This year the Kāpiti U.S.Marines Trust is focusing on 1943 – the second year of the “friendly invasion” of an estimated 100,000 American Armed Forces into New Zealand during World War II.
On Monday 27 May the centre-piece will be Kāpiti’s traditional Memorial Day ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Park, commencing at 10 am. Everyone is welcome to this colourful and moving ceremony at the Marines Memorial.
Other Salute 70 events on Sunday May 26 include a run or walk retracing the old “route march” in the foothills behind Mackay’s Crossing. The afternoon offers a concert of 1940s jazz with Roger Fox in Paekākāariki memorial Hall at 2.30.pm.
“We’re delighted to be working with enthusiastic community partners and look forward to sharing the remarkable story of the American Armed Forces encampment in Kāpiti,” says Trust Chair Jenny Rowan.
“This was a time when Americans out-numbered locals by about 15:1 and “business as usual was far from usual.”
“Our troops were away in Italy and the Middle East and while the Americans were protecting us against a possible Japanese attack we started to see their men return here injured and maimed.
“We learned of the tragic loss of 1732 Americans and 1900 Japanese in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Later in the year thousands more were killed and wounded in the Battle of Tarawa many of them lived on our land and had become friends.
“By 1943 the camps had been built, relationships and friendships were growing, locals were working in and around the camps supplying services and food, and American culture had started to take root in our country.
“Locals were fascinated by the overwhelming presence of the Marines in the district as they practised manoeuvres in the park, on the beach, and in the bush. Some were also present during the landing tragedy on Paekākāariki beach when 10 seamen from the USS Legion lost their lives (June 20, 1943)
“Another highlight was the surprise visit of American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who came to visit the American forces. She stayed in Wellington from August 28-30 and visited Marines in the Paekākāariki Camps.”
Last year, the Trust won two community awards for its work with a wide range of national, regional and local organisations hosting the highly successful Salute 70 festivities celebrating the arrival of the American forces in New Zealand. (June 12 Auckland and June 14 Wellington.)
Between 1942 and 1944 about 100,000 American servicemen were stationed in New Zealand, which became a rear-base for the Allies’ counter-offensive against Japan. About 15,000 Marine infantrymen lived in the Kāpiti district Camp Mackay (Whareroa Farm), Camp Russell (Queen Elizabeth Park) and Camp Paekākāariki.
At Queen Elizabeth Park on Monday 27 May, we remember these men and what they gave to our people, especially in this district.
For more information contact Anthony Dreaver Phone 04 9049970 or Chris Barber Phone 021 222 1038 or visit the website marinenz.com.