Howard Munce’s Kiwi Connection

During World War II, Howard Munce was a Marine platoon sergeant.  En route to Guadalcanal, he and his unit spent a couple of months in New Zealand.

On their first weekend in a new camp at Papatoetoe, outside of Auckland, they were invited home by a local family.  It was a nice change:  Howard sat by a fire as a man, his wife and their two young children served tea and scones.

Howard was invited back, and over the next weeks a friendship developed.

Westport illustrator Howard Munce, long after his Marine Corps days.

He soon left New Zealand for battle (and the rank of lieutenant).  Back in the States on leave, his good friend and fellow illustrator Stevan Dohanos threw a party for Howard.  He sent a photo — complete with Stevan’s “Long Time No See” poster to his friends the Smithermans, but that was the last contact they had.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

That’s when Howard received a letter from the Smitherman children.  Now grown — in fact, now in their 70s — they sent greetings from New Zealand.

They enclosed plenty of photos.  “As soon as I saw the pictures of their mother and father, I had total recall,” Howard says.

The Smithermans had sent a letter to the Westport Public Library, seeking Howard’s address.  The staff there suggested Google — and voila!  After nearly 70 years, the wartime Marine and his other-side-of-the-world hosts were reunited.

“It was absolutely wonderful to hear from them,” Howard said.  “I still feel so much affection.”

So will he head Down Under, to visit the Smitherson “kids”?

“If I had the fare and the time, I’d be on my way,” Howard — now 94 years young — said.

6 responses to “Howard Munce’s Kiwi Connection

  1. The Dude Abides

    An Easter Day present. Wonderful story!

  2. Howard is a real gentleman and one gets the sense that he has always been that way. It is no wonder that this family remembered him.

  3. Dale
    Yes, its me, one of those “Kiwi” kids. My son just found this online and sent to me. Have been corresponding with Howard for a year or so now.
    Joined computer world a couple of years ago, my brother and I often thought about Howard Munce, the cartoon boy, and one day I just put Howard Munce in “Google”, and there he was, just amazing, after all those years, to have contact again. Our parents both passed away Dad 1975, and Mum 1995. I rang Howard on Father’s Day last year, and we had a really special chat, still hard to believe, after all those years, I was 5 years old, when I last saw Howard. I always remembered him, and another of the Marines, Nat ,that came to our house many times, during the “War”, that was in 1942. Howard is one of those “Special” people, that crosses our lives, from time to time, and makes a great contribution,in so many many ways, his War service, the Arts, a great humanitarium, of most of all his wonderful family, whom of course, are so very very proud of him.
    Well done Howard.

  4. Lane Smytheman

    Lane Smytheman
    I am Dales brother from Papatoetoe at the time Howard was in New Zealand during the war. My parents Vic and Truda were very fond of Howard and often spoke about him. I still have a photo of him taken about Xmas time with a note saying ” Fondest wishes to the Smythe’s from the worlds happiest guy – Howard USA 1944 “. Hi Howard for Xmas 2011 from Lane.