“Just the facts, ma'am”
—Joe Friday, Dragnet
During World War II, the Allied forces set up airbases on the Melanesian Islands, which lay in a strategic zone off the northeastern coast of Australia. The Allies used the region as a staging area for troops and equipment during the war.1
At the time, these remote islands were populated by small groups of poor, indigenous peoples with limited exposure to other cultures. These isolated native populations were therefore highly curious when waves of foreign visitors from economically developed and technologically sophisticated cultures began to arrive. These nomadic armies also had an interest in the local natives, who were intimately familiar with the islands, and who could provide them with labor and other assistance as they worked to establish their military bases. In order to establish goodwill and engender the cooperation of the islanders, the foreigners began to share their commodities and supplies with them.
In this way, the natives were introduced to a huge variety of modern goods and items including jeeps, flashlights, pots and pans, knives, tents, washing machines, steel tools, tobacco, canned goods, medicine, clothing, and many other trappings of modern life. These were revolutionary technologies in the eyes of the natives, satisfying many basic needs and simplifying many daily tasks, and they dramatically enhanced the quality of life on the islands.
As time passed, the natives ...