Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
Michael Tapner
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Post by Michael Tapner » 31 May 2004 13:25

Larso,

Here are some more notes on the units.

The 19th battalion was indeed known as the Darwin battalion. It was one of the few militia battalions that was at full strength at the start of the Pacific war. It had been in Darwin at the time for about 4 years, picking up a name change just prior to the Pacific War starting. The 19th battalion moved back to New South Wales in mid September 42. In late January 43 this unit moved to Cairns, embarking for New Guinea in July 44. At the end of the year it moved to New Britain with the 6th brigade and remained their until the end of the war.

The other 3 battalions (1st, 2nd and 18th), as units of the 1st division observed a long and futile existence in NSW throughout the course of the war! In late September 42 the 1st battalion was being merged with the 45th battalion to form the 1/45 battalion. Both these battalions were in the Sydney region. In September 42 I believe that the 2nd battalion was still a part of the force covering Newcastle, along with the 41st battalion which it merged with in December 43 to form the 41/2 battalion. The 18th battalion I believe remained in Sydney pretty much for the balance of its existance

The 10/48 was with the 3rd Inf brigade until January 42, at which point the 3rd brigade moved to Darwin, while picking up some new components. I believe that when they went to NSW they would have been brigaded with the 31st or 32nd brigade. After the battalion moved to Darwin it was briefly part of the 23rd brigade but then did a swap with the 19th battalion and rejoined the 3rd Brigade.

Larso
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Post by Larso » 01 Jun 2004 03:21

That's great - thanks again!! I intend to post the whole order of battle when I'm on holidays next. I've always been perplexed at the line that Australia was defenceless in the face of the Japanese assault. It seems to me that by the time an invasion could have been attempted we were in a fair position to defend ourselves.

Michael Tapner
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Post by Michael Tapner » 01 Jun 2004 14:15

Larso,

Seems like ive finally found a friend :)
How detailed does your Order of Battle go?? Would be very interested in swapping notes! I've gone right down to battalion level, plus the letter batteries and the employment units. I've even incorporated the AA regiments. After spending a day in AWM archives I now know why all the recent regional histories do not touch AA units. real knee jerk assignments were given to those guys... Mine is done on a state by state basis and covers the Pacific war time frame only...

I think Japan could have invaded Australia had they wanted to. They would have used the same tactics as elsewhere - concentration of force to knock out a region then move everything onwards. Thus knock out Darwin, then Perth, land on the rail line north of Brisbane and secure all of Northern Queensland. Having the extra American divisions to hold the southern states really helped though!

Favourite unit - 20th pioneer battalion

Berichter
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Post by Berichter » 02 Jun 2004 21:54

Well, I grew up reading WWII histories here in the States and I heard of Australians fighting in the Desert and the Pacific. Let's look at Australia's importance in the Pacific War. Australia was the main staging base for MacArthur's South West Pacific Area command during the war. The Owen-Stanley Mountains couldn't have been held without Australia and Australian troops.

During 1942-1943, U.S. Pacific strategy centered on Australia. One of the big considerations was keeping the supply route to Australia open. Without Australian involvement, MacArthur's offensive campaign in New Guinea during 1944 and MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines in 1945 would've been impossible. Much of MacArthur's WWII reputation was built on Australian involvement.

Heck, without Australia, the U.S. strategy in the Pacific would've relied on the Central Pacific drive contemplated in both War Plan Orange-3 and Rainbow-5. Without a separate theater for MacArthur to " star in ", MacArthur would've been a subordinate commander in the Navy's scheme of things. 8) The whole war would've been different. So, in light of this, one cannot say that Australia wasn't an important partner in the Pacific War.

As you can see, I don't have much respect for MacArthur, personal or military.

Cordially,

Berichter

Larso
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Post by Larso » 04 Jun 2004 02:23

Yes indeed Michael - curiously I've had trouble finding people who have an interest in 60 year old battle orders. You bring it up on a date and girls look at you strange!!

Most of my stuff is related to the infantry Bns and Armd regts. There has been very little published on the subject, especially the militia units. It wasn't until I visited the Memorial myself in January that I found the first useful references. They still aren't comprehensive - so there's room for someone to bring it all together.

You might have a look at orbat.com as it is a very interesting site regarding modern and historical orders of battle. Indeed if we can submit something on this topic they'll give free subscriptions (I supplied the current Australian Army one - it's basic but lists most of the combat and main support units).

In the next week or so I'll start a new thread about this with my stuff. You clearly have more detail so you'll be able to expand as appropriate.

