Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war effort

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sunbury2
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Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war effort

Post by sunbury2 » 05 Nov 2013 02:40

There is a new book out in Australia looking at one of the most unsavoury sides of the War in the Pacific that has long been hidden.

The book is "Australia’s Secret War: How Unions Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II" by Hal Colebatch and it details case after case of trade unionists deliberately sabotaging the Australian, US and British efforts. Max Hasting's touched on this issue but finally there is now a detailed account of events.

a review from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/o ... 6751793596
............... What the wharfies did to Australian troops - and their nation's war effort - between 1939 and 1945 is nothing short of an abomination.

Perth lawyer Hal Colebatch has done the nation a service with his groundbreaking book, Australia's Secret War, telling the untold story of union bastardry during World War 2.

Using diary entries, letters and interviews with key witnesses, he has pieced together with forensic precision the tale of how Australia's unions sabotaged the war effort, how wharfies vandalised, harassed, and robbed Australian troop ships, and probably cost lives.

One of the most obscene acts occurred in October, 1945, at the end of the war, after Australian soldiers were released from Japanese prison camps. They were half dead, starving and desperate for home. But when the British aircraft-carrier HMS Speaker brought them into Sydney Harbour, the wharfies went on strike. For 36 hours, the soldiers were forced to remain on-board, tantalisingly close to home. This final act of cruelty from their countrymen was their thanks for all the sacrifice.

Colebatch coolly recounts outrage after outrage.

There were the radio valves pilfered by waterside workers in Townsville which prevented a new radar station at Green Island from operating.

So when American dive bombers returning from a raid on a Japanese base were caught in an electrical storm and lost their bearings, there was no radio station to guide them to safety. Lost, they ran out of fuel and crashed, killing all 32 airmen.

Colebatch quotes RAAF serviceman James Ahearn, who served at Green Island, where the Australians had to listen impotently to the doomed Americans' radio calls:

"The grief was compounded by the fact that had it not been for the greed and corruption on the Australian waterfront such lives would not have been needlessly lost."

Almost every major Australian warship was targeted throughout the war, with little intervention from an enfeebled Prime Minister Curtin. There was the deliberate destruction by wharfies of vehicles and equipment, theft of food being loaded for soldiers, snap strikes, go-slows, demands for "danger money" for loading biscuits.

Then there were the coal strikes which pushed down coal production between 1942 and 1945 despite the war emergency.

There were a few honourable attempts to resist union leaders, such as the women working in a small arms factory in Orange, NSW, who refused to strike and "pelted union leaders with tomatoes and eggs".

This is a tale of the worst of Australia amid the best, the valour and courage of our soldiers in New Guinea providing our last line of defence against Japanese, only to be forced onto starvation rations and to "go easy on the ammo" because strikes by the wharfies back home prevented supplies from reaching them.

A planned rescue of Australian PoWs in Borneo late in the war apparently had to be abandoned, writes Colebatch, because a wharf strike in Brisbane meant the ships had no heavy weapons.

There was no act too low for the unionists. For instance, in 1941, hundreds of soldiers on board a ship docked in Freemantle entrusted personal letters to wharfies who offered to post them in return for beer money. The letters never arrived.

At one point in 1942 a US Army colonel became so frustrated at the refusal of Townsville wharfies to load munitions unless paid quadruple time, he ordered his men to throw the unionists into the water and load the guns themselves.

In Adelaide, American soldiers fired sub-machine guns at wharfies deliberately destroying their aircraft engines by dropping them from great heights. Australian soldiers had to draw bayonets to stop the same Adelaide wharfies from stealing food meant for troops overseas.

You will read this book with mounting fury.

Coelbatch offers various explanations for the treasonous behaviour of the unions. Many of the leaders were Communists obsessed with class warfare. Fervent "identity politics" led them to believe they were victims and servicemen and women were "puppets of capitalism whose lives were of no consequence". Contrary to popular belief, strikes and sabotage continued, even after the Soviet Union became an ally, writes Colebatch, who contends that the Australian Left may have wanted to undermine the military in preparation for revolution after the war.

Whatever the reasons for the defective morality of those unionists who sabotaged our war effort, the traitors have never been brought to account. This story has been largely suppressed for 70 years because Labor and the Left have successfully controlled the narrative of history.

No more, thanks to Colebatch.

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fredleander
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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by fredleander » 06 Nov 2013 23:40

I believe this was mentioned already in S. E. Morison's official history series on US naval operations in WW2 - published in 1948.

