When Vince Pierson’s old comrades tried to track him down, years after the Korean War, they couldn’t find him. Pierson had taken another surname when he joined up, to disguise the fact that at 19, he was underage. As a gunner attached to HQ, he was with the New Zealand artillery supporting Australian and Canadian infantry at the Battle of Kapyong. Pierson belies his 85 years with sharp recall and vivid stories of people and places. He shows as much empathy for the Koreans as for his comrades, while describing battling intense cold and stifling heat — and the other side.
John Wilkinson didn’t realise until after the end of World War ll that he’d broken his back when the plane he was piloting in North Africa was shot down. Captured and beaten up by Italian soldiers, interrogated by the Gestapo, John eventually ended up in the notorious Stalag Luft III prison camp in what is now Poland. He was involved in the Wooden Horse Escape, one of the most famous of the war. Later he would meet his future wife at the camp, a displaced person from Lithuania. Now 95, John’s memory of his wartime experiences remains undimmed.
When traumatised soldier Matiu returns from service overseas, he struggles to reconnect with his wife and children. In this episode of te reo series Aroha, the marriage between Matiu (Te Kauri Wihongi) and Wai (Rena Owen) mirrors the Māori legend of Niwareka and Mataora, a union between spiritual and earthly worlds. Matiu decides to seek out his ghosts; he symbolises his reunion with his family through a facial tā moko performed by his father-in-law (Wi Kuki Kaa). Mataroa was written by Aroha co-creator Karen Sidney. It won an award at Canadian festival ImagineNATIVE.
“You forget about the rough times” says old soldier Steve Danes. Instead, the veteran of the Italian Campaign during World War ll focuses on the funny side. There are plenty of tales of the laughter and hijinks to be had when resting behind the lines, or on leave. Conscripted at age 18 and sent to Europe just short of his 21st birthday, Danes spent most of his war in Italy and there wasn’t much of the country he didn’t see. Along the way he encountered fanatical young Nazis, and older German soldiers who were sick of war and wanted it to end.
This National Film Unit magazine film begins with a choir performing the classic 'Pokarekare Ana' in the acoustically-blessed depths of the Waitomo Caves. The second item involves a visit to a toy factory, deep in preparation for Christmas. Disembodied doll heads fill a bin, while elsewhere factory staff add eyes, and blacken the teeth of rocking horses. There are also teddy bears, electric trains and rows of toy trucks. The narrator explains the joy the toys will bring come Christmas: “a production line to delight children everywhere — fantasy from an industrial Santa Claus”.
Former Prime Minister John Key made regular appearances in the media, and was game for taking on more than political questions: from reading out the top ten list on America's Late Show with David Letterman, to participating in pranks on The Rock radio station. In July 2015 Key faced up to the '9-in-10' challenge on Paul Henry’s MediaWorks breakfast show — trying to provide nine correct answers to a general knowledge question, in ten seconds. The subject for the ex-stock market trader? International currencies. The prize was a Jeep Cherokee for Ronald McDonald House.