At the heart of the movement is a mythic messianic figure called Jon Frum, who allegedly appeared on the island of Tanna and who is variously identified as a god who lives in the crater of Tanna's highest mountain with his several thousand strong army or the 'king of America'. Jon Frum day is celebrated annually on 15 February; it is believed that Jon Frum will return on this day, bringing with him the cargo from heaven that westerners are selfishly diverting for themselves.
The Jon Frum movement appeared for the first time in the 1940s in the New Hebrideans. At that time some 300,000 American troops established themselves in the New Hebrides. The islanders were impressed both by the egalitarianism of the Americans and their obvious wealth and power. This led them to conflate perceived benefactors such as Uncle Sam, Santa Claus and John the Baptist into a mythic figure called John Frum, who would empower the island peoples by giving them cargo wealth. The power of Jon Frum appeared to be confirmed by the post-war influx of tourists to the region, who brought with them a degree of material prosperity to the islands. The movement was involved in the quest for independence in 1980 and continues today.
The most sacred symbol of the Jon Frum movement is a red cross. On Jon Frum day prayers and flowers are offered at the cross. In addition to this members involve themselves in a flag raising ceremony and a miltary parade in which they carry rifles made of bamboo.
Adherents The size of the movement is not known. It has split into a number of smaller groups.
The centre of the Jon Frum movement is Sulphur bay in Tanna. The movement also operates in adjacent islands in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).