Village elders tell of how a mysterious outsider came to their forbears in a series of apparitions, telling them to go back to their traditional ways. The idea of a messiah-like outsider was given a huge boost during the Second World War, when hundreds of Tannese men were recruited by the Americans to build roads, airstrips and bases. They were impressed by the large amounts of cargo – tanks, weapons, medicine and food – brought by the US military. The shadowy spirit figure they already believed in gradually assumed a name and a nationality – Jon Frum is believed to be a contraction of John From America, a reference perhaps to a soldier who showed particular generosity.
The movement was officially founded on Feb 15, 1957, to celebrate the release of cult leaders who had been imprisoned by the ruling Anglo-French authorities. For the last 50 years cultists have clung to the belief that by dressing up as GIs and venerating US symbols they can somehow tempt back the wartime cargo.
In a thatched hut in the centre of the village a cult shrine says: Jon Promise America – One Day He'll Be Returning.
Feb 16, 2007
Cult venerates the USA
Tanna Islanders who belong to the Jon Frum cult celebrate by dressing as US soldiers and holding drills.