Battle of Manners Street

3 April 1943

US troops resting near Oriental Bay in Wellington, c. 1942
US troops resting near Oriental Bay in Wellington, c. 1942 (Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-5936-42)

Soldiers and civilians slugged it out on the streets of Wellington during the ‘Battle of Manners Street’, the best-known clash between New Zealanders and American servicemen during the Second World War.

Drunk Allied servicemen fighting each other on a Saturday night was not a good look, and news of the brawl was hushed up at the time. One young man who said he was a former member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force was convicted of being drunk and disorderly and fined £2 when he appeared before a magistrate on Monday morning. He was granted name suppression ‘in view of his record’.

On any day during the two years after June 1942, between 15,000 and 45,000 American soldiers and sailors were based in New Zealand (see 12 June), either before or immediately after experiencing the horrors of war in the Pacific.

The ‘American invasion’ led to a clash of cultures. Romantic liaisons developed between American troops and New Zealand women, about 1500 of whom married Americans during the war.

Many New Zealand men, especially soldiers serving overseas, resented the popularity of these American ‘bedroom commandos’. Tensions erupted into brawls in Wellington and Auckland.

Community contributions

5 comments have been posted about Battle of Manners Street

What do you know?

Michele Durie

Posted: 23 Sep 2021

I was raised on the story it started out as a racial clash and descended into a free for all. That's according to my granddad who was too old for that war but saw action with the Pioneer Battalion. Maybe as a Maori family we wanted to believe Pakeha stood up for that lofty ideal of all men being created as equal. Fascinating time to be alive.


Posted: 05 Jul 2021

It is about time this distorted history was corrected. It was a racial "battle' where the segregationist Americans wanted to impose their apartheid ways upon New Zealanders. It was convenient to paint the Americans as "bedroom comandos" but the truth was they found that drinking beer with New Zealand maoris was obnoxious to the US military and to some white Americans.


Posted: 01 Jan 2021

If your going to report on this then tell the truth!! The four hour fight happened when raciest American troops tried to exclude Maori from the military area and then tried to get Maori excluded from walking the streets and riding the trams. Kiwis didn’t agree with their tactics hence the fight between American troops Vs Kiwis which included NZ military personnel


Posted: 30 Dec 2020

Wanted to ask, I believe it was just a little bit more then just "insults to local Maori" and "tensions in the bedroom".

Curious if it would be elaborated upon, because seems fairly neutered of the context applied.

Brian Algar

Posted: 17 Jun 2017

Is there a sight where these marines go to seek out old flames or maybe find kids they fathered and have never known? Pretty sure my dad is one of those kids