- American soldiers in Wellington,NZ
Some troops of both armies got together in Wellington one fine day…
The 1943 ‘Battle of Manners Street’. Not the only wartime clash between New Zealand and American soldiers in New Zealand, but probably the worst.
The most famous of several wartime skirmishes between New Zealanders and American servicemen, the so-called Battle of Manners Street saw hundreds of soldiers and civilians slugging it out on the streets of Wellington.
Men supposedly on the same side fighting each other was not a good look and news of the three-hour brawl was hushed up at the time. The fight may have begun after soldiers from the southern United States insulted local Māori. American sailors and New Zealand merchant seamen were also involved.
During the two years after June 1942 there were always between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen in camp in New Zealand. US personnel spent time here either before or immediately after experiencing the horrors of war on a Pacific island.
The ‘American invasion’ (as New Zealanders called the influx, usually affectionately) brought a considerable clash of cultures. Though Kiwis and Yanks spoke the same language, they did so with different accents. Romantic liaisons between American servicemen and New Zealand women inevitably developed. The soldiers were starved of female company, and many Kiwi women were charmed by the Americans’ good manners and ability to afford taxi rides, ice-cream sodas and gifts of flowers. About 1500 New Zealand women married American servicemen in these years. These liaisons were not universally welcomed, especially by Kiwi soldiers serving overseas. There were a number of other large-scale fights and plenty of muttering about the invading ‘bedroom commandos’.