Guest post by Allie Webber, of the Kapiti US Marine Trust
In April 2011, Kiwi film maker, Steve La Hood travelled from Wellington, New Zealand to Quantico Virginia to receive the William Genaust award for an exhibition his company, Story Inc., produced about the US Marines stationed in New Zealand during World War II.
The exhibition, entitled A Friend in Need included a three-screen documentary film. It was first installed at Old St Pauls Cathedral and subsequently travelled to the National Army Museum in Waiouru and the Wellington Museum, (formerly the Museum of City & Sea) before being gifted to the Paekākāriki Station Museum where it was adapted to reflect Paekākāriki’s rich history as host to three former U.S. Marines Camps during World War II.
At the Awards event, Steve sat next to Norm Hatch a U.S. Marine Combat photographer, stationed in Paekākāriki during WWII and his research assistant, Susan Strange.
Then a sprightly 91, Norm casually mentioned that he’d shot many reels of film in New Zealand before making his celebrated film on the Battle of Tarawa, and he suspected they had barely seen ‘the light of day’ since!
On returning to New Zealand Steve shared this information with friends at the Kāpiti U.S.Marines Trust and the two parties hatched a project to bring a digitised, high definition copy of the collection back to New Zealand.
The plan was for Steve to provide film-making and technical expertise and the Trust would raise money to have the collection restored, digitised and gifted to Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision for the benefit of Kiwi’s nationwide.
Miraculously, Susan Strange found the films and hundreds of still photographs from the collection in the NARA (the National Archives in Washington) and the US Marine Corps Archives in Quantico, Virginia. So, fundraising to meet the costs of scanning, digitising, storing and promoting these long-lost, precious images became a top priority.
With the aid of a very generous grant from the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand the project got the ‘green light’, the digitisation project was completed and the collection was brought back to New Zealand on a portable storage disc. The parties were now ready to offer it to Ngā Taonga.
About the Kapiti US Marines Trust
The Kapiti US Marines Trust (KUSMT) was established in 2010 to help promote the collection, conservation and exhibition of WWII Marines History in Kapiti and the Wellington region. “Our vision is to tell the story of the ‘friendly invasion’ of U.S.Armed forces in New Zealand, between 1942-44- for future generations. Events, exhibitions, and various exterior signage displays enable us to do this.” Marinenz.com