Fred
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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by pugsville » 07 Nov 2013 08:23

Political Hatch job. Unions = Evil is the message. I'd just question the book as to what it is doing. How many ships were unloaded without problems? Does the author provide analysis of the overall situation or is it all just anecdotal evidence? What were the exact circumstances of each case. Calling it Sabotage of the war effort *IS* a misrepresentation, was the aim to sabotage the war effort or to promote their own self interest, it's only sabotage if they were aiming to help the enemy rather than a side effort of their efforts to get better wages, or steal.

The Wharfies were a pretty oppressed bunch of workers whose attitudes were driven by a their wages and conditions and the hostile class warfare expressed by them on the docks. They sought to use circumstances to improve their lot, as their bosses used circumstances to lower their wages and conditions. For society to expect sacrifices and unity in times of trouble society had to show unity when the wharfies conditions were under threat in the 1930s. To expect group to show loyalty to the nation, then Nation has to show loyalty to the wharfies. The Wharfs were pretty hostile industrial relations, the wharfies attitudes were shaped in a large degree by managements attitude.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by stulev » 07 Nov 2013 12:56

After the United States joined the war in 1942 the number of labor strikes went up by are large amount also - but I do not think it was to hamper the war effort!

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by fredleander » 07 Nov 2013 17:01

stulev wrote:After the United States joined the war in 1942 the number of labor strikes went up by are large amount also - but I do not think it was to hamper the war effort!
How could it not? U.S.A. joined the war on 7th December 1941.

Fred
www.fredleander.com - River Wide, Ocean Deep - a book on Operation Sealion
Saving MacArthur - a book series on how The Philippines were saved: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018F2QMEW?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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fredleander
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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by fredleander » 07 Nov 2013 17:10

pugsville wrote:Political Hatch job. Unions = Evil is the message. I'd just question the book as to what it is doing. How many ships were unloaded without problems? Does the author provide analysis of the overall situation or is it all just anecdotal evidence? What were the exact circumstances of each case. Calling it Sabotage of the war effort *IS* a misrepresentation, was the aim to sabotage the war effort or to promote their own self interest, it's only sabotage if they were aiming to help the enemy rather than a side effort of their efforts to get better wages, or steal.
As I have seen it described it was more a case of "grabbing the opportunity" - not sabotage as such. The result was much the same on some occasions, though. Specifically, in the haste to bring US supplies to the Philippines in December 1941 and beginning of 1942 these were delayed and US crews stepping in to do the job were hindered by the dock workers. This applied particularly to Brisbane which was central in this period. Over time things smoothed out.
pugsville wrote:The Wharfies were a pretty oppressed bunch of workers whose attitudes were driven by a their wages and conditions and the hostile class warfare expressed by them on the docks. They sought to use circumstances to improve their lot, as their bosses used circumstances to lower their wages and conditions. For society to expect sacrifices and unity in times of trouble society had to show unity when the wharfies conditions were under threat in the 1930s. To expect group to show loyalty to the nation, then Nation has to show loyalty to the wharfies. The Wharfs were pretty hostile industrial relations, the wharfies attitudes were shaped in a large degree by managements attitude.
I believe you have covered it well here.

Fred
www.fredleander.com - River Wide, Ocean Deep - a book on Operation Sealion
Saving MacArthur - a book series on how The Philippines were saved: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018F2QMEW?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by LWD » 07 Nov 2013 17:59

fredleander wrote:
stulev wrote:After the United States joined the war in 1942 the number of labor strikes went up by are large amount also - but I do not think it was to hamper the war effort!
How could it not? U.S.A. joined the war on 7th December 1941.
My impression is that he was saying that this wasn't the purpose not that it wasn't the result. That's just my reading of it though.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by fredleander » 07 Nov 2013 18:08

LWD wrote:
fredleander wrote:
stulev wrote:After the United States joined the war in 1942 the number of labor strikes went up by are large amount also - but I do not think it was to hamper the war effort!
How could it not? U.S.A. joined the war on 7th December 1941.
My impression is that he was saying that this wasn't the purpose not that it wasn't the result. That's just my reading of it though.
I see what you mean now, there is a fine line there. A little difficult for me, not being that fluent in English. You are probably right. If so, he is, too.

Fred
www.fredleander.com - River Wide, Ocean Deep - a book on Operation Sealion
Saving MacArthur - a book series on how The Philippines were saved: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018F2QMEW?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by Takao » 08 Nov 2013 15:02

Does anyone have any information on the lost flight of bombers/dive bombers that is related to in this snippet
Colebatch coolly recounts outrage after outrage.

There were the radio valves pilfered by waterside workers in Townsville which prevented a new radar station at Green Island from operating.

