Sunday, August 16, 2009

American Involvement in Australia During WWII

American Involvement in Australia During WWII

March 14, 2003

War started in Australia on September 1, 1939, with the British declaring war on Germany. As Australia was bound up with England in the British Commonwealth along with countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, they were officially at war. The Australian homeland, however, did not fully mobilize for war until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Unites State’s fleet based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Soon after, the Australian port city of Darwin was attacked by planes of the Japanese empire, precipitating their active involvement in the hostilities which had overtaken the rest of the world. The Australians and the US would forge a strong partnership, both militarily and culturally, as the war progressed.

As the war continued, the Australian government shifted from a subservient vassal state of England, and transferred its allegiance to the United States. After the war, it set out on its own course, and tried to assert its identity in the new, post war world. For a country with a prewar population of just over 700,000, the war was traumatic. Over 10,000 woman left with American servicemen, one million of whom eventually passed through the country. The change was not easy, as evidenced by the riots known as The Battle of Brisbane, which resulted in the death of one and the wounding of several. Americans were loud, drank too much, partied too much, and were over-sexed, according to the Australians. Many resented the intrusion, but were powerless to prevent it.

Americans changed the Australian culture, bringing more “American Style Life” to the continent than war materials. Before the war, the British had dominated Australia, economically as well as culturally. Australians imported various forms of American music, prior to the war, but jazz, swing, jive, and the blues only flourished when the Americans came. Nightclubs popped up everywhere the troops did, along with many women, who hoped for a better life with the servicemen. Hollywood continued to dominate the film industry, but its hold on the entertainment industry began to falter as the Australians began to take control of their own movie making. During the late 1930s, attendance at sporting events and theater rose dramatically, as people tried to enjoy life as much as they could before the impending war struck. Americans introduced baseball to the land down under, though it did not stick as most preferred cricket, soccer, and the homegrown “Australian Rules Football.” In addition to their culture, Americans brought nylon stockings, as well as the first serial killer in Australia, a US serviceman in Melbourne.

American goods poured into Australia, and one man came who would be just as important to the war, and Australia, as the war material. His name was General Douglas MacArthur. As the commander of all the troops in the SWPA (South West Pacific Area), he often appeared to locals to have more control over their country than Prime Minister John Curtin. MacArthur’s brash style made him popular with his troops, and his brilliant delaying techniques in the Philippines made Australians happy to have him, even if they considered it be a dubious honor.

MacArthur, born in 1880 to an aristocratic family, entered West Point, the US Military Academy, in 1899. He came to Australia in 1942, and set up the SWPA. Earlier, the US, Great Britain, Holland, and Australia had established the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) joint command in December 1941. The organization proved to be unwieldy, and was disbanded on February 25, 1942. When MacArthur took over, he assumed control over all Australian forces, including the air force, army, merchant marine, and the navy over which he had control with Admiral Nimitz. MacArthur planned his island-hopping campaign from the relatively safe city of Brisbane. He had virtual control over the wartime government, and Australians commanders were forced to listen to him, except when his war-planners put their troops in excessive risk. Even then, they only had the right of appeal to their government, though nothing was guaranteed.

The SWPA was comprised of the 6th and 7th Australian divisions, together with the 41st and 32nd US divisions. The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) relied upon American aircraft, and earned 23 United States Awards. With most of Australia’s merchant marine devastated by German and Japanese submarines, General MacArthur had to rely on Liberty Ships, crewed by Americans, to transport his men and material. The Air Observer Corps kept track of US fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft. On Jan 15, 1942, ATC (Air Transport Command) aircraft began to fly the 7800 mile route from the west coast to Australia. This enabled the US to bring in much needed supplies in days, instead of the weeks that it took on ships.

