The Battle For Australia

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by parsifal, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    This week marks the official week for celebrating what is known as the "Battle For Australia". Its not a well known celebration. In Australia its an event overshadowed by Anzac day, yet the importance of what it represents should not be dismissed. The week chosen represents that moment in time in 1942 when the Japanese suffered their first clear land defeat in the Pacific War, at a little known place called Milne Bay in new Guinea but the "Battle For Australia, covers a whole range of events from the fall of Singapore to the battles around Buna, Gona and Sanananda. It was a time when Australians felt they stood mostly alone and were forced to face some of their worst fears and nightmares. It was the first time that Australian armed forces, however hesitatingly had to operate under their own resources, and on their own initiative, mostly.

    On Sunday February 15, Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita tightened his stranglehold on Singapore city, blasting it with artillery and incessant air assault. He demanded surrender. Malaya Command, with no air support, short of water and petrol and with its force thrust back into a congested city without any effective counter to the enemy battering from the air, capitulated. Singapore’s fall gave Japan her first major victory in the whole campaign just Sixty-nine days after Pearl Harbor.

    Nowhere was the magnitude of this disaster realised so quickly and completely as in Australia. Its suddenness came with the force of a thunderclap.

    “Just as Dunkirk began the Battle for Britain, so does Singapore open the Battle for Australia” declared the Prime Minister (Mr Curtin). “It is now work or fight as we have never worked or fought before. On what we do now depends everything we hope to do when this bloody test has been survived.”

    The Battle for Australia was a struggle never before envisaged in this country but yet much of it still remains unknown. It was a struggle that stretched our national resources to the limit; which saw the bombing of mainland Australia; the attack by midget submarines on Sydney Harbour; and raised the spectre of the threat of a possible invasion through Papua New Guinea.

    Our sailors, soldiers and airmen and those of our allies fought, and many died in the defence of Singapore, the Battle of Sunda Strait, Timor, the Kokoda Track, Milne Bay, the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, in the Solomons and at Savo Island. The men of the Merchant Navy provided invaluable support throughout the island chain and suffered heavy casualties, as did the often unsung heroes, the Coastwatchers.

    "THE BOMBING OF DARWIN
    The first enemy attack on Australian soil in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia occurred at 9.58am on Thursday 19 February 1942. The small Northern Territory town of Darwin suffered an air-raid attack by 188 Japanese aircraft. At the time of the attack the civilian population numbered less than 2000.

    THE BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
    Fear of Japan’s imperialist designs on Australia had been circulating since the early part of the century when Russia had been defeated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Stories and melodramas such as Randolph Bedford’s play White Australia, or The Empty North red fears of a “Yellow Peril’ invading Australia. During the 1930’s Japanese documents such as the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere sometimes mentioned Australia as a possible colony. Access to Japanese records has led to the realisation that this idea, put forward by the Japanese Navy, had been rejected by their High Command. The purpose of attacks on Darwin and other parts of Australia was to weaken the country’s value as an American base. Nevertheless this was unknown to most Australians at the time and a palpable fear persisted.

    KOKODA TRAIL I
    The Japanese had first landed in New Guinea in March, at Lae and Salamaua. Buna and Gona, where the Japanese landed in July, are south of these areas on the north east coast of Papua. 'As the crow flies' the area is less than 200 kilometres from Port Moresby. It is, however, separated from that town by the steep range of the Owen Stanley mountains. The only way over this range was by foot or air. Their losses at the battle of the Coral Sea and Midway had prevented the Japanese from invading Port Moresby by sea. Their objective in July was to approach the garrison town over the precipitous mountain track. The village of Kokoda was about half way between Port Moresby and Buna.

    MILNE BAY
    In late August, unable to move further down the Kokoda Trail, the Japanese decided to make a second line of attack on Port Moresby. On 25 -26 August they landed at Milne bay on the extreme eastern tip of Papua, about 370 kilometres from Port Moresby. Although under great logistical stress with the fighting on the Kododa Trail, Allied forces were ready for them. Unlike the protracted Kokoda campaign, the Battle of Milne Bay ended in just over ten days.

