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Newark, Del. Review by Adam J. Davis, Denison University. Notes, figures, and bibliography. Review by Ann T. The American authorities claimed however that for their part they did not find the French police cooperative The American authorities regarded a ban on the importation of alcohol as neither desirable nor practical They did however concur with the imposition of heavier penalties and with longer opening hours for legal liquor outlets, and these arrangements were made In addition they set out to improve cooperation between the French and American police. The American police arrested two marines after their departure.
Madame Lemonnier was charged, found guilty, and fined. General Lincoln told Governor Laigret that this had been a good example of cooperation, and assured him that it would continue. He also reaffirmed the need to check the illicit commerce in liquor which, he commented, was at the base of practically all the incidents of drunken misconduct Laigret had also ensured the development of clearer and more comprehensive regulations in order to strengthen controls over the importation, storage, transfer, supply, and sale of alcohol and alcoholic drinks.
He said that he had just received the text of these new regulations, but hoped to be able to put them into application without delay. In addition Laigret advised that in the period from 27 September to 10 January the courts had found twenty people guilty of the illegal sale of alcohol to servicemen. Laigret expressed the hope that the range of measures taken would curb liquor trafficking. He added however that :. Challenges to French authority and sovereignty. The bitter tone at times evident in the official French correspondence with the American authorities reflected irritation with the disruption and inconvenience associated with the American presence, and with American misconduct and indiscipline.
This irritation was reinforced however by deep-seated concerns over the challenge which the American presence posed to French authority in and sovereignty over New Caledonia. Present and former French officials and officers were particularly sensitive to slights to French prestige. In early November, , for example, two French police officers complained that while walking in town one evening they had been approached by two American soldiers who asked to see their identity papers.
One of the policemen later reported, in words combining racial prejudice and injured pride, that :. At this point one of the soldiers produced a military policeman's armband ; in response. Laigret supported their complaint, and advised Lincoln that American Military Police should always wear their identification while on duty. A particular source of tension was that the Americans did not regard the French forces in New Caledonia and elsewhere as making a significant contribution to the war effort.
The previous October, Laigret had advised his superiors that, despite their refusal of an earlier request,. But this and other similar requests were ignored ; the Free French Government gave greater priority to using the modest combat forces at its disposal elsewhere. Initially it deployed them in the North African and European theatres, before despatching a substantial portion of them to Indochina late in the war in an effort to ensure the reincorpo- ration of that region into the French Empire.
The French administration and the European population were also concerned about what they saw as the demoralising and potentially subversive impact of the American presence and American behaviour on the Mela- nesian population. As we have seen in relation to the labour question, Laigret complained bitterly in his letter of 26 January about this alleged demoralisation, and about comparisons unfavourable to the French which the Melanesians were inclined to draw between the French and Americans.
Six months earlier, in his August report on labour, Secretary-General Bourgeau had complained that, although their unit had been supposed to be attached to the French Army, the members of the guides corps French officials in the colony, their superiors, and a number of European New Caledonians were especially concerned about the longer-term intentions of the United States with respect to New Caledonia. This concern has been well documented with respect to the earlier part of the to period89, but has been less well appreciated with respect to the later years of the war. It seems that irri-.
It was reinforced by the vulnerability of New Caledonia as an outpost of the French Empire located in a region increasingly dominated by the United States, and by the fact that, until the later stages of the war, the Free French movement remained weak and was not given unequivocal recognition by the United States. The available documents are not comprehensive, but nevertheless provide illuminating glimpses of French anxieties.
The measures envisaged included improving the wages and conditions of the local cadre of public servants, the allocation of additional personnel to fill key positions, the transfer of men from the army to reinforce the police, the transfer out of the colony of some disloyal or incompetent civil servants, and the accelerated promotion of some of those civil servants and other personnel who had demonstrated their loyalty to the cause of Free France during recent difficult times.
The importance which the Free French authorities accorded to New Caledonia at this stage of the war, which was accentuated because the overall Free French cause was still. The message ordered the governors concerned to respond to the forthcoming third anniversary of the ralliement of New Caledonia on 19 September by exalting the role New Caledonia and its volunteers overseas were playing in the war effort In New Caledonia, Laigret evidently agreed that conditions were serious. He added, however, that :. Laigret 's sense of urgency resulted from disaffection and political tensions within the European New Caledonian community and from rumours and reports that the United States wished to acquire New Caledonia.
But this report was written with the benefit of hindsight.
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In fact, the notion of acquiring New Caledonia had indeed been attractive to the United States Some senior United States Navy officers argued that after the war, in order to guarantee future American security, an American presence should be maintained in all the Pacific islands in which the United States had established bases. Anti- colonial feeling was also strong among American personnel and politicians. In the Pacific Islands region and elsewhere, Americans resented the notion that they were protecting and propping up what they saw as outdated colonial regimes. Lamont Lindstom comments as follows with respect to the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides : Voices among both the Islanders and the Americans publicly questioned the political authority and the economic development abilities as well as the past accomplishments of the ruling powers.
