Wednesday, January 18, 2017


For a little more than three years, Guam was home to 28 or so prisoners of war from German New Guinea. Not surprisingly, accounts of that time tell us how fascinated and entertained the Chamorro people were with these men from such an exotic place. Their physical appearance, clothing and rumored cannibalism fed the imagination of our people, always in the mood for something new and different.

The idea that they were man-eaters apparently came from one (or more) of the New Guineans. We can't discount the possibility that whoever said that said it in jest, having fun scaring the Chamorros. But we can't exclude the possibility either that some of the New Guinean POWs had practiced cannibalism at one time, since cannibalism was not unknown in their part of the world.

When a camp was set up on Guam for New Guinea POWS, it was nicknamed "Cannibal Town." Americans would have probably coined that name and used it, rather than Chamorros, who wouldn't have had that kind of grasp or use of English that early in the century.


Just north of Australia and not too far south of Micronesia lies the island of New Guinea. At the time period we are talking about (around 1915), the island was divided between the Dutch who ran the western side of the island; the British, who ran the southeastern portion; and the Germans who owned the northeastern part of the island.

In addition, the Germans ruled over many islands to the east of New Guinea, then called the Bismarck Islands, and today called New Britain. They also owned the island of Bougainville, which is part of the Solomons.

Written accounts of the time have conflicting information about where specifically these New Guinean men came from and how they became connected with the ship. It is possible that they didn't come from just one area of German New Guinea. I'll send the list of their names to someone from Papua New Guinea or New Britain and see if we can tell, just from the names, where these men were likely from.

The New Guineans were part of the crew of the German ship the SMS Cormoran which hid in Apra Harbor in 1915, fleeing the Japanese with whom they were at war. In 1917, the US declared war on Germany and the Germans scuttled their own ship. Most of the crew survived and were made prisoners of war. The New Guineans were employed by the US Navy on various public works projects.

In 1919, with the war over, the New Guineans were sent back home, though one of them reportedly died on Guam before war's end and could have taken up residence with a Chamorro woman. Whether they had a kid or more is anybody's guess at this point.

From the Guam Recorder in 1925

For more :

No comments:

Post a Comment