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Resisting the Japanese: The Rival Chinese Resistance Movements in WWII

January 27, 2014 in general history, History, History of China, History of Japan, Pacific History

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1941) merged into the Second World War following the attack on Pearl Harbor. After that, historians refer to the continued war in China against Japan as part of  the Pacific Front of WWII. But these types of labels serve to obfuscate the shifting loyalties and general lack of ideological coherence of the global war in question, and of each front of that war, as participants switched sides and coalitions shifted. In its resistance against the Japanese, China received aid from Germany, the Soviet-Union and the United States — although not all at the same time.

During a time of war and grave national calamity, we may expect rival factions for internal control of a country to band together to fight the common enemy. Idealized depictions of allegiance also foster a view of allies who choose one side of an international dispute and stick to that side until the war is over. Generalized historical accounts of the era do tend to describe events in broad brushstrokes, speaking of thMapShandong1945e Allies versus the Axis, or of the Americans as a homogeneous monolith, rather than the FDR administration as opposed to its detractors, but in reality the subtle distinctions and gradations within a nominally united group are very telling. Infighting continues while a war is in progress, and the true winners are those who end up on top, (e.g. Soviet Union) regardless of which side ( Axis or Allies) emerges as victorious.

In China, during the Japanese occupation, there was a very active local resistance movement in Shandong Province. In fact, there were two such movements: the Nationalists and the Communists. When they were not engaging the Japanese, they were intent on destroying each other.

The lack of cohesion among the Chinese resisting the Japanese can be in some measure attributed to the lack of cohesion on the the part of the ever changing membership roster of the Allies and the Axis in Europe and the Pacific as the war progressed.

“Britain, the United States and Japan were drawn towards a Pacific war after Japan signed a Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in late September 1940, and sponsored a collaborationist government in Nanjing, formed in March 1940 and led by Wang Jingwei. The United States and Britain responded by granting China loans and imposing economic sanctions against Japan.” (Lai 2008.134)

The Soviet Union was a wild card with no particular allegiance to any cause but its own.  Though  the Soviets allied themselves with Germany during the beginning of the war in Europe and the 1939 invasion of Poland, by 1941, due to Germany’s aggression toward  Soviet-held territories, the Soviet Union joined the Allies.

According to Sherman X.  Lai, the Soviet Union supported the Chinese Communists and supplied them with weapons, but there was also some negotiation by Stalin with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek. Anything was possible, and the parties to these negotiations were motivated primarily by practical considerations, rather than any allegiance to ideology or to a nominal side in the international struggle for power. (Lai 2013)

MaoLaiEarly in the Sino-Japanese war, Joseph Stalin was worried that Mao Zedong’s focus was too much on territorial expansion against the Nationalists, rather than fighting the Japanese. For this reason, despite the Soviet Union’s theoretical support for the the ideology of the Chinese Communists, Stalin also helped to arm the Chinese Nationalists. (Lai 2013.5)

The eventual outcome of the war between the Nationalists and the Communists was to be decided not only by military means through skirmishes and pitched battles, but even more so by behind the scenes dealing in currency and munitions.

According to Laurance Tipton (1949), a British escaped internee who served with the Nationalist resistance,  General Wang Yumin  (王豫民) who was at that time in charge of the Nationalist resistance in Shandong Province, issued his own currency and prohibited the use of any other currency in the area that he controlled.

Tipton (1949.120 ) writes:

“Under Japanese occupation, the Chinese National currency in North China was declared illegal tender and was replaced by the Japanese issued Federal Reserve Bank notes. But although Chinese National currency was forced out of circulation in the larger cities and railway towns, it was still current in the interior. As Chief of the Financial Department, Yu-Min’s first step was to print and circulate resistance money, which he exchanged for Chinese National Currency, silver dollars and gold bars at specified rates of exchange. At the same time he issued a proclamation prohibiting the use of any currency but the newly issued ‘resistance money.’ As the funds in the exchequer grew, so an increasing number of purchasing agents were dispatched to obtain ammunition, but, still dissatisfied with the results, Yu-Min continued to press for the opening of their own munitions and arms factories and finally won his point.”


According to Sherman Lai (2008) the Communist resistance eventually proved more successful not by implementing the principles of communism — redistribution and collectivism — but by reviving the feudal system of landlords and tenants that had operated in China for thousands of years prior to modernization.

Rather than attempting to reform society or to level any social stratification of which communism did not approve, the commissars recruited high level people in the existing order of things along the country-side in order to help them gain control.

