Since the natives of New Britain speak many dialects, spelling of local place names is necessarily phonetic. The Australians during their regime listened carefully as the natives pronounced the words, then adapted these sounds to the English alphabet and thus set them down on maps and pertaining documents. The Japanese, in turn, transliterated some of the Australian names into Japanese characters, coined some new ones, and rendered native versions of place names phonetically into their own language. U.S. translators, encountering these several versions in captured enemy documents, transliterated them back into English, again phonetically, as they thought the Japanese had thought the natives pronounced them.
Checked carefully against the earlier Australian versions, the results often made sense, but in many instances this triple translation produced some decidedly odd results. For example, quite early in the campaign the Marines learned from enemy sources that General Matsuda's headquarters lay at or near a place transliterated from the Japanese as "Egaroppu" (sometimes rendered "Aikaroppu"), a locality wholly unknown to any available sources until someone finally associated it with what the Australians had mapped as "Nakarop," a factor which contributed no little to the success of the Japanese withdrawal.
Bearing in mind Japanese difficulty in pronouncing the letter "l" and tendency to substitute the "r" sound helps to explain many cases. Thus, our "Nigol" became their "Nigoru," but how they ever managed to come up with something that sounded like "Agaripachine" (or "Agaribachite") for the place Australian maps labeled "Augitni" remains one of those secrets that make the East mysterious.
During later phases of the campaign, when Marine patrols roamed the hinterland at large, intelligence officers contributed further to the confusion by attempting their own phonetic renditions in a well-meant effort to bring earlier maps up to date. On entering a village, they would inquire its name of their native guides, then spell out the reply as they thought it sounded to American ears, often with results that bore little relation to Australian versions owing to certain differences of pronunciation in the dialects of the two nations (example: U.S. phonetic rendition of what our allies called their own country would be spelled "Orstrylia").
The guides themselves were less than helpful at times. Jungle-bound all their lives,
few had traveled far beyond their own localities; often they did not know for certain which village was which, and with the characteristic desire of these people to please their new friends they agreed readily that it was what the Marines believed it to be, even when they did know better.
As a result, the same village may appear at several different locations on different maps, sometimes under different names, and may be spotted still elsewhere in reports using target square coordinates. Trail routes vary similarly. The maps used in this monograph make an effort to reconcile these discrepancies. In general, they adhere to the precampaign version as finally corrected, in the studied belief that the Australian surveys were more thorough and made under more favorable conditions and with greater familiarity with the natives. The many features not appearing on the earlier maps are adapted from U.S. overlays, sketches and reports; and where such documents present convincing evidence of error in the basic map, correction is attempted either by accepting the U.S. version or effecting an intelligent compromise between the two, occasionally with some slight help from the Japanese.
Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation