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Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific

The Children of Indigenous Women and U.S. Servicemen, World War II

Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific by Judith A. Bennett
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Over the course of World War II, two million American military personnel occupied bases throughout the South Pacific, leaving behind a human legacy of at least 4,000 children born to indigenous mothers. Based on interviews conducted with many of these American-indigenous children and several of the surviving mothers, Mothers’ Darlings of the South Pacific explores the intimate relationships that existed between untold numbers of U.S. servicemen and indigenous women during the war and considers the fate of their mixed-race children. These relationships developed in the major U.S. bases of the South Pacific Command, from Bora Bora in the east across to Solomon Islands in the west, and from the Gilbert Islands in the north to New Zealand, in the southernmost region of the Pacific.

The American military command carefully managed interpersonal encounters between the sexes, applying race-based U.S. immigration law on Pacific peoples to prevent marriage “across the color line.” For indigenous women and their American servicemen sweethearts, legal marriage was impossible; giving rise to a generation of fatherless children, most of whom grew up wanting to know more about their American lineage. Mothers’ Darlings of the South Pacific traces these children’s stories of loss, emotion, longing, and identity—and of lives lived in the shadow of global war. Each chapter discusses the context of the particular island societies and shows how this often determined the ways intimate relationships developed and were accommodated during the war years and beyond.

Oral histories reveal what the records of colonial governments and the military have largely ignored, providing a perspective on the effects of the U.S. occupation that until now has been disregarded by Pacific war historians. The richness of this book will appeal to those interested the Pacific, World War II, as well as intimacy, family, race relations, colonialism, identity, and the legal structures of U.S. immigration.

University of Hawaii Press; March 2016
ISBN 9780824858278
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Title: Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific
Author: Judith A. Bennett; Angela Wanhalla; Saui'a Louise Marie Tuimanuolo Mataia-Milo; Kathryn Creely; Jacqueline Leckie; Alumita Durutalo; Kate Stevens; Rosemary Anderson