Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

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JamesNo1
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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 22 Mar 2006 07:35

I have some good news and bad news for those who are interested in this topic.

The good news first! At long last the Kokoda story will be on screen as a movie. The producers have informed me that the film is expected to be released in Australia on Anzac Day 2006. More information and access to the film web-site to view trailers is available at my Kokoda web-site at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... Index.html

The bad news is that despite public rebukes from both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Federal Opposition on the occasion of the Battle for Australia Commemoration in September 2005, the bureaucrats of the Australian War Memorial are continuing a bizarre campaign (since 2002) that questions the gravity of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 and denigrates the character of Prime Minister John Curtin. For the sake of convenience, I will reproduce below my report on this issue for members of the Battle for Australia Historical Society.

Report begins:

BATTLE FOR AUSTRALIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY CIRCULAR 2005

AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL HISTORIAN PETER STANLEY DENIES JAPANESE INVASION THREAT IN 1942 AND CLAIMS PRIME MINISTER JOHN CURTIN EXAGGERATED THE GRAVITY OF THE JAPANESE THREAT TO AUSTRALIA

Dr Peter Stanley has raised this very controversial issue again in a recent paper submitted to the “Griffith Review”.

I believe that there is compelling historical evidence that the Japanese were planning to make themselves masters of Australia in 1942, either by invasion of key northern areas of the mainland and then severing Australia's lifeline to the United States (Japanese Navy plan), or by severing that lifeline and then bullying Australia into complete surrender to Japan by blockade and other pressures (Japanese Army plan).

Despite this evidence, the gravity of the danger facing Australia throughout 1942 has been questioned by Dr Peter Stanley of the Australian War Memorial since 2002.

In two published papers "He's (not) coming South: the invasion that wasn't" (2002) and "Threat made manifest" (2005), Dr Stanley claims (1) that the Japanese were not planning to invade Australia at any time in 1942 *; (2) Australia was never in grave peril from Japan in 1942; (3) the Australian Diggers who blocked and then repelled the determined Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track to Port Moresby did not "save Australia" from invasion or grave peril; and (4) wartime Prime Minister John Curtin exaggerated the threat from Japan in 1942 for political gain or because he was unable to cope with the stress of office in wartime.

* Dr Stanley appears to be blissfully unaware that the Japanese invaded sovereign Australian territory when they landed in Papua on 21 July 1942, and that the whole of the Kokoda Campaign was fought on what was then Australian soil!

In his paper “Threat made manifest”, Dr Stanley makes a point of his English birth and asserts that the apparent need of Australians to believe that they faced a grave danger from Japan in 1942 is "rather pathetic".

My attention was drawn to the fact that Dr Stanley was persisting with his revisionism when I read in the Melbourne "Herald Sun" of 8 September 2005 that Dr Stanley had been rebuked by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Federal Opposition on the occasion of the 2005 Battle for Australia Commemoration. The newspaper report stated that both political leaders firmly rejected Dr Stanley’s revisionist views about 1942.

As convener of the Battle for Australia Historical Society, and one of two people who initiated the Battle for Australia Commemoration in 1997, I have taken a special interest in this issue. I wrote to the director of the Australian War Memorial, Major General Gower, AO, on 28 October 2005 and raised with him the public rejection of Dr Stanley’s revisionist views by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

I informed the director that I had read Dr Stanley’s papers on this subject, and disagreed with his claims. I offered to provide the director with my reasons in writing, in the hope that the War Memorial would agree to discuss the issues with me. I was surprised when I received a reply from the director on 8 November 2005 in which he said: “Dr Stanley has legitimate arguments in my opinion”.

After reading both of Dr Stanley's papers carefully, I formed the view that his denial of the grave threat to Australia from Japan throughout 1942 and his criticisms of Prime Minister John Curtin were not based on a sound grasp of the strategic situation facing Australia throughout 1942. I also formed the view that Dr Stanley did not have a sound grasp of the structure and functioning of Japan's military high command or its strategic aims and war planning in 1942 that would enable him to correctly evaluate its hostile plans for Australia. If I am right about this, and I believe that I am, then Dr Stanley's criticisms of Australians for their beliefs about the grave peril that their country faced in 1942 also lack substance.

