Mid-1942, New Zealand raised another Division to fight the Japanese in the Pacific – although a platoon had been sent to the Fanning Island cable station in September 1939, and a small group to Fiji as a garrison force (followed by men to Tonga and Norfolk Island).
In December 1942 the Third Division sailed for New Caledonia and then became involved – along with the Americans – island-hopping (Solomons) and island-clearing at Vella Lavella (18 September to 6 October 1943), Mono and Stirling Islands (27 October to 12 November 1943), and the Green Islands group (15 February 1944). Following the Solomons Campaign, the Government decided that the country could not afford the numbers of men required to keep two divisions up to strength, and so the 3rd Division was disbanded and the men either sent to reinforce the 2nd Division in Italy or were brought home to work in the factories or farms. The museum display is a scene which represents soldiers from this division climbing down the side of a ship into a landing craft to attack the Solomon Islands as part of their island-hopping operations.
By the end of the war, New Zealand’s primary role and contribution to the Pacific was producing tinned or dried food for the American forces fighting in the Pacific.
After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, New Zealand did send troops to Japan in March 1946 as part of an Allied occupation force. This was known as J (Jay) Force and saw the New Zealanders responsible for the Yamaguchi prefecture. Their duties included providing internal security, confiscating and disposing of weapons and ammunition, and overseeing repatriation centres set up to process returning Japanese servicemen. The last elements of J Force returned to New Zealand in October 1948.