Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 04 Aug 2004 09:15

Sounds like a typo,confusing the 9th Divy with a 10th.

PS. My uncle was with the 2/14th Battalion,7th Divy,all the go from Syria to Borneo.

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Anzac
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Post by Anzac » 11 Oct 2004 04:24

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 family friend of ours was telling us how he was transporting Japanese POW's on a landing craft and that if any of them had tried to escape he would of lobbed a grenade into where they were because he wouldn't of been hurt because he was in the back of the landing craft where there was some cover.

Another veteran i met who was a friend of my Grandfather's and served with my Grandfather on Kokoda and later on in BCOF was telling me that when he was sent to Boganville he remembers the damage that flamethrowers did to the Japanese and the screaming..something he said that he will never forget.

#RP#
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JamesNo1
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Australia's involvement in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 28 Nov 2004 04:39

Desert Fox: A place to hopefully read and write about Australia's more exstensive involvment in the pacific war.

Desert Fox may find my Pacific War Web-site a useful source of information on this topic. it can be found at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/pacificwar/

It covers, with illustrations and the attached Battle for Australia Web-site, about 750 pages. All sections have been cross-linked for easier movement between topics. The Pacific War Web-site is intended to cover the critical months from Pearl Harbor to the expulsion of the Japanese from Papua and Guadalcanal in early 1943. For students of history, the Pacific War Web-site also covers the paths to war taken by Japan and Germany (to the extent that the latter is relevant to the Pacific War).

I cannot agree with varjag's description of Australia's involvement in the Pacific War as "a non-event", despite the qualification regarding some Australian action against the Japanese in New Guinea.

As I have tried to show on the Pacific War Web-site, cruisers of Australia's Anzac Squadron played a vital role at Coral Sea in blocking the movement of the Japanese Port Moresby Invasion Force through the Jomard Passage to Port Moresby. Port Moresby was the last Allied base on the island of New Guinea at this time and was regarded by the Japanese as a vital target in the pursuit of their strategic aim to cut Australia off from the United States. The Allies regarded Port Moresby as a major strategic asset to be defended at all costs. The blocking of the Japanese invasion transports by the Anzac Squadron occurred while the carrier action was taking place further to the east. If the Anzac Squadron had not successfully blocked the Japanese invasion transports, it is likely that they would have reached Port Moresby and it is likely that the Japanese would have captured Port Moresby. If the Japanese had captured Port Moresby in early May 1942, it would have changed the course of the war in the South-West Pacific in Japan's favour by greatly facilitating the severing of communications between Australia and the United States. The occupation of Guadalcanal by the Japanese would have been facilitated, and what became known as Henderson Field would probably have been a fully operational Japanese air base before the Marines could land and capture the just completed airstrip in August 1942.

So please let us not ignore this vital role in the Pacific War played by Australian cruisers at the Battle of the Coral sea.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that Australian troops kept 20,000 of Japan's best troops occupied during the Kokoda Campaign when they would otherwise have been free to take part in the bloody battles on Guadalcanal.

JamesNo1

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Barry Graham
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Post by Barry Graham » 02 Dec 2004 04:04

Firstly "James1" let me compliment you on your superb web site.

I'm curious to know why the Japanese made lttle or no use of the Kokoda airstrip to continue supply to the their forces operating further south along the Kokoda Track at the critical time of their retreat back over the Owen Stanleys.
The references I've read state that the events in New Britain and Milne Bay combined with supply to the Kokoda Track troops forced the Japanese to retreat.

Is it because the allies held air superiority or where the Japanese unable to fly in support because of lack of aircraft or were they busy elsewhere?

I have a found a site for the US 5th AF that documents operations in Papaua/NewGuinea during the period but apart from the raids along the track, the Milne Bay area and the Gona/Buna beachheads there is not much mention of the Kokoda airstrip.

The 5th AF site is here http://www.kensmen.com/
Follow the link "History of the 43rd BG".
Then down that page under "Articles and Miscellaneous Pictures" use the link "5th Air force in WW2" to reach the monthly diary.

What other allied air groups operated in PNG while Kokoda/Milne Bay/Gona/Buna/Sanananda campaigns took place?
I know of the RAAF Kittyhawk and Hudson squadrons that operated out of Milne Bay and Port Moresby during the Battle for Australia during 1942 to early 1943.

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Australia's involvment in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 02 Dec 2004 05:47

Thanks for your very kind words Barry.