    KOKODA TRAIL II
    In August while the Japanese were withdrawing from Milne bay, the Australians on the Kokoda Trail were forced to withdraw from Isurava. Under fierce attack from Japanese forces the Australian retreated to Templeton’s Crossing and eventually to lmita Ridge. By this time the appalling conditions and lack of supplies had caused health problems among the Australian troops. Apart from battle wounds and difficulties with adequate medical treatment, soldiers were sick with dysentery, malaria and weakness from insufficient food. The 39th Australian Infantry Battalion had been reduced greatly in strength by death and other casualties. Even those still on their feet were exhausted and under-nourished.

    BATTLE OF THE BISMARCK SEA
    A Japanese convoy of 16 ships, carrying desperately needed reinforcements and supplies to enable the Japanese to maintain their hold on New Guinea, was sighted on 2nd March, 1943. During the next two days planes from a joint Australian-American strike force repeatedly attacked the convoy, and successfully sank or badly damaged all the Japanese ships. This was the last occasion when the Japanese tried to reinforce significantly their forces in Papua and New Guinea.

    BATTLE OF THE BEACHHEADS -BUNA, GONA and SANANANDA
    In the mistaken belief that the Japanese were finished General Macarthur, Supreme Commander of South West Pacific Area, ordered an assault by Australian and American troops on the Japanese beachheads. The three villages of Buna, Gona and Sanananda were on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. The Japanese had heavily fortified the villages, and reinforced them with fresh troops. With the sea on one side, and protected by swamps and jungle on the landward side, the 9000 Japanese troops took a heavy toll on the attacking Australians and Americans during the two months of savage fighting that it took to capture the Japanese strongholds.

    Deaths as a result of the Kokoda Track and Beachhead battles totalled more than 12,000 Japanese, 2,165 Australians and 930 Americans. More Australians died in Papua than in any other campaign of the war, but the Japanese defenders were virtually eliminated."
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    23,053
    Likes Received:
    994
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Animal Control Officer
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    :salute:

    Thanks Parsifal! I wasn't really aware of al the engagements going on. Is it possible to provide a map with these locations? I always have a hard time seeing exactly where these battles took place and how it fed the bigger picture.
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Apparently China and Manchuria don't count as part of the Pacific War.

    Anyway I agree that Milne Bay was an important victory. Perhaps more important then the better known American landing on Guadalcanal during August 1942.
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,930
    Likes Received:
    643
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    Why is davebender so consistently and repetitiously anti British and Commonwealth - thread after thread. Tell us us Dave ... enquiring minds want to know :).

    MM
    Northern Good Neighbour
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    I'm not. But neither do I think the world revolves around Britain.

    WWII in the Pacific was mostly fought on the Asian mainland. Japanese forces and battles on New Guinea were tiny by comparison.
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    The battles on the chinese mainland prior to 1941 are not officially part of the "Pacific War". Further from 1937 to 1941 the japanese army did not actually suffer any outright defeats that I know of, they did however suffer what at best can be described as miltary stalemates. I guess, in a way, this might be construed as a defeat, since their lack of progress in China was one factor that induced the Japanese to directly attack the west (the other being the discreditation of the "Strike North" camp, ad the apparently imminent collapse of the SU)
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Its true that in tems of land forces engaged the lions share of the Japanese army was depoloyed in China and Manchuria. Yet the defeat of Japan originated from the battles in New Guinea.

    Im curious, whilst I agree that the world does not revolve around Britain, implicit in your reply is that it does revolve or did revolve around another country, if so who might that country be?
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW

    Not great but hopefully this will give you somne idea. I have some maps of the milne Bay battlefield somewhere....
     

    Attached Files:

  9. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,930
    Likes Received:
    643
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    From June 1940 until June 1941 - while Britain and the Commonwealth were the only active, unconquered opponents of Nazi Germany - the world DID revolve around England. After that - Russia and the USA took over the baton in their various roles. I am missing something here, DB :) ?

    MM
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    #11 parsifal, Sep 7, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
    Guys I might have a look at a book that I have "Japanese Army Operations In The South Pacific Area (New Britain and Papua Campaigns) translated by Steven Bullard ISBN 9788 0 9751904 8 7 AWM press 2007, that looks at the Papuan campaigns from a Japanese Army perspective. I was ratyher hoping one of the other Aussies here might give the Australian perspective to these same battles, if not I'll have to do that as well
     

    Attached Files:

  11. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,592
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    IT
    Location:
    Hurst, Texas
    Amazon.com: The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea--The Forgotten War of the South Pacific (9780307335975): James Campbell: Books

    "The Ghost Mountain Boys" by James Campbell....tells the story of the battle for Papua/NewGuinea from the American POV, but it'll give you an idea of what all the troops involved went through. And even though it doesn't give a minute-by-minute account of the Australians' campaign, Mr. Campbell gives credit where credit is due.
     
