US veterans commemorate 'friendly invasion'
Mon, 28 May 2012 5:24p.m.
By Adam Ray
American veterans have returned to New Zealand to mark the 70th anniversary of their friendly invasion of the Second World War.
Fifteen thousand marines were camped at Paekakariki near Wellington in 1942 before going off to fight in the Pacific.
“The only thing that hasn’t changed is the hospitality,” says veteran Frank Zalot.
Mr Zalot has fond memories of his time in the area but he was here to mourn as well.
He survived a landing craft accident that killed 10 marines near Paekakariki in 1943.
“Everything’s coming back,” says Mr Zalot, I remember Paekakariki like it was yesterday, I always have.”
During the Second World War, 15,000 US marines stayed in camps near Paekakariki.
“The whole region was involved in feeding the camp, doing the laundry – it was a while city, it appeared overnight almost,” says Richard Benge of the US Marines Trust.
The arrival of US forces gave many a sense of security at a time when Japan dominated much of the Pacific.
And the marines were also a welcome sight for younger women with so many New Zealand men serving overseas at the time.
“You might as well say there were no men left – only old men,” says Diana Sawrey.
Alaire Dunlop says the Americans’ confidence and good manners were a big hit with the ladies.
“[They were] great days,” says Ms Dunlop. “When I met my future husband he said, ‘how did you go with the yanks?’ I said ‘best years of my life!’
And while The US servicemen and the Kiwis they met here have all aged, their memories of the friendly invasion have not.
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28/05/2012 11:29:35 p.m.
Robert W wrote:
Welcome to the United States Marine Veterans. Thankyou for saving our country and for possibly saving my life at under 5 years of age and that of my parents and older brothers.
Godbless New Zealand.
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