There two main reasons for the Japanese retreat on the Kokoda Track after reaching a point from which they could actually see the Australian searchlights at Port Moresby.

First the Japanese had been battling the Australians troops for several weeks on the track. They were starving, exhausted, and their supply situation was chaotic. As you are probably aware, the Kokoda Track is extraordinarily rugged and difficult to traverse even when not fighting stubborn Australians troops. The Papuan natives were prepared to help the Australians but not the Japanese.

Second, the Japanese and Americans were fighting a bloody war of attrition on Guadalcanal at the time when Major General Horii's progress on the Kokoda Track ground to a halt for the reasons mentioned above. Horii pleaded for reinforcements to enable him to capture Port Moresby. This request was refused, and he was ordered to "advance" (i.e.retreat) to the fortified beachheads at Gona and Buna from which his troops had set out two months earlier. The simple fact is that the Japanese regarded dislodgment of the American Marines on Guadalcanal as the higher priority at this point in time, and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel to find troops to send to Guadalcanal.

At this time the Battle of Milne Bay was over (on 5 September 1942) and New Britain was still wholly under Japanese control.

I can't answer your question about whether the Japanese used Kokoda airstrip to supply their troops on the track. I have often wondered about this point myself because Kokoda was regarded by the Japanese as a key strategic target on their way to Port Moresby. I spoke to one of Australia's leading Pacific War historians about this and he was unable to answer the question. I will keep your question in mind and come back to you if I find the answer.

I'm afraid that I can't answer your final question at this time. I do know that the RAAF Memorial Centre in Melbourne has members who are knowledgable about such matters and you might like to contact them. I will also keep an eye out for an answer during my own research on New Guinea.

For a largely Australian approach to the Pacific War, you might like to try my other web-site at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battleforaustralia/

JamesNo1

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Barry Graham
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Post by Barry Graham » 03 Dec 2004 03:08

Thanks James for your considered reply.
Like you it seems strange to me that the Kokoda strip was not utilized for the supply of Horii's troops when the capture of Port Moresby was a high priority. Why? As you say "their supply situation was chaotic".
The Coral Sea battle, Kokoda and Milne Bay all confirm that the Japanese regarded Port Moresby as a prime target.

BTW: I have devoured your entire site - an essential piece of Australian history for which I thank you.

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Post by Larso » 04 Dec 2004 05:49

I'm currently reading Ham's 'Kokoda' and he addresses this. Essentially, as someone else has already said, most resources were being directed towards The Solomons. Ham also notes that Allied air power made resupplying New Guinea very difficult. As for the Japanese using Kokoda airfield, I'm pretty sure that Ham wrote this was only done twice (and annoyingly I can't find the place again). Even allowing for The Solomons and Allied airpower, this in my opinion also says a lot about Japanese disorganisation. There is also the issue that Hori wasn't supposed to be attacking Moresby in anycase..........

JamesNo1
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Australia's involvement in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 04 Dec 2004 06:53

Larso wrote: There is also the issue that Hori wasn't supposed to be attacking Moresby in anycase..........
Larso please don't stop there!

I have covered the Kokoda Campaign from Gona/Buna to the Battle of Isurava at my Battle for Australia Web-site. You can see it at:

http://www.users.bigpond.com/battleforaustralia/

Click on "Enter" and scroll down the index to Kokoda. I have recorded Major General Horii as pushing down the Kokoda Track with six battalions (reinforced) of the South Seas Detachment with the aim of capturing Port Moresby.

Sorry about the length of this section on Kokoda, but there is a Kokoda Overview that precedes and summarizes the Kokoda Campaign. I very much need to know why you say that "Horii wasn't supposed to be attacking Moresby"

JamesNo1

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Australia's involvement in the Pacific War

Post by JamesNo1 » 05 Dec 2004 05:14

Further to Barry Graham's question about why the Japanese did not make use of the Kokoda airstrip to supply their troops on the Kokoda Track after they had captured Kokoda for the second time on 10 August 194. It is a good question because MacArthur and Blamey regarded the Kokoda airstrip as being of vital importance after they had allowed it to be lost to the Japanese. Larso drew our attention to Paul Ham's excellent new book on Kokoda and I skimmed through it without finding the answer to Barry's question.