  12. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,683
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Battle of the Coral Sea
    Excellent thread Parsifal. While a lot of American are not familiar with the Coral Sea battle I have always been quite interested in it for a number of reasons.
    Battle
    May 1st: Fletcher’s Yorktown fleet joins Fitch’s Lexington fleet which has sailed from Pearl
    May 4th Fletcher learns of the Japanese invasion of Tulagi and immediately sails north where his fleet bombs the invasion group forcing them to retreat.
    May 7th Japanese aircraft locate two American ships which they identify as a carrier and its escorting cruiser. Japanese planes attack and sink the smaller ship and badly damage the flat-topped larger ship. In actual fact the ships are the flat-topped collier Neosho and its escorting destroyer Sims. Additionally Allied forces are driven from Burma cutting the Burma Road to China and the US Fleet remains crippled at Pearl. This is the low point in the Pacific War.
    May 8th Japanese forces and American forces finally locate each other. Japanese planes locate the American Fleet under clear skies. They sink the Lex and severely damage the York. American planes locate the Japanese ships but the skies are heavily overcast. The carrier Shokaku is moderately damaged and the Zuikaku receives no damage.
    Both fleets retire to lick their wounds.
    My Reasons
    1. This battle marks the first time in the history of Navel warfare that the surface fleets never saw each other and the battle was determined by carrier launched aircraft.
    2. The Japanese had a tactical victory BUT the American strategic victory would prove more telling in the end.
    (a) the Japanese invasion force headed for Port Moresby turns back after approaching the Jomard Pass in fear of the presence of the American Fleet
    (b) the first time Allied forces have caused a Japanese retreat. A tremendous morale boost.
    (c) Most importantly the two Japanese carriers, the damaged carrier Shokaku and the Zuikaku which though undamaged has lost a large number of planes and pilots are unable to participate, one month later, at the Battle of Midway. Had the Japanese had these two carriers present, in addition to the four which were sunk, the Midway Battle could have ended quite differently for the Allies
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    no doubt the Coral Sea battle was unique and stratefically important, in fact critical. Agree on all points. might be interesting to go through the battle blow by blow and anayse reasons for the outcome.

    There is a simulation I used to play put out by the Strategic Studies Group (SSG). There is also Gary Grigsbys War In the South Pacific. For commerical simulations, these are very detailed and accurate IMO. Statistically Japan wins the battle, tactically and strategically, 6.5 times out of 10. Its a testament to US efforts then that they won the real battle and fought the japanese to a standstill.

    I may also look at the battle from the Japanese army pers[ectiive, using that source I posted earlier
     
  14. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,683
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    My initial thought is that chance: who found who first; and weather: Americans fighting under heavy cloud cover - Japanese clear skys were the decisive factors.
    Had the American fleet sunk both Japanese carriers the result would have been the same though I'm not sure how the Lex and Yorktown, undamaged would have played out. Most likely they would have hastened the Allied victory.
    Japan's eventual defeat was a foregone conclusion when they botched the Pearl attack by (1) failing to get the carriers; (2) Not launching the 2nd wave which would have taken out the fuel storage areas; (3) Not backing up the air attack with a land invasion
     
  15. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    227
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Virginia, US of A
    I think Japan's defeat was a foregone conclusion from the moment they decided to attack the Western nations. Japan never had the industrial capacity to take on Britain and America, and singularly failed to gain much from the territories taken so rapidly in late-41 and 42. Even had Japan obliterated the US fleet at Pearl and invaded, the end result would have been the same. It might have taken longer but US industrial production was so far in excess of Japan's that the latter never would have caught up. One only has to look at the relative production rates for cargo ships to see how Japan's manufacturing capacity simply could not keep up with combat losses.

    That said, Coral Sea is still a fascinating battle, as are the others that Parsifal listed. It's a shame that so little attention is focussed on Kokoda etc.
     
