A Pocket Guide to New Guinea

Front cover


For use of Military Personnel only. Not to be republished

in whole or in part, without the consent of

the War Department


Prepared by



in cooperation with the OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES






Cartoon: Soldier chased by angry natives
"I told him to read his Pocket Guide, but he said he knew how to make friends!"


Introduction 1
Fascinating Islands 5
A Political Patchwork 8
Meet the People 9
Where the People Live 17
Past and Present 21
Who Speaks What? 28
Weather 29
Jungle Life 29
Food and Travel 32
Native Customs and Manners 42
Keeping Fit 49
What Makes Trouble With Natives? 54
Hints on Pronouncing Melanesian Pidgin English 55
Useful Words and Phrases 60


Color sketch of aircraft above palms and mountains



ON this job some of the hardest fighting over some of the worst terrain in the world is going on. We don't need to tell you about that nor is a long lecture needed to prove that New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are of the greatest strategic importance to the United Nations.

Everyone remembers only too well the grim days when the Japs spread out like a swarm of locusts over the peaceful Philippines and East Indies toward Australia, and eastward into the Pacific Islands. Determined Australian jungle fighters slowed and finally stopped them in the New Guinea mountains. Meanwhile our naval task forces hit at them in the seas of east New Guinea and the Solomons, and our marines gave them the surprise of their lives at Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Australia was saved from almost certain invasion, and protection of our vital supply lines to the South Pacific was assured.


President Roosevelt has labelled what happened at the earlier stages of these actions "defensive attrition." What's cooking now has the Japs trying to do the defending. These islands are going to serve as important offensive bases from which to push the Japs back to where they came from.

Though the main importance of these islands is strategic, they are also rich in resources. There are hundreds of plantations scattered through the area while in many places there are important deposits of gold and other valuable minerals largely untouched. The existence of these minerals is one of the main reasons why Japan has coveted the islands for years.

On this job, you'll know the South Seas a lot better than when you looked at Dotty Lamour's sarong in the movies back home. Some things are as you expected--coral reefs and coconut palms, green jungles and natives whose clothing doesn't cost much. Some things you won't find, for they never really existed at all outside the imagination of novelists and movie directors. Others the movies never showed--including diseases, smells, and bites.

You don't need to be told that campaigning in these islands in no picnic--you're often steamy and sweaty and muddy; in fact conditions are about as bad as on any


battlefront in the world. But the islands are not all bad by any means.

People are inclined to exaggerate the difficulties of living in such places, even in jungles and swamps. Remember that Government officials, gold and oil prospectors, and others have lived for months at a time in some of the worst parts of New Guinea, and have come out feeling fine and with their heads still on their necks. You too will do a good job of pulling through, and the reason for this guide is to make a tough job a little easier by helping you to feel as much at home as possible in a strange land.

An important part of your military assignment in these islands is to get along well with the local people. Nothing would please the Japs more than to find trouble breaking out between us and our British allies or between us and the native islanders. But we Americans generally have a knack for making friends and respecting other people's ideas and feelings.

The native islanders, too, are just as anxious as you are to have the Japs thrown out. Bombs and guns have wrecked their houses and gardens, killed their relatives, and made many exiles form their homes. So long as we do nothing to shake their confidence in us, they should give us every help possible. Although a large part of this guide deals with the natives and their customs, there


Map: Eastern New Guinea (Papua)
Eastern New Guinea


are lots of things you'll have to find out for yourself.

It can obviously make a great deal of difference under conditions of jungle warfare if the local inhabitants are friendly rather than hostile. Friendly natives have saved the lives of many of our airmen who have been shot down in isolated places. Many natives have fought bravely on our side, and some have received military decorations. Others have helped as guides, carriers, and stretcher-bearers, or have given food to soldiers temporarily cut off from sources of supply.

Fascinating Islands

PERHAPS you can best see what these islands are like by picturing what would happen if a continent more than half the size of the United States were submerged in the ocean, leaving only the rugged mountain ridges and peaks with swift streams and occasional marshy flats.

The main island of New Guinea, in such a picture, would correspond to the Rocky Mountains. This island,m perched like a giant bird over Australia, is the second largest in the world (Greenland is larger). It is 1,300 miles long, about the distance from New York to Omaha; at its widest point it is 400 miles across, the distance from Boston, Mass., to Washington, D.C. It is twice the size of Japan, and much larger than Germany. Only the


eastern or British half of New Guinea is covered in this guide; the western half--Dutch New Guinea--is politically a part of the Netherlands East Indies.

New Britain, the next largest island in this group, is as big as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined.







Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation