Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
Larso
Member
Posts: 1960
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 25 Jul 2003 13:40

I'd like to recount a veterans thoughts regarding his time on Bouganville. Last year I briefly toyed with writing a history of the 47th battalion, anyway I spoke to one bloke who'd won an MC (he refused evacuation after being wounded to continue to direct his men in a battle). The Australians replaced American forces who had had a 'live and let live' arrangement with the remaining Japanese forces on the island. The Australian command however decided to conduct attacks. The two brigade commanders then chose to get into competition with each other as to who could advance the quickest. This succeeded in galvanishing the Japanese to plan a counterattack. The thing was there were many more Japanese than anyone had thought. This bloke had the documents to show that a 20,000 man force would have smashed into the few understength battalions, which he readily conceeded would have been massacred. The only thing that stopped the attack was the dropping of the atomic bombs. Anyway battles aside he said of the Americans that they were scared of the mountains and the swamps. He also says they were very kind hearted and generous with their material. like phone cable but even better with their food - icecream, chocolate, peanuts and steak were freely given. He also related how they scamed the Americans out of their watches by telling them they wouldn't last in the heat and offering to take them to a better climate.

Another of the battalions verterans won the MM for allowing his shoulder to be used as a mount for a bren gun. He was terribly exposed but the bren got the Japanese before they could get him. He wasn't as big a talker though so his other thoughts are unknown to me.

Enough for now - 'The Glass House' is on.

sand digger
Member
Posts: 33
Joined: 11 Mar 2003 04:42
Location: Australia

Post by sand digger » 26 Jul 2003 04:15

Larso, the book Signaller Johnston's Secret War by Peter Pinney is mostly set in Bougainville. Fiction based on fact, a good read. For the US B was one of those 'leave it to wither on the vine' islands, their base was secure and that was what really mattered.

But for something to do the Australian government decided to clear the island. 8O [/i]

User avatar
Chadwick
Member
Posts: 194
Joined: 21 Apr 2003 04:44
Location: United States

Post by Chadwick » 26 Jul 2003 06:27

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).


You know some of the members here amaze me with their opinions. I will keep my comments polite, but I want to let you guys know how much this angers me :x No matter which veterans you talk to you will find stories both positive and negative about their enemies as well as their allies. I know you will find this hard to believe, but yes when I asked WWII American vets their opinions on their allies I got pretty much the same reaction you did from the vets you interviewed. THere were both positive recollections as well as negative ones.

After reading what you have to say about the U.S. it's a damn shame we can't go back and change history. Since the U.s. fielded such shoddy soldiers we should have remained neutral and allowed the Commonwealth, Great Britain, and France handle the Axis nations. God knows I would have loved the chance to have met my one Uncle, but sadly he was one of those thousands lost on the island of Iwo Jima as was so callously pointed out by Larso. My other relative after his unit liberated a concentration camp was never the same. He returned from the war a shattered man who eventually blew his brains out with a shot gun when I was in high school. I could list several other relatives who also lost their lives in various spots around the world. After reading some of these posts I have to question for what purpose did they die? This also applies to my family members who survived the war.

It really saddens me to hear such disparaging comments come from Australia when my family members have only said good things about your country. It seemed many times when the world turned away your country provided assistance to the U.S. military. You fought with us not only in WWII, but also provided troops and air assets in both Korea as well as Vietnam. My dad is a veteran of the Vietnam War and he always spoke very highly of Australian servicemen he met.

Well getting back to your original question. Another book you might be interested in is called: Fire in the Sky (The Air War in the South Pacific) by: Eric M. Bergerud. This is an excellent book covering both sides of the war. I believe Mr. Bergerud does an excellent and respectful job summing up how all of the allies (even little ole America) worked together to defeat Imperial Japan in the South Pacific. You might be surprised to learn some of the facts the author brings forward in this work.

