There was a baptism by fire in the ancient lands of the Mediterranean. The allied defense of Greece and Crete fought against the German attack in April and May 1941 and this all would end in a crushing defeat.
The New Zealanders, part of the allied defense, suffered great losses, but in the fierce melee in Maleme and 42nd Street, the legend of the Maori battalion was born.
42nd Street was an unsealed dusty road, lined with centuries-old olive trees and wild olive trees that seemed to be beneath the surrounding land with an elevated embankment on its western side. The Maori battalion, formed by the Fifth Brigade of the New Zealand Division, was sent to northern Greece to defend against a possible German invasion through Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.
In the middle of May in ‘41, one of the first air attacks in the world took place, which caused the Maori battalion to try to recover control of the attack by all means. According to the survivors report, in trying to take control of the attack and when witnessing that the enemy troops had emerged from the olive trees present on 42nd Street, they began a counterattack on the enemy. In this counterattack, they would use the olive trees as allies, using their branches as protection and camouflaging themselves in between them.
They did not hesitate to do a HAKA ritual dance before their adversaries. The HAKA is a traditional Maori dance that has historically been used as a challenge to rivals in the war. It is a symbol of pride, strength and unity of the tribe. The New Zealanders chant is accompanied by sudden arm and leg movements. On this day, the noise from the chant could be heard throughout the entirety of the olive groves. It must have been so intimidating because the enemies soon fled after being blasted with a vicious attack from the HAKA-chanting Maori. They achieved a glorious victory in this battle.
Many of them believe that the victory was assisted in part by the protection that olive and wild olive trees provided to the Maories, granting them the strength and courage necessary to successfully counterattack their enemy.