The US Marines

June 12th, 2012 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

Last night the US Embassy celebrated Independence Day early, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of US marines arriving in New Zealand (which is today). As well as the normal contingent of Marines at the Embassy, we have 54 Marines visiting here for three weeks. It was a pleasure meeting and talking to many of them last night.

The reception was at the Town Hall, which was decorated in red, white and blue. 1940s movies were playing on the screens, and a jeep somehow got into the reception also.

The highlight was the coming onto stage of two WWII veterans – one US, and one NZ. The US veteran had not been back to New Zealand since 1944. It was very moving.

Ambassador Huebner spoke very well, and quoted Oprah of all people. But it was a good quote about how some friends want to travel in your limo with you, but the true friend is the one who will catch the bus with you.

As our men were fighting in Europe against the Nazis and Fascists, we had between 15,000 and 45,000 US servicemen stationed in New Zealand, whose job was to risk their lives defending our country should Japan invade. Thankfully the invasion never came, but we did see 1,500 Kiwi women marry a US serviceman.

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39 Responses to “The US Marines”

  1. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    Wellington was the last place a lot of those Marines saw before dying on Tarawa Atoll. Read the book “Battle Cry” by Leon Uris (semi autobiographical novel) – there are several chapters set in NZ.

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  2. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    I envy you that experience DPF…Had I still been an MP that is one I would never have missed.
    No doubt we will have some of the usual suspects on here decrying what the US did in the Pacific. It was a truly magnificent effort, and not less so because the Japs (as they then were) probably couldnt have sustained an invasion of NZ in 1942. They certainly had detailed plans to invade Australia though, and if they had managed to establish themselves there we would really have been in the shit.

    I recently read a book about the voyage of a German U Boat which came all the way here… sinking a couple of ships of Australia and even entering Gisborne harbour for God’s sake! Darwin was bombed on numerous occasions, more than Pearl Harbour was. There is no doubt that the Japanese/German axis had world domination as their aim.

    Brian S: I must get that book from the library…thanks for that.

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  3. big bruv (13,929 comments) says:

    DPF did not mention if any of the Greens were in attendance.

    [DPF: Julie-Anne Genter was there. Didn't see any other Green MPs.]

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  4. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    A couple of marines died in Wellington after fighting with locals who were not so enamoured with their presence. What was that old saying – over paid, over sexed and over here.

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  5. jaba (2,143 comments) says:

    big bruv .. at a rough guess I would say there were none .. maybe former MP and American hater Kieth locke was hovering around

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  6. Longknives (4,764 comments) says:

    It’s upsetting (and a little frightening) to think how much Anti-US sentiment there is out there nowdays..
    A young nauseating ‘Chardonnay Socialist’ in my office regularly goes on Anti-US rants and when I quietly mentioned that they saved the Pacific in World War Two she rubbished me! Apparently they were “a bully then and a bully now”- It makes me wonder if this is the sort of wishy-washy lefty History being taught in our schools these days?

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  7. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    Didn’t take long for the usual suspects to arrive.

    Brian I didn’t realise that “Battle Cry” was semi-autobiographical. Must track down a copy and re-read it.

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  8. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    According to Wikipedia, it’s a myth that two American servicemen died fighting in Manners St.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manners_Street

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  9. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I’d like to re-read ‘Battle Cry’ as well. I seem to remember that there were some very good NZ scenes.
    Thanks for that downer Ross. Yes, there was fracas in Manners Street after some racial comments by some US personnel from southern states. Pretty small significance compared to what the US presence here meant overall.

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  10. immigant (950 comments) says:

    I was in Bali one time with my family ona very isolated resort. By some twist of fate, the beach of teh resort was being used by a Marine unit for “training” basicaly the ship was offshore, during the night the marines slept on the sand and during the day just mopped around the resort swam in the ocean did a bit of tramping, that sort of thing.
    They were the hugests people I’ve ever seen, built like Oxes, but they were also the most polite and well behaved soldiers and officers I’ve ever come across.

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  11. Manolo (13,837 comments) says:

    Long live the U.S.A.!

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  12. tom hunter (4,894 comments) says:

    My Dad had a dog-eared, hardback copy of Battle Cry sitting in his library and it was one of the first “adult” books I ever read. I still have it. It soon became apparent where Dad had obtained at least one of his classic sayings: Well, I’ll be a poor, sad, bastard (the constant refrain of one of their drill instructors).

