Building a Sea of Bases: Labor and the US Military in the Post-World War II Pacific

Sunday, January 10, 2016: 9:30 AM
Room A703 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Colleen Woods, University of Maryland at College Park
From Philippine independence into the early 1990s, Subic Bay, the largest U.S. Naval installation in the Pacific, and Clark Air Force Base employed upwards of 15,000 Filipino day laborers.  The quotidian upkeep demanded by bases as large as Subic Bay and Clark meant that the U.S. military comprised a large and important industry in the distressed Philippine economy.  Even though the economic opportunity that the bases provided surrounding villages was integral to the livelihoods of many Filipino workers, opponents of U.S. and Philippine policy, many of whom identified as economic nationalists, critiqued the bases as sites of exploitation, cultural degradation, and foreign control. Yet while Philippine politicians continually pushed back on the limits they felt the bases placed on Philippine sovereignty, the U.S. military began to institutionalize the exportation of Philippine labor to the island of Guam. As the U.S. military expanded its presence in the Pacific, U.S. military contractors employed nearly as many Filipino day laborers on the island of Guam as in the Philippines itself. For example, a single U.S. military contractor, Brown-Pacific-Maxon, employed over 17,000 Filipino laborers on the island of Guam during the 1950s.  Filipinos, recently termed by one scholar as the “low-cost labor of the War on Terror,” are a critical population to the U.S. military and its vast network of contractors. While many scholars locate the state’s institutionalization of the Philippines “culture of migration” around the 1973 oil shocks, this paper explores the militarized migration of Filipino laborers in the post-WWII reconstruction and U.S. military expansion on the island of Guam during late 1940s and early 1950s.
See more of: Empire and Labor in the Pacific
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