Excitement is mounting ahead of the 70th Anniversary celebrations to commemorate the ‘friendly invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of New Zealand by American Armed Forces from 1942 to 1944.
Launching Salute 70, a unique 1940’s themed festival to commemorate the Anniversary, Kāpiti Mayor Jenny Rowan said there was overwhelming support for the celebrations which would pay tribute to American servicemen and women who were stationed, trained and convalesced in New Zealand during World War II.
Ms Rowan said it was also an opportunity to acknowledge the many thousands of sailors or ships crews who manned the 200 or more naval and support vessels which came here during the war.
“Given the passing of time this is really our last big opportunity to host Marines and other U.S. Armed forces, who camped on our land, were adopted by our families, dated our grandmothers, and defended our country while “our men” were fighting in the Middle East.
“It’s a great time for people to find their old photos, their address books, and war-time treasures and be part of a very special anniversary,” she said.
Organised by the Kāpiti US Marines Trust in cooperation with the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), the Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC) and a range of other heritage, environment and tourism groups, Salute 70 aims to engage Kiwis and American citizens with connections to this important period of history.
Ms Rowan said the main focus of the Salute 70 festival would be the Wellington Region, particularly in Camps Paekākāariki, Russell and Mackay where over 15,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed. (Nearly 8,000 Marines were also stationed in Titahi Bay, Porirua, Plimmerton, Judgeford and Pauatahanui.)
Salute 70 will open in Paekākāariki on Saturday, May 26, with an extravaganza of 1940’s music. This will lead into a major Memorial Day (the U.S. equivalent of Anzac Day) event in Queen Elizabeth Park (the former Camp Russell) on Monday, May 28.
The Memorial Day event will feature the New Zealand Air force Band and leading New Zealand baritone Zane Te Wiremu Jarvis. It will be attended by Governor General Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, tangata whenua, national and local politicians, members of the New Zealand and U.S. armed services, the RSA, visiting U.S.Marines and their families, community and youth groups.
As part of the event, a new memorial to ten US sailors who died off Paekākāariki beach in June, 1943, during landing exercises, will be unveiled and new Memorial Grove of Trees to honour the lives of men killed in the Pacific war will be planted.
Salute 70 will run until June 14 (the official anniversary of the Marines landing in Wellington), when a number of Anniversary events and a concert will be held at the Wellington Town Hall.
The U.S. Embassy is expected to bring the U.S.Marines Forces Pacific Band back to New Zealand for the celebrations. The popular band, which was a “star turn” during the Rugby World Cup, will tour a number of major centres, starting with a concert in Kāpiti on June 10.
Salute 70 will also features special tours of Marine camp sites in Kāpiti and other parts of the Wellington Region, a memorial dinner, a history lecture series, community story-telling sessions and 1940’s themed movie evenings
“The US Marines’ ‘friendly invasion’ was an exciting time in our country’s history, by all accounts. And we can take immense pride in the fact that so much of it was centred on the Kāpiti Coast,” says Greater Wellington’s Social and Cultural Wellbeing Committee Chair Nigel Wilson.
“I’m looking forward to seeing multiple generations of kiwis take part in Salute 70 the celebrations will keep the memories alive and ensure that this unique period in our history is not forgotten.”