Echoes of Islander calls for the Americans to retain a presence in both archipelagos after the war's end bounced about the U. Some Americans, at least, were not altogether willing to restore power to impotent, had-to-be-saved-from-the- Japanese European colonists whose heyday obviously had come and gone Some Americans argued that the European colonial empires should be abolished. Either their component territories should immediately become self-governing and independent, or else they should be put under United Nations trusteeships, in preparation for eventual self- government and independence.
It was only in the final stages of the war that American interest waned in either the acquisition of New Caledonia or else in at. By this time the Free French movement had obtained much greater strength and credibility, as well as unequivocal recognition from the United States. Meanwhile American thinking on the future strategic needs of the United States in the Pacific islands region was becoming more clarified, and had begun to focus on establishing control of some key islands in Micronesia, rather than on the establishment of an American presence throughout the Pacific Islands region.
In mid-November Pleven cabled Lai- gret, in reply to a query, to advise that a recent American declaration referred not to the total control of New Caledonia but instead concerned the acquisition of bases in the colony. This arrangement would be in return for financial aid, despite some reservations about the implications of an influx of American capital During the war years a strong sentiment had developed favouring greater control by the European settler community over the colony's affairs.
Some separatist ambitions had also been expressed, though only on the part, it seems, of a small minority of the population. Nonetheless the French authorities clearly felt that in the uncertain wartime circumstances, their standing could deteriorate rapidly, and feared that the Americans might take advantage of local political tensions to pursue their own ends.
In addition, because of the highly. In early December, following the public announcement of his impending departure from New Caledonia, Laigret gave a press conference. In the statement issued for the occasion, his comments included the following remarks :. The inhabitants of New Caledonia suffer considerably in their interests, and too often in their legitimate feelings, by the attitudes of the American troops which are too often without regard for them.
The Americans seem to forget that there is a great difference between living in friendly territory and occupation of enemy territory. The New Zealanders, however, appreciate this distinction, and it is a pleasure for me to say so I hope Governor Tallec, who will soon be here, will find on the part of the American Command on the Island more understanding in the relations which these authorities must entertain with the local government. I express the wish that American Citizens may never forget that it is thanks to the permission granted by Frenchmen, a handful of Frenchmen, that their troops are in New Caledonia.
This has conditioned the fate of the Pacific ; it is, without doubt, an historical event of more importance than Pearl Harbour During his period in New Caledonia Laigret had championed the interests of the French administration and of European New Caledonians against what were seen as American encroachments. When it was announced in December that his term as Acting- Governor would soon come to an end, he received several expressions of support from Caledonians.
One correspondent commented : Bravo pour votre interview [i. Pour une fois, officiellement, une personne a eu le courage de leur dire en face, ce que tout le monde. C'est vieux, n'est-ce pas? The American authorities, in contrast, were relieved at Laigret' s departure.
Christian Laigret Following his departure from New Caledonia in early , Laigret reported further on his concerns about American ambitions. He also criticized the activities of the Intelligence Unit in the American Forces, suggesting that its members had involved themselves in local political intrigues.
He was conscious that local political tensions could possibly be taken advantage of by the United States. In concluding his report, he said that in present circumstances. Laigret 's anxieties struck a chord in Algiers, and encouraged consideration of political and constitutional initiatives. Conclusion and perspectives.
Previously, writers referring to the later years of the war have overlooked the presence and importance of these conflicts and tensions. Meanwhile, much more than has been generally appreciated, European New Caledonians had strong reservations about aspects of the American presence. The American assessment at the time was that although most metropolitan French citizens broadly supported the Governor's stance, the position of many European New Caledonians was more measured and equivocal Nonetheless there is no doubt that the negative feelings towards the Americans of many European New Caledonians were often strong, and that, during his term as Governor, Laigret brought them into sharp focus.
These feelings may indeed have strengthened during the latter part of the war period, as the threat of a direct Japanese attack receded, as patience wore thin with aspects of the American presence, and as anxiety increased over the longer-term intentions of the United States with regard to the colony. In contrast, the Melanesian community and the Javanese and Vietnamese indentured workers generally seem to have viewed the Americans more positively.
Given the tensions between the American forces and the local administration and European population, why is it that recollections and commemorations of the war have all but completely obscured these aspects? I would suggest that there are three reasons for this. First, until the ralliement of New Caledonia in September , some prominent New Caledonian individuals and families had displayed pro- Vichy sympathies.
