Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Great White Fleet – Auckland August 1908

The Great White Fleet (GWF) of the US Navy was sent on a “Show the Flag” goodwill mission around the globe in 1908/1909 by President Teddy Roosevelt. So-called because the battleships were painted white, the fleet consisted of 16 battleships and accompanying support vessels, manned by 14,000 sailors and marines. By the time the 14 month voyage ended in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on February 22, 1909, the GWF had steamed some 46,000 miles.

The centennial of the Great White Fleet’s visit to New Zealand occurs this week.

USS Connecticut

The GWF was sent off from the Jamestown Exposition, Virginia on December 16th, 1907, proceeding around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America then north to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, California in March 1908. On July 7, under the command of Rear Admiral Sperry, the fleet sailed for Hawaii and thence to Auckland, New Zealand.

On August 9, 1908, the Great White Fleet sailed into Waitemata harbour, Auckland, creating quite a spectacle and met with great warmth by the New Zealand public. Parades and a welcoming ceremony were held in Queen Street, the main street, leading from the wharves. A large arch at the lower end of Queen Street, festooned with ferns, welcomed the fleet as did street signs expressing greetings from various towns & neighbourhoods throughout New Zealand.

Panorama of the Great White Fleet from Devonport, Auckland

USS Connecticut (2 views)

USS Minnesota, and USS Georgia

Welcome Arch in lower Queen Street

Parade on Queen Street

This early visit of the Great White Fleet helped cement a growing relationship between New Zealand and the United States, despite New Zealand’s colonial ties to Great Britain. New Zealand and American forces were to fight side by side in the Pacific theatre during World War Two.

In the mid 1980s, reflecting growing public pressure for a nuclear ban, the Fourth Labour Government barred U.S. nuclear-powered and armed warships from New Zealand ports as part of its policy favouring a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific and because of New Zealand's opposition to the Reagan's administration's escalation of tensions with the Soviet Union.

In February 1985, a port-visit request by the United States for the USS Buchanan was refused by New Zealand.

This policy change initiated a cooling in the relationship between the two countries at the military level, but has it also affected the diplomatic, political, and economic relationships up to the present, although both countries maintain friendly, albeit at times strained, relations. This nuclear ban has been maintained by governments of both major New Zealand political parties since 1984. During a recent visit to New Zealand in late July 2008 by US Secretary of State Rice there were some indications that the U.S. position may be thawing towards New Zealand but it is not likely that the military and other relationships will undergo a major shift in the remaining months of the Bush administration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am told the weather that week was lovely and sunny, and that in fact there is always a week in august in nz with fine weather - as this week is - named fleet week by those who remembered. However i cannot find anything online related to the weather of fleet week...