    The NZ sections are interesting, not least because of the perspective of young Americans. The angry reaction of one man as he compares the poor barrios from where he came, to what he sees as a rich land – Nobody really rich, nobody really poor – stayed with me. So did the final battle scene, still one of the most vivid, even in the wake of the opening of Saving Private Ryan. But there’s plenty of humour also – ribald I admit – but the scenes and characters still have me laughing out loud decades later.

    There’s no doubt Uris wrote the book with love; to a Jewish boy from Baltimore the US Marine culture appears to have made almost as much of an impact as his ancestral heritage.

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  13. kowtow (8,522 comments) says:

    The elements of the Labour Party and the media responsible for New Zealands’ anti American stance (disguised as a principalled independant stand) should forever be held in nothing but disgust.

    Our media constantly bang on about the anti nuclear era, Lange and his breath at a silly debate,How often are the sacrifices of the American servicemen and indeed our own ever talked about?
    Once a year, not good enough.
    How many Aotearoans have ever heard of Kapyong?

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  14. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    About 25 years ago I spent an evening with a former marine and his NZ wife. They were on a nostalgia trip back to Wellington. He was a wealthy man, owning among other things, a marina in Oregon or Washington. Fifty years after the fact he was still so bitter about what he had seen done to his “buddies” by the Japs that we would not allow any boat owner in his marina who had a japanese outboard. He was able to laugh at himself…he said he knew it was ridiculous and cost him a lot of lost revenue, but he just couldnt bear to be reminded of anything Japanese.

    For a great story about young US flyers in the Pacific War, and a very thoughtful treatment of the huge cultural disconnect between the two cultures, I recommend “Flyboys” by James Bradley.

    We who were born post war are such lucky generations. The chardonnay socialist in Longknives’ office should get herself some proper education.

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  15. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    Knew and know a couple of ex Marines well. One landed on Tarawa, and lived deep into his 80’s, met him and his wife on a tramp down south years ago. Lovely people, he was softly spoken, but there was a thread of darkness in him that came out late at night as he talked about those days. I did not envy him his demons, the poor bastard. Fondest memories of spending time with him and his lovely wife.

    And a guy I worked with more recently, was part of what happened in Mogadishu. Again, quietly spoken, fit as all hell, gentle but hard as nails.

    Deepest respect for the Marines.

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  16. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    my Aunty was one of the 1500 bless her. its great having family in the US to visit :D

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  17. alex (304 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t condemn what the Americans did in the Pacific war, even if much of it contravened the Geneva convention. After all, the Japanese committed many atrocities too, and were clearly the expansionist aggressive power who started the Pacific war by invading Manchuria.

    Having said that, what a terrible fucking war it sounds like. Both sides committed war crimes as a matter of course. Really makes you wonder why anyone would ever sign up ever again. Surely humanity should have looked at the events of the Pacific from 1941-45 and realised that we needed a better way of solving disputes than simply trying to slaughter each other?

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  18. grumpyoldhori (2,362 comments) says:

    Both my Aunts married Americans after WW2, one a Marine the other a Naval Commander.
    Uncle Rex who had been a Marine infantry platoon officer had always said the book by William Manchester Goodbye Darkness was the best biographical book of the Pacific war from a US Marine infantry perspective.
    Having a Maori wife in Georgia in 1950, that was as he said interesting.

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  19. dubya (236 comments) says:

    Perhaps Julie-Ann Genter was there to make sure the US Marines didn’t offer to build Transmission Gully again?

    An aside, my father has restored a lot of the machinery that the Marines brought here for their workshops in the 1940s, and had been shut away in storage until recently. He says the lathes and milling machines were beautifully built and still very accurate.

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  20. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    The poor bastard. 1,500 mothers in law.

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  21. nasska (11,580 comments) says:

    alex

    …”Surely humanity should have looked at the events of the Pacific from 1941-45 and realised that we needed a better way of solving disputes than simply trying to slaughter each other?”….

    They did & in all good faith the United Nations was formed to promote those goals. They will now be spinning in their graves watching that self serving body protecting dictators & advancing the NWO.

    As far as Americans are concerned I have yet to meet one who wasn’t a decent sort of bugger. Individual Yanks are let down by the actions of their financial institutions & the government they have bought.

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  22. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    grumpy: tell us about that…seriously…was your aunt accepted? Grudgingly or fairly easily? Was she readily invited to others’ homes? Did she stay married to the American?

