Persists Over SW Pacific Issues
By Kerry Rodgers
A rare piece of
World War II scrip popped up on eBay in March: a
50 cents note from the Camp Barnes Officers
Club. It was listed under Fiji and for the
excellent reason that I had once said so in a
book published by the International Bank Note
Society in 1989: Paper Money of Fiji I. And I
The book is an inventory of note issues held in
various archives in Fiji that I had cataloged in
1986. The late Ruth Hill twisted my arm to make
this catalog widely available. To put my listing
in context, she instructed some of her "boys" to
send me photocopies of their Fiji holdings.
Among the prompt and dutiful responses were a
couple of issues from Camp Barnes.
I had never heard of the place in any Fiji
connection. However, I was assured, by whichever
of Ruth's "boys" sent the photocopies, that it
was indeed a Fiji issue. And so it came to pass
that two denominations of the Camp Barnes
Officers Club are cataloged in my book on p.
121, along with a possible third.
I was disabused immediately when my book hit the
streets. A collector in New Caledonia wrote to
say that during World War II the camp had been a
major U.S. Army installation, three miles
Although I made abject confession and published
a full public retraction in both U.S. and
Australian numismatic magazines, regrettably the
fiction has become firmly imbedded in a great
chunk of the collective notaphillic psyche. The
eBay listing is but one example. A couple of Web
sites persist in citing the camp and its issues
as being from Fiji - with my book quoted as
proof of the pudding. Oddly, there is no
reference to the place in World War II
My continuing efforts to make amends led me to
find out more about the camp. Regrettably little
is readily available to researchers dwelling at
the blunt end of the globe. However, I did
stumble over a few bits and pieces.
For starters, the postal history boys and girls
have long been way ahead of the paper money
fraternity. They have known where Camp Barnes is
ever since Adam wore short pants. It helps when
you have an APO address to play with, in this
case APO 502.
One U.S.-based postal history site is currently
offering for sale over 60 envelopes and
postcards originating from or in Camp Barnes. A
typical catalog entry reads: 1942 U.S. Army
Postal Service, A.P.O. 502 Camp Barnes, Noumea,
New Caledonia, 72nd Field Artillery Concession
Airmail to Beacon, N.Y.
From such listings it is clear numerous U.S.
units passed through Camp Barnes and/or used its
APO. A sampling includes: 282nd Coastal
Artillery, 71st Ordinance, 172nd Infantry, 852nd
Ordinance Heavy Maintenance Company , 28th
Replacement Battalion, 29th General Hospital,
754th Tank Battalion, 39th Military Police, 70th
Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), 72nd Field
Artillery. Anyone wanting more info can spend
many happy hours at www.postalhistory.com.
Another Web site yielded a massive 221-page
declassified document that sorely taxed my
laptop's patience. Buried among its pages was
the info that in November 1942 Camp Barnes was
indeed in New Caledonia and that it was where
the rear echelon of the USAFISPA (United States
Armed Forces In South Pacific Area) finally
caught up with the forward echelon. Headquarters
Company moved in toto to Camp Barnes on Feb. 10,
A delightful clincher came from Angus Bruce: a
Noumea five francs short snorter. In part the
autographed graffiti reads "1st Lt James F.
Lacy&USAFISP-4 APO 502."
The camp operated from March 13, 1942 until June
One Camp Barnes Web cameo concerns Roy Uyehata,
a Japanese-American or Nisei, conscripted into
the U.S. Army in 1941. On March 23, 1942, all
Nisei soldiers in his battalion were shipped to
Camp Wolters in Texas, where the camp commander
decided that prisoners currently in the stockade
had a higher hierarchical status than any Nisei.
The latter now replaced the stockade prisoners
as camp garbage collectors. When not collecting
garbage they were set to hand-breaking rocks to
line the camp's drive.
In late May 1942 Roy was one of 25 Nisei
soldiers transferred from that particular hell
on earth to the Military Intelligence Service
Language School. Following training, Roy's team
was sent on to Camp Barnes on Dec. 23, 1942 with
the task of interrogating Japanese POWs.
Roy states that New Caledonia's Camp Barnes was
"where the headquarters of the United States
Army Forces in the South Pacific area was
located." Throughout his time there, he was
always heavily guarded, even being accompanied
to the latrine by Marine Corps sentry.
The scarcity of linguists meant he and other
Nisei worked seven days a week for the first
several months until more interpreters flew in
from the United States. He was subsequently sent
to Bougainville, where he succeeded in eliciting
information from one prisoner that helped turn a
potential disaster to a significant victory: the
Second Battle of Bougainville. Roy and a second
linguist, Hiroshi Matsuda, who helped confirm
the intelligence, were duly decorated with a
Bronze Star apiece.
New Caledonia's Camp Barnes was clearly an
essential hub in the Pacific War, particularly
in the early months of the campaign during 1942
and 1943. However, as the Allies advanced
northward, that camp downsized with major
operations relocated nearer the action.
Thereafter the camp dropped off the main wartime
radar - and out of most historical records.
I could find no reference to it in the Library
of Congress online, but in one of New Zealand's
official war histories, Pacific Service: the
story of the New Zealand Army Service Corps
Units with the Third Division in the Pacific, is
the following observation:
"The main bodies from the depleted ASC units had
moved down to Noum�a in the middle of August
 and&was accommodated at the US 6th
Replacement Depot staging area, Camp Barnes an
enormous camp situated in a hot, arid valley at
the back of Noum�a, and a depressing place for
any but a draft homeward bound."
There are two distinct series of Camp Barnes
scrip known. Both, however, have the same
repeating underprint logo consisting of the club
building surrounded by the words "CAMP BARNES
The first series is distinguished by hand-drawn
serifed lettering. The words "CAMP BARNES
OFFICERS CLUB" arc across the upper part of the
face above the Great Seal of the United States.
Similar, but smaller-sized, hand-drawn serifed
font is used at the top of the note where: "CAMP
BARNES OFFICERS CLUB" is centered, and at the
bottom for: "FIFTY CENTS/IN UNITED STATES
CURRENCY." A large numeral closely resembling
that on a contemporary small-sized Treasury
bills occurs in each corner on a black disc. A 1
denominates the 10 cents, a 2 the 20 cents and a
5 for the 50 cents. All notes of this series are
printed on a low-grade, off-white paper to pale
fawn non-watermarked paper.
The underprint on the 10 is salmon, that of the
20 yellow brown, while the 50 sold on eBay is
blue, but a 50 also exists in reddish brown.
Assuming no fugitive color was involved, then
presumably several printings were made, but not
always in a consistent color.
The second series includes that illustrated in
Paper Money of Fiji, a 50 cents from Ruth Hill's
collection. This note uses a machine-printed
uniform sans-serif font. Five horizontal lines
across the face in capitals read: "CAMP BARNES
OFFICERS CLUB/WILL PAY ON PRESENTATION/TO THE
BEARER THE SUM/OF 50 CENTS IN/UNITED STATES
CURRENCY." A sixth line in smaller font reads:
"(GOOD FOR REDEMPTION ONLY ON APRIL 12, 1944)."
At each corner is a 5 in bold sans-serif font
within a thick black circle. The underprint is
blue. The paper is a clean white.
A similar dollar note is known from the Angus
Bruce collection. It has a light red underprint
and shows a 10 in bold san-serif font at each
A Camp Barnes chit booklet has been reported but
has not seen by this writer.