By Lachlan Strahan
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Crucially, Canberra had no say in these arrangements. The Shanghai deal was unpopular in Australia, where some claimed that the United States had treated its trusty southern ally shabbily by giving the vast majority of its surplus war stores to China for a nominal sum. Some of the Australian discontent was rather hypocritical. Journalist Osmar White observed that the Australian authorities had allowed much of the war disposals under their control to be misused or squandered. Some items were capable of being adapted to civilian purposes but ‘little of this surplus was retained to help in reconstruction’.
Locals came in to trade at Lugos from far-flung parts of the island chain, including islets lying at the western end of Manus. Although they frequently went to the ‘bung’, the Chinese did not know the name Lugos, underscoring their lack of familiarity with their surroundings. Only several months after the Chinese had arrived on Manus, it was just such an everyday commercial transaction at Lugos that led, on 25 January 1948, to the Pondranei assault. Pondranei said he had bartered two pineapples to four Chinese in exchange for two cartons of cigarettes; the Chinese accused the islander of stealing the cigarettes and took the law into their own hands.
47 The Chinese merely jumped into the same racket. Under the terms of the Shanghai deal, the Nationalists agreed to arrange and pay for the storage, handling, loading and transportation of the American supplies. From the outset, the exact nature of the operation was complicated and unclear, involving a mixture of military and civilian personnel as well as several American and Chinese organisations. The Office of the 32 Day of Reckoning Foreign Liquidation Commissioner (OFLC), an arm of the US State Department, oversaw the operation.