US Marines WWII history in New Zealand on show in major new website

Memories remain of Paekākāriki village, as a home away from home for almost 15,000 U.S. Marines
during World War II. Eighty years on, this fascinating period of history has been brought together in a
major website (The US Marines in New Zealand 1942-44) developed by volunteers from the Kāpiti US
Marines Trust.

The new website site marinesnz.com will be launched by the Patron of the Trust, former US
Ambassador, Bill McCormick on Sunday February 25.

The site is the result of over a years’ work undertaken by volunteers from the Kāpiti US Marines Trust
(KUSMT). The project has been led by Tiziana Stoto website designer at kolorato.com, in Waikanae, in
collaboration with journalist Allison Webber from the Marines Trust. Together they have created an on-line history portal connecting eight heritage sites in Queen Elizabeth Park, Whareroa Farm and Paekākāriki. Each, tells a story of the Marines’ extraordinary stay in Paekākāriki from 1942-44 – a time when only 500 Paekākāriki residents shared the community with over 15,000 young Marines.

The project has been funded by the Lottery Grants Board, the Paekākāriki Services Trust and the Kāpiti
Coast District Council. KUSMT Chair, Richard Benge says the site, which also includes a wealth of information about the Marines encampment in other parts of the Wellington region and New Zealand, is now the largest public source of written and visual information on the WWII encampment of Marines in New Zealand. “It’s a brilliant resource for visitors, students, teachers, historians and interested members of the public both here and overseas,” he says.

Designed as a ‘one-stop-shop, the website will help visitors plan walking, cycling, car or train trips to
visit a variety of sites, all of them linked to attractive walkways and cycleways and accessible via
Transmission Gully, and SH59. The sites include: three former Marines’ camps (Paekākāriki, Russell and Mackay), a restored Marines’ hut, a Memorial to 10 US Sailors who died in an exercise off the Kāpiti Coast in 1943, an exhibition at the Paekākāriki Station Museum and the remains of a brick aviation fuel tank – recently designated a Category 1 Heritage site by Heritage New Zealand – Pouhere Taonga.

People can also find out more from a wealth of other resources on the site including: stories of the day,
photographic collections, short films, oral history interviews, maps and a diverse collection of reference
material. They can also find resources to help them trace their genealogy and view the prestigious, Norm Hatch Collection  of films and over 1400 black and white photos showing Marines living and training on our beaches and in our parks and in other parts of New Zealand – in 1943.

The first wave, of Marines, consisting of units of the 1st Marine Division, arrived in Wellington on USS
Wakefield on 14 June 1942. The 5th Marines regiment occupied Camp Mackay and the partially
complete Camp Paekākāriki. Their stay was short-lived and by July 22 most of the men were
despatched to Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. Auckland also experienced an American ‘invasion’ as soldiers from the 43rd, 37th, and 25th Infantry Divisions of the US Army arrived into their harbour on June 12, 1942.

The Kāpiti U.S.Marines Trust (KUSMT) is a not-for-profit trust established in 2009 by the former Mayor
of Kāpiti, Jenny Rowan. The Trust connects with a wide range of local, regional and national groups with an interest in the collection, conservation, exhibition, and promotion of Marines’ History – particularly in camps Paekākāriki, Mackay and Russell, in southern Kāpiti, New Zealand.

It works to keep this important WWII story alive for future generations by creating engaging signage,
relating to the 1942-44 encampment of the Marines in Paekākāriki. Over the past 10 years it has done
a significant amount of work creating on-line and ‘in the field’ stories to engage local, national and
international visitors.