Author(s): Megan Hutching
The next book in the ongoing series tells the stories of Kiwis in the Pacific theatre: based in New Caledonia, in action on Mono and Nissan Islands, women working in communications, and a few Air force and Navy personnel. The Pacific War was different: more 'downtime', more contact with the Japanese and Americans, closer to home, a shorter war. Fifteen men have been interviewed, six served in the Army; five in the Navy and four in the Air Force. Army experiences include the garrison in Fiji, life in New Caledonia, time in Guadalcanal and the attacks on Vella Lavella, Nissan/Green Island and Mono Island (the first opposed landing New Zealanders had taken part in since Gallipoli). There are men from the infantry, Divisional Signals, Medical Corps (Field Ambulance), Provosts (military police) and Army Service Corps. One of the naval men was a radar operator working as a coast watcher behind Japanese lines, and met John F Kennedy on the island of Lumbaria (nr New Georgia in the Solomons). Another radar operator was seconded to the US Marines and took part in the landing at Peleliu in Belau. Two served on the New Zealand ships Achilles and Leander, and one was a seaman aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, witnessed the invasion of Okinawa and survived a kamikaze attack on his ship. The air force men come from bomber squadrons, fighter squadrons, air ground crew and reconnaissance squadrons. A couple were in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion, and one was taken prisoner by the Japanese, ending up in a POW camp in Japan. The others operated out of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. There are some good stories of contact with Japanese-POWs and those living on the run in the Solomons.
Megan Hutching is a senior historian with the Oral History Unit of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. She has worked with HarperCollins for several years now on the oral history Military heritage project initiated by the prime Minister, Helen Clark.