    When I travelled through the deep south 30 odd years ago the racism was mostly fairly covert, but it was still very much there in the attitudes. In 1950, “interesting” would have been a major understatement for the challenges your aunt faced I would have thought…

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  23. kowtow (8,522 comments) says:

    Max Hastings “Nemesis” excellent book on the Pacific war.

    Alex you’re a cute whoer,not condemning what the Americans did FFS.

    Read The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang and the Knights of Bushido by Lord Russell of Liverpool and then come back to us with your little anti American throwaway lines.
    Better still live for a short while in one of the territories occupied by the Japs in WW2 and talk to the locals. I think that’s one of the problems with the NZ left and their anti American pals, thanks to the US we were never in serious threat of invasion so were spared the “anti colonial” pleasures of his Imperial Majesties forces.

    God Bless America,honour the fallen.

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  24. alex (304 comments) says:

    @ Kowtow – I’m not anti-American, read the comment you idiot. They committed war crimes, and in the context, they were justified. However, the experience should have taught humanity that war should not be the answer to international problems.

    You are just seeing what you want to see in my earlier comment. Read it again, try and understand it, and then try to join the grown-ups debate.

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  25. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    kowtow, Im half way through Iris Changs book, and every time I open it Im haunted by the knowledge that she took her own life after writing it. The book is frightening beyond belief.

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  26. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    kowtow: To be fair, I didnt read Alex’s comment as anti American…and I’m afraid he is quite right – there were atrocities on both sides as “Flyboys” by James Bradley – who is a proud American – makes clear. But as Alex acknowledges, it is hugely relevant the the Japs were the aggressors, and as Bradley and other authors make clear, the “We are superior beings” mentality was not just confined to the Japanese military.

    Alex might be a leftie in general, but I would find him not guilty on this particular occasion!

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  27. Martin Gibson (247 comments) says:

    Was Tariana Turia there to honour her “Whakapapa that dare not speak its name”?

    It must be hard walking around with one quarter of yourself hating half yourself. No wonder she always sounds so depressed.

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  28. 3-coil (1,220 comments) says:

    Shame it wasn’t 1500 + 1

    If the marine who knocked up Tariana Turia’s mum had married her and taken her back to the States, there would be a huge hole in the ranks of the Maori party today.

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  29. Don the Kiwi (1,763 comments) says:

    Who the hell is complaining about WAR CRIMES.

    My dad saw action in Italy in 1944 – NZers committed war crimes! Dad saw them happen.

    War is a dirty business, and men do what they would not usually do in times of extreme duress.

    War Crimes —- FFS.

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  30. kowtow (8,522 comments) says:

    I don’t agree,read alex carefully, he’s a cute one as I said “the Americans committed war crimes as a matter of course”

    “after all the Japanese …. too….”

    Come on he ‘s being as subtle as a fucken Jap sword and you’re falling for it.

    hmmokr
    Didn’t know that,as you say,frightening beyond belief. And some people think that sort of aggression can be dealt with in “a better way”.

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  31. tom hunter (4,894 comments) says:

    I’d like to agree about Manchester’s book, but I’ve not read it despite meaning to do so. I’m still working my way through Beevor’s The Battle for Spain, and Foote’s The Civil War.

    But I would also make a plea for two autobiographies of the Pacific War by US Marines:
    Helmet for My Pillow, by Robert Leckie
    With the Old Breed, by Eugene Sledge

    I had heard of the latter before both books were used the primary source for the HBO mini-series The Pacific a couple of years ago, but I had never read them. They act as bookends for the Pacific war; Leckie’s dealing with Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Cape Gloucester, and ending at Peleliu, and Sledge’s starting with Peleliu and continuing through to Okinawa.

    Of the two I’d have to say that Sledge’s book has the most brutal depictions of front-line combat. As bad as they are for the largely forgotten battle of Peleliu, Okinawa is worse, which is rather strange in that the battle there was not the standard one of US Marines in their “alligators” moving through the surf to crash upon the white-sand beaches of some tiny, palm-tree-covered Pacific island. At Okinawa they landed with hardly a shot being fired and then made their way equally quietly through a land of green grass, farms and temperate forests for days. It was a fake and they knew it: the Japanese had given up on the stupid banzai charges and stopping the Marines on the beach. At Okinawa they dug in on several defensive lines and fought a deliberate WWI campaign of attrition, complete with endless rain, cold and mud. The whole idea was to cause so much damage and death that the Americans would think twice about landing in Japan proper, truly a case of being careful what you wish for.