In defense against banditry, local society was protected by powerful families who built fortifications and maintained private security forces. Those powerful families, also de facto bandits, stood in the way of the 115th Division’s … deployment southwards. In the campaign to gain a footing in this strategic region, Luo Ronghuan, its commissar, showed diplomatic skills. He approached a few prominent semi-bandit families who had displayed patriotism, seeking to persuade them to join the CCP-led anti-Japanese United Front. (Lai 2008.126)

Equally interesting is the fact that trade, not warfare, played an important role in strengthening the Chinese Communist Party in Shandong. It is easy to forget that the entire purpose of war for a free nation is to keep trade routes open. But a corollary may be this: that even during outright war,  trade in staple goods and exchange of currency must continue to exist. Whoever corners the market on trade eventually wins the  war. For the Communist Party (CCP) of Shandong, defeating the Japanese was partially made possible by trading with the Japanese.

Sherman Lai sums up the situation:

” ..the CCP in Shandong not only controlled economic affairs within its territory, but also obtained access to territories under enemy occupation through manipulation of currency exchange rates and by controlling the trade in staple grains, cotton, salt and peanut oil. As a result, trade with occupied China and with the Japanese invaders became the principal source of revenue of the CCP in Shandong as early as the second half of 1943.” (Lai 2008.i)

The greatest success of the Communist Shangdong Bureau during the Japanese invasion was their “red banking system.” Recognizing that simply printing money would result in devaluation, the Communists sought to corner the real market in agricultural staples for the purpose of trading for other goods. They realized that private enterprise in agriculture was the real tax base under communist control, so they encouraged local farmers.”The regulation of trade was intended to barter surplus products made in the CCP zones for needed supplies from the occupied zones” (Lai 2008.301)  They founded their own bank and saw to it that the currency it printed would be more attractive and more stable than those issued by the Japanese collaborators or the Nationalist opposition.

 The core of this system was the North Sea Bank (Beihai Yinhang) …. one of the three forerunners of the People’s Bank of China, China’s current central bank. Its banknotes, the beipiao (北票), spread from Shandong throughout eastern China and remained in circulation until December 1949. (Lai 2008.217)

Toward the end of the war, at a time when the Nationalist forces were crumbling under economic pressure and the Japanese themselves were weakening due to lack of supplies, the Chinese Communist party was taking in income through trade. They were a successful business concern, operating in a highly chaotic market.

It was not until the summer of 1944, after the invasion of Normandy and after the Japanese suffered a grave reversal in the Battle of the Philippine Sea that Mao started to prepare to implement the collectivization of agriculture that was to be the hallmark of his peacetime reign.

The nominal communists defeated their  nationalist rivals and their imperialist invaders by being more successful capitalists. Once they had done this, they could afford to show their true colors. This is just one of the many ironies of a war with ever-shifting allegiances, multiple causes and fronts, which today, for some reason,  is viewed by many in the Western world as the only truly “moral” war.


Lai, Sherman Xiaogang . 2008. Springboard to Victory.

Lai, Sherman Xiaogang. 2013,. A war within a war: the road to the new fourth army incident in January 1941.;jsessionid=m1l3vwtlvkh1.x-brill-live-02. Journal of Chinese Military History,

Lunghu, 2012.  Blog Post:  Part Deux: East of the Mountains.

Tipton, Laurance.  1949. Chinese Escapade. Macmillan and Company, Ltd.

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by J-Hanna

Books About James Cook’s Voyages

December 13, 2013 in general history, History, Pacific History

Captain James Cook only held the position of post-captain for the last four years of his life, but he will be remembered for his voyages of discovery in the South Pacific and beyond.  Today he has been critiqued by indigenous people for the legacy that his travels brought to places such as Hawaii and Australia, which led to colonization and displacement of native populations on, but the same token, Cook was not the vengeful explorer than many other Europeans had track records for being.  Cook often had admiration and respect for indigenous peoples, and he even expressed remorse and hurt when he his sailors had brought venereal diseases to isolated regions, such as the Hawaiian Islands.  Cook tried to prevent infected men on his ship from engaging in conjugal relations for this reason, but this was often beyond his control. Cook was also recognized for ameliorating incidents of scurvy on his expeditions by provisioning his men with fresh produce, but he also could go into a fit of rage when a sailor refused to eat part of his provisions. Thus, Cook was a man who cared deeply about the sanitation and health of his crew, but he was not above flogging for cases of insubordination when it came to small things, like not eating an allotment of meat. Cook was literally about running a tight ship, and his protege William Bligh would later try to emulate his commanding style with far less positive results.

