Sound: Marines arrive in Wellington

Hear Ena Ryan talk about US Marines arriving in Wellington during 1942.


Somewhere about June [1942] the Marines arrived, and a lot of them had brought presents of strings of beads with them for the girls – they thought we would all be wearing red feathers and a hula hula skirt! They arrived and they were delighted that there were houses and that it was civilised. Now the first Marines I saw were at a dance in the town hall – a New Zealand soldier took me. And when I saw these Marines I was really quite staggered. I thought goodness, evidently they think the war is going to last for years and years and years, these are sort of school cadets who need two or three years’ training and they must be going to get their training in New Zealand and then go into the war. Well I was dead wrong in that, these poor boys, who I may say looked extremely depressed, extremely miserable, were into it in two or three weeks time and they landed in the Solomons with terrific slaughter.

New Zealand, who had been so vulnerable, met the Marines with a fine display of one-eyed insularity. They said, ‘they can’t fight, they’re too young’. And then, of course, all the pretty little girls around Wellington got into the act and they and the Marines flew into each other’s arms and people said, ‘they’re messing round with our girls, how awful!’ So the Marines were not awfully popular to begin with, but as far as the Marines and the little girls flying into each other’s arms, I would never raise a word of criticism about that. I think that those poor boys who were going to this ghastly slaughter could not have been better employed in their last few months around town – and I will stand by that ….

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