Nimitz used Australian ships in the Battle of Coral Sea, and they provided support for American landings in the Philippines, the Solomons, Guadacanal, and New Britain. Australian planes provided top cover for landings at Hollandia, Wadke, and Biak, and mined the ports in Guadacanal, using US made Catalinas. RAAF Mobile Works Units deployed with US troops when they landed at Aitape, and they built an airfield there in just 42 hours, a full day ahead of the schedule set by American planners. Aging Brewster Buffaloes were used in the Malaysian campaign. The RAAF used B-24 Liberators, Vengeance dive bombers, P-40 Kittyhawks, and A-20 Bostons in their fight against the Japanese. Australian airlines also flew American planes, including the Lockheed Electra, Lodestar, and 14, along with the popular workhorse of the war, the Douglas DC-3 Dakota. ANA (Australian National Airlines) used sixteen planes on loan from the United States Army.

After the Japanese took control of the island of Timor in early 1942, Australian troops were landed to help the locals fight a commando war against the invaders. In 1943, the commandos were forced to pull out, and made their escape on the American submarine Gudgeon. On Portuguese Timor, US made Hudson bombers supplied commandos, and bombed the town of Dili, and as well as other targets, in order to help the Australians disrupt Japanese lines of communication, and generally harass the conquerors.

Australian production of aircraft began in 1936 when the Air Board Technical Commission toured the United States, and acquired a license to build the NA-16, from North American. From this plane, the CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) developed the Wirraway, which they used disastrously as a fighter against the Japanese. The NA-16 has been designed as a trainer, and was no match for the speedy Zeros which the Japanese sent to combat the slow and ungainly Wirraways. Later in the war, the CAC licensed the P-51 Mustang, also from North American, and built 18 out of the 350 ordered. Testing began in May of 1945, but by then the war was nearly over, and the order was canceled.

Australian built DeHavilland Mosquitoes used Packard built Merlin engines, while Pratt and Whitney licensed the Wasp and Twin Wasp engines to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which built all 680 and 870 ordered, respectively. Several other American-made engines were tested and ordered, but the war’s close precluded their being built.

The war proved to be a two way street, with American troops using Australia as a base, and more importantly, as a surrogate home. The Australian government relied on American aid to help it defend itself from the Japanese. Since the war, the two countries have been allied in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and elsewhere.

In conclusion, the war provided a jump start to US-Australian relations, and let them grow to understand each other, if not love each other. Americans came in, prepared to take over, but left impressed by Australian courage. The Australian government weaned itself from the British, and came into its own on the world stage.


Bibliography

Dear, I.C.B. ed. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.

Rigge, Simon. War in the Outposts. Chicago: Time Life, 1980.

Taylor, Michael J.H. ed. Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation. New York: Random, 1993.

Jane’ s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Random, 2001.

46 comments:

Mushkie said...

Who gave you the authority to write about my country, thinks-America-is-the-center-of-the-universe American???

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.

Oz oz oz! Oy oy oy!

(Australians at the Olympics chanting for their swimmers. Enough said.)

(They do however make great movies!)

Tying me kangaroo down sport,
LdT.

Nemo said...

Leo, I disagree. The latest Australian big ticket flick Australia received mediocre reviews in the United States.

Nemo said...

Speaking of WWII, do you think Hitler's extended family changed their names after the war? I did a search on whitepages.com and there are 23 Hitlers listed in the United States. Do their children get beaten up in school?

The Real Shliach said...

Mushkie: You should be happy that an American took some of his precious time to deal with your sniveling little backwater of a continent.

LdT: Not to mention the Ashes...

Nemo: One lemon does not a sorbet make.

re: Hitler: They probably do.

e said...

Did you get any credit from all these essays? Perhaps you'll one day shed your ignorance and go to school.

Crawling Axe said...

Would you like us to proof-read/correct these these and upload the corrected version?

The Real Shliach said...

e: These were for high school.

Perhaps.

CA: Do you think they need it?

Crawling Axe said...

Do you think they don’t?

The Real Shliach said...

For a sixteen year old I think it's pretty good. Why, what would you change?

Crawling Axe said...

I didn’t say they were bad for a sixteen-year-old.

The Real Shliach said...

Nu, so what would you change?

