Guidebook for American Soldiers 1944

I became more aware of the American connection when I purchased a 77-page booklet titled “Instructions for American Serviceman in Dutch Indonesia during World War II” by the Dutch publishing house Elsevier. From the very beginning of the Japanese dream of conquering the land and people of Asia, they recognized the vital importance of the Indies to their so-called New Order in the Far East.  A leading statesman said that these lands were “A matter of life and death to Japan economically and strategically.” Americans came to the rescue as part of the “American-British-Dutch-Australian Command” banner, but before they came they had to know how to behave. Therefore, an instructional guidebook was created to serve this purpose.  Issued to U.S. military personnel serving in the Dutch East Indies in 1944, this little booklet contained some of the following instructions:

1.  Don’t use the term “native” or other words that may carry a stigma.  The term “Indo” should never be used to refer to an Indo-European.

2.  Remember the people in the Indies don’t draw any color line.

3. Bargaining is the accepted mode of buying. Don’t throw your money away. You’ll be much more respected if you are a good bargainer.

4. Be careful about swearing in public.  An Indonesian who hears you may think you are trying to put a curse on him and if he has bad luck he may blame you.

5. Keep a grip on yourself.  To an Indonesian the first rule of good conduct is self control. Avoid getting drunk, boasting, or fighting in public.  In the wayang plays of Java the loudmouths are the clowns and villains.

6. Be friendly and polite.  Courtesy counts a great deal in this part of the world.  The expression for “thank you,” is “terima kasih.”

7. If Indonesian workers erect a building for you, be sure to give them a “selamatan” (feast) when it is finished, in order to appease the spirits.

8. Keep away from Moslem mosques.  Be quiet around all other places of worship and show respect for rituals.

9. Keep silent when Moslems are praying and don’t stare.

10. Don’t argue politics and above all don’t discuss religion.

11. Follow your host’s lead when invited out to dinner.  If he eats with his fingers, follow suit.

12. Don’t offer Moslems pork.  This food is taboo to them.  It’s better not to eat pork or pork products in front of Moslems

13. Keep away from local women until you know the ropes.  Above all, don’t touch them in public

14. Be generous and share your cigarettes.

15. Above all, use your common sense.

“Instructions for American Serviceman in Dutch Indonesia during World War II”,  published in1944.  Re-published in 2010 by Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Original US title “A Pocket Guide to Netherlands East Indies. (For use of Miltary Personell only)- War and Navy Departments, Washington, D.C. Prepared by Special Services Divison, Army Service Forces, United States Army.


By Jan Krancher, Visalia, California



  1. Dear Bonnie,

    On behalf of Jan Krancher, thank you for your kind words. Your reading the articles on The Indo Project (TIP) website is truly appreciated as people like you are the ones who can relate to our Indo history and (thankfully) actually take the time to let us know of your experiences. We are always looking for stories and if you would like to write one for TIP or have one to submit on a related subject, we would be happy to consider it for publication.
    Looking forward to your continued interest,

    With warm regards,
    Priscilla McMullen

  2. March 28, 2020 I’ve ‘enjoyed’ reading your translation of both this and the ‘Ship talk’ (for Dutch soldiers being shipped from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies to fight, post WWII) booklets (crikeys that was 10 years ago). I wander how many took notice of the advice? If they were anything like some modern day military personnel, you tell/advise them not to go to some place and guess where they’ll go first out of curiosity!! I was in the RAAF (Australia) and that’s exactly what would happen during a deployment. Kinda humorous!
    Jan, you are a prolific author and I for one am certainly extremely grateful for your English language works dealing with the NEI.

  3. 1. Don’t use the term “native” or other words that may carry a stigma. The term “Indo” should never be used to refer to an Indo-European.

    Haha what the…why was that the case?

    2. Remember the people in the Indies don’t draw any color line.

    based on stories ive heard ive come to the conclusion that number 2 didnt really seem to apply lol

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