Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
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The Desert Fox
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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by The Desert Fox » 10 Apr 2003 14:44

A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the Pacific War.


Thanks Marcus
regards the Desert Fox

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 11 Apr 2003 20:06

The Desert Fox wrote:A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the pacific war.


Thanks Marcus
regards the Desert Fox


I would recommend this book as a good place to start in regards to Australia's involvement in WWII.

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Touched With Fire by Eric Bergerud.

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Post by Durand » 12 Apr 2003 12:20

Hallo Dan,

It looks like it may be an interesting read. Since you have read it, can you please give us your impressions -- what you liked or disliked about it?

Thank You

Durand

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 12 Apr 2003 19:52

Durand wrote:Hallo Dan,

It looks like it may be an interesting read. Since you have read it, can you please give us your impressions -- what you liked or disliked about it?

Thank You

Durand


Hello Durand,

If memory serves me correctly you had once said I post reviews on books that I have never read, so I'm assuming here that you think I never read the book by Bergerud.

I have read the book by Bergerud, and when I hear positive things about a book, yet have not read it myself, I make that explicitly clear.

How I would rate Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific would be about 3.5 stars on a 5 star scale. Personally I did not think the book was that great with one notable exception: The involvement of Australian forces in the land battles of the Pacific. In this regard I rate the book very well, in fact a 5 star rating applies. It thoroughly explores the contributions of Australian forces and I discovered a fierce fighting ability equal or exceeding that displayed by U.S. Marines. The author mentions two possible reasons for this: They were actually better acclimated for the tropical environment than U.S. Forces, and they often came from rural backgrounds and were therefore somewhat "toughened up" and able to endure the extremes that all soldiers had to in this theater.

After reading this book I realized just how much of a shortage of information there is contained in books written by either U.S. historians or firsthand accounts of U.S. servicemen detailing Australian contributions. Not so with this book. The Kokoda Trail was mentioned frequently and was an excellent bit of reading, to give but one example.

Many people would give this book a higher rating, and I guess I tend to compare everything to With The Old Breed or Tenozan when discussing land warfare in the South Pacific. Those are two books that rank in the highest tier regarding this subject.

Regards,
D.W.

Durand
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Post by Durand » 12 Apr 2003 22:39

D.W.,

Thank you for sharing your impressions of the book. The subject matter is one I know little about and it sounds interesting to me.

With regard to your assumption...well, as they say, one should never assume. Until you mentioned it, I had forgotten about our exchange. It is not my nature to hold on to such things. My post requesting your impression of this book was sincere and I appreciate your reply.

Regards,

Durand

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Post by sand digger » 14 Apr 2003 04:05

Other than the official history series, which are good but rather overwhelming in detail, there is no one book that I know of which covers the entire Australian experience which began in Malaya/Singapore. There are however quite a few which cover the various theaters or aspects and which give a good idea of what happened. And then there are some on the political and high command aspects which to me are quite fascinating, particularly given post WW2 history.

On the question of quality, imho the prime reason for the usual good performance can be put down to excellent leadership, particularly at the lower levels. Empathy with the men and leadership by example were particularly emphasised, plus an ability and willingness to adapt and improvise. There is nothing unique about this, the British under the great leadership of Slim performed similarly well in Burma, a performance greatly aided incidentially by excellent American air participation.

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The Desert Fox
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Australians in the Pacific theatre

Post by The Desert Fox » 14 Apr 2003 06:38

Dan Weakley wrote:
The Desert Fox wrote:A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the pacific war.


Thanks Marcus
regards the Desert Fox


I would recommend this book as a good place to start in regards to Australia's involvement in WWII.

Image

Touched With Fire by Eric Bergerud.


Sounds like a very good book Dan. I shall keep my eyes open for it in the bookshops. It was in the Pacific that all my ancestors fought in ww2.

It is hard somtimes to actually find much information on the Australian effort in the Pacific war. I have read a number of books on the disaterous campaign in Malaya and Singapore and the more sucessfull Kakoda campaign. However beyond these campaigns very little information have I been lucky to find. The publicity machine of the USA seems to have overshadowed what ever my countrymen achieved in the latter stages of the war. :)

Thanks again for the good lead
regards
The Desert Fox

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Post by varjag » 26 Apr 2003 11:04

The Desert Fox wrote:A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the pacific war.


Thanks Marcus
regards the Desert Fox
Australias extensive involvement in 'the Pacific War'.....I'll probably make a lot of enemies by saying it - but apart from some tenacious action that halted the Japanese in New Guinea, it was a non-event. So was the British 'help' in 1945. The Pacific war, was a US show to 99,5 %.

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Post by sand digger » 28 Apr 2003 03:49

varjag wrote:
The Desert Fox wrote:A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the pacific war.