Chadwick

Larso
Member
Posts: 1960
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 26 Jul 2003 09:06

Hi Chadwick,

I'm sorry about your relative on Iwo Jima. It was not my intention to disparage him or his comrades. I guess I was addressing a personal frustration with Australian historians who wail about the waste of lives in 'unnessessary campaigns' like Bouganville and Borneo. What they fail to realise is that it would have been intolerable for Australian soldiers to have sat around doing nothing while the US fought on alone. My point was if we had been involved in the more crucial battles we would have paid a higher price than we did. Frankly I think both armies should have continued to fight side by side, sharing the risks as allies should, however politics, egos and in particular logistics made this too difficult. I would also like to repeat that being involved in different theatres didn't allow many Australians to see the improvement in the National Guard divisions once they gained combat experience. The all volunteer AIF always had a big opinion of itself (like its First World War predessers) and it felt egually superior to most other troops, including our own Militia. Whether this was always justified I can't say but it is a attitude often expressed.

I would also like to state categorically that Australians of the time were extremely grateful to the Americans for their efforts. As I related regarding my grandfather, the Americans won the important battles. Without the US, Australia would have been isolated and open to invasion. Indeed I believe our gratitude is still expressed by our involvement in American actions of recent date. I personally feel it and I guess it has a lot to do with my open support of US actions since Sep11.

It might help explain things a bit to explain that MacArthur claimed Australian victories as Allied and Allied victories as American. He had complete control over information release in this country and used this for his own ends. The veterans were often astounded when returning from battle in the islands to be asked what they'd been doing while the Americans were doing all the fighting. They resented this and perhaps it influences the way they remember Americans in general. The general Australian population though has very positive memories of American forces. I hope this adds some balance to what has been written above.

User avatar
Chadwick
Member
Posts: 194
Joined: 21 Apr 2003 04:44
Location: United States

Post by Chadwick » 26 Jul 2003 15:37

Thank you for your posting Larso and I apologize for getting a little heated. In my opinion your fellow countrymen are some of the finest fighting soldiers of our time, especially in WWII i.e. Tobruk, Kokoda, etc. I also agree with you about Douglas MacArthur who was a real premadonna. Sometimes I think Mac behaved more like a baron from the Middle Ages than a commander in the U.S. Army. This is especially true of his role in occuppied Japan. Could you imagine Mac and General Patton having to work with each other operationally!! :D Talk about a possible fiasco, thankfully several oceans and continents separated the two.
It's interesting when you ask U.S. veterans about Mac, because as one told me you either loved him or hated him there was really no even ground. I also discovered Korean veterans held him in higher standings than some WWII vets did. About last night's topic check out the book I recommended. He really spends alot of time on Australias role in WWII.

Thanks,

Chris :D

Larso
Member
Posts: 1960
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 27 Jul 2003 13:19

MacArthur and Patton, now they would've made for a very interesting time. I've heard, and perhaps someone can confirm whether it's true, that they knew each other in World War 1. The story goes that they were talking when a German barrage started and began to creep towards them. Evidently neither would make the first move to take cover.

Thomas Allen and Norman Polmar in 'Codename Downfall: The secret plan to invade Japan' spend a bit of time discussing the possible command structure for the Home Island invasions. Apparantly MacArthur did everything possible to deny the European Generals but in particular Patton operational commands in the Pacific theatre. He really seems to have been an egomaniac.

Chadwick has raised the Korean War and now that I think about it, it confounds some of the things I've raised about MacArthur. The above book also spends some time on the makeup of troops for the invasion. Americans only for the first but there were some plans for an Australian and British force for the invasion slated in 1946. Though as this was to be conducted with redeployed troops from Europe it was implied that they Allied units might not actually be required. MacArthur certainly vetoed any use of Indian units. Anyway the point I'm making here is that it seems that MacArthur, perhaps for nationalistic reasons, always tried to use his own men. Yet a few years later in Korea he happily commanded a very diverse force and was a far more popular commander, especially with his own troops. He becomes curiouser and curiouser.

Perhaps someone who has read more about him can explain these paradoxes?

Cory C
Member
Posts: 1483
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 08:16
Location: ..

