70 Years After the War

US MarineNZ flagsWWII Marines back in Wellington and Kapiti more than 70 years on

By Anthony Dreaver

For the first time in 72 years, six American World War II veterans are returning to New Zealand to revisit their old haunts in Wellington and Paekakariki.

They will arrive in Wellington on Sunday for a short stop-over on their way to a ceremony in Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati – to repatriate the remains of 25 of their comrades who lost their lives there during the war.

The Band of Brothers

The group of Marines aged 88-93, and nick-named ‘The Band of Brothers,’ all trained in New Zealand  as part of the Second Marine Division – prior to fighting in the four-day Battle of Tarawa that raged across land that is now the capital of Kiribati.

The ‘Brothers’ were all stationed in camps in Kapiti and Porirua Districts* and will be hosted during their Wellington stay by the Kapiti U.S.Marines Trust: www.marinenz.com, with assistance from the U.S.Embassy, the Porirua City Council, the Friends of Old St Pauls, the Film Archive the National War Memorial and the Paraparaumu Branch of Westpac.

Special greeting from vintage cars at Airport

They will be picked up from the Airport by members of the Early American Car Club who will drive them in vintage American cars, manufactured between 1934 and 1948, to the Wellesley Hotel (a former meeting place for American generals based here during the war.)

The group is expected to travel by train to Paekakariki.  They will be greeted by the Kapiti Brass Band and are expected to visit the Paekakariki Station Museum and, formerCamps, Paekakariki, Mackay (Whareroa Farm) and Russell (Queen Elizabeth Park). They will also lay a wreath at the recently renovated U.S.Marines Memorial in the park and share a community lunch with the locals. While in Porirua City they will visit former camps in Titahi Bay and Pauatahanui.2

The trip is funded by The Greatest Generations Foundation (TGGF) http://www.tggf.org/ and Mark Noah of History Flight Inc. http://historyflight.com/nw/

TGGF is an international non-profit International organization dedicated to promoting recognition and respect for war veterans of past and current conflicts.

The History Flight

History Flight Inc. is a non-profit organisation committed to keeping World War II aviation history alive. The organisation uses profits from its flights to fund on-going research and recovery expeditions to bring ‘Missing in Action’ servicemen home from their burial sites in remote battlefields of WWII.

Although regarded as one of the most important battles in the Pacific War, the Battle of Tarawa (November 20-23, 1943) came at a considerable human cost with more than 5,000 Japanese and 1000 US lives lost.

The battle was recognized at that time as the most violent battle in the 200+ history of the US Marine Corps, and marked the start of the United States march across the Pacific towards Japan.

Mark Noah has undertaken more than 30 trips to Betio (the business centre of South Tarawa) and even has an office there. He has devoted the last ten years of his life to the funding and retrieval of the remains of Marines and Sailors from the Battle of Tarawa – repatriating more than 100 Marines and Sailors back to their homeland.

US Marine Corps will travel in parallel with the Brothers on their return to Tarawa — and Marines based at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington will also accompany them on their trip to the Capital.

For more information Contact:

Allison Webber (Kapiti U.S.Marines Trust) 04 905 8594 or 021 465 678

Jamiela Jeffery (U.S. Embassy) (04) 462 6082 or 027 273 0132 or JefferyJN@state.gov

Background

  • At any one time between June 1942 and mid-1944 there were between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen in camp in New Zealand.
  • Between 1942 and 1944 over 15,000 American troops were stationed at Camp Russell (now Queen Elizabeth Park), Camp Mackay (now Whareroa Farm) and Camp Paekakariki (now Paekakariki village).