In April 2011, I travelled from Wellington, New Zealand all the way to Quantico to receive the William Genaust award for an exhibition my company produced about the Marines stationed in New Zealand during the Second World War.
We called the show "A Friend in Need" because that friendship cut both ways in 1942, and because a friend in need is "A Friend Indeed" - and all these years later the people of the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand still celebrate the care we gave 'our (your) boys' and the continuing relationship we enjoy with the US Marines.
At the Awards Show, I was seated next to Norm Hatch and his 'aide de campe', researcher Susan Strange. Norman was then 91 and still feisty - (his review of my film work carried subtle editing criticisms). Norm casually mentioned that he'd shot many reels of film in NZ before his historic tour to Tarawa, and that the films hadn't seen the light of day since.
When Susan kindly informed me of Norm's death, I was struck both by sadness and synchronicity! As a favour to the Kapiti United States Marines Trust, my company has been assisting with the re-creation of a single 'Marines hut' at Paekakariki - where the original Camp Russell once stood - built by New Zealanders for US Marines 2nd Division to train for the Pacific War. The exhibition is due to open here on Memorial Day, May 29.
Miraculously, Susan has found Norm's films (and the hundreds of still photographs) in the NARA and Quantico Archives. So we're frantically fundraising to meet the costs of scanning and digitising these long-lost images.
Norm's films show the Marines on R&R across the country - meeting Māori, going to horse-racing, enjoying our city life and the hospitality of families who knew what it was like to have a son at war. Many of our women married the surviving Marines and raised families across the US, one of those was my great-aunt Edith.
Norman Hatch may be gone, but his films remind us of our shared legacy. I want to make a feature-length documentary about how the Second World War cemented our relationship with the Marines through families and friendship that continue to this day - and even with our Japanese 'enemies' who today have descendants who were imprisoned in New Zealand and filmed by Norm on a visit to the military camp at Featherston!
On my first birthday in America in 1973, Sheriff Grayson of Eureka, CA overheard my voice in a Denny's restaurant late at night. He recognised my accent. "Where're you from boy?' I was a long-haired hippie arts transfer student at Humboldt. I squeaked "New Zealand sir..." He clapped me on the shoulder and bellowed "What's the name of that place...ummm... pakariki?" I answered "Paekakariki."
Sheriff Grayson literally yelled: "That's the goddam' place! I was there. G'day KIWI!" (I forgive his terrible attempt at an NZ accent).
Nothing is stronger than the bonds we form when we're in need of each other. Elementary and high-school students on the Kapiti Coast celebrate Memorial Day every year - though now they're two generations removed from the time when US Armed Forces were 10% of our population for a short while. We New Zealanders pass on this knowledge to our children and grandchildren so they will remember.
Goodbye Norm, it was great to meet you.
by Steve La Hood, Story Inc Director