After checking references that are claimed by Dr Stanley to support his revisionist claims, I could find no evidence that they did.

I have dealt with each of Dr Stanley's claims at the Battle for Australia web-site at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... nvade.html

I feel that this is a very important issue and I would welcome any feed-back, critical or otherwise.

James Bowen
Convener

Report ends

One Swedish member of the Battle for Australia Historical Society mentioned that his access to the last-mention URL was blocked by his browser. If that happens, I have found that a useful workaround is by entering Battle for Australia on Google. "The Battle for Australia 1942-43" web-site is usually listed at number 4 or 5 on the first page. it is then simply a case of following the index.

I should mention that I am very familiar with the short list of references cited by Dr Stanley in support of his 1942 revisionism. Unfortunately, the most important work is by internationally acknowledged Japanese history scholar Professor Henry Frei and it is now out of print. I have been consulting it for many years, and it completely contradicts Dr Stanley's claims.

I would welcome any feed-back, critical or otherwise from members of the Axis History Forum.

James

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Pips
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Post by Pips » 23 Mar 2006 11:03

I'm familiar with Stanley's view and have to agree with you James, they are revisionist and do lack substance.

Sadly many modern historians continue to make the mistake of attributing current knowledge of the war to the participants back then. Stanley is correct in stating that the Japanese did not seriously plan to invade Australia to knock us out of the war, although the possibility of doing so was muted at several conferences but discounted. They knew that if the Allies were thrown out of New Guinea then the Australian/American supply line was open to serious and quite possibly successful intediction. And that would have been sufficient to limit Australia's usefulness as an American base.

During 1942 the threat of invasion of Australia- and that's all it had to be - was taken very seriously by the political leaders and military forces in Australia. They knew no better, and knowing their own weaknesses best attributed that knowledge to the enemy as well. The Allies were weak, had suffered several months of traumatic defeat in Malaya and the Phillipines, were on the run and desperate to find somewhere to stand, fight and win. New Guinea, especially Kokoda, gave them that opportunity.

At the War Memorial there is a wealth of information contained in letters, diaries, official papers and newspapers on the tone, atmosphere and political climate of the times that drives home the point of just how serious the situation was and how frightened the average Australian was. Stanley should make as much use of that as to relying mainly on the latest knowledge of what was actually planned and occurred.

Current historians and academics need to bear in mind that war = fog, and to the actual participants very few things are clear at the time. Threats always appear greater, defeats devastating and victories rarely so effective and far reaching.

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USMC03
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Post by USMC03 » 23 Mar 2006 17:40

Gentlemen,

Perhaps this is a wee bit off topic, but I gotta know..Aussie friends..have any of you been to the War Museum lately? Is there a Gulf War Marines uniform still hanging? Should be oil soaked..I should know..it was mine..I was contacted by a local historian with connections to the Museum and he called me on leave when I got home..I easily agreed to donate the stuff..anyways the folks at the War Memorial were kind enough to send me some very cool books and a lifetime pass...by the way..wonderful country, yall have! I was in Perth in 80 and 83..I still miss that Kargoolie Stout and Swan Lager!

Semper Fidelis

Leigh (aka USMC03)

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Pips
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Post by Pips » 23 Mar 2006 23:35

I don't know Leigh, but I'll have a look around for you.

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USMC03
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Post by USMC03 » 23 Mar 2006 23:43

Id appreciate that, Pips..Ill buy ya a beer next go about!

Semper Fidelis,
Leigh (aka USMC03)

Graeme Sydney
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Re: Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by Graeme Sydney » 24 Mar 2006 01:18

JamesNo1 wrote: The good news first! At long last the Kokoda story will be on screen as a movie.