The question of. Accordingly, a number of influential New Caledonians active in that era, and their descendants, have preferred not to delve too deeply into the details of the history of the wartime period. Second, the overall impact and outcome of the war were, after all, on balance strongly positive for European New Caledonians. The War had drawn a sleepy colonial outpost into a wider world. It never suffered aerial or naval bombardment, although Japanese submarines and German commerce raiders preyed on shipping outside the reef.
When an invasion came, it came peacefully, in the form of the arrival of several tens of thousands of American and allied service personnel. New Caledonia became a major base for the allied defence of Guadalcanal and the drive northward. For decades after the war, and in a few instances until the present time, jeeps, lorries, Quonset huts and other discarded equipment remained in use. Many New Caledonians were inconvenienced or irritated by the American presence, but others found lucrative employment with the allied forces and a few made small fortunes supplying and assisting them Of course, several hundred New Caledonians — both European settlers and indigenous Melanesians — served overseas in the Pacific Battalion, where they fought alongside settlers and islanders from Tahiti and its islands.
The soldiers from New Caledonia fought bravely. Many of them were killed or wounded, or fell seriously ill. Nothing can diminish their suffering, or that of their relatives and friends. And they went into action when the tide was turning in favour of the allies. They contributed to victory in North Africa and Italy, and took part in the liberation of France and the final defeat of Germany.
They suffered no major defeats, massacres or disasters — no equivalent, for example, of the fate of Australians on Ambon or allied troops on the Burma railway. War is always more glorious viewed at a distance, and in the glow of victory. Moreover New Caledonian involvement in the war provided, for many New Caledonians of. They had asserted their identity, and took pride in having rallied to the cause of Free France. A third reason why European New Caledonians have remembered and commemmorated the American wartime presence in a very positive, unqualified way emerged in the s with the rise of the Kanak nationalist movement.
Many of them were inclined to exaggerate the radicalism of the nationalist movement and to suspect it of having close links with the then Soviet bloc and with international radical movements. She was sent to the United States, in the vain hope that she would be granted a meeting with President Reagan. Only a few European New Caledonians regarded American intervention as a serious possibility.
A considerably larger number however thought that the United States should do more to protect the French presence in the Pacific Islands region, and in particular to defend their position, which they enthusiastically, if unrealistically, conflated with broader Western interests. Moreover looking towards the United States of America provided a convenient way of expressing dissatisfaction with the French Socialist Government. Thus additional impetus was given to viewing the wartime experience of New Caledonia in very positive and unambiguous terms, as an occasion during which the colony, for the first and last time in its history, had close and direct connections with the United States, and played a role in great events in defence of the.
This emphasis on external connections and associations involved shifting the focus of attention away from the presence and aspirations of the indigenous community. During the war years, many European New Caledonians had regarded the American presence as in some respects.
In the s, in an ironic contrast, they and their descendants were instead inclined to look wistfully towards the United States for possible assistance in helping them meet the challenge posed by the rise of Mela- nesian nationalism. I am grateful to Dr Dorothy Shineberg, for her very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
In contrast, Australian popular memories of the American wartime presence, while generally positive, are more ambivalent. The Cross of Lorraine in the South Pacific. To be fair, we should note that Lawrey mainly focuses on the to period, whereas the present article concerns itself mainly with developments in and early Rapport de l'Ex-Gouverneur p. This report was prepared early in , soon after Laigret had completed his period as acting-Governor.
Laigret, a career officer in the French colonial service, had been born in Blois, Loir-et-Cher, in He was initially sent to New Caledonia to serve as Directeur de Cabinet i. It was envisaged that the new Governor would be a prominent Gaullist personality, who would reinforce New Caledonia's adherence to the Free French cause. But after it proved difficult to find an appropriate senior person to fulfill this role, Laigret was appointed to act as Governor. In the present article I focus mainly, though not exclusively, on the experiences and attitudes of French officials and European New Caledonians.
Frey demanded that the Americans confine themselves to the hectares which had been made available to them ; that a fence which they had damaged extensively be replaced ; that they be prohibited from using his private road ; and that they repair another road, which had been made unusable by heavy American traffic. In a similar vein, Monsieur E. Orezzoli had complained in November about an American unit stationed on part of his property at Tontouta.
This letter and its attachments were forwarded to the American authorities, on behalf of Laigret, in De Montaudouin to Lincoln, 21 December Father Soury- Lavergne received a polite reply, but apparently had not been satisfied with the action taken. Letter to Laigret, 22 December The name of this correspondent is not clear. The contents of the letter indicate however that she was the sister or aunt of Raymonde Jore, a Caledonian woman who was now resident in Algiers, after two and a half years in London. Laigret to Colonel J. This unauthorized unemployment included, in one instance, that of a woman Mrs Priday , the estranged wife of a journalist and writer, who the French authorities had earlier refused permission to re-enter New Caledonia.