Sir Joseph Banks was an aristocrat with an interest in science, and he went on Cook’s first voyage, where he learned about breadfruit. Later the push to gather breadfruit plants and transport this fruit-bearing plant from Tahiti to Jamaica would be supported by Sir Joseph Banks, and this idea never would have come about if it had not been for his accompanying Cook on his first voyage.  This was all in the future when Cook embarked on his first expedition in 1768, but these events illustrate the connection between Banks, Cook, Bligh,and the eventual mutiny on the HMAV Bounty, which is probably the reason I find James Cook fascinating.

During Cook’s three voyages the transit of Venus was documented, it was proven once and for all that there was no large southern continent that kept the globe in balance, and the hope of discovering a Northwest Passage was finally abandoned. Cook’s cartography skills created detailed maps of the coastlines of Australia, New Zealand, and many Pacific Islands, which he claimed for the British Empire, and he even sailed as far north as Alaska. Despite his far flung and note-worthy voyages, on the third and final voyage Cook was killed in a dispute in Hawaii over attempting to take a local chief hostage in hopes the Hawaiians would return some of their equipment stolen from the ship.  It  turns out Cook was not killed because he was a fallen god, even though this theory has long been regarded as the reason for his murder.  Cook was most likely killed over the tense interactions between his crew and the Hawaiians, but the short documentary clip below offers a bit more explanation as to what may have really happened.

Captain Cook was a talented navigator who made a significant contribution to the history of exploration, and his mapping of Australia was the catalyst that led to the colonization on this continent, even though this was largely Banks’ idea.  From what I gather via my reading, in Australia Cook is often regarded as being similar to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson in the US, but he also is considered to be somewhat of the villain in that his explorations of Australia led to the aborigines being dispossessed of their land.  Thus, he is not quite the shining icon previous generations made him out to be, but just like our founding fathers, he had his flaws and achievements.  There are several books that I read that discuss Cook’s travels in depth, and here is a tidbit about each:

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz.

Tony Horwitz is a journalist, but he is also known for having empathy towards how others interpret events. Horwitz will speak to anyone and everyone, and this man is never biased or curt. When he wanted to learn more about New Zealand gang members and how they viewed Cook’s legacy, he went and spoke with a few and found out many were mixed raced men who did not feel they fit in with mainstream society. Next, Horowitz recounts speaking with official leaders or kids smoking pot in Tahiti, which illustrates how this man will talk to anyone!

One fascinating thing about Horwitz is that around the time of the Gulf War he wrote the account of his travels in the Middle East in the book Baghdad Without A Map, and actually spoke to Muslims in hostile situations, such as attending the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini. In one breath people were telling Horwitz they hated America, but in the next they were asking him if he had ever been to Disneyland, and sharing how it was their dream to go there. Just as with the Baghdad book, in Blue Latitudes Horwitz’s journalistic and people skills allow us to glimpse into the minds of the modern day residents of the places Cook visited to discover how they view this man.

Horwitz visits many different Pacific Islands in his travels and provides the novice with a good introduction to the history and cultures of each place he stays in, which basically followed Cook’s travels, so there is a little bit of everything in here. The most intriguing aspect of the book is when Horwitz uses Cook’s journals to show the admiration he had for the aborigines in Australia, thus illustrating he was not completely the brash explorer many regard him to be.

Horwitz endeavors to learn more about what people have to say about this renowned explorer, so whether you love Cook or hate Cook, you kind of have to be in awe of all the places he visited and charted after reading this book.   If you want to learn more about Captain Cook and his adventures with an engrossing and first hand feel, then I suggest you read this volume.

The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain Cook by Nicholas Thomas

This historical text is a detailed examination of Cook’s voyages, and offers anthropological insights into the people this British expeditions encountered. The volume has fascinating moments, such as Cook’s observations about the starkness of the land on Easter Island, and including a ink drawing of the famous moai on Easter Island, which was created by Johann Forster.

Thomas’s historical account is very detail oriented, and a bit more critical of Cook than other authors have been.  I enjoyed reading his insights, but also felt perhaps some of the judgments about Cook were slightly biased, especially considering this explorer was a man of a different time.  I am not justifying the outcome of the age of exploration, but just feel that Cook was a man who could be admired when it came to his knowledge of geography, and his sense of equality, which probably had to do with his origins as a farmer’s son.  Cook had shortcomings, but in my opinion, there were other explorers who were far worse.

