New Zealand (AAM)

Historical Background:

New Zealand entered World War II at its start and provided forces for all theaters of war. Although the country had never taken action on the 1931 Statute of Westminster under which it could have autonomy, it acted as an independent nation during the war. Thousands of Americans came to know New Zealand during the war when it was the U.S. Navy's South Pacific headquarters.

The immediate impact of the Japanese attacks was sobering. Japanese troops landed in the Philippines and Malaya, and Japanese carrier-borne aircraft crippled the US battle fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese swept down the Malay peninsula to capture Singapore on 15 February 1942. Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast, was bombed four days later and Japanese forces moved as far south as the Solomon Islands from their pre-war holdings just north of the equator. The Japanese also invaded Burma and attacked Ceylon (Sri Lanka), both British territories.

These events shocked New Zealanders, who found themselves directly threatened for the first time. An unprecedented mobilisation began. By mid-January 1942, 43,000 men of the Territorial Force were on duty. Urgent action followed to throw up defence works at vulnerable points. As forward defence an infantry brigade was sent to Fiji, reinforcing another brigade deployed there in 1940.

Its military forces were placed at the disposal of the South Pacific Command. It provided a base for organisation and preparation, a place of recuperation and recovery for American troops, and food and other supplies. Local industry was developed to meet American needs.


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