War in the Tropics


  • Greg Jericho James Cook University




In the Home Box Office mini-series Band of Brothers (2001), one of the soldiers on a troop ship bound for England remarks: "Right now some lucky bastard's headed for the Pacific, get put on some tropical island, surrounded by six naked native girls, helping him cut up coconuts so he can hand feed them to flamingos". This paradisiacal view of the Pacific and tropical areas has existed for centuries, and despite European settlers' developing familiarity with the area, it is a misconception which has continued to be propagated in war films set in the tropics. These war films depict the tropics as antipodean utopias which become corrupted by the ravages of war. Thus, while many of these films attempt to display war realistically, they still hold to the historical view of the tropics as unspoiled and pure—until, of course, war intrudes onto the scene. These films rarely examine the effect of the war on the local inhabitants, but rather deal with soldiers coping with the disjunction between their preconceived notions of the area and the reality before them. Crucially as well, war is depicted as a greater crime against nature (both human and environmental) when fought in the tropics rather than in Europe. This view is promulgated in the representation of battles fought in these films. In films set in the Pacific theatre during World War Two, and more recent ones set during the Vietnam War, the battle for American and Australian soldiers is as much about coping with their surroundings as with fighting the enemy, who are often rarely seen, or only viewed in long shot. War films set in the tropics depict 'war as hell' because of the environment, which is by turns remote, mystifying, and generally rural, rather than urban, 'civilised' and familiar, as it is in the case of the majority of war films set in Europe.




How to Cite

Jericho, G. (2005). War in the Tropics. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 4. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.4.0.2005.3439