John

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GUARDIA PRETORIANA
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Post by GUARDIA PRETORIANA » 18 Jun 2004 14:43

I used to enjoy watching the Australians and Americans get together in Pohang in Korea. They would throw these huge drunken bashes every few weeks. I would watch on and smile and I had this feeling that the Australians and Americans had the most in common out of all the so-called "anglo-saxon" nations. A kind of individualistic, tough, brave and wild side that meshed greatly. The Americans had the wild west and the Australians conquered the outback... I enjoyed watching them work and play together. Its a pleasent feeling of brotherhood. It made me wish I was one or the other :oops:

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Post by varjag » 19 Jun 2004 11:27

In any drinking bout between Diggers and G.I.'s - I bet the Diggers won as long as the contest was focussed on beer. The Aussie beer then and even now make them refer to American beers as 'weak pi**'

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Anzac
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Post by Anzac » 20 Jun 2004 12:40

to all of you out there that are interested in the Australian side of the war, i suggest you read
The Spirit of the Digger - Then & Now - Patrick Lindsay
It covers from ww1 - East Timor
Am currently reading about Kokoda..my grandfather served there..and in it the author tells us about a photo taken of 5 young officers of the 39th Militia Battalion before they marched to Kokoda to defend it against the Japanese troops coming across the Owen Stanleys, all 5 of them were smiling, confident, happy. 4 of them were killed in action in New Guinea, and one was severely wounded and evacuated to Port Moresby.
This demonstrates the high casualty rates amongst officers in the 39th.
Hope this gives u a lil insight..
#RP#

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Robdutch
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Post by Robdutch » 30 Jun 2004 15:22

Not to forget. In the latter part of the war the Australian forces took over positions of the Americans in Bougianville, New guinea and some other places. They also invaded Borneo. Also in de latter part of the war the Australians although less known than the fighting at kokodatrail, proved to be a valuable partner for the American war effort in the pacific.

Rob,

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 02 Aug 2004 12:48

It was decided after much discussion that the 10th Australian Infantry Division would paticipate in Op. Coronet in 1946. Obviously the events at Hiroshima & Nagasaki precluded this.

Andy H

Larso
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Post by Larso » 03 Aug 2004 00:14

I've read this in one of my books. Only thing is - there was no 10th Australian division. I'll post the full quote when I get home.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Aug 2004 07:34

If my memory's correct the 10th Division was a militia formation that was based in Western Australia in 1942:
Was formed in 1942, it existed for only five months ( April - August) before being disbanded to save manpower.
http://home.austarnet.com.au/screenprin ... gns_2.html

Michael Tapner
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Post by Michael Tapner » 03 Aug 2004 13:48

The mythical 10th Australian division for the invasion of Japan seems to pop up reasonably frequently with these discussions. Many years ago I searched to find out where this came from. I could find only 1 source. Unfortunately I can't remember the author. I do however remember that they did not list where the notion came from. So I would be more than willing to find out the sources of this information.

The planned Australian contingent for any operations in Japan - according to the 7th volume of the Australian army OH, was the 9th division. At the time of the final operations the 6th and 7th divisions were being wound up as the AIF volunteers were being given the option of going home if they had chalked up 5 years service. These divisions each lost about a third of their manpower however many more volunteered to fight on. Thus the 9th division would have been assigned to the operation, along with a plethora of corps assets - a tank brigade, commando regiment, AA, AT, Pioneer, beach force, engineers and medium artillery that went to rounding out pretty much any of the Western Allied armies of 1945.

The 10th division did exist. It was a militia division raised in early 42 to oversee the troops deployed in the Newcastle region. From about August 42 the brigades under its command were slowly redeployed elsewhere and the garrison battalions were slowly decreased in standing manpower, thus the division was disbanded in the August - October 42 time frame and was not reformed.

Some other reasons why the 10th division would NOT have been the Australian division to invade Japan:

The 10th division was a militia force unit. As such it could legally NOT serve north of the equator. NO AIF soldier would have served voluntarily in a Militia formation. No AIF divisions were formed after Japan entered the war.

When Australian divisions were disbanded they were NOT reformed. Witness the formation of the 11th division in February 43 and the formation of the 12th division in 45. The 10th was not reactivated.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 03 Aug 2004 14:35

Hi Peter & Michael

My source (and I apologise for not counter-referencing it) was Codename Downfall by Thomas B Allen & Norman Polmar.

"The Australian Goverment wanted the 7th & 9th, to be used by MacArthur as an acknowledgement of the American assistance to Australia."

Eventually after much arguing "The British & Australian goverments chose the 10th Australian Division, in Borneo at the time and already trained in amphibious operations, for the Commonwealth Corps for the Honshu campaign. The divisions officers and men had already fought besides the Americans in the SW Pacific."

Andy H

Larso
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Post by Larso » 04 Aug 2004 08:59

That's it 'Codename Downfall'. I even think I can remember the page number - 161. Getting this wrong/confused was quite strange as the information they gave regarding the rest of the Commonwealth force was quite detailed.

Great info on the actual '10th'. Excellent work again Michael.

John

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