Clark: Reception for Pacific Campaign Veterans
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Reception for Pacific Campaign Veterans
Monday 15 August 2005
I would like to welcome to this reception veterans of World War Two and especially of the war in the Pacific. On this 60th anniversary of VJ Day I wish to express on behalf of the government our gratitude to each one of you for the part you played to help secure victory in World War Two.
Those who followed the ceremonies late last year for the return and burial of the Unknown Warrior will know how sincerely New Zealanders took into their hearts the unknown soldier who now represents all our war dead.
Through the Tomb of the unknown Warrior, we honour all who have served New Zealand, and who all have died for our country in armed conflicts.
The ongoing work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – of which New Zealand is a member – ensures that your comrades who died overseas are remembered, and their graves and memorials are beautifully cared for in perpetuity.
In recent years we have dedicated new memorials to mark the courage and loyalty of New Zealanders who served overseas. The memorial unveiled in Canberra in 2001 signifies the lasting bonds forged by the people of our two nations who have served together in war.
The New Zealand Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London is at an advanced stage of planning. It will commemorate the bonds between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and serve as a focus for remembrance of New Zealand’s contribution to the defence of Britain and to the allied war effort across several conflicts.
This year we are erecting a New Zealand Memorial at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan in Korea, to recognise the sacrifice and the contribution made by New Zealanders who served in the UN forces in Korea in the 1950s.
In recent years too, we have been asking World War Two veterans to tell our historians about their experiences.
To date the Ministry of Culture and Heritage has completed four oral histories on World War Two, and another covering the Pacific campaign is now in the pipeline. Records are also being collected from those who served in the merchant navy, in the D-Day landings, and on the home front.
Some of those present today have taken part in these projects. Your memories are recorded on tape, and they stand alongside the diaries, letters, media interviews, official records, and official war histories to create a comprehensive and moving record of the Second World War.
At the parade and ceremonies held yesterday and today to mark VJ Day, we have given thanks for the end of the war, and acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe those who served, and those who died.
On 15 August 1945, the war was truly over after six long and tragic years. Our veterans all have memories of that date, and of the conflicting emotions of sadness, grief, and relief, and of pride in a battle against militarism and fascism fought and won.
We reflect too on what VJ Day meant to those still imprisoned, or still serving in the Pacific or Asia, or for those still to return from service in the European theatre; or to the families and friends grieving for those who would not return.
On VJ Day, thoughts would have turned to getting home; returning to families and loved ones, to jobs, and to rebuilding lives utterly disrupted by war.
We have the privilege today of living in a free and beautiful country whose way of life our veterans so did so much to defend.
Thank you for what you did.
I am very pleased to be able to mark and commemorate with you the 60th anniversary of VJ Day 1945.