Australia and World War Two


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A short summary of the Australian concription issue during WWII, as well as an outline of the major battles Australians fought in during the war..

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Australia and World War Two

  1. 1. Australia and WWII Fighting and the Conscription Issue
  2. 2. 3 September 1939 <ul><li>An hour after Britain declares war on Germany, PM Menzies announces that as a result, Australia is also at war </li></ul><ul><li>Menzies was convinced that Australia’s security interests were best when tied to Britain </li></ul><ul><li>Britain placed great strategic importance of the naval base at Singapore – this protected Australian interests </li></ul><ul><li>Numbers: Aus. has small permanent army of 1572 and 80000 personnel in the part-time militia </li></ul>
  3. 3. Volunteers or conscripts? <ul><li>15 September 1939: Menzies announces that ‘special force of volunteers would be created; the militia is also divided into two </li></ul><ul><li>In the first few months of war, Britain, the Country Party & sections of the Aus. press call for the volunteer group to serve overseas </li></ul><ul><li>Menzies is not keen as he is worried Japan would not remain neutral – 28 November 1939 he agrees to send a force to serve in Europe/ Middle East </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Second AIF <ul><li>The 6 th division of the 2 nd AIF would be deployed overseas </li></ul><ul><li>Only 20000 enlist in first 3 months of war: militia reluctant to transfer </li></ul><ul><li>March 1940: 1/6 men of military age men have volunteered </li></ul><ul><li>After the fall of France (June/Aug. 1940) 102000 men volunteer </li></ul><ul><li>Sept. 1940: 7 th , 8 th , 9 th divisions have been created: all but the 8 th committed to Middle East </li></ul>
  5. 5. Enlistments 1939 - 1945 644 005 176 516 427 076 40 413 June 1945 697 066 181 877 480 077 35 112 Aug 1944 732 000 156 448 542 570 32 982 Aug 1943 656 096 107 643 525 678 22 775 Aug 1942 368 659 61 192 288 100 19 367 Nov 1941 14 903 3 489 3 432 7 982 Sept 1939 Total RAAF AMF RAN Date
  6. 6. General Military Action <ul><li>July 1940: HMAS Sydney sinks Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni </li></ul><ul><li>Aug/Sept 1940: Italians invade Somaliland and attack Egypt – Aus. gets first taste of real war </li></ul><ul><li>6 th division fight along 800km of African coast </li></ul><ul><li>May 1943: frustrating campaign ends in Allied victory against Italians </li></ul><ul><li>British and Australian losses: 500 dead, 1372 wounded, 56 missing </li></ul><ul><li>Entire Italian army of 10 divisions destroyed!! 130000 POW + 22 generals </li></ul><ul><li>Identity: this victory helps to strengthen the memories of WWI such as the Gallipoli legend… </li></ul>
  7. 7. Greece and Crete <ul><li>28 October 1940: Italians invade Greece </li></ul><ul><li>Poorly executed; Italians have to be rescued by Germany on 6 April 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>Aus/NZ troops sent to aid Greece: Germany superior and 2065 Australian troops are captured </li></ul><ul><li>5000 Allied troops make their way to Crete, only to be attacked by Germany, resulting in the capture of Crete and 3109 Australians </li></ul>
  8. 8. Tobruk <ul><li>31 March 1941: Germany intervenes in North Africa with onslaught on Afrika Korps </li></ul><ul><li>British forces draw back to Egypt, leaving 10000 Allied troops in Tobruk, incl. 4 brigades from 7 th & 9 th divisions of the AIF </li></ul><ul><li>Seige of Tobruk lasts April to December </li></ul><ul><li>Evacuation begins in August as result of pressure from AIF commander Lt. General Sir Thomas Blamey and Aus. Govt </li></ul><ul><li>In the 3 years of Middle East/ North African fighting, 3500 Australians died </li></ul><ul><li>“ Rats of Tobruk” becomes important part of Aus. military history and mythology </li></ul>
  9. 9. Pearl Harbour <ul><li>Japan attacks Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>This attack makes the long held fears of Japanese invasion in Australia real… </li></ul><ul><li>As a result, the 6 th and 7 th divisions of the AIF and some units of the RAN were withdrawn from the Middle East in January 1942 </li></ul><ul><li>The 9 th division remained in North Africa </li></ul>
  10. 10. A change in government… <ul><li>22 August 1941: the shaky Menzies govt offers the Labor Party Opposition the chance to form a national govt – rejected </li></ul><ul><li>Menzies resigns a week later and is replaced by Country Party’s Arthur Fadden – lasts only a month; resigns when govt is defeated in HoR </li></ul><ul><li>3 Oct: Labor takes office; John Curtin as PM </li></ul><ul><li>New govt inexperience, depended on support from the two independents </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Fall of Singapore <ul><li>8 Dec. 1941: Japanese forces begin the invasion of the Malay Peninsula and is taken on 15 Feb. 1942 </li></ul><ul><li>In 68 days, the Japanese had conquered Malaya and Singapore, & had captured 130000 British/Allied troops – 1789 Australians killed, 1306 wounded </li></ul><ul><li>“ The fall of Singapore opens the Battle for Australia” – John Curtin, 16 Jan. 1942 </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance collapses as the 8 th division is destroyed and 22000 Australians are captured </li></ul><ul><li>The Japanese continue through Indonesia and New Guinea </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Fear <ul><li>19 Feb. 1942: Darwin is bombed, 243 die: the seriousness of the bombing suppressed in order to prevent wide-spread panic </li></ul><ul><li>Japan’s intentions </li></ul><ul><li>Ease and rapidity of advance surprised Japan; Japanese army and navy debate whether invasion should continue until Australia’s capture </li></ul><ul><li>Not a firm aim: more interested in isolating Australia and denying the US access to bases and resources in the region </li></ul>