Post by Cory C » 16 Aug 2003 08:47

I'm sorry that the bravery, distinction and valor with which the Australian force fought during the Second World War is coming as news to me. Truly, Australia is a great nation & a great friend to the US. I hope our relationship continues as such for many centuries.

~Cory

Achtung Achtung!
Member
Posts: 3
Joined: 21 Jul 2003 09:29
Location: Sydney, Australia

Post by Achtung Achtung! » 16 Aug 2003 17:11

Unfortunately not much is known about the Australian involvemnt in WWII, whist it wasn't that grand in the scale of things it still was significant. We fielded a million men IIRC out of population of about 8 million. And wanted to contribute futher to the war effort but were blocked by other Allied nations for better or for worse. It is national patriotism which has provented you from learning more about our involvment in WWII in the pacific. The vast majority of books written about that aspect of the war are written in the US and they have a tendency to belittle the effort made by the Australians, and tend to focus on the US involvment, this is understandably yet seemingly frustrating.

Larso
Member
Posts: 1960
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 17 Aug 2003 07:35

I think the same can be said for many countries. We all learn some of our own history and because they had such a major involvement in the events of the last century, a fair bit about the US and Britain. Yet this aside I think Australians are as guilty as any body else for being ignorant of the contributions of other smaller countries in the affairs of the world. For instance I would suggest that only a handful of Australians would be aware that the South Koreans were involved in the Vietnam war. Indeed since they lost 4000 KIA to our 500 they were a much more significant player than we were.

It's getting a bit off topic but during the events of the first part of this year I shook my head when various 'acaintances' would seize on erroneous comments made by US and UK parties about other countries, as evidence of ignorance/arrogance to the rest of the world. Yet when I'd ask them to give me the same level of knowledge about Ghana or Albania or Peru they'd have nothing but black looks. It seems to me that it's very easy to expect everyone to know what's important to us, but it's a big world.

User avatar
Matt H.
Member
Posts: 554
Joined: 15 Aug 2003 18:34
Location: Keele, Staffs, UK

Post by Matt H. » 17 Aug 2003 11:55

Whilst I am not extensively knowledgeable of the Australian contribution to the Pacific Theatre, I can vouch for their invaluable actions in the Desert campiagn against Rommel's Afrika Korps. The 9th Australian Infantry Division's personal triumph was the withstanding of the German seige on the port of Tobruk, in North Eastern Libya. The same division also spearheaded the campaign at El Alamein along with the New Zealand Division, various Indian divisions and the British 7th Armoured Brigade (The Desert Rats).

As part of the British Eighth Army under General Oliver Leese, Australians also fought in the strenuous campaign across Sicily, and the Italian mainland...

Larso
Member
Posts: 1960
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 18 Aug 2003 01:51

Yes the North African battles are well remembered here. I think the 9th Div suffered over 5,000 casualties at El Alemain which was a significant portion of the 8th armies total figures. It returned to Australia immediately after to take part in the war against the Japanese. It had further campaigns in New Guinea and lastly in Borneo. It may well have been slated for the 1946 invasion of Japan as well.

However this was Australia's last formation in the Middle East. I think it is the 2nd NZ Div who you might be thinking of in relation to Sicily and Italy. Australia had air assets in the region still of course.

As a historian I've always been disappointed that we didn't commit our armoured division to the Middle East and later Europe. Aside from the deployment of a few tank Bn's to various islands this highly trained, all volunteer formation was never used.

sand digger
Member
Posts: 33
Joined: 11 Mar 2003 04:42
Location: Australia

Post by sand digger » 18 Aug 2003 04:28

We may complain about MacArthur, as I do from time to time, and the US shunting us to the sideline as the war in the Pacific progressed, but the direct result of this was that the US increasingly took most of the casualties too.

The only real complaint was that during the war MacArthur, who controlled publicity and the news in Australia and else where, did not give due acknowledgement to the Australian involvement. Which resulted in both the American and Australian public being largely unaware of what we were doing.

IIRC we had around six divisions of ground forces plus naval and air units involved in the Pacific war. Quite a decent effort considering our population and the amount of manpower diverted to assisting the US effort in various ways.

