The 198th from the Bora Borans’ Perspective
For the Bora Boran people, the U.S. military occupation of their island was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they by-and-large developed good personal relationships with the troops. They also created economic opportunities for themselves. They sold local products, such grass skirts and dolls, to the Americans and, in turn, the soldiers ordered lingerie, among other goods, for Boran Boran women out of Sears catalogs. On the other hand, they lost control of their island and they had little say about its transformations. The ecological impact was great. The troops used live coral to pave the roads and stripped the land of coconut trees to build huts. This new infrastructure would make it easy for big business to commercialize the island after the war. Large hotel chains, such as Marriott, took over nearly all commercial business on the island and eclipsed locally-owned commerce. The troops eventually left, but the island would forever feel the impact of their presence.
Historically, the Bora Borans supported themselves mainly through spearfishing, but after the arrival of the 198th, they began to produce souvenirs for the tourist trade. Fish marinated in coconut milk was a local favorite dish. Guitar and ukulele musicians brought the community and families together. Boats were the major form of transportation before the 198th built roads on the island.
Credit: Black and white photographs, photographers unknown, 1942-43 Delaware Military Museum Archives.
The physical closeness among the Bora Boran women and the American men in this photograph, standing shoulder to shoulder with their arms around each other, expresses the good personal relationships that the two communities shared.
Credit: Black and white photograph, photographers unknown, 1942-43. Delaware Military Museum Archives.
These photographs document the major ecological transformations the 198th Regiment made to the island to facilitate their occupation and military operations. Road-building, in particular, altered the island to fit western needs at the sacrifice of the island’s natural habitat.
Credit: Black and white photographs, photographers unknown, 1942-43. Delaware Military Museum Archives.