The service and sacrifice of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel in Japan was remembered at a commemoration in Wellington today to mark the 75th anniversary of the deployment of Jayforce.
Twenty-six Jayforce veterans were joined by their families, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Japanese Ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi, Minister for Veterans Meka Whaitiri, Minister for Defence Peeni Henare, Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short and other members of the NZDF at the commemoration at Pukeahu National War Memorial.
After Japanese surrender ended the Second World War, an allied occupying force was established to demilitarise and demobilise Japan. Jayforce was New Zealand’s contribution and was part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.
The first New Zealand deployment of more than 4,200 troops and 280 Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel arrived in Japan on 19 March 1946. 15 New Zealanders died in Japan due to accidents or disease between 1946 and 1949.
Personnel who served in the initial Jayforce deployment were from the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Italy and a company of Māori volunteers served with the Divisional Cavalry Regiment. Later rotations were comprised of volunteers from New Zealand, some of whom were Second World War veterans, while many others had been too young to serve during the war.
Around 12,000 New Zealanders, including several hundred women, served as part of Jayforce between 1946 and 1949. About 200 New Zealand Jayforce veterans are alive today.
Medallic recognition for Jayforce, the New Zealand Service Medal 1946-1949, was issued in 1995. Today’s commemoration was the first time that service as part of Jayforce has been commemorated at a national level.
Veteran Chuck Hausman served as part of Jayforce as a private in the New Zealand Army.
“It’s probably the last time we’ll see each other, that’s why I hate to miss these things.”
Murray Bath, President of the Putāruru Returned and Services Association, accompanied Mr Hausman and said that the commemoration was really special for Jayforce veterans.
“I know a lot of them thought that they’d never been recognised when they got back home. That happened today,” he said.
Air Marshal Kevin Short said although the war ended in August 1945, there was still a lot of work to be done by New Zealand troops.
“Our military had to switch from a fighting force to an occupation force with different but no less challenging tasks. We continue to be proud of what they achieved and are delighted we can honour them today.”
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy spoke of veterans’ service to Jayforce how the 26 veteran attendees represented their Jayforce comrades.
“It’s an honour to share this experience with you, to acknowledge your unique memories of that time and your links to an important period of our history.”
“I welcome this opportunity to formally recognise those who served in Japan during the aftermath of the war. They had answered the call to serve their country, and during the occupation they did what was asked of them. In so doing, they made a significant contribution to Japan at a critical time in its history.”