New Zealand’s Strategic Importance – May 1942

**NOTE: On December 15, 1941, Japan generated a military proposal for it’s Axis partner, that the 70th meridian east longitude (splitting India in half) would form the dividing line between the powers. Hitler signed. What’s even more interesting is that Hitler, not knowing much about the world beyond Europe, in his only known conversation on New Zealand, reportedly argued that its people “still lived in trees and had not yet learned to walk upright.”

By May 1942, the Japanese had devoured most of the Western Pacific, as can be seen in the adjacent map. What can’t be seen is the threatened loss of the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) from the United States to allies Australia and New Zealand. Any farther south and east and the Japanese might have cut the two off from the American “arsenal of democracy.”
From an American perspective, forward basing and staging areas, especially into the SW Pacific, were critical.

As such, major elements of the 1st Marine Division (link to the unit by clicking on the patch at left) arrived in New Zealand in mid-June 1942. The unit trained and prepared for the first American land fight in World War II: the Battle for Guadalcanal. This victory sealed off the Japanese from complete disruption of allied SLOCs, and provided a much needed shift of momentum in the other direction.

 


I write about this and want to remember this because I live on Oriental Bay in Wellington. The two pictures at left are from the NZ Historical Society, and taken from an amazing online database of photos of the “American invasion” of New Zealand in 1942. It’s heartening to get to see that, nearly 70 years ago, American servicemen were walking the same streets that I am today. Moreover, it piques my curiosity: was my grandpa (US Marine officer) here? Was Rachel’s grandfather Ralph here (US Navy enlisted man)? More to follow…hopefully.


Author: ML Cavanaugh

Unequal parts strategist, assistant professor, wordsmith, runner, wine-o, reader, philosopher of firepower, and hopeless lover of three ladies named Rachel, Grace, and Georgie.

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