Cook always made sure his men received adequate provisions with fresh vegetables to ward off scurvy, which is something  that Thomas points in this book.  It is quite voluminous, and probably not recommended for someone who is just learning about Captain Cook, or who wants a more engaging read.  However, I do find this text to be a good reference on Cook’s voyages.  The index is comprehensive, and you can find many small details about his journeys by referencing it.

The Bounty by Caroline Alexander

This historical text probably seems unrelated to those who want to read more about James Cook, but it is definitely of interest for those who yearn to learn more about William Bligh, and what inspired him to become obsessed with hygiene and regimen on the HMAV Bounty. Once again we meet Joseph Banks, who is connected to Cook since he also sailed aboard the Endeavor.  During that voyage Banks had admired the quality of the starchy fruit produced by breadfruit trees in Tahiti, and came up with the far fetched idea of gathering seedlings to transplant in Jamaica.  Unfortunately, it was not simply a grandiose botany experiment, but the Royal Society’s rationale behind this was that it would make a cheap source of food for the slaves working on plantations in the Caribbean, which is one of the more unsavory aspects of the entire Bounty expedition.

William Bligh used many of Cook’s commanding strategies on the Bounty, but we learn that things dis not always go very well.  Bligh did not possess the charisma that Cook had with his men, and things definitely go South after the departure from Tahiti leading up to the mutiny on on April 28, 1789. This book is not about Cook, but history buffs will enjoy connecting the dots between Cook, Banks, and Bligh.  As I have long said, there would have been no famous mutiny on the part of Fletcher Christian if Banks had never sailed with Captain Cook and become mesmerized with breadfruit.  Bligh was appointed sailing master of on Cook’s last expedition, and he was also critical of how others handled the skirmish that resulted in Cook’s death.




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by J-Hanna

The Serrano Indians And The Indian Rock Camp

June 6, 2013 in American History, general history, Pacific History

Acorns were a food staple for the Serrano Indians of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Acorns were a food staple for the Serrano Indians of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Today most people do not think much about acorns, except to put these in the category as being beautiful objects to collect nature walks. Crafters might use acorns to create a fall or winter decorations, but how many people actually think about eating acorns?  About three hundred years ago there were no grocery stores in Southern California, and Native American tribes had to hunt and gather all of their food.  Survival depending on rudimentary concerns such as food and shelter, but people still managed to enjoy life.  Actually, the simple life probably had more perks to it over the hectic and chaotic schedules that us modern people live.  Acorns were a staple food for the Serrano Indians of the San Bernardino Mountains, and they even used the caps of the acorns to fashion dice for games they played. However, how does someone go about eating an an acorn?  First off, it has to be cracked open, and then soaked in water because it has a very bitter taste due to the tannic acid in the meat of the acorn .  The Serrano Indians had camps near groups of large acorn trees since these were their main source of food.  The Serranos are known by their Spanish name, which means mountain dwellers, but in their own language they referred to themselves as Yuhaviatam, which means people of the pines.

The Serranos were hunters and gathers who caught small game, but their main source of grains consisted of grinding acorns and pinon nuts.  Acorns were cracked open with rocks, and soaked in water to leech out the bitter taste.  After the bitter tannic acid was drained from the acorn meat, it was ground into a fine acorn meal used to make flat breads.

The place where the Serranos ground their acorns were on large rocks, which are called metates in Spanish. The Indian Rock Camp is located in the San Beranrdino Mountains, and a plaque was dedicated to the Serrano people by the Lake Arrowhead Woman’s Club in 1938.

A sign dedicated to the Indian Rock camp by the Lake Arrowhead Woman's Club.

A sign dedicated to the Indian Rock camp by the Lake Arrowhead Woman’s Club.

Below is a video showcasing the photography of the Indian Rock camp where the Serranos used to grind acorns. Unfortunately, there is most certainly a dearth of printed or online information on the Serrano Indians, but perhaps someone will publish a book with more research and information in the near future to fill some of the gaps.



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The History Behind The Movie: Mutiny On the Bounty

January 25, 2013 in Pacific History

Tahitian inspired drawing created by J Hanna.

Tahitian inspired drawing created by J Hanna.

