26 Oct 2016

The Peace Squadron

From Eyewitness, 3:30 pm on 26 October 2016

In November 2016, an American warship will enter a New Zealand port for the first time in more than 30 years, stirring up memories of a time when New Zealand’s harbours were battle zones and peace activists faced off against nuclear warships.

The USS Haddo attempts to enter Auckland Harbour while being surrounded by Peace Squadron vessels.

1979 The USS Haddo attempts to enter Auckland Harbour while being surrounded by Peace Squadron vessels. Photo: Gil Hanly

US Navy ships and submarines were frequent visitors to New Zealand in the '70s and early '80s as part of our commitment to the ANZUS treaty with America and Australia.

In a small aluminium boat, Peace Squadron founder George Armstrong leads the flotilla on a protest in 1979.

Peace Squadron founder George Armstrong leads the flotilla on a protest in 1979. Photo: Gil Hanly

But as fear of the nuclear threat grew, these visits became scenes of protest and some took to the water to show their opposition.

n image of Stephen Sherie on the hull of the USS Haddo, arms raised aloft.

Stephen Sherie on the hull of the USS Haddo. Photo: Brian Brennan.

Anglican priest George Amstrong founded the Peace Squadron, a loose flotilla of motorboats, canoes, surfboards and sailboats and people who were prepared to put their bodies in the way of warships.

George led the squadron on three memorable protests in the usually calm waters of Auckland Harbour, and documentary photographer and peace activist Gil Hanly was there to make sure the events were captured on film.

This story was produced by Justin Gregory with additional audio from Nga Taonga Sound and Vision and also the 1995 documentary Nuclear Reaction by George Andrews.

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