US military to show brass might

As anniversary celebrations for the first arrival of American troops to New Zealand shores kick off this week, Wellingtonians will be treated to free performances from one of the US military's top bands.

The US Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band will give two free performances - tomorrow and Thursday - to commemorate the arrival of US Forces in New Zealand during WWII.

US Ambassador David Huebner said the relationship between New Zealand and the United States was a special one.

"The events will mark 70 years since US forces travelled halfway across the world to help defend the Pacific and New Zealand, our 'friend in need'. New Zealanders welcomed the arriving US Forces with a hospitality and friendship that endures to this day," he said.

"As New Zealand and the United States commemorate our shared history, we reflect on values that underpin our special relationship.

"Together, as we remember the hardship and loss of World War II, we also celebrate our response to those dark times, our camaraderie and the spirit of the men and women, military and civilian, called to serve in the face of such adversity."

Huebner said the two countries had had a long, "uninterrupted history" of friendship.

"We have a very long history of engagement.  This year marks 70 years of formal bilateral relations as well as 174 years of American diplomatic presence in Aotearoa. With the signing of the Wellington Declaration both countries committed to finding new and innovative ways of expressing our long-held friendship."

Military ties between the USA and New Zealand have not always been so friendly, though.

The USA halted military training with New Zealand troops in 1984 after the New Zealand Government adopted a nuclear-free stance, blocking American war ships from our waters.

The ban was lifted in 2009 and New Zealand military personnel began training overseas with US forces soon after.

The band is made up of 50 Marines from across the United States and travels throughout the Pacific region providing music for ceremonies and public concerts.

Audiences are guaranteed to hear "a little bit of everything", from military to jazz to rock.

Two weeks of commemorative events have been planned for the 70th anniversary of the arrival US Marines in New Zealand in 1942.  The culmination will be a ceremony at the National War Memorial, Wellington, on June 14.

The concerts are:

June 13 - 5.30pm: Old St. Paul's, 34 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington.

June 14 - 12.30pm: Civic Concert, Civic Square, Wellington.