Preparing for battle

US Marines in New Zealand

Huge meals and route marches rebuilt the Marines' strength and fitness. They practised amphibious landings on a hostile beach, exercised with small arms and artillery in the dunes, labored through the wetlands in the wake of tanks, and climbed the forested hills. All the land from Paekākāriki to Raumati and into the Tararua Range was treated as a war zone.

At last they were ready for action. On 31 October 1943 the camps emptied out as trains took the Marines to Wellington. At first light, a huge fleet slipped out of the harbour carrying 30,000 servicemen (5200 from this camp). Their destination was Tarawa (in today's Kiribati). In a fearful battle, 978 men of the 2nd Marine Division were killed and 2188 wounded before the island was taken.

A few memories

One dinner-time, a loud rumbling noise coming from the hills to the east of Dell Road aroused our curiosity and we had our first-ever sighting of military tanks moving about over the farmland.

While on a picnic at the Whareroa stream, we were entertained by tracer machine gun fire overhead landing in the sea - surely the best addition to a family picnic one could hope fort Before long. an officer came running along the beach shouting 'You're in the firing range - GET OUT!'

Maurice Perry

In the darkness from the corner bedroom that I shared with my sisters I would watch night after night showers of red tracer bullets that the Marines were shooting out towards the sea. They were like rockets and seemed to last for hours. Occasionally there were big booms that shook our house and rattled our windows. We were terrified. One morning I awoke to see some very large grey warships out in front of our house. I did not know where they had come from or what they were there for. It was a bit frightening. I watched as those things like barges came in close to the beach on the waves, dropped their front part, and the Marines with full battle gear on leapt out and ran up the beach to the bank.

Leslie Varcoe

At night the Marines shot machine guns and rifles from one sandhill to another over the heads of troops advancing up the gullies. A lot of live ammo got dropped in the darkness and was lost in the lupin. Kids taking the shortcut next day picked it up and took it to school in their schoolbags or stuffed down their shirts. The teachers were scared out of their wits.

Geoff Roberts

Related Pages

Training and Battles

The Field Notebook of Jim Wallace, a remarkable firsthand account of the Battle of Tulagi (8 August 1942) and its aftermath.


Training Photos in the Norm Hatch Collection

Photos of the Camp Life in the Norm Hatch Collection