James
I'll reserve judgment about that.

It is extremely difficult to depict the horror, anxiety, heroism and drama of any military event.

It is extremely difficult to condense 4 days of history into a 120 – 180 minute piece of what will essentially be popular entertainment.

With this particular story it will be extremely difficult to capture the ‘ordinariness’ of the heroes. To tell the story without glorifying war or the event will be difficult. But to do otherwise will destroy the essences of the event.

What will the treatment of the Japanese be? Accurate? Politically correct? Ignored? Vilified?

What will the treatment of the Macarthur be? Accurate? Politically correct? Ignored? Vilified?

What will the treatment of the Blamey be? Accurate? Politically correct? Ignored? Vilified?


The best we can hope for is a sympathetic treatment. The worst outcome would be a significant historic event to be Hi-jacked and distorted by ‘Hollywood’.

Let’s hope it another ‘Gallipoli’ or ‘Das Boat’ or 'Breaker Morant', or 'The Odd Angry Shot'. (Of these I only consider ‘Das Boat’ a great war drama. The others are the best of a very bad lot (from the historical and realistic point of view)).

Cheers, Graeme.

JamesNo1
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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 24 Mar 2006 02:31

Thanks to Pips for his thoughts on this topic.

I have tried to explain to the Australian War Memorial bureaucracy that the Prime Minister and Kim Beazley are right in rejecting Dr Stanley's revisionist views on the gravity of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 and Stanley's related accusation against Prime Minister Curtin of dishonestly "beating up" the gravity of the Japanese danger for political gain.

I have provided to the War Memorial page references and quotations from text that demonstrate very clearly that Dr Stanley has misstated research findings on this topic by distinguished Japan scholar Professor Henry Frei. I have cited what I believe are serious errors by Dr Stanley in detail over several chapters of the Battle for Australia web-site at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... nvade.html

Those chapters on the Battle for Australia web-site include Professor Frei's reference to the Japanese Army plan to compel Australia's surrender to Japan in 1942. In the leading text on this subject "Japan's Southward Advance and Australia" (1991) Professor Frei explains how the Japanese Army intended to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan. The following are direct quotations from Professor Frei's book:

"On the political level, Prime Minister Tojo Hideki continued to support pressuring Australia into submission by way of cutting her communications lines to the United States. In a Diet* oration on 21 January he proclaimed decisive defeat for Australia if she continued to fly the flag of the enemy. His intimidating rhetoric notwithstanding, he always opposed an invasion of Australia and encouraged his army operations chief on 30 January (1942) to actively pursue the plans for FS Operation, which would throttle Australia into submission by the gradual extension of Japanese control over eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, and the New Caledonia-Fiji Islands area." See Frei at page 172.

* The Japanese parliament.

"On the occasion of the fall of Singapore in mid-February, he (Tojo) again demanded dramatically that now was the time for the peoples of Australia, India, and the Netherlands East Indies to surrender; any further resistance was futile. And in a further appeal to the leaders of Australia at an extraordinary session of the Diet on 28 May (1942), Tojo repeated his threatening lure that it was not too late to make the right decision and toe the line with the Japanese Empire. Japan was now tightening the noose on Australia. The dates for the invasion of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa were firmly set for 8, 18, and 21 July respectively." See Frei at page 172.

"Psychological warfare against Australia was to be stepped up at the time of the FS Operation..And should Australia still prove unresponsive, psychological warfare would be increased, the blockade of Australia strengthened..At the end of May 1942, the army supreme command was confident that the Australia problem could be solved".

Professor Frei makes it very clear that the Army was not opposed to Japan achieving control over Australia in 1942, but only contesting with Navy General Staff the means by which Australia could be forced to surrender to Japan. For more on the "FS Operation", see:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... ralia.html

What I find most astonishing about all of this is that Dr Stanley acknowledges in his published papers that Professor Frei is the leading authority on Japan's plans for Australia in 1942!

