This week New Zealand Post issued a set of stamps commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American servicemen and women to defend Aotearoa and the South Pacific during World War II. What was known locally as the “friendly invasion” had a significant and very positive impact on life in New Zealand, not only for security but also socially, culturally, and economically.
By using vintage photographs drawn from the national archives, the stamps convey a sense of the charm and spirit of local interactions during the 1940s, even as war raged just to the north and west. Below are images of the stamps as found in the commemorative booklet. Following the images are the notes from the booklet describing each scene.
A. Sergeant Nathan E. Cook, 37th Infantry Division, comes down the gangway at Prince’s Wharf in Auckland to become the first American soldier to step onto New Zealand soil, 13 June 1942.
B. The U.S. Camp in Central Park, Brooklyn, Wellington.
C. Taking on the locals: On 28 August 1943 a U.S. Marines selection played a game of rugby against a local Army team at Athletic Park in Wellington. The match, won by the New Zealanders 22–13, was described by a visiting American photographer as ‘mayhem’.
D. Frank Zalot ‐ survivor of the Paekakariki disaster in Wellington with friend. Frank was a crew member of USS American Legion, and was a survivor on 20 June 1943 of a tragic landing craft capsize off our beach. (Frank attended this year with his daughter and grand-daughter a ceremony dedicating the new Sailors’ Memorial at Queen Elizabeth Park in Kapiti.)
E. U.S. forces carry out a mock Pacific island landing on the Māhia Peninsula between Napier and Gisborne.
F. At a public gathering in Gisborne an American sailor, Fred Watson, discusses with Nancy O’Connor the differences between the American dollar and the New Zealand pound.
G. Private Arlen Olson (left) and Corporal Al Cartwright pose for a photograph with New Zealand ‘land girls’ Dorothy Penny and Lindsay Horwell (right), who they are helping harvest crops at Patumāhoe, near Pukekohe.
H. Columns of US troops march through the streets of Auckland towards their transport ships, which will take them to war in the Pacific.
I. Milk bars spring up all over the city to cater to American tastes, although cakes, crumpets, scones, and dainty sandwiches are usually served with shakes instead of the much preferred hamburgers, hot dogs, or grilled sandwiches.
J. The well‐stocked PX store at Camp McKay (or Mackay) does an average US$26,000 worth of business monthly.
I haven’t looked, but I assume that the stamps are available in most New Zealand Post shops. So, when you next need a book of stamps, please consider asking for a bit of history to go with your current correspondence.