An unusual religion developed among the islanders of the South Pacific after World War II. It was based on the idea  of cargo. which was the vast shipments of goods which entered the islands during the war. The islanders saw that they worked hard but were poor whereas the Europeans and Americans did not work but instead wrote things down on paper and in due time a plane loaded with wonderful things would arrive. After the war, the Allies left, and so did the shipmens of goods. The islanders attempted to bring back their war time wealth and power. The various systems they developed, known as Cargo Cults, held that if the proper ceremonies were performed shipments of riches would be sent from some heavenly place. It was all very logical to the islanders.

The Cargo Cult members built replicas of airports and airplanes out of twigs and branches and used bull-roarers to make the sounds associated with airplanes to try to activate the shipment of cargo.

Although the existence of the Cargo Cult only became known after World War II the elements of the cult had developed long before, when the Europeans first arrived in the area in ships. There were legends among the islanders of their distant ancestor-god having journeyed to the west and promised to someday return. The West was thought to be the land of the dead.

 

When the Portuguese and Dutch came into the area of the South Pacific they came from the west and they were pale skinned just as the islanders would have expected people coming from the land of the dead to be. The Europeans of the time also did not work but sent messages which led to the arrival of wonderful things as cargoes from ships.

At some point the notion developed among the Cargo Cult members that cargoes were being sent for them by their long dead ancestors but those cargoes were being intercepted by the Europeans. This idea was confirmed in the strongest possible way for one islander during World War II. His name was Bateri and he could read and write a bit. One day he went into the office of military post and saw stacked up boxes labeled Batteries. Obviously those boxes were his!

The Cargo Cult had a name for the diety in heaven. He was called John Fromm.      It is not certain how this name arose but quite possibly it was

 

from American soldiers identifying themselves by their place of origin: i.e., I am .John from Indiana or I am John from Minneapolis. Some clever business began marketing products under the name John Fromm. For example, soap bars were labeled John Fromm Soap. When it was a choice between ordinary soap and God's soap, it was no contest. It was clear which one would get you heavenly clean.

Because the Cargo Cult diverted people from productive and rewarding activities it was discouraged by the authorities. In New Guinea the Australian authorities enlisted the aid of the son of a famous warrior to discourage the Cargo Cult. He was effective and as a reward the Australians gave him a trip to Sydney. While in Sydney this man visited an anthropological museum. There he saw the sacred cult objects of his people on display.  
When the man returned to New Guinea he spread the word that the source of the Australians power was that they had stolen the sacred art of his people and built a temple to house it. A new cult developed around this idea.