He served and was wounded during the First World War, and later became a founding member of the Amicale des Anciens Combattants. He was chief accountant in the Barrau trading house, and also had business interests. Laigret to Lincoln, 16 November , Cabinet Militaire Rapport de l' Ex-Gouverneur p. Moreover on occasion French personnel showed a similar lack of consideration for their allies.
See for example Shafroth to Laigret, 21 October , concerning the interruption of an American staff meeting by the noise of French soldiers loading trucks outside. The French captain in charge of the group, and the truck driver, had declined to cooperate when asked to reduce the noise level. Montchovel to Laigret, 26 November In a statement of the same date, Monsieur Gabriel Viramoutoussamy reported on an apparent act of bestiality on his goat by a Black American soldier, and complained that prowlers had visited his house, seeking women.
In a further example of concern about the behaviour of American troops, the head of the Customs Service complained in December of harassment of his female office staff by black soldiers, including by ogling them through the window and by intruding into the office. Laigret to Lincoln, 19 November , Cabinet Militaire This letter acknowledges Lincoln's reply of 14 November to an earlier request.
Sellier's views are summed up by Laigret in his Confidential letter to Lincoln of 8 December , Cabinet Militaire The rate of venereal disease among Janavese and Tonkinese women has substantially increased since the arrival of American troops on the island, according to statements of the Immigration department and the Nickel Company's Asiatic Employee department.
In addition, Government Laigret referred to Melanesian women contracting disease from American troops. I am grateful to Dr Dorothy Shineberg for drawing my attention to this report, and the papers associated with it. William T. Indeed the American authorities appear to have believed that in relation to labour questions, cooperation was reasonably good. See US Navy Report , p. The alcohol had been provided by American soldiers. The other incidents raised were the accosting of a European women by a black soldier and a traffic accident involving a truck driven by black Americans troops. Laigret to Rear Admiral J.
In this letter Laigret refers to a letter of 20 November from Lincoln, in which Lincoln responded negatively to the suggested prohibition of liquor imports. See also US Navy Report , p. The telegram read in full :. Laigret to Algiers, secret telegram of 3 September , Colonies 1 Although dated 3 September, it appears that the telegram did not reach Algiers until 7 September. See M. Raymonde Jore's sister?
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See note 16 above. See also the other correspondence concerning Laigret's departure held on the file. US Navy Report , p. This change in attitude may have resulted from increasing suspicions about the longer-term intentions of the United States concerning New Caledonia. See also Laigret Report, p. The notion of separate assemblies for Europeans and Melanesians resurfaced in the early s, when the conservative political parties favoured this arrangement as a means of preserving European authority. The French administration, the local population and the American presence in New Caledonia, [article] Stephen Henningham.
Plan Conflicts and tensions [link] Sexual incidents [link] Labour [link] Alcohol and the illegal liquor trade [link] Challenges to French authority and sovereignty [link] Conclusion and perspectives [link].
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John Lawrey has noted that : The American presence was overwhelming. The local population, both white and Mela- nesian, was increasingly and profitably absorbed into the various American work forces, and relations between Americans and locals were on the whole remarkably good3. Though far from complete, the documentation which I have been able to locate for this period is richer than that for the immediately preceding and subsequent periods.
Conflicts and tensions Whenever large numbers of troops are stationed in the territory of an ally, tensions and conflicts with the local administration and population are inevitable. Accordingly, particular events, serious enough in ves, were likely to have heightened resonance.
Concerning accommodation, Freby had suggested to the Americans that they build corrugated iron huts. Labour The supply of labour was a further source of tensions. Bourgeau complained however of the problems caused by According to an Army report, These men had been recruited throughout the colony to operate as scouts and guides for American units in case of a Japanese landing in New Caledonia, a contingency which in mid- had seemed highly likely.
Bour- geau commented that The run of correspondence available is far from complete, but that which is available gives some indication of the key issues. Alcohol and the illegal liquor trade Governor Laigret was also concerned by issues associated with alcohol. He said that : J'ai lu soigneusement le rapport de M. The previous October, Laigret had advised his superiors that, despite their refusal of an earlier request, The importance which the Free French authorities accorded to New Caledonia at this stage of the war, which was accentuated because the overall Free French cause was still of limited strength and credibility, was also reflected in a telegram despatched on 16 September to Madagascar and to the three colonies under Free French control in Africa.
It was only in the final stages of the war that American interest waned in either the acquisition of New Caledonia or else in at least its detachment from French rule. In the statement issued for the occasion, his comments included the following remarks : The inhabitants of New Caledonia suffer considerably in their interests, and too often in their legitimate feelings, by the attitudes of the American troops which are too often without regard for them. Pour une fois, officiellement, une personne a eu le courage de leur dire en face, ce que tout le monde pense et n'ose leur dire