The U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band held a concert at Old St. Paul’s here Sept. 16 as part of a recently-begun yearlong celebration of the 70th anniversary of U.S. Marines landing in Wellington in June 1942. Old St. Paul’s, an Anglican cathedral, holds historical value to Wellington and to the Marine Corps. Today, the cathedral is open as a historic building for hosting weddings, concerts and funerals.
Upon entering Old St. Paul’s, visitors will immediately see the 48-star U.S. flag displayed alongside the 2nd Marine Division colors.
The display is a symbol of the friendship between New Zealand and the U.S. Marines based on mutual needs during World War II, a time when New Zealand was vulnerable to Japanese attack and the U.S. needed a strategic stopping place for its military during the war.
The MARFORPAC Band has traveled through several cities in New Zealand to commemorate what New Zealanders call the friendly American Invasion of 1942. “All of us are so honored to be able to represent the Marine Corps as a whole through music and getting to play the “Marines’ Hymn” in different countries,” said Cpl. Nathan P. Davenport, a percussionist for the MARFORPAC Band.
Because of its historical value to U.S. Marines, Old St. Paul’s was one stop the MARFORPAC Band had to make before leaving New Zealand, said David Huebner, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand. He called the church a refuge to the many Marines who once attended the cathedral to worship.
Today, Old St. Paul’s continues to show its love and appreciation to the Marine Corps by holding a Memorial Day service every year to commemorate the time Americans landed to defend New Zealand.
“Here, at St Paul’s, we have never forgotten those sons that were once our own,” said a historical video on permanent display at Old St. Paul’s.
The residents of Wellington have not forgotten the Marines either. The cathedral filled with many local residents who know the history of the American Invasion very well. Many enjoyed talking to the Marines about the history and the mood of the era when the Marines were in town.
“Hopefully in June, we’ll be here to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Marine landing in New Zealand,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael J. Smith, the officer-in-charge of the band.
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to represent the Marine Corps, America and the military to these people who are so genuine and fun to be around,” said Davenport. “It’s an honor … to get to keep their memory alive to the people who live here, so they don’t forget about the Marines or 200,000 (service members) who were here during World War II.”