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Pacific memorial fitting for civilian war dead

Richard Worth National Defence Spokesman

19 November 2002

Pacific memorial fitting for civilian war dead

National Defence spokesman Richard Worth is calling on the Government to establish a special memorial at Kirabati to honour New Zealand civilian war dead during World War II.

Mr Worth said New Zealand had memorials for its war dead in Europe and Asia and it was appropriate that there was one in Kirabati.

"On November 15, 1942, 17 New Zealand Post Office civilian radio operators and unarmed soldiers were executed by Japanese soldiers on Betio Islet, in what is now Kiribati.

"The Kiwis were among 22 men beheaded at Betio. The Australian Government has erected a monument in Kirabati recently in memory of an Australian among the dead to acknowledge the sacrifice. Both the British and American governments have memorials at Kiribati or Tuvalu.

"The New Zealanders were essentially coast watchers and radio operators charged with alerting allied commands of Japanese or German air, sea and troop movements in the Pacific Islands.

"A memorial should be addressed as a matter of honour and nationhood, recognising our appreciation of the sacrifice these people made, in this 60th anniversary year.

"We have memorials to our war dead in Europe and Asia. It would be appropriate to follow suit in this corner of the Pacific where the heroism of these honoured Kiwis is well remembered," Mr Worth said.

Ends

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