Object: Love sticks

E/1952/1/4 a-b
Pair of love sticks
Trukese
Chuuk (formerly Truk) island group, Micronesia
ca 1952
Materials: Wood and paint

This object is a pair of so-called “love sticks” from the Chuuk (formerly Truk) island group in Micronesia. These sticks were carved by men of the Chuuk island group as a part of their courtship traditions. Each man would carve his own unique pattern on to his love stick that could be identified by the single women in the village. According to tradition, when a man was interested in courting a woman for marriage the man would poke his love stick into the wall of her hut. The woman would then identify her suitor by the carvings on the love stick and decide if she was also interested in him. If she was interested she would pull the stick inside her hut, if she wasn’t interested she would push it out.

The Chuuk island group has seen a dramatic increase in anthropological and archaeological research since World War II. The Japanese took over control of the islands in 1914 and established a naval base in the lagoon that was in use during World War II. The lagoon still contains many wrecked ships and planes. During the war the native culture of the Chuuk islands suffered greatly. Many of the Truk people were either killed or wounded during the war and most were forced out of their homes to make way for Japanese military personnel stationed on the islands. On February 17-18, 1944 the United States launched an attack on the Japanese naval base in the Chuuk lagoon, called Operation Hailstone. The attack lasted two days and included a combination of airstrikes, surface ship actions, and submarine attacks. In the end, 16 Japanese war ships, and over 250 Japanese aircraft were destroyed. The Japanese were not able to restore full base operations on Chuuk which eliminated one of the largest threats to the Allied forces in the central Pacific.  The following video is an excerpt from an interview with a eyewitness to the Operation Hailstone attack. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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