  16. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,683
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Buffnut, don't know if I agree with that. Yes, without a doubt, like Germany, Japan could not match the US industrial might BUT, the western Nations had never really cared much about what the Asian nations were doing. Attacking across the width of the pacific would have been quite a task plus an entire fleet would have had to be re-built. Possible but very expensive and time consuming especially with the European war in full swing. The Pacific war was the Second war as long as Germany was a threat. As long as Japan posed no direct threat to the west coast the US might have accepted the invasion as a fait accompli and Japan would have had the time to consolidate its Pacific conquests. Yamamoto knew that Japan had one chance in the Pacific and they failed. "I fear we have only wakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve"
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Guys

    In relation to whether Japan could win outright, I think both of you have valid points to make, so in a sense i agree and disgree with both of you.

    The fact that Japan was completely outclassed industrially cant be denied. In a war of attrition, the japanese could not hope to cope if they were faced with the entire might of US industrial power. By the same time the continued existence and viability of the United States Navy in the Pacific was crucial to the Allies both in the defence and attack phases of the war.

    Now, Japans strategic management of the war was pretty hopeless, but it did have at least some logic in it. They never planned to take on the US completely, they always assumed that a portion of US production and manpower had to be diverted to the ETO. At the time they decided on war with the west, it was expected that the germans would knock the Russians out of the war, so amuch greater proportion of US resources would have been required in the ETO. As it was the US devoted about 30% of its military outputs to the pacific.

    If the Japanese had manged to achieve a clear victory over the Americans in 1942, and the germans managed to defeat the russians, ther is every chance that the war might turn out differently. Lets say that Midway and Coral Sea had been successful, and it was the US that had lost their main carrier force and not the japanese. The Americans may have struggled on without carriers for a few weeks or months, losing a disproportionate amount of surface vessels along the way, but eventually they would have had to face facts and abandon most of the pacific to its fate, returning in late 1943. In the meantime the Japanese would have rampaged in the pacifc, and in the Indian Oceans, with consequences we can only guess at. it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Australia might fall, or India, or both, that the campaign in North Africa might collapse because of the threats to its supply lines, or that the southern route to the Soviet Union, via Persia might be cut (and this route was by far the most important LL route). The Japanese would have had more time and resources to prepare their island bases, prepare their merchant fleets (with no effective US sub campaign to affect them, because of a shortage of appropriate forward bases....like Midway, Brisban and Perth), time to train replacement aircrews more ships, more merchantman, entrenched land garrisons, a whole range of advantages that may well make a return to the theatre for the US a much more difficult prospect than it was historically. The victories achieved by the USN in 42 made possible the early demise of the Japanese. If the japanese could get time and some sanctuary by defeating the USN (and if I can venture this....the Australians), there is no telling what effect that might have had...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    5,683
    Likes Received:
    430
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired and living on the dole
    Location:
    Lakeview, AR
    Parsifal, you stated it much better than I but we are in total agreement. It had always amazed me that Japan's Pearl Harbor attack was so half-hearted. Part of that was their amazement that the US had been taken totally by surprise as the declaration should have been delivered in Washington just before the attack.
    Failure to launch 2nd and third waves left the vital fuel storage farms untouched. However the Japanese fleet had never intended a land invasion which could easily been accomplished at the time.
     
  19. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,930
    Likes Received:
    643
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Toronto
    #20 michaelmaltby, Sep 12, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2011
    Throughout its history after the "re-opening" to the West, Japan's weapon of choice has always been preemptive strike - and it always worked pretty much. In 1939 when they launched Culkin Gol (Nomanhon) they expected the Communist USSR to fold under pressure in the far east. It didn't and Japan was out-matched by Soviet resources.

    Same at Pearl. PH seems faint-hearted because it didn't achieve the needed results (destruction of carriers and oil storage) but it was a daring raid nonetheless.

    Preemptive stikes only work to a point - if you're weak and teetering. If you're strong you may step back for a spell, but will return stronger -- which is what the USA and USSR did.

    MM
     
    • Like Like x 1
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. Heinz
    Replies:
    27
    Views:
    1,331
  2. Heinz
    Replies:
    26
    Views:
    1,542
  3. Heinz
    Replies:
    14
    Views:
    1,799
  4. Micdrow
    Replies:
    1
    Views:
    1,635
  5. Micdrow
    Replies:
    1
    Views:
    1,781

Share This Page