time on Pacific Islands between 1942 - 1945/1946 - and it is estimated that about 2000 babies were born as a result of relationships with local women. Very little was known about these children, from outside their own villages and islands, until now.
In a new book, Mothers’ Darlings, Otago researchers, Judith A. Bennett and Angela Wanhalla, uncovered hundreds of stories of Pacific women and their babies born to US servicemen during World War II.
This is the first book to give an account of the lives of some of these children and their mothers.
In doing so they’ve reunited families, recorded personal histories and provided countless now-adult “children” with the resources to undertake their own journey of personal and family discovery.
‘Among the clamour of war’s myriad narratives, these women and children, the most faint and ignored voices, have stories to tell,’ says co-editor Judith Bennett. ‘We have used oral history to capture individual voices and the rich texture of varied experiences. These oral accounts lay bare the emotional dimensions of war.’
Each chapter focuses on an island story, tracing the impact of the American forces on place, communities and families. At the centre of each island story are personal and emotional accounts of love, loss and grief. US immigration law at the time prevented couples marrying ‘across the colour line’.
‘We wanted to know what the experiences of these mothers were during the war,’ says co-editor Angela Wanhalla. ‘And we wanted to understand the fate of children whose birth and lives were shadowed by the circumstance of war itself. Each story is complex.’
Until now, there has been little research into the affective and generative impacts of the vast military presence on island populations.
Mothers’ Darlings probes a hidden history, a history that has been difficult to uncover. This ground-breaking book reveals the emotional and psychological consequences of war on indigenous populations, particularly women and children.
‘War doesn’t end when the troops go home,’ says Wanhalla.
Mother’s Darlings of the South Pacific
The children of indigenous women and US servicemen, World War II
Edited by Judith A. Bennett
& Angela Wanhalla.
Release Date: June 2016
ISBN 978-1-927322-63-5, $45