The Yanks in New Zealand, Andrew Mason

Brief Encounter
Jock Phillips,
Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, $29.95

United States Forces in New Zealand 1942-45
Denys Bevan,
self-published, Kakanui Post Shop, $39.95

The Yanks Are Coming
Harry Bioletti,
Century Hutchinson, 1989, out of print

It is fifty years since the Marines established the beachhead since exploited so skilfully by Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Amex. New Zealand was not exactly a museum, but the doughboys encamped in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum [illustrated with a National Archives photograph: Camp Hale, sited on the lawn in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, from Brief Encounter] came warned that the New Zealand of six o’clock closing and funereal Sundays was a world removed from the lively urban culture they were used to. In 1992 we hosted several events commemorating the so-called ‘American invasion’ of New Zealand in 1942 when Roosevelt sent troops to reassure a dominion no longer able to count on the Royal Navy’s protection. Two celebratory books, one written by the Chief Historian, the other by a private Kakanui researcher, tell that story.

Jock Phillips’ Brief Encounter is an elegant, albeit very brief, essay which focuses on the social side of the interaction between the two new allies. Most of this slender book is taken up by Ellen Ellis’s aptly chosen and well-printed photographs.

Denys Bevan’s United States Forces in New Zealand 1942-45 cannot compete with state patronage when it comes to presentation; the photographs are poorly printed and the desktop type scratchy. Nevertheless, for anyone interested in the logistics of the exercise, the shipping movements, the camps, the effects on local culture, agriculture and the economy, Bevan’s large book is a mine of information. This self-taught researcher has left few files untouched.

Readers interested in the ‘invasion’ might like to search the remainder bins for Harry Bioletti’s The Yanks Are Coming (1989), which charts a middle course between these two newcomers.

 

[Andrew Mason was guest editor of issue 7 of New Zealand Books.]

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