However, Paul Ham does make a useful contribution to this issue at page 383. After the Australians recaptured Kokoda on 2 November 1942, the very capable Lieutenant Bert Kienzle of ANGAU, who was an "old New Guinea hand", fluent in Pidgin English, experienced with native labour, and a tower of strength to all of the Australian troops on the Kokoda Track, found the airstrip completely overgrown. He is recorded by Paul Ham as noting at the time "The Japs had not used it". Kienzle immediately set his native carriers to work to clear the Kokoda airstrip for use by Allied aircraft. He then went to his own rubber plantation at Yodda and found that the Japanese had looted everything of value and then burnt the buildings.

I actually spoke to one of Australia's most distinguished Pacific War historians, Professor David Horner, in an effort to answer Barry's question, and Professor Horner confessed that he could not answer it either.

Paul Ham actually interviewed several elderly survivors of the 144th Infantry Regiment and examined Japanese primary sources. If I can contact Paul Ham, I will put Barry's question to him.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 05 Dec 2004 08:37

Here's something on Ham's book here:

Looking for the Enemy

I get the impression that most Japanese actions in the SW Pacific in the latter half of 1942 were ad hoc,prone to be of minimum necessity.A certain arrogance on Allied capabilities also played its part.Being at the end of the line of the Japanese perimeter(the distance from Tokyo to New Guinea is the equivalent from London to Dakar) didn't help either.

Ichiki's failed attack on the Guadalcanal position comes to mind:sending the equivalent of 6 infantry battalions down the Kokoda Track,even if limited in size by the terrain and logistics,indicates some wishful thinking as well.

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Post by Larso » 05 Dec 2004 10:15

Yes that point needs clarifying.

Following their defeat in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese command began to consider alternatives regarding PNG. Lt Gen Hyakutake Harukichi, commander of 17th Army in Rabual was ordered to examine the viability of an overland attack on Port Moresby. The first troops ashore at Gona were therefore slated to rec the route to the South of Kokoda but not invade as such. (pages 12 & 13 Ham)

Prior to the landings Lt Col Masanobu Tsuji visited Harukichi and told him that the Emperor was very eager to occupy Port Moresby as soon as possible. This was a lie but as Tsuji was not punished it appeared to have the backing of Army HQ in Tokyo. In anycase Harukichi now ordered Hori to prepare for an invasion, even though the rec work had not been done. The change in role lead to confusions, with one consequence being it began it's mission with only two weeks rations. (pages 108 & 109 Ham)

To summarise, Hori landed in NG under orders to attack Moresby but these instructions originated in very curious circumstances. This said Tojo later claimed that Australia was to be isolated rather than invaded and this could only have been done with possesion of the South coast of PNG.

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Post by red devil » 25 Dec 2004 07:25

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.
Would you not consider this a war crime? The shooting of unarmed prisoners for whatever reason is against the GC.

On a more threadlike theme I wonder why Australian Veterans do not despair about how history has treated them, to my mind, almost forgotten. Everyone concentrates in the main on the "big" theatres of operations, the Pacific with the US forces or the European theatre with the UK and American Forces. I like researching WW2 but am as guilty as most for ignoring our Australian brothers in arms.

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Post by Larso » 26 Dec 2004 00:45

THat's an interesting point about the veterans thoughts. At the time their exploits were 'hidden' by MacArthur. Australian victories were described as Allied ones and then as Americans became more involved, Allied efforts were described as American. Blamey (commander of the Aust army) didn't do much to correct this. The Govt through the tightest of censorship regimes kept most things even from the Australian people. The troops weren't happy about this at the time, perhaps because there were so many of them bringing their stories home later that enough people knew so that it didn't seem so bad. Perhaps also the focus on Kokoda in recent years has partially redressed the dearth of information at the time. It may also say a lot about that particular generation of men - they don't seem to have been attention seekers.

As for missing out on a share of the headlines - I'm thinking the British in Burma were just as badly off. In fact the Indian troops in 14th Army even more so, as they constituted so much of that force.

I'm sure the shooting of those men was a war crime. It is astonishing how often such things are encountered in veterans accounts (a lot from the ETO as well). Yet there are crimes and then there are crimes......

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Post by red devil » 26 Dec 2004 01:45

The shooting of an unarmed prisoner, whoever he (or she) may be is a war crime and should be treated as such. I can just imagine, "Sir, we don't have enough food for these lot AND us" - "oh bally hell, shoot them!"

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 26 Dec 2004 03:54

They are warcrimes but I don't think they were sanctioned by higher authorities.

A RAN veteran I came across bragged about how any Japanese picked up at sea by his ship were interrogated and then thrown overboard....but he said his Captain still didn't know about it.I'm skeptical of such an account though.

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