Altie said...

tooooo loooooooong.

gosh sir, have u nothing better to write abt these days? like hello, we have problems in our days, we dont need to dig up the past.

Crawling Axe said...

Dood. What would you not change? It gets the point across, but...

http://bartleby.com/141/ (the newest edition is better).

The Real Shliach said...

Altie: I have much better things to write, but they're a little too private for a blog. Otherwise, I have writer's block.

CA: Oh. Well. Hmm.

Altie said...

oh well. good luck with that. maybe in a few months....

The Real Shliach said...

(snort) yeah, maybe

Altie said...

why snort? u think ull stop writing?

The Real Shliach said...

Become engaged/married and you'll see. The personal shtuff starts involving other people, and at that point you have to keep your mouth shut.

Altie said...

you are right that ive never been engaged b4. but my brain is broad enough to think of other things at the same time. hence, i doubt i would have writers block.

The Real Shliach said...

Well, yes, I also think of lots of things (but rarely do I have the desire to write them). Else I just write stories, which few people seem to enjoy very much.

Altie said...

thats cuz u think on a different wavelength then the rest of us. :) thats ok. im sure in TRS land many ppl want to read your stories.

they just have an interesting flavor to them. see, i like reality more.

The Real Shliach said...

So this post is about reality, and you don't like it. Whatever.

Altie said...

i didnt read it :)

i'm sorry, when i see long posts it reminds me of school, and having to read. i hate doing things i have to. especially reading.

plus i just wanted to leave a comment already.

ok i'll go back and read it now. don't worry, i know im not doing u any favors.

though trs's comments are missing from my blog lately. hmm, i'd have to wonder about that...

The Real Shliach said...

Yes, they are missing. He hasn't been reading them.

Altie said...

well that much is obvious.

and does that tie in with him being oh so busy, or just cuz he turned obnoxious, and finds those kind of posts beneath him?

Crawling Axe said...

And that is another example why girls should not learn Ge… I mean… this is another example how bad schools are for education. If someone comes out of school hating to read, what was the point?

Altie said...

CA- watch it, i'm not the only female in the house, AND im not a femminist, lucky for u.

i actually have never learnt gemara.

and i LOVE to read. ive been reading ever sinced i learnt how, at 5 years old. ok. its just school related material, that i find boring, and taxing, that i'd rather not read. thankfully, i am done with that stage of life. for now.

Crawling Axe said...

So many possible replies… But since I am being blog-stalked, I cannot possibly write any of them…

Altie said...

who's blog stalking u?

Crawling Axe said...

How naive.

Altie said...

^ ^ :O

how rude.

Crawling Axe said...

That’s also free of charge.

Altie said...

that doesnt even deserve a response.

Crawling Axe said...

So why did you?

Altie said...

^ ^

i like to have the last word.

Altie said...

so what are ur replies then?

sarabonne said...

Apparently nada. TRS, you and Le7 should move to Oregon, you'll teach history and she, music.

The Real Shliach said...

Sara: Who shall hire, and who shall pay?

sarabonne said...

I'm hiring, hopefully the shluchim will pay. Can't guaruntee that though.

The Real Shliach said...

Is the contract in the mail?

sarabonne said...

You want a contract of no guaruntees? That can be arranged.

The Real Shliach said...

Excellent.

Mushkie said...

Snivelling little backwater of a continent??? Excuse me, we're past the 20 million mark and people here say "G'day" when you pass them by in the strret, unlike the US.

I have to confess though that i have american citizenship and not aussie. so in a way i agree.

but why were you writing about australia?

The Real Shliach said...

I was trying to pick an obscure topic. I think I succeeded.

Sebastion said...

The hitlers didnt change their namd. Theyre all in NC or somewhere like that. The essay was very good for a 16 yr old. Except i have know idea what it was really about, was it us influence on aus, macarthur in austraila, or maybe a history of us imperialism and hegemony in aus during ww 2. Sticking to a strong thesis statement would fix that. Grammer be damned.