This day 70 years ago marks the beginning of the second World War II, the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world in which most of the world's nations fought simultaneously in several fronts. Fijian natives, unlike in the first world war, were permitted to enlist, resulting in the formation of the Fiji's First Battalion. Fiji's visionary statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, who was already a war hero as a result of his gallant efforts with the French Foreign Legion in World War I, took charge of enlisting natives for the war. Fiji's contribution to the Allies did not go unnoticed, as evident in a New York Times article published in 1944. The editorial is partly reproduced below. We are unable to reproduce Fiji Times reports on the WWII because most of the newspaper records of the 1930s and 1940s perished years ago.
WHEN Kipling wrote of the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzies' he was not describing the natives of Britain's principal Pacific colony, the once-cannibal isles of the Fijians, but he might as well have been.
The Fijians kinky hair, worn in that fashion for protection against the sun, makes the name fit him as a cartridge does its chamber.
Once one of the most war-like of the races or tribes of Oceania, the Fijian has changed, under 75 years of missioning and humane colonial administration, to a peaceable and respected citizen of the British Empire.
That he still is a mighty warrior when the occasion demands, however, is attested by the story from Bougainville that a Fijian battalion, fighting there with the United States troops, ran up a score of 125 Japanese dead against one Fijian killed and two wounded.
Kipling's ‘Fuzzy Wuzzies' never fought that well.
No white battalion has bettered that record.
For more on Fiji's World War II role
check the selection of pictures on Page 7