At the age of thirteen I began my love affair with Mutiny on the Bounty after watching the 1962 film starring Marlon Brandon. Honestly, I could not help put notice that Brando was quite dashing, which was another reason I loved the story, but it was also about the locale and history behind the movie. Usually I am not a fan of movies about ships, but this film spoke to me because since the age of ten I have had an obsession with Polynesian history and culture. If the film had taken place in England I probably would not have been as spellbound, but the setting in Tahiti caught my attention, and I wanted to learn more about the real story behind the HMAV Bounty.

Fletcher Christian and William Bligh were both upset after the mutiny, and basically the former had revolted because he could no longer take the pressure of the latter’s tongue lashings. The 1935 and 1962 versions of the film Mutiny on the Bounty portray William Bligh as being a harsh dictator upon this tiny ship, but the truth was Christian was young and some what tempestuous when he decided to mutiny. The historical record has shown that Bligh was a fair captain and a great navigator, although he did have some what of a temper and liked to swear quite a bit. However, he never keel hulled his men, and he flogged his sailors less often than many sea captains of his day.  Nevertheless, Captain Bligh did not inspire respect like his charasmatic mentor, Captain Cook, so people were put off by his abusive language and insults.  He would have people mutiny against him a couple more times, and be reprimanded for his harsh language later in his career.

The best way to learn more about mutiny on the Bounty is by reading books on the subject and watching more accurate movies. I still enjoy the 1962 version of the film Mutiny on the Bounty because this movie is based on one of my favorite novels, but I view it as a fictionalized account. The 1984 film The Bounty is more historically accurate than previous films, but even this movie makes a few historical faux paus. For example, Christian mutinies against Bligh in the 1984 because he decides to take the ship back around Cape Horn, but this never happened in real life. Actually the true to live events as described in Caroline Alexander’s book The Bounty  and Glynn Christian’s Fragile Paradise are much more compelling than the fictionalized account in movies. Christian mutinied because he did not want to leave Tahiti, plus he and Bligh were having somewhat of a personal falling out. Have you ever seen two people who were friends that decide to start a business together begin to argue? Christian’s mutinying against Bligh can be likened to the falling out of two business partners that were once good friends.

The Mission of The HMAV Bounty: Transporting Breadfruit To Jamaica

Slave owners in the West Indies wanted to keep down their overhead costs, and after the American Revolution they lost the United States as a nearby source of food for the slaves laboring on their plantations. So how would slave owners obtain food sources for the slaves working on their plantaions? Slaveowners decided that transplanting breadfruit trees to grow in the West Indies would provide a cheaper food source than wheat, and it became the job of the HMAV Bounty to transport small breadfruit plants from Tahiti to Jamaica. The HMAV Bounty left England on December 23, 1787 on the breadfruit mission, but little did the shipmates know the ship and many crew members would never see England again.

William Bligh was given the title of lieutenant, but the royal navy failed to promote him to the rank of captain for this expedition. Also, the royal navy failed to give him a ship with adequate room for this expedition, so in many ways this trip was doomed for failure from the start. Bligh was a man of humble origins and regarded this voyage as a way to make a name for himself before he got too old because he was only 31 at the time, even though the 1962 film portrayed him as an older man.

Bligh was not one to forget his friends, so he appointed Fletcher Christian as master’s mate, even though he was only in his early twenties. Bligh justified the appointment of Christian because they had been on several previous voyages together, and the young man’s record showed he had great potential to do well in the British Royal Navy. However, Christian came from a wealthy background, and it was not until recent events that his immediate family had experienced financial difficulties, so he did not have as much of a incentive to make a name for himself as Bligh, especially since he already had family connections back at home.

Bligh had wanted to circumnavigate the globe and initially tried to round Cape Horn, but the harsh weather made this route impassable, which resulted in  Bligh redirecting the ship towards the Cape of Good Hope. Bligh decided to promote his friend Christian at this juncture because he had shown more courage than Master John Fryer. The move to replace Fryer was a mistake on Bligh’s part, which he would pay for later on because many men decided to follow Christian when he decided to mutiny.

