WELLINGTON, New Zealand --
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and other government officials assembled to commemorate the U.S. Marine Corps’ landing in New Zealand during World War II at the National War Memorial here June 14.
Several American armed forces members and World War II veterans of New Zealand attended the commemoration.
“We are renewing old ties, we are celebrating the deeds of each other’s forces during World War II and we are commemorating each others’ war dead,” said New Zealand Army Warrant Officer 1 Todd Groombridge, acting command sergeant major to Wellington.
The relationship between Kiwis and Marines began following the U.S. entry into World War II. After the Japanese forces began advancing throughout the Pacific, a feeling of vulnerability spread through New Zealand.
“[The landing] was strategically important and it was very important to the people of New Zealand,” said Groombridge. “Most of the soldiers of New Zealand had gone off to the battlefields of Europe and Africa. So the people of New Zealand felt, I suppose, somewhat exposed.”
As a result of the New Zealand prime minister’s request for U.S. troops to deploy here, approximately 100,000 American service members were stationed in New Zealand between 1942 and 1945.
Because of this, a special bond grew between the Marines and people of New Zealand and a commemoration is held each year.
There have been many concerts and ceremonies hosted throughout New Zealand as a part of an ongoing celebration of the 70th anniversary of the friendly American invasion.
A wreath-laying ceremony was a formal commemoration of the anniversary of the Kiwi-American relationship.
Marines from the 3rd Marine Air Wing, 1st Marine Division and the New Zealand Army Guard of Honor stood in formation while the Central Band of the Royal New Zealand Air Force set the mood for the event.
Several Maori people, the indigenous people of New Zealand, also attended the event. A Maori couple welcomed the official party into the memorial by singing them a Karanga, a formal Maori greeting.
Inside the memorial, a catafalque party of six soldiers, who would usually be the guard around a casket, stood surrounding the guests at the service.
The ceremony not only honored those who died in World War II, but also highlighted the Kiwi-American friendship that grew as a result of the war.
As members of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band played the Marine Hymn, members of the official party laid their wreaths at the front of the memorial.
Among them was Lt. Gen. Duane D. Theissen, commander of MarForPac.
At the closing of the ceremony, Prime Minister John Key, Governor-General Jerry Mateparae and American Ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner placed roses on the tomb of the unknown warrior.
Later that evening, Marines, New Zealand Army soldiers and the Royal New Zealand Air Force participated in a sunset ceremony at the Parliament building here, concluding the ceremonies for the anniversary day.