If I am wrong, it would be very easy for the Australian War Memorial to demonstrate to me where I am wrong.
In response to my requests for rational discussion of differing views (including those of the Prime Minister and Kim Beazley) on these very important aspects of Australia's 1942 history, all I have managed to elicit from the Australian War Memorial is typical bureaucratic bluster and a refusal to even acknowledge my argument that Dr Stanley has either misrepresented or misundertood the acknowledged work on this topic by Professor Frei.

James

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edward_n_kelly
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Post by edward_n_kelly » 24 Mar 2006 02:35

Is it to be a documentry or dramatisation ?

If the latter at what level - small unit, company, battalion, higher or a mixture ?

Edward

JamesNo1
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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 24 Mar 2006 03:12

For Edward,

The director provided me with the following brief description of "Kokoda":

"..a new feature film called 'Kokoda' (is) to be released in cinemas in April this year (2006). It is a fictional account of a lost patrol cut off from supply along the Kokoda track during the battle for Isurava, very loosely based on Lt Sword's lost platoon."

Australian historian Dr Peter Brune was historical adviser on this film, and his excellent Kokoda books provide information on Lieutant Sword's lost patrol. See especially, "Those Ragged Bloody Heroes", and also Paul Ham's Kokoda at 171,179. I have also provided a brief reference to it in my treatment of the Battle of Isurava at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... Index.html

For more information on the film "Kokoda", including trailers, see:

http://www.kokodathemovie.com.au/

James

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Post by edward_n_kelly » 24 Mar 2006 05:55

Good oh!

Small unit stuff allows human nature to be shown. I liked it in movies like "Th long, the short and the tall", "They were not divided", "the way ahead", etc. The big stuff like "The Longest Day" or "Bridge too far" or "Battle of Britain" left me a bit cold I am afraid. But then they have to avoid the "Combat" scenario - the "new boy" that was lined up fpor the "chop" and the basically stupid tactics but "good" cinema (that "Saving Private Ryan" also did not avoid - so much for experienced, well trained troops....). Other failures include an out of kilter balance between "home" and "front" ....

Given its small unit focus its demands on equipment/authenticity should not be too high so should be comparatively easy to produce without losing the "feel" of the time.....

Anyway I will look forward to it (and may offer appropriate comments in this forum).

Edward

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 05 Apr 2006 14:07

James, I wonder on what do you base your claims for the Japanese intentions to invade Australia?

All the books I've read on Japanese strategy suggest that Peter Stanley is correct, the Japanese never seriously considered the idea. The Army was interested but the Navy knew they lacked the means to support such an undertaking in any serious measure. It is also obvious that the Army lacked the resources to undertake any serious attempt at invasion. One would have to also ask what they could hope to achieve by invading any of the northern areas of the continent.

This doesn't mean that the Australian government and people weren't alarmed at the the idea of such a possibility. Afterall, they'd spent the previous 100 years convincing themselves about the dangers that the "Yellow Peril" represented and the onrushing aggression of Japan fulfilled that fear very well and they acted on those fears, rather than being a bit cooler and looking at the problems that would have faced any attempt by the Japanese to invade the continent.

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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 06 Apr 2006 08:52

For Brian Ross,

I reject Peter Stanley's views on Japanese plans for Australia in 1942 because I believe that he has either misread or misunderstood the work on this subject by the distinguished Japan scholar Professor Henry Frei. I have explained why Peter Stanley is wrong both about the gravity of the danger facing Australia from Japan in 1942 and his claim that John Curtin exaggerated that danger for his political advantage in great detail and by reference to text at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... nvade.html

One member of the Pacific War Historical Society living in Sweden found direct access to the abovementioned URL blocked by his browser. I advised him to go directly to the main index at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... ndex2.html

If you have been having the same access problem, I recommend that you scroll down the main index to "Part 2-The Battle for Australia begins" and click on "Japan's army and navy leaders debate Australia's fate".

