Supplying the troops

US marines in New Zealand

American World War II supplies at Aotea Quay, Wellington. Source National Library

Crammed with troops, the USS Wakefield nosed its way into Wellington Harbour on the morning of 14 June 1942. A band waited on King's Wharf, striking up The Marines' Hymn "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli..." to welcome the First Marine Division.

The camps brought big changes for the nearby community. First the local golf course was torn up to build Camp Paekākāriki. Then with the Marines came American products and habits, mostly exotic and new to New Zealanders. The camps stocked things such as Hershey bars, American cigarettes and Coca-Cola. It all helped the men feel at home amid the bush and sandhills. Locals promptly opened a milk bar, florist, drycleaner and bakery to provide more home comforts for the troops.

One local resident later recalled:

"Alongside the school at Paekākāriki was the first 'take-away' that I can ever remember where the troops could buy sausages, chips, hamburgers, etc. It made a fortune."

From The Yanks are Coming, by Harry Bioletti, 1995

Food was plentiful and cooked as far as possible in a traditional American style. Some of the New Zealand staples, especially fatty lamb (referred to as "goddamned mountain goat"), were harder for the visitors to cook or stomach.

US marines in New Zealand

US troops unload vegetables at a military camp in Paekākāriki, 26 January 1943. Source NZ History online

US marines in New Zealand

A US Marine removes food supplies from an army truck. The sack is labelled: ‘Kiwi mild cure bacon and hams. Bacon Co. Ltd, Palmerston North’. Source NZ History online

US marines in New Zealand

US Marines in New Zealand were very partial to milk and made it one of the principal parts of their diet declaring that New Zealand milk is good. Image was released for publication 2 December 1942, and was published in the Evening Post 19 December 1942.Source NZ History online