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Little-known involvement of Pacific Islanders in WWII Maori Battalion remembered

The little-known role of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand's Second World War efforts was remembered in a ceremony yesterday.

Tonga sent troops to fight with the Americans in the pacific but Manoel Santos, Alex Leger and Joseph Vailima headed for these shores where they served in the Maori battalion.

How they ended up in the 28 battalion is not entirely clear to family.

"I think he had quite an adventure with those people," Santos' son John said.

"Whether he was put straight into the Maori Battalion or whether it was his colour. I think with the Maori Battalion perhaps he could pick up things they were doing much more easier than anywhere else."

The young father served in Egypt before being sent home injured.

Still, his deep battalion friendships enduring over a lifetime

"When one of them would come around especially Leger they would talk all night and have a few drinks I tried to find out what they were talking about but as soon as I was found out I was told to go to bed."

Wartime trauma reared its head at celebrations like New Year's.

"The ships would be blowing the things at midnight that really affected him... I would say that was part of the things he experienced while he was away," John Santos said. 

The soldiers, who would have travelled the furthest to fight, volunteered for the Maori battalion. Source: 1 NEWS