WELLINGTON, New Zealand --
More than 200 New Zealanders gathered in the pews of Old St. Paul’s, Wellington to be entertained by the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band. The booming music echoed through the stained glass windows and tall wooden walls, carrying the sound of celebration through the still Wellington streets.
The June 13th concert, featuring the MarForPac Band, was part of several events commemorating the 70th anniversary of U.S. Marines landing in Wellington. The concert was held in the church where Marines worshipped during their stay in Wellington.
“It was 70 years ago tomorrow, two converted ocean liners arrived at King’s Wharf in Wellington carrying thousands of Marines,” said David Huebner, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
Although Marines were not the only American military in New Zealand, they had a lot of influence on the city of Wellington.
Throughout the city there is a sprinkle of small displays of appreciation to the Marine Corps, in remembrance of the Marines who were stationed here during World War II. Old St. Paul’s is one of those displays.
During the war, it was a place where many Marines worshipped side-by-side the New Zealanders. Today, it is a historic building that tells the tale of the friendly American invasion of 1942.
“Here at St Paul’s, we have never forgotten those sons that were once our own,” says a historical video on permanent display at Old St. Paul’s.
Upon entering the old cathedral, there is a 48-star American flag hanging 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 port for its military during the war.
“What we are celebrating tonight is the special friendship that developed during the shared sacrifice and service in times of war,” Huebner said.
The MarForPac Band will continue to travel throughout New Zealand this month to celebrate the Marines landing in 1942.