User avatar
Matt H.
Member
Posts: 554
Joined: 15 Aug 2003 18:34
Location: Keele, Staffs, UK

Post by Matt H. » 19 Aug 2003 16:08

Larso wrote:Yes the North African battles are well remembered here. I think the 9th Div suffered over 5,000 casualties at El Alemain which was a significant portion of the 8th armies total figures. It returned to Australia immediately after to take part in the war against the Japanese. It had further campaigns in New Guinea and lastly in Borneo. It may well have been slated for the 1946 invasion of Japan as well.

However this was Australia's last formation in the Middle East. I think it is the 2nd NZ Div who you might be thinking of in relation to Sicily and Italy. Australia had air assets in the region still of course.

As a historian I've always been disappointed that we didn't commit our armoured division to the Middle East and later Europe. Aside from the deployment of a few tank Bn's to various islands this highly trained, all volunteer formation was never used.
ANZAC volunteers also made up a sizeable portion of the RAF's strength in both Fighter, and Bomber Commands. Those who fought in the former force are remembered as heroes (rightly so), but those who fought over the skies of Germany in the Lancasters and Wellingtons have, most unfortunately, been much maligned by the post-war writings of the leftist "intelligentsia"...

In my opinion, they deserve as much recognition and praise as their comrades in Fighter Command...
My thoughts at the time were that I have a family, and a bigger family - the public - and I was going to do my damnedest to stop the Germans coming across. If you go into war you've got to win it, and if you are too weak you suffer the trials and tribulations of being a slave race. Some of our intelligentsia are writing in the peace and warmth of their homes about how wicked the bombing campaign was. They don't realise that they wouldn't have had that freedom to do so if we had not had 55,000 aircrew who lost their lives for their sake.
From: http://www.rafbombercommand.com/master_personal.html

Jagdverband 44
Member
Posts: 10
Joined: 28 Aug 2003 08:08
Location: Brisbane Australia

Post by Jagdverband 44 » 31 Aug 2003 01:40

Larso wrote:It might help explain things a bit to explain that MacArthur claimed Australian victories as Allied and Allied victories as American. He had complete control over information release in this country and used this for his own ends. The veterans were often astounded when returning from battle in the islands to be asked what they'd been doing while the Americans were doing all the fighting. They resented this and perhaps it influences the way they remember Americans in general. The general Australian population though has very positive memories of American forces. I hope this adds some balance to what has been written above.
THis is rather true. One might be interested to knwo that Macarthur had no idea of the conditions in which Australian troops were fighting on the Kokoda track. Intelligence reports to Macarthur continually referred to the track as a trail. While the words seemingly mean the same, trail implies a well maintained path easily accessible by all manner of transport. With that in mind, Macarthur frequently wondered why the campaign across the Owen Stanley Ranges took so long. General Blamey earned himself a bad rap by relieving Australian commanders when Macarthur demanded faster progress in New Guinea.

As Larso said, Australian resentment of Macarthur and US forces in general stems from Macarthur's gloryhunting. It's one thing to do all the work and take all the credit, another thing to do none of the work and take all the credit, but it goes completely against the Australian ethos to share the workload and not share the credit. Personally, I wouldn't have a bone to pick if the credit was given where the credit was due, and the US forces deserve a lot of it for the operations on Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other places. Yet, on the other side of the coin, to claim Americans made a large contribution to the Kokoda campaign is laughable in the face that the Australian military did the bulk of the fighting in the first months of the Kokoda track campaign.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8918
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Post by michael mills » 31 Aug 2003 07:50

Larso wrote:
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.
A war-crime, I should think. Or at least it would have been considered a war-crime if Japanese had shot Allied prisoners they were unable to feed.

Perhaps the US Navy should be blamed for sinking Japanese merchant ships bringing supplies to Japanese-held islands, thereby causing the starvation of Allied prisoners held there.

Did Larso's grandfather consider reporting his friend to the appropriate Australian authorities for the undeniable war-crime of murdering Japanese POWs?

Return to “WW2 in the Pacific & Asia”