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Japanese threat, World War II

Jigsaw puzzle
Jigsaw puzzle 1944, J W Ltd, New Zealand. Gift of Stephen Campbell, 1992. Te Papa

During World War II, the New Zealand government used imagery such as rising-sun graphics to highlight the Japanese threat. Propaganda was part and parcel of wartime life.

Some commercial companies, like the one that produced this jigsaw box, did the same. The image of the Japanese soldier on the box is a sinister stereotype. Before the war, the lid of the same puzzle showed palm trees and an Asian boat.

Response to Pearl Harbor

Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and its capture of Singapore in February 1942 shocked New Zealanders. They worried about being attacked and about loved ones fighting overseas. The Japanese had bombed Darwin in Australia many times – would New Zealand be next?

New Zealand Chiefs of Staff considered invasion unlikely because of the country's isolation. Hit-and-run raids were more probable.

Fear of the Japanese affected communities in different ways. People practised air raid drills, and some schools built shelters and trenches. The general school policy, however, was more relaxed – pupils were to go home if an alarm sounded.

The arrival of American forces in June 1942 injected welcome relief and excitement into the country.



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