In my opinion, Peter Stanley totally fails to grasp the reason why the Japanese Army opposed the Navy General Staff plan to invade northern Australia and then cut off Australia's lines of communication with the United States. Prime Minister General Tojo and his Army colleagues believed that an invasion of Australia in 1942 by force of arms was an unnecessary waste of army resources because the Army believed that Australia could be bullied into complete surrender, and I repeat, surrender to Japan if Australia was islolated from the United States by means of Operation FS.

Peter Stanley may well know a lot about World War I, but his knowledge of the Pacific War does not impress me. I have repeatedly asked the Australian War Memorial to discuss this issue or demonstrate where I am wrong if they can, and I have promised to apologise to Peter Stanley if they can show that I am wrong. After receiving no response, I finally published this offer on the Battle for Australia Web-site at the URL given above, and the only response has been lengthy silence. The War Memorial appears to have followed the typical Canberra bureaucratic tactic of going to ground rather than admit error.

However, I was interested to read in your last post that, based on books that you have read, you share Peter Stanley's views. For convenient reference, those views can be summarised as follows:

(1) that the Japanese were not planning to invade Australia at any time in 1942;
(2) Australia was never in grave peril from Japan in 1942;
(3) the Australian Diggers who blocked and then repelled the determined Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track to Port Moresby did not "save Australia" from invasion* or grave peril; and
(4) wartime Prime Minister John Curtin exaggerated the threat from Japan in 1942 for political gain or because he was unable to cope with the stress of office in wartime.

*It appears to have escaped Peter Stanley's notice that the Kokoda Campaign was fought entirely on Australian soil. Papua has never been a League of Nations Mandate! So the Kokoda diggers did save Australia from invasion when they expelled the Japanese from Papua (with some very useful American help at the beachheads).

Dr Stanley makes a point of his English birth in his most recent published paper on this topic and he asserts that the apparent need of Australians to believe that they faced a grave danger from Japan in 1942 is "pathetic".

Despite reported rebukes to Dr Stanley from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Federal Opposition (Melbourne "Herald Sun", 8 September 2005), the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Major General Steve Gower, AO, has stated by email to me dated 8 November 2005: "Dr Stanley has legitimate arguments in my opinion." A sign encapsulating Peter Stanley's controversial and flawed views was still on public display in the War Memorial's World War II gallery when I visited it on 1 November 2005. Major General Gower has consistently declined to explain to me why Peter Stanley's arguments are "legitimate".

I would appreciate your sharing with us the titles of books and any other references that you believe support yours and Stanley's views because I have not been able to find any, and Peter Stanley does not cite any references unknown to me in his published papers .

James
Last edited by JamesNo1 on 06 Apr 2006 09:00, edited 1 time in total.

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 07 Apr 2006 05:44

James, I've read both your webpages and Peter Stanley's work. Stanley canvases a much wider group of sources than you do. You appear to rely almost exclusively upon Frei, whereas Stanley has quite a few more works in his biblographies. While I haven't read Frei and am seeking to do so in the near future (having only recently located a copy in a library near me), I don't think reliance on a single source is a good idea in this sort of research.

I'm particularly wondering what your point is in idenfitying Peter Stanley's birthplace in the introduction to your page on this matter. What relevance does it have to the issue under discussion? I've met Stanley and I studied under David Horner. Both are excellent historians. I think Stanley though, takes a less parochial view of the matter, whereas Horner, like you perhaps, looks at this very much from within the Australian zeitgeist?

As to Curtin taking advantage of the Japanese threat, why not? He was quite willing to take advantage of many other issues for his own political gain. He was no saint, by any means. We must also be careful about differentiating between intentions, objectives, strategic visions/plans and actual staff planning, as well as capabilities. The Japanese may have had intentions, desired objectives, even strategic visions/plans but never actually got very far in the actual planning by staff of operations to achieve those things.

