Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45

The Pacific

by Oliver A. Gillespie


War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, New Zealand



Chapter 1: Japan—Rise And Conquest

Chapter 2: The Fiji Garrison

New Zealand's Responsibility—The First Force and Its Work—From Pearl Harbour to Relief

Chapter 3: Problems of Command and Employment

America Plans the Offensive—New Zealand Emerges in the Pacific Plan

Chapter 4: Back to The Pacific

The Third Division Emerges—Move to New Caledonia—Life Among the Niaoulis—Negotiations—Political and Service—Training for Combat

Chapter 5: Three Island Actions

Vella Lavella—The Treasuries—The Waiting Period—The Capture of Green Islands

Chapter 6: The End of A Division

Chapter 7: The Battle for The Solomons

Japanese Plans Defeated—The Turning Point—Crucial Action—The Japanese Move Back

Chapter 8: The Coastwatchers

Chapter 9: Navy and Air Force

The Navy in the Solomons—The Air Force Story

Chapter 10: Fiji Units in Action

Training a Brigade Group—Guerrillas in the Jungle—Battalions Move to the Solomons

Chapter 11: The Smaller Garrisons

Fanning Island—Tonga—Norfolk Island

Chapter 12: Occupation in Japan

Chapter 13: Reflections


Appendix 1: Special Order by Major-General H. E. Barrowclough, 19 October 1944

Appendix 2: Appeals for Assistance

Appendix 3: Directive to the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Ocean Area

Appendix 4: Letter from General Barrowclough to General Puttick, 24 May 1943

Appendix 5: Special Order by General Barrowclough, 1 July 1943

Appendix 6: Interview with Governor Laigret, 18 December 1943

Appendix 7: Statement by Rt. Hon. P. Fraser on role of New Zealand's Armed Forces, September 1944

Appendix 8: Appreciation by Lieutenant-General E. Puttick on Withdrawal of 2nd or 3rd NZ Division, 19 February 1944

Appendix 9: Appreciation by General Puttick on Strength of New Zealand Army overseas, 4 August 1944

Appendix 10: Telegram from Mr. Fraser to Mr. Churchill, 9 September 1944

Appendix 11: Letter from Hon. W. Nash, New Zealand Minister in Washington, to President Roosevelt, 24 January 1944

Appendix 12: Japanese Army daily ration


List of Illustrations

Heading for the shore of Vella Lavella—United States Army Signal Corps Official—8 Brigade Group on—Rangatira—30 Battalion of 8 Brigade Group arrives in Fiji—Petrol tank in Sealark Hill, Suva—8 NZ Infantry Brigade defences on Fiji—Vice-Admiral R. L. Ghormley arrives at Namaka Aerodrome, May 1942—Third Division manoeuvres in the Kaimai Ranges—The Weekly News—Sappers in the Kaimai Ranges—The Weekly News—The Kiwi Club, Bourail Beach—NZ Army Official—Training in New Caledonia—NZ Army—Review of 8 NZ Infantry Brigade, New Caledonia—NZ Army—Base Ordnance Depot, Bourail—NZ Army—30 Battalion headquarters, New Caledonia—NZ Army—37 Battalion cookhouse ovens, Taom, New Caledonia—NZ Army—The camp site of 22 Field Ambulance at Tinipp—NZ Army—Nurses' quarters, 4 NZ General Hospital, Boguen—NZ Army—Club at Base Training Depot in Tene Valley, New Caledonia—NZ Army—Embarkation Practice—NZ Army—The move to Guadalcanal—NZ Army—Boarding a Landing Craft (Mechanised), Nouméa—NZ Army—Third Division training exercise, Mele Beach, New Hebrides—NZ Army—Gunners pulling a Bofors gun ashore at Mele Beach—NZ Army—Troops board the USS transport, President Hayes, Nouméa—NZ Army—14 Brigade Group landing, Point Cruz, Guadalcanal—NZ Army—Men of 36 Battalion on USS—President Jackson NZ Army—Below deck on the way from New Hebrides to Guadalcanal—NZ Army—Malaria Control Unit spraying 37 Field Park Company's camp, Guadalcanal—NZ Army—Henderson Field, Guadalcanal—US Marines following a trail on Guadalcanal—US Official—Ready for embarkation at Kukum Beach, Guadalcanal, before sailing for Vella Lavella—NZ Army—Loading rations at Guadalcanal for Vella Lavella—NZ Army—14 Brigade units landing at Vella Lavella—US Army Signal Corps—On Vella Lavella—NZ Army—A patrol from 35 Battalion at Pakoi Bay—NZ Army—Interrogation of a Japanese prisoner of war, Vella Lavella—NZ Army—35 Anti-Tank Battery at Maravari, Vella Lavella—NZ Army—Umomo Island shelled by 12 Field Battery—NZ Army—Carrier Platoon of 35 Battalion crosses Timbala Bay in a native canoe—NZ Army—Muddy conditions, Tangalan Plantation area, Nissan Island—NZ Army—20 Field Company's bridge over Joroveto River, Vella Lavella—US Navy Official—Landing Craft (Infantry) of the invasion convoy at Guadalcanal—A. E. Tilley—Landing Craft (Tank) beached at Mono Island—NZ Army—A 25-pounder damaged by enemy mortar fire, Falamai—A. E. Tilley—A Landing Ship (Tank) beached at Mono Island—US Navy—Foxholes in a bivouac area at Malsi Village, Mono Island—NZ Army—Unloading operations at Falamai—NZ Army—Embarking on a Landing Craft (Infantry) at Juno Beach, Vella Lavella, for Nissan Island—NZ Army—Landing craft entering the lagoon at Nissan Island—US Official—Raid by 30 Battalion on Nissan Island—US Marine Corps Official—Wounded of 30 Battalion waiting to be taken off Nissan Island—US Marine Corps—New Zealand engineers forming a road through the jungle of Nissan Island—NZ Army—Tangalan Plantation—US Official—RNZAF Fighter Squadrons land on the fighter strip at Nissan—NZ Army—First Commando Fiji Guerrillas in the Solomons—US Official—Fiji Commandos officers' mess, Teneru, Guadalcanal—Ready to leave Stirling Island for return to New Caledonia—NZ Army—34 Battalion mess, Tonga—A. H. Rendell—Major-General W. H. Cunningham, first Commander in Fiji—Brigadier R. A. Row, Commander of 8 Brigade, and Sir Cyril Newall, Governor-General of New Zealand, on an inspection tour in the Treasury Group—Lieutenant-Colonel F. C. Cornwall, Brigadier L. Potter, Commander of 14 Brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. Moffatt on Nissan Island—Minister of Defence and senior officers on board a transport at Nouméa—22 NZ Battalion controlling the Japanese repatriation centre at Senzaki, Japan—New Zealanders watch Japanese farm labourers plant the new season's rice

