The Victims

US Marines in New Zealand

The Sailors’ Memorial is in memory of the USS American Legion sailors who died off Whareroa Beach during the exercise:

Herbert C. Winfrey (Ensign)

Howard J. Britton (Seaman 1st Class)

Joseph P. Lorbietski (Seaman 1st Class)

William D. Roundtree (Seaman 1st Class)

Alva L. Skoog (Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class)

Kenneth G. Snow (Seaman 1st Class)

Alden P. Thatcher (Seaman 1st Class) - Alden Thatcher was the only man drowned whose body was never found

Charles F. Vetter (Seaman 1st Class)

Walter J. Yanghis (Seaman 1st Class)

Dale G. Cox (Seaman, rank unknown)

Its understood the men were initially buried in the Mackay family cemetery – alongside State Highway One in Queen Elizabeth Park. Their bodies were later repatriated to the United States.

the names of the men who died are now read each year by students from Kāpiti, Paraparaumu and Otaki colleges attending Memorial Day services in the park.

Relatives of H.C.Winfrey, A.L.Skoog and A.P.Thatcher have all visited the Memorial.

Alva L. Skoog

US Marines in New Zealand

US Marines in New Zealand

US Marines in New Zealand

Sailor’s son returns to Marines Memorial

It was emotional day for the Skoog Family of Illinois when they brought their father George ‘down under” to see the memorial to his father Alva Skoog who was drowned in the landing tragedy on Paekākāriki beach in June 1943.

George Skoog was only seven years old when his father drowned. His 80th birthday present trip to New Zealand courtesy of his oldest son, George (junior) was a moving affair. In fact, George funded the whole family: Mother Nancy, and younger brothers, Scott and Andrew on the trip in December 2015.

The family joined members of the Trust for a short personal service at the Marines Memorial, a visit to the site of the landing incident, and morning tea in Raumati. Aged 32, Alva Skoog was the Boatswain’s mate on LCVP 6 when it capsized. He was the oldest of the ten sailors who lost their lives in the tragedy and believed to be the only one who had a child.

Kia Kaha George Skoog.

US Marines in New Zealand

The Skoog Family at the beach landing site

US Marines in New Zealand

The Skoog Family at the Sailors memorial

Ensign H. C. Winfrey

In March 2011, Dave Johnson, a Trustee at the Paekākāriki Railway Museum received an email from Kathy Butcher in America.

Kathy wrote that her Grandfather Ensign H. C. Winfrey an Officer of USS 'American Legion' had drowned, along with 12 crew members, when being towed off the Paekākāriki beach on June 20 1943. Dave passed the email to the local community paper, Paekākāriki Xpressed who corresponded with Kathy.

Kathy Butcher has spent two years researching the death of her Grandfather and is eager to learn if there is any local knowledge of the event.

We learn from Kathy, that the tragedy took place at 2305 and there would have been no local witnesses. Being wartime no press statements were released and no inquiry was held.

Kathy has spoken to some who survived the return trip to the ship and her family are having difficulty understanding how her Grandfather, Ensign H C Winfrey, regarded as an excellent swimmer, drowned. The only conclusion they can come to is that he perished from hypothermia in our frigid coastal waters.

Apparently, Ensign Winfrey had volunteered to go ashore to retrieve the stranded barge and unfortunately he and 9 others perished on what should been a very simple exercise.