    Rather than the blood and gore of combat, Sledge’s descriptions are at their most horrific when describing the “in-between” periods: keeping your socks on for twenty days in mud and wet, unable to dry them out, finally making yourself vomit when able to remove the remains; sliding down a wet, muddy hillside under fire, to crash into a pile of dead Marines and Japanese soldiers filled with maggots – and to have this sort of thing happen day after day, night after night, week after week.

    I’m surprised more men did not go mad – Sledge almost did, in terms of becoming utterly inhuman, and yet was somehow able to avoid falling all the way through the net, as Caputo would put it decades later in A Rumour of War, his account of a very different war.

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  32. alex (304 comments) says:

    @ Kowtow – When even David Garrett can agree with a lefty in opposition to your point, it probably means you are wrong. I don’t hate America. Let it go.

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  33. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    Seems to me the sort of infantile anti-Americanism that was around the left back in the 1980s has died out amongst leftists – these days I only here those sort of comments from small-town conservatives and right wing conspiracy theorists. I think you folks are a bit out of touch.

    It always amuses me when I get described as being ‘anti-American’, both because I’ve always had a fondness for that country and its culture (I’d choose Carl Barks over Karl Marx any day), and because the sort of comment that is labelled as such is usually something that millions of Americans would completely agree with.

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  34. kowtow (8,522 comments) says:

    alex

    OK I’ll accept your view that DG is the final arbiter of all issues:)

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  35. alex (304 comments) says:

    @ Kowtow – Haha, well played.

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  36. cha (4,036 comments) says:

    My Dad and Grandfather were man powered to work on the construction of the camp and hospital in Paraparaumu and they both talked about the marines who were evacuated or were on R and R here from the Pacific.

    Awful apparently with thousands traumatised by their combat experiences and most suffering from malaria / assorted tropical diseases / malnourished plus all sorts physical injuries. The old man would have been fifteen or sixteen at the time and he talked about how there were hundreds of kids his own age amongst them.

    And apart from the obvious logistical reasons for bringing them here Dad reckoned another reason was that if the American public got wind of the terrible suffering endured by those young men opposition to the war and the Pacific campaign in particular would hamper the US war effort.

    BTW, the old man reckons there was never an earthmoving machine to be seen and any site work was done by hundreds of marines with shovels and wheelbarrows.

    Nice to see that the fuckwittery of “the Americans were going to build it” persists though.

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  37. Akaroa (558 comments) says:

    My brother was a POW in Japanese hands during WW2. He was in the RN and was captured after the Japs sank his ship following the Singapore debacle.

    He was a RN China Fleet middleweight boxing champ – although his belts and medals went down with the ship.

    He used to say that at first the Japs weren’t too bad. He was with a bunch of others taken to Java to build airfields, and when the Japs found out he was a boxing champ they constructed a rudimentary out-door gym and had him taking PT sessions for the other POWs

    (I know! Scarcely credible is it!!)

    BUT! It all turned to custard when the Japs started losing. Later he was on Formosa and used to tell how the Americans bombed and set alight a sugar refinery next to the POW camp. The sugar was running down the gutters much to the delight of the POWs who, by then, were pretty malnourished.

    After convalescence in Western Australia he was repatriated with x-thousand pounds in back pay and ship-wrecked seaman’s allowances. He blew the lot in no time flat!

    I remember our Mum putting rice pudding on the table shortly after he got home. He’d lived on practically nothing but whilst a POW. There was nearly a riot!! We never had rice again when he was around!!i

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  38. wat dabney (3,775 comments) says:

    I remember reading one Kiwi’s account being stationed on a Pacific island near to some US troops.
    The Yanks were very well equipped and generous in sharing it, but the Kiwis had a reputation for “aquiring” additional items to improve their living conditions.
    One of the Americans made the remark that the New Zealanders should share an island with the Japs: the war would be over in a week as the Kiwis would have taken all their stuff.

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  39. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    My Dad, before he went to the European theatre, was a range finder in the gun batteries protecting Wellington harbour. He said that on the day the Yanks sailed for Tarawa, they were listening to Tokyo Rose on the radio (she played good music apparently) and she dedicated a song to the marines leaving Wellington as the ships were leaving.

    But even more interesting, is that in his battalion, the 22nd, there was a Sergeant called Tsukigawa. Dad said he was their Jap and one of the toughest and best soldiers in the battalion.

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