I suspect after having read your webpages, James that you've misunderstood the thrust of Peter Stanley's work. When he describes the threat of a Japanese Invasion as a "myth", I think in fact he is talking about Japanese capabilities, as well as plans. The Japanese may well have made some broad strategic plans to either invade or isolate Australia but they lacked the capability to actually do either in any substantial way IMHO.

JamesNo1
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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 07 Apr 2006 06:45

Brian,

I cited Professor Henry Frei in particular because Peter Stanley has described him in his two published papers on this topic as the acknowledged top authority on Japan's plans for Australia in 1942. I find it difficult to understand how anyone could read my analysis of Frei's major work "Japan's Southward Advance and Australia" at

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... nists.html
and
http://www.users.bigpond.com/battlefora ... nvade.html

and fail to reach the conclusion that Peter Stanley has misrepresented Frei's research findings in his two published papers. Whether he has done this because he has misunderstood or misread what Frei is saying, or for some other reason, is perhaps best left to Peter Stanley to explain. The point I am trying to make is that the ball is squarely in Peter Stanley's court at this moment. If I am wrong, then the AWM and Peter Stanley have vast resources at their disposal to show that I am wrong. I have promised publicly to aplogise to Dr Stanley publicly if he can demonstrate that he has not misrepresented Professor Frei's views on what the Japanese were planning to do to Australia in 1942. If the AWM has other authorities that bear on this contentious topic, and support Peter Stanley's controversial views,it would be a simple matter for them to draw those authorities to my attention. Yet, they AWM remains silent! To draw on the legal side of my professional background, silence without explanation can be tantamount to an admission of guilt!

However, can I return to what you said in an earlier post:

"All the books I've read on Japanese strategy suggest that Peter Stanley is correct, the Japanese never seriously considered the idea. The Army was interested but the Navy knew they lacked the means to support such an undertaking in any serious measure. It is also obvious that the Army lacked the resources to undertake any serious attempt at invasion."

Even if the AWM will not engage in dialogue with me, I would be grateful if you would draw my attention to the books that you are referring to in the quote above. This is for me a serious subject. I do not want to mislead young history students if I am wrong.

You ask why I referred to Peter Stanley's English birth. I did so because he made a point of mentioning it in his last paper before he went on to describe as "rather pathetic" Australians who believed their country faced grave danger from Japan in 1942. I regard this comment as a gratuitous insult from someone who was not even born when the Japanese were bombing Australia's northern towns, shelling Sydney, firing torpedoes in Sydney Harbour, and sinking ships off Australia's eastern coast. If the Japanese had swept aside the Australian 39th Militia Battalion in early August (when they first captured Kokoda) and reached Port Moresby, their bombers could have struck as far south as Bundeberg and they would have acquired the anchor for Operation FS which was designed to isolate Australia from US help. I am frankly amazed that Peter Stanley fails to appreciate this. Perhaps he should stick to World War I because he appears to know a little bit more about that era.

James

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 07 Apr 2006 07:48

I'm a bit pushed for time at the moment but before I answer your questions more fully, can you please tell me if you seriously believe that Japan presented a threat of invasion or had the means to seriously attempt to "isolate" the continent from contact with the USA? I'm interested but I believe this is at the heart of whether or not Japanese represented a serious threat or not. I don't believe it had either. It was already overstretched, suffering from "victory disease" by mid-1942 and unable to mount a proper defence of what it had already taken, let alone advance further. It lacked the resources to even "isolate" Australia, which BTW, I do not believe any nation, short of present day America has the power to do and even they'd find it hard work.

That doesn't mean that the Australians of the day didn't fear or believe it could achieve do either and acted accordingly. I do not doubt that Curtin exploited those fears to his own ens or that he wasn't subject to them himself. Without the ability to carry out those operations, how credible is such a threat in hindsight, though?

I will look at my references over the weekend and get back to you, OK? As to Stanely and Frei, well rather than trying to take the matter up with the AWM have you attempted to contact Peter Stanley directly? I'm sure he'd be ameniable to correspondance.

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