Coastwatchers - Operation Pacific. They are the unsung heroes of the New Zealand war effort. From tin huts dotted across the remote islands of the South Pacific, local men, women, and in some cases entire villages, supported the covert intelligence network for the New Zealand war administration during WWII.
They were the eyes and ears of the Pacific Ocean, watching for strange ships and aircraft, listening into radio activity, and diligently reporting any activity back to New Zealand headquarters. Their native tongue gave the Pasifika Coastwatchers an added advantage: they leapfrogged secret encryptions from one island to the next, before it was sent using Morse code to Fiji and on to New Zealand.
Very little is recorded about their efforts, or the jeopardy these Pacific Islanders placed themselves in to defend our freedom and our futures.
Researcher and grandson of an original Native Wireless Operator, Willie Cuthers is on a mission to change that. Cuthers wants formal acknowledgement and recognition for his grandfather and namesake William Cuthers, and the other men who served New Zealand.
Cuthers’ grandfather was part of a network which included hundreds of operators, technicians, and support workers from New Zealand. Working alongside them, the Pacific Islanders were recruited to operate outstations on most remote Pacific atolls in what would be a lonely, isolated, and dangerous job.
As a New Zealander with Pacific and Māori heritage, Cuthers set out to learn more about his grandfather’s efforts. The journey took him throughout New Zealand and finally back to Rarotonga, where he met many grandchildren of the Native Wireless Operators.
The Pacific Islands were of strategic significance to New Zealand in defending against Japan reaching New Zealand shores, but they have been all but left out of our military history.
These Pasifika men's contribution has never been formally acknowledged by New Zealand, in contrast to the contribution of the New Zealand European Coastwatchers, which was formally recognised in 2012 by the New Zealand Defence Force.
Available to watch until 24th May 2025 | Available to listen to indefinitely