War in the Pacific

Page 1 – Introduction

RNZAF Corsairs over Guadalcanal, 1944
RNZAF Corsairs over Guadalcanal, 1944

Thousands of New Zealanders fought in the Pacific War in the 1940s. There's a certain irony in the phrase 'the Pacific War'. The ocean that was named for peace became an arena of battle between Japan on the one side, and the United States, New Zealand, Australia and their allies on the other. It was a conflict fought on a vast scale over huge distances: from Darwin to Midway, the Solomons to Iwo Jima. For the New Zealanders, this was a war fought close to home.

New Zealand fought in three main areas: in Singapore, in the seas around Japan, and in the Solomon Islands. There was desperate fighting on small island outposts where the rules of war could be ignored. In the islands, rain, heat and humidity seemed never-ending. The climate and conditions took their toll on many.

The Pacific War had profound consequences for New Zealand. It changed the international politics of the region in a way that has endured. New Zealand's connections with the United States grew stronger after the joint efforts in the area during the war. Global consequences of the conflict were enormous. The use of atomic weapons in Japan a week before the Japanese surrender brought an end to the Pacific War, but ushered in a new and horrific era in modern warfare.

How to cite this page

'New Zealanders in the Pacific War', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/war-in-the-pacific, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 31-Aug-2020