Nevertheless, Bligh was a thoughtful person that had done health research based on the latest knowledge available at that time, and he helped to revitalize his men by feeding them sauerkraut and vinegar to help ward of scurvy, which was something he had learned from his mentor James Cook. Later on sailors would eat limes in the British Navy to ward off scurvy, hence the nickname limees. Bligh also helped to make his men happy by giving them a daily allowance of rum, which was important on a long sea voyage. Not one to be negligent for providing entertainment, Bligh hired the blind violinist Michael Bryne to seranade the men on board. So all in all, the historical record indicates that   Bligh was forward thinking commander in comparison to his contemporaries, and he most certaintly did not set out to become the tyrant. History would see things a bit differently, and the fact he was not much of a people person did not help matters along.

Lieutenant William Bligh served under Captain Cook on his last voyage, and during this expedition he had learned many navigational skills from this great sea captain. Bligh was a superb navigator and many of his maps and drawings of different islands were even used up until recent times before satellite maps became more prevalent, and allowed for the easier navigation of Pacific Islands. However, unlike the legendary Captain Cook that had a very personable, Bligh was more of an introvert and very rigid about living according to the rules of the British Royal Navy. Whereas Captain Cook could get away with this because of his charisma, when Bligh attempted to do many of the same things, he came across as a dictator and a harsh man.

The Bounty Reaches Tahiti In October 1788:

Unfortunately the HMAV Bounty reached Tahiti in October of 1788, which is the dormant season for the breadfruit plant. This set of events required that the HMAV Bounty had to stay five months longer than planned, which extended the amount of time the men were able to spend on the resplendent Tahiti. Just imagine if you are poor man in England living where it rains and is cold, plus you are not very attractive, and most women are not going to want to date you. Guess what guys: that was not a problem in 1788 Tahiti because the Tahitian women were beautiful and thought the white men’s looks were exotic and intriguing. Thus the men were able to cavort around on the island with beautiful women and eat all the fresh food they wanted. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why many of the English men did not want to leave Tahiti, even if Lieutenant Bligh was less harsh than many commanders of his day. During this period the Bounty’s crew were able to eat fresh food and experience the beauty of the South Seas, which made it very hard for few of them to leave. Three men tried to escape and were flogged as an example for the crew.

Bligh realized he had lost the discipline of his crew, so on the return voyage he used his harsh language and commands to try and get everyone back in line. Bligh was forced according to British naval law to flog three men who tried to escape, but by and large he did not use flogging as discipline, even though the 1935 and 1962 films would like us to believe otherwise. However, his harsh mouth and temper were annoying to the men, and especially Christian who was beginning to have a falling out with his one time friend.

From this point onward Bligh tried to clamp down on the Bounty’s crew in a futile attempt to regain discipline . Bligh attempted to tighten discipline with daily verbal attacks and rages, which were beginning to grate the nerves of many men who had just left the lush and hospitable Tahiti. What did they have to look forward to back in England? Just think about it from this perspective and consider why they viewed Bligh as tyrant: he was taking them from a place that people even have a hard time leaving today.  After World War II a lot of American GI’s also were forced to leave Tahiti, and some were not happy about it.  Actually, the American GI’s operated a base in Bora Bora, but the culture and hospitality of this island is comparable to that of Tahiti, so you can see why people never want to leave these islands.

The Mutiny

On the voyage back Bligh’s verbal outbursts became too much for Christian to bare, which resulted in the mutiny on April 28, 1789. Christian decided to put Bligh adrift with the eighteen loyalist men who fit in the boat with him, but quite a few more wanted to go with Bligh and simply could not fit in the small boat. Bligh was a superb navigator who was able to take his men on a voyage from Tofua near the present day Tonga.  However, the natives of Tofua were very hostile to Bligh and his men upon landing to replenish supplies, so they sailed for two months straight without stopping all the way to Timor, which is the present day island of Jakarta. Bligh navigated from memory and rationed a two week’s supply of food to last two months. How many British navigators of the day could accomplish this feat? Bligh was one of the few who could, and that is remarkable in itself. Bligh did an admirable job of navigating the Bounty’s launch and helping his crew stay alive, except for one man who was murdered by the natives on the island of Tofua. It was not until Bligh and the loyalists reached Timor where several became ill and passed because of flies that hovered around the Dutch canals on the island, which transmitted malaria to the populace.

Meanwhile, Fletcher Christian and the mutineers tried to settle Christmas Island, and eventually ended up going back to Tahiti to pick u women and supplies.  Eventually the men who went with Christian decided to sail on to Pitcairn’s Island in January of 1790, which was their final hope after several failed attempts at trying to settle on other small islands.  Unlike the other island the mutineers tried to start settlements on, Pitcairn was ideal because it was uninhabited and mischarted in the British naval maps.