So when American dive bombers returning from a raid on a Japanese base were caught in an electrical storm and lost their bearings, there was no radio station to guide them to safety. Lost, they ran out of fuel and crashed, killing all 32 airmen.

Colebatch quotes RAAF serviceman James Ahearn, who served at Green Island, where the Australians had to listen impotently to the doomed Americans' radio calls:

"The grief was compounded by the fact that had it not been for the greed and corruption on the Australian waterfront such lives would not have been needlessly lost."
I am curious about this but, so far, have had no luck finding any information on it. The RNZAF lost 8 Corsairs in one day - January 15, 1945. However, I have been unable to find any comparable American losses.

Any help would be appreciated.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by StefanSiverud » 08 Nov 2013 19:20

Two links with overlapping information:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion ... 1113559562
https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2013/1 ... australia/ (they contain overlapping information).

From the second one:
When No. 317 Radar Station was being set up at Green Island east of New Britain during the war it was found that all the valves for the radar sets had been stolen by wharf labourers at Townsville. Without the valves the station was unable to go on air as scheduled, and a violent electri­cal tropical storm caught a force of two-seater American Vultee Vengeance dive-bombers flying back from a raid on the Japanese base at Rabaul.

The storm upset the aircraft’s compasses and even though they were in radio contact they became lost. With­out radar the station could not guide them home and they flew on till they ran out of fuel and crashed, as those lis­tening on the ground heard. Two of the aircraft were found. Sixteen others were lost and all the thirty-two men in them perished. James Ahearn, an RAAF serviceman at Green Island, wrote:

Had No. 317 been on air it was possible the doomed aircraft could have been guided back to base. The grief was com­pounded by the fact that had it not been for the greed and corruption on the Australian waterfront such lives would not have been needlessly lost.

RAAF Sergeant H.T. Tolhurst, who had opened the box marked “RADIO VALVES HANDLE WITH CARE” and found it empty, commented:

We believed that had we been on air it was possible that we could have guided those doomed aircraft back … All of the personnel keenly felt the loss of those … young lives. Our feelings were not helped by the scorn of the US Air Force per­sonnel who became aware of the reasons … and who tainted us with the contempt they held.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by Takao » 09 Nov 2013 03:04

Thanks for the links, but they are of little help, although they do identify the aircraft as Vultee Vengeance bombers. As such, while they were American produced aircraft, I don't think that Americans were flying them, since the invasion of the Green Islands did not occur until February 15, 1944. By which time I don't see the Americans using the Vengeance in combat, so it is most likely an RAAF unit.

They have overlapping information because they are a direct regurgitation of Colebatch's work. The earliest I have found the quote is 2003. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Who+kille ... 0106027917
So, it looks like Mr. Colebatch has been grinding his axe for quite a long time.

However, this site: http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a27.htm has no mention of 16 Vultee Vengeance aircraft being lost on the same day. IIRC, at most three were lost on the same training mission.

The more I look into this, the more I think it is a load of "El Toro Crapo!"

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by StefanSiverud » 09 Nov 2013 16:12

Indeed, the first link I provided was written by him, and the second by his publisher (or possibly himself).

The fact that the flight mentioned was supposedly a US flight of Vultee Vengeance bombers and US Air Force (assume he means US Army Air Force) personnel were scornful after the supposed event suggests it's a rumour blown out of proportion and misremembered. At least there are plenty of warning flags popping up.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by Takao » 09 Nov 2013 22:06

No US armed service used the Vultee Vengeance operationally during World War II, they were target tugs and trainers devoid of armament.

AFAIK no USAAF units operated from the Green Islands during the war, only Navy and Marine ones.

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by StefanSiverud » 10 Nov 2013 00:31

Takao wrote:No US armed service used the Vultee Vengeance operationally during World War II, they were target tugs and trainers devoid of armament.

AFAIK no USAAF units operated from the Green Islands during the war, only Navy and Marine ones.
That is my point, one of the many warning flags suggesting the story is not true (in several parts, at least).

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Re: Australia's Shame. Trade Unionism sabotaging the war ef

Post by sunbury2 » 11 Nov 2013 06:47

I have received the book today and will try and post excerpts over the weekend, especially on the Green Island story.


Edit. The Green Island story being possibly about Australian RAAF Vultee Vengenaces can be ruled out.
http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a27.htm is the complete history of all Vengenaces in RAAF service. If any ever bombed Rabaul, none are recorded as lost. Indeed very few were lost on active service and none in the circumstances described.

The wording of USAF and USAAF would mean very little to Australians in WW2, the US had an Air Force, the distinction of it being an Army Air Force would be meaningless.

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