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Speech

75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War

Issue date: 
Saturday, 15 August 2020

Kei aku rangatira, tēnā koutou.

Nei tātou e whai whakaaro nei ki ō tātou mate kua rehu ki te rua.

Tēnā anō tātou.


Today, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific.

We acknowledge the New Zealand servicemen and women – members of the Army, Navy, Merchant Navy, and Air Force – who served with such courage and pride.

We pay tribute to those who served on the home front, to keep our families and our loved ones safe.

We remember those who suffered the terrible hardships of war, including as prisoners of war.

And we honour those New Zealanders who lost their lives to defend our country and freedom.

The four years of war in the Pacific saw some of the most terrible scenes in military history. It was a conflict marked by ruthless tactics and devastating loss.

From Singapore to the Solomon Islands, to our own shores, New Zealanders served with the courage and commitment that continue to define the conduct of our armed services.
News of victory on the European Front arrived in New Zealand in May 1945.

The celebrations were somewhat muted here, since not far away, war was still raging, and many New Zealanders remained in harm’s way.

Today we mark the moment, three long months later, at 11am on 15 August 1945, when news of victory in the Pacific – and the end of six years of bloodshed and loss – finally arrived.

It was a moment of immense relief and joy, but also of reflection – as Mae Carson, a Wellington nurse, wondered: ‘What was the future going to be like?’

Our contribution to the Second World War marked a significant milestone in our growth and maturity as a nation.

We took our place on the world stage – we grew in stature in the eyes of our allies, but also in our own.

We were no longer an unlabelled blob at the edge of the map. We were a nation that could be trusted and relied upon, with unique and meaningful contributions to make.

New Zealand became a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, and many of our closest international ties were forged following the conclusion of the war.

This new and increased global presence did not cause us to rest on our laurels, or to take a passive role. It was a presence we owned and shaped.

It spurred us to strive always for peaceful cooperation, and to demonstrate the staunch loyalty that continues to underpin all our diplomatic relations.

Today we remember the New Zealanders who left our shores in the service of our nation.  From Geraldine and Matamata and many other communities large and small.   The  children of farmers and teachers.   Those who returned home came back as our heroes.  They married, re-joined and raised families and contributed to the development of peacetime New Zealand.

Over the years, we have come to better understand and appreciate the enormous challenges faced by our returned service men and women.

It isn’t possible to simply shrug off the horrors of war or unsee the shocking sights.  Or to forget the friends left behind.

It takes courage to adjust, find a new path, and live lives of generosity, decency and grace, treasuring the love of family and friends.

At this time in our history, when the spirit of citizenship is more vital than ever for our collective wellbeing – their service and sacrifice embody the true spirit of altruism.

The generations who have enjoyed the freedom they fought for, have a responsibility to honour their sacrifice, and protect their legacy.

Their deeds, and the deeds of those who are no longer with us – will never be forgotten.

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.

 

Last updated: 
Monday, 17 August 2020

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