  13. 13. An inexcusable betrayal <ul><li>The Curtin govt had declared war on Japan, rather than waiting for a British declaration of war </li></ul><ul><li>“ Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional ties of kinship with the United Kingdom.” – Curtin, Dec. 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>Aus. viewed the fall of Singapore as the preliminary of the invasion of Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Relations between Aus. and Britain soured; Curtin sends a telegram to Churchill stating that the invasion of Singapore “would be seen as an inevitable betrayal” </li></ul>
  14. 14. Betrayal? <ul><li>Britain’s first priority was the war against Hitler, but underestimated the power, capability and ambition of the Japanese </li></ul><ul><li>Although Churchill had told Menzies in 1940 that at the threat of invasion, Britain would provide help to Australia, he had said this believing Singapore, and thus, British superiority in the region was impenetrable </li></ul><ul><li>However, Aus. governments were uncritical of British policies… </li></ul><ul><li>BUT, Britain had acknowledged that they were unable to provide adequate naval protection in Singapore and had recommended that Aus. divert the 7 th division to Malaya </li></ul><ul><li>Aus. continues its support for the Middle East, and relations that had been strained through 1942, eased in 1943/44 </li></ul>
  15. 15. The Brisbane Line <ul><li>Sir Iven Mackay proposes that in the case of invasion, WA, Tasmania and the north of Brisbane should not be defended </li></ul><ul><li>The line from Adelaide to Brisbane, the ‘Brisbane Line’ would be defended </li></ul>
  16. 16. Papua <ul><li>1942: Intercepted Japanese intelligence makes it clear that Australia will not be invaded </li></ul><ul><li>4-8 May: Battle of the Coral Sea to prevent Japanese invasion force landing at Port Moresby – Japan prevented from establishing control over the south-east coast of Papua </li></ul><ul><li>A month later, Battle of Midway is fought & the Japanese suffer strategic deafeat – lose 4 aircraft carriers, aircraft and a heavy cruiser </li></ul><ul><li>The Japanese decide to take Port Moresby by land </li></ul>
  17. 17. Kokoda <ul><li>21 July 1942, Japanese land on Northern Papuan coats between Buna and Gona: their aim is to cross the Owen Stanley Ranges and attack Port Morseby from the north </li></ul><ul><li>Within a week, they have occupied Kokoda, forcing Australian defenders to retreat </li></ul><ul><li>The Kokoda track ran from Kokoda, 50 kms from Buna, within 30 kms of Port Moresby </li></ul><ul><li>400 Australians facing 5000 Japanese </li></ul><ul><li>General MacArthur, desperate to avoid possible replacement comments, “The Australians have proven themselves unable to match the enemy in jungle fighting.” </li></ul><ul><li>When asked for further air support in Kokoda, MacArthur refuses </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>The Australians are pushed back to Imita Ridge (50 kms from Port Moresby) before their luck changes </li></ul><ul><li>MacArthur has low opinion of the Aus. troops as well as inaccurate ideas about the size of the Japanese forces, as well as the fighting terrain. Under pressure from MacArthur, Curtin sends Blamey to Port Moresby to deal with situation </li></ul><ul><li>26 September 1942: Australian forces go on offensive and push the Japanese back along the Kokoda track </li></ul><ul><li>Gona fell on 9 December, while Buna fell on 2 January 1943 </li></ul><ul><li>Losses: 2165 Australian dead & 3533 wounded; 930 US lives as well as 12 000 Japanese losses </li></ul>
  19. 19. On the offensive… <ul><li>Japanese abandon Papua in January 1943 </li></ul><ul><li>When the Americans win at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Japan is forced to go on the defensive </li></ul><ul><li>Australian forces remain in New Guinea, the fighting particularly difficult in the north east of NG </li></ul><ul><li>Australian forces on the offensive in South Eats Asia generally become marginalised; MacArthur was not willing to share US glory with the Australians </li></ul>
  20. 20. Conscription again… <ul><li>Tension between the AIF and the militia: the militia ‘koalas’ </li></ul><ul><li>Curtin gives his support to the formation of one overseas force and therefore the removal of restrictions on overseas service </li></ul><ul><li>Within the ALP, comes an outcry against conscription </li></ul><ul><li>Curtin prevails: 19 February 1943, the militia allowed to serve in the whole region excluding the Philippines, western Java and northern Borneo </li></ul><ul><li>Despite this, 200 000 men had transferred to the AIF </li></ul><ul><li>Although Curtin had been a passionate anti-conscriptionist during WWI, it is likely that pressure from MacArthur forced him to change his view </li></ul>