Thanks Marcus
regards the Desert Fox
Australias extensive involvement in 'the Pacific War'.....I'll probably make a lot of enemies by saying it - but apart from some tenacious action that halted the Japanese in New Guinea, it was a non-event. So was the British 'help' in 1945. The Pacific war, was a US show to 99,5 %.


After the Japanese had been stopped along the Kokoda track and at Milne Bay in PNG, there were further actions along the E and NE coast of PNG to consolidate and to secure airfields for future operations, such as at Buna, Sananda and Gona. Once that area had been secured, the emphasis in major operations shifted to the North towards Japan. At that stage, MacArthur by various means rapidly excluded Australian land forces from taking a further significant role in the advance directly towards Japan, although Australian naval assets continued to play their part attached to US naval forces.

Certainly it came about that the war in the Pacific became almost exclusively a US affair, but Australia played a big part in initially stopping the Japanese advance and in beginning to turn them back.

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Post by varjag » 28 Apr 2003 12:31

Thanks Sand-Digger for confirming my first post. Australia's part in the Pacific War - WAS a non-event and had not the slightest influence on Japans capitulation.

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Post by Larso » 23 Jun 2003 09:04

First up, I'd like to recommend Bergerud's book. It has a lot of positive things to say about the Australian contribution. A Kokada track veteran from my church read it at my instigation and he also praised it highly. As for others, Lex McAulay's, 'Blood and Iron (Kokoda) and 'To the Bitter End' (Gona, Buna etc) are excellent with lots of first hand accounts. Otherwise, aside from the official histories there are no overall accounts of Australia's war with Japan.

I do take issue with the dismissal of Australia's contribution to the victory. Australian troops alone stopped the capture of Port Moresby and Milne Bay. For quite some time they constituted the bulk of MacArthurs forces. They did most of the dying (and killing in the South Pacific). The fact that New Guinea, and later Borneo, Tarakan and Bougainville had no effect on the Japanese surrender doesn't diminish the cumulative effect of these campaignes. Japanese forces committed here and elsewhere could not be deployed in the Phillipenes or Okinawa or the Home Islands. It may well be true to say Australia's contribution could've been done without but so to could the same be said of Canada. Yet Northern Europe would've been a longer assignment without them. To his discredit, MacArthur tried to sideline some of the best fighting soldiers of WW11, his intention to use them as only garrison troops was an insult. The resultant frustration in senior Aust army and Govt circles saw some of the above campaignes fought essentially to give the Australian troops something to do and out of a naive view that it would gain Australia greater post-war prestige. That said I'm probably happier that we lost a few hundred on Borneo than a thousand on Iwo Jima.

I have some veterans views on this to share if anyone is interested.

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Post by The Desert Fox » 22 Jul 2003 15:00

Well said Larso

My grandfather spent the whole war fighting the japenese in the pacific as a commando in the RAAF. Some of the actions and attitudes of our americian allies in the later part of the war, did little to foster enduring friendships.

I would be interested in seeing some more of these veterans views on the subject.

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the Desert Fox

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Post by sand digger » 23 Jul 2003 05:08

As far as I know there were no particularly significant incidents of lasting illfeeling between the US and Australia at a combat level. Certainly MacArthur had his own personal agenda but in this was carried out with the cooperation of the Australian government of the time, which sadly lacked expertise and sound judgment in such matters.

Early on the US military at times was incompetent and unprofessional but they quickly improved and learned their lessons well. The worst example of failure of an ally in arms was not the US but arguably the British at Malaya/Singapore.

While the views of individuals who were involved are always interesting, they are also by their very nature personal and limited in scope.

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Post by Larso » 25 Jul 2003 04:43

Quite a few times I've heard Australian veterans sigh at the mention of US forces. Mostly in regard to air supply, where supplies were dropped with little regard to enabling things to be collected. My grandfather told me of a friend of his who was covering some Japanese prisoners when their badly needed supplies were dropped into the Japanese lines. As they were now unable to feed them, the prisoners were shot. This aside I think most Australian views were formed based on poor US performances around Buna, where the US forces concerned had been inadequately trained and equipped. I've heard several veterans speak very highly of the US Marines and their approach to fighting being similar to the Australian way. I am sure the US units got better as their experience increased but by this time of course the two armies were fighting different campaigns and it was not apparent to most Australians.

I've also heard many speak with great respect for the US contribution. My grandfather in particular used to mention the Battle of the Coral Sea as the saving of Australia. On a different note, another now elderly lady thanks US soldiers for teaching her how to dance!!

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Post by dmsdbo » 25 Jul 2003 13:33

It seems that the general consensus opinion amongst British, Canadian, Australian, NZ, SA vets is that the Americans had the best allied equipment, and there were good individual US soldiers and units (82/101 AB, Marines, vets from North Afrcia/Sicily), but on a grand scale they were not as good as the Commonwealth troops, and were far too wasteful of troops(this second statement I totally agree with).

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