Bligh remarkably made it back to England just two months after Christian and his crew settled on Pitcairn, which is all quite interesting timeline wise. Bligh endeavored to clear his name back in England by showing he was brave and looked after his loyal crew that accompanied him in the Bounty’s launch between Tofua and Timor.  The HMAV Pandora was sent to apprehend the mutineers, and as legend would have it, the name bounty hunters came from the hunt for the mutineers.

The HMAV Pandora Embarks To Capture The Mutineers:

In 1791 the loyalists and mutineers who remained on Tahiti were apprehended and brought back to England for trial by Captain Edwards, who commanded the HMAV Pandora.  Those who had claimed not to take part in the mutiny were still imprisoned along with the mutineers in a small part of the ship referred to as the Pandora’s Box.  The Pandora was damaged when sailing through the Great Barrier Reef, and several of the men who had been on the Bounty drowned along with this ship.  Captain Edwards of the Pandora was forced to also make the trip to Timor, as Bligh had, with several smaller boats.  One of the boats that made this journey was a small but sturdy vessel that men who had been loyal to Bligh had constructed before being apprehended by Captain Edwards in Tahiti.  These loyalists had planned on sailing back to England, but Captain Edwards was only acting on orders of assuming everyone was guilty until the court martial proceedings in England had taken place.

The Court Marshall of The Mutineers

The court martial of the alledged mutineers and accused mutineers took place a year later, and a few claimed Bligh was a harsh tyrant in order to keep themselves from hanging. Peter Heywood had been a midshipman on the Bounty and had attempted to foil the mutiny against Bligh, but in the confusion that day he was not able to reach the deck before Bligh and the loyalists were set adrift in the launch. The haze of the day’s events, and Heywood’s not being on deck to beg to go with Bligh, resulted in the lietaunant believeing Heywood was a mutineer, but during his court martial he claimed he was not. Also, Heywood used his family connections, as did the Christian family, to clear relatives names, and labeled Bligh as a harsh dictator. Forever Bligh’s image was changed in history, but Caroline Alexander’s book The Bounty is a good place to learn the truth behind these events. Bligh was probably a bit dictatorial in his words and actions, but the historical record has shown that most commanders of his day were as such, and he was actually more humane than some.  It was his disposition and personality that rubbed people the wrong way more than anything, and in the end he just did not inspire respect and awe the way Captain Cook had.

Christian Hides On Pitcairn Island:

Fletcher Christian and nine mutineers decided to accompany him to their final hiding place on the rocky and mischarted Pitcairn’s Island, so named after a midshipman who spotted it back in 1766 midshipman Robert Pitcairn on the HMAV Swallow. Did you know there is a name connection between Pitcairn Island and Pitcairn, Pennsylvania? Robert Pitcairn was the son of the Major John Pitcairn, who was British officer that died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Since this island named in Pitcairn’s honor was mischarted it was thus isolated and the perfect hiding place for the mutineers.

Christian crashed the Bounty against the rugged and rocky shores of Pitcairn and then set the ship on fire on January 23, 1790, which is a national holiday on Pitcairn, Norfolk Island, and is also celebrated by many Bounty enthusiasts and mutineer descendants around the world by burning replicas of the Bounty. Christian set off a catalyst of events that isolated the mutineers from the world for eighteen years, that is, until the American whaling ship Topaz landed on the island in 1808.

In 1793 five of the mutineers including Fletcher Christian had been murdered after one of the Europeans had decided to steal the wife of one of the Tahitian men. In revenge the wives of the murdered mutineers killed their male Tahitian compatriots, which left four European men and several Tahitian women. Two of the four remaining men eventually died because of arguments and suicides over liquor. The remaining two men, Edward Young and John Adams (Alexander Smith), decided to use the Bounty’s Bible and teach everyone how to read and write. When the American Folger of the Topaz visited Tahiti in 1808 he was surprised to see an island where people spoke English and looked Polynesian. Today a small number of the mutineers descendants live on Pitcairn Island, but a larger number live on Nolfolk Island and in New Zealand.  There are even some descendants of the mutineers that are now living in the United States, and a few have made their way back to the United Kingdom. Interest in story behind Bounty continues to grow through the centuries, and one of the best places to learn about this history is by reading a few books on the subject. I highly recommend Caroline Alexander’s The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty and Glynn Christian’s Fragile Paradise: The Discovery of Fletcher Christian, Bounty Mutineer

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