List of Maps

3 NZ Division in the Solomons—Coastwatching Stations in the Pacific—Pacific War Tides—Fiji—New Caledonia—Vella Lavella—Treasury Group—Nissan Island—Bougainville—The occupations given in the biographical footnotes are those on enlistment. The ranks are those held on discharge or at the date of death.

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NOW that this record of New Zealand's contribution to the war in the Pacific is finished, I feel that it does, in a modest way, reveal achievements which have not yet been adequately appreciated by the great majority of the public. It is a tribute, also, to the men who fought in a campaign which was singularly lacking in spectacle and heroics, but nevertheless required high courage because of the fighting conditions and strong powers of endurance to withstand a climate as exhausting by day as it was by night.

Although comparatively close at hand, the islands of the Pacific, particularly those on which the actual fighting took place, were much less familiar than the historic and more romantic regions of the Old World, and the war on those islands was never fought in terms of European violence and ingenuity. But, whatever the circumstances, the death of young men is just as distressing whether it occurs in the jungle or the desert or in a cypress-studded landscape.

My task in writing this book was made easier because of my long association with the land forces which went into the Pacific, first to Fiji in 1940 and then to New Caledonia and on to the Solomons, so that I had first-hand knowledge of both conditions and territory and all the attendant misery of the acute physical discomfort. I was fortunate, also, that I afterwards spent some years on the headquarters of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, which enabled me to gather, from available sources, details of the Japanese account of the campaign.

A little of the material used here has been taken from two surveys I wrote for the New Zealand Army Board after I returned from the Solomons—Pacific Story and Guadalcanal to Nissan—and from the thirteen volumes of 3 Division unit histories which I edited before going to Japan in January 1946, but most of it has been extracted from official documents and files.

My sincere thanks are due to the staff of the War History Branch for the ready assistance given to me at all times during my search through files and documents. I should like also to express my gratitude to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who gave me permission to use any material I required from translated Japanese documents held by his headquarters in Tokyo; Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Robertson, Commander-in-Chief

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of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, who permitted me to remain in Tokyo and freed me from all official duties while I searched Japanese documents; Major-General H. E. Barrowclough, who read my manuscript and spurred me with his enthusiasm; Colonel H. C. Parker, the Military Attache at the United States Embassy, Wellington, for checking some American details; Squadron Leader J. M. S. Ross, for information about the Royal New Zealand Air Force; Captain N. A. Fraser, for information about New Zealanders serving with the Fiji Military Forces; S. D. Waters, for some naval data; Miss P. M. Lissington, who wrote the official narrative on New Zealand's relations with Japan from 1900 to 1941; and to the narrative by M. B. McGlynn on New Zealand's manpower problems. The account of the activities of the Royal New Zealand Naval Squadron and Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pacific is necessarily brief, as their histories will be told in separate volumes.

In order to keep this narrative in its proper perspective and make it as complete as possible, I have included the briefest practicable account of the part played by the American forces, Navy, Army and Air, of which the New Zealanders were a small part. It is inevitable, however, in works of this kind, that incidents of importance and acts of individual bravery should be overlooked. It was impossible also to record all changes of command; to do so would have cluttered the narrative with lists of names. For any such shortcomings in recording this not unworthy page of New Zealand history I apologize.

Oliver A. Gillespie


June 1951

Editor-in-Chief: Sir Howard K. Kippenberger, KBE, CB, DSO, ED

Associate Editor: M. C. Fairbrother, DSO, OBE, ED

Sub-Editor: W. A. Glue

Illustrations Editor: J. D. Pascoe

Archives Officer: A. E. Monaghan

Draughtsman: L. D. McCormick

The Author

Lieutenant-Colonel O. A. Gillespie, MBE, MM, m.i.d., served with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in France in the First World War, winning the Military Medal and gaining a commission from the ranks. He served in Fiji in 1940 as Intelligence Officer in 8 Infantry Brigade Group, and with 3 NZ Division in New Caledonia and the Solomons. From 1946 to 1949 he was on the staff of Headquarters British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan as Assistant Director and later Director of Public Relations. A former journalist, he is now on the staff of the National Broadcasting Service in Wellington.