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   Battle for Australia Association
    What is the Battle for Australia?

Patron: His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retíd)
             Governor of New South Wales

The Federal Government proclaims Australiaís Commemoration Days. Among those for war, in order of significance, is The Battle for Australia (the first Wednesday in September) in third place, only after Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

Japan was a fully fledged partner of the Allies in the Great War of 1914-18; however when the spoils of the victors were being divided Japan felt that it was unfairly treated, and the relationship started to unravel.

Despite the great depression that followed the war most nations experienced population growth. In Japanís case it found that it did not have the natural resources to sustain its people and sought to expand. Britain and America became concerned at Japanís aggressive aspirations and sought to contain them by applying restraints, some of which were sufficiently harsh that Japan considered itself in an untenable situation.

As Japan saw it, its only course was to seize neighbouring resource rich nations notwithstanding that this would inevitably lead to war with Britain and America. With this in mind it decided to get in first; it launched pre-emptive strikes at various British and American possessions, the major target being Pearl Harbour in Americaís Pacific Ocean state of Hawaii.

Japanís plan at that stage was to bring the USA to the negotiation table by the suddenness, aggressiveness and success of its early actions. It was an acknowledged gamble for Japan, which realised that should the war become prolonged, Americaís industrial might would prevail.

Japanís plans were successful beyond their expectations and extended its possessions far into the Pacific. Against this the American carriers had not been at Pearl Harbour and were intact, and Americans were reacting more quickly and positively than envisaged.

Japanís strategic thinking then turned to the possibility of Americaís mounting a counter-attack. Distance precluded such a launch from America itself and a suitable base would be needed. In the wide Pacific there was but one suitable base Ė Australia, which made it an obvious Japanese target.

Only in recent years has it become known that this became an issue in Japan. The Japanese Navy had the capacity to invade Australia and drew up plans for doing so. Japanís army on the other hand held that the navyís task was but to mount the invasion; after that it became the armyís responsibility to capture the country. Having regard to the size of the Australian continent it held that it did not have enough troops to undertake even selected operations and that the merchant navy was at its limits and would be unable to supply them.

A compromise was reached. It was decided that the islands north and east of Australia would be captured thus isolating Australia. However, in the background Japanís navy licked its wounds, intent on returning to its arguments should further progress be achieved with the same speed and success as had been accomplished until then.

Australia of course knew nothing of the happenings in Japan. What it did know was that Australia was an essential base for America and the major strategic target. It realised that it was virtuously defenceless; its volunteer sailors, soldiers and airmen were overseas and those who were left were untrained and lacking equipment. (Even two years nine months after the outbreak of war there were not enough rifles to go around). The air force was in an even worse state. The Labor ministry, from Curtin down, was in a funk but not prepared to introduce conscription for overseas service nor to change to a war footing the everyday lives of unions and the population generally.

What was happening on the fighting front increased the panic:

  • Singapore and Australiaís 8th Division there had capitulated.
  • Elements of the 7th Division had been lost in Java when the Dutch surrended.
  • Major ships had been lost in battle and our few Wirraways were no match for Japanís Zeros.
  • The ridiculous one battalion garrisons on Ambon, Timor and Rabaul were swarmed over even though they could have been saved.
  • Darwin was bombed and more than 200 people killed. A large number of further raids were made on Darwin and on a number of other centres.
  • Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour.
  • Sydney and Newcastle were shelled.
  • Japanese submarines sank merchant shipping all along the coast.
  • The Japanese landed on New Guinea, the closest major island to Australia,

At that stage the 7th Australian Division returned from the Middle East, American support in men and equipment commenced to flow into Australia, and General MacArthur arrived with a policy of aggression rather than defence.

Then the fighting began in earnest, on sea, in the air and on land, from the Battle of the Coral Sea and the first exchange of fire on the Kokoda Trail, until the end of the war.

It was touch and go in the crisis years of 1942 and 1943 but a series of victories, that are now household names, progressively reduced the likelihood of Australiaís falling. Those two years saw a large number of Australians give their lives; however many were also lost in the earlier years of defeat, in prison camps, and in the final years that led to victory.

It was therefore appropriate that the Battle for Australia was produced proclaimed by the Governor-General commemorate not only all those who gave their lives but to the host of servicemen and women who were prepared to give their lives for Australia.


 

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