REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR
Australia's friendship with the USA in the 20th Century really began during the First World but was cemented for all time during the 2nd world War.
During the 2nd World War there was a popular song on American radio about remembering what had happened at Pearl Harbor.
The attack was an unexpected move by the Japanese. Whether any American authority knew it was going to happen or was likely to happen the way it did remains controversial. Also it is possible the British knew via either their agents or their then super computer, Goliath.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor there were American mercenaries fighting in flying tigers for the Chinese. These pilots would soon come in handy in bringing other American pilots up to speed when it comes to Japanese aerial tactics.
Suffice to say, the general American public didn't know the attack on Pearl Harbor was going to occur.
There was the belief that there might be sabotage in Hawaii due to the Japanese not being happy with the Americans over trade at that time but not an assault from the air on this scale.
Negotiations with Japanese representatives were being made by American representatives right up to the attack. It is thus that there was a general sense of betrayal on the part of the Japanese that inflamed Americans and continues to inflame Americans of that generation to this day.
The American comic books that had once portrayed the Chinese as being subhuman would come to portray the Japanese as subhuman. And so there was still racism against Asians in the comics but it was aimed at Asians most Americans in the 1930s were unfamiliar with but had come to despise in the 1940s.
The attack upon Pearl Harbor on a Sunday in December of 1941 brought the Americans into the 2nd World War. It was a regarded to be a sneak attack and, as the American President of the time was quick to point out, it would live on in infamy. It was the 9/11 of the '40s. Ultimately it was a calculated risk on the part of the Japanese as was the attack upon Singapore.
The idea was to stop Westerners from interfering with the gobbling up of China and Indochina. Part of the interference from both the USA and the British had been keeping much needed crude oil from getting into Japanese hands.
In terms of resources, the Japanese understood they had a deadline when it came to both the USA and the British Empire. There were economists predicting that they had two years at the most to make good after the infamous attack upon U.S soil and territory considered to be British. After that there was no way for the Japanese to be victorious.
This meant the Japanese striking first and striking hard and continuing to do so. This, of course, did not excuse what happened at Pearl Harbor or Singapore.
Mistakes had been made before, during and after that infamous Sunday the people of Hawaii will never forget.
There had been an accumulation of intelligence data concerning Japanese movement in the Pacific. In some instances the U. S. Navy was slow to act. In other instances they didn't act at all.
Breaking Japanese code was very difficult even for experts who had a good understanding of the language. One symbol, for example, could mean a dozen things and what it meant had a lot to do with context. If you don't know or understand the context you can find yourself figuratively at sea. Even arriving at the right answer admittedly would still be considered by others guess work.
In any event, there was a bigger fear of sabotage than from an attack from the air. For this reason fighting U.S. aircraft were kept together where they could be well guarded against saboteurs.This, of course, made them easy targets for Japanese fighter planes carrying bombs. It was a case of having all your eggs in one basket and then having your basket blasted out of existence.
If the Japanese had acted on another Sunday they might have clobbered the whole American south pacific fleet. As things stand, they missed the well camouflaged submarine pens and there were aircraft carriers as well as other ships at sea they couldn't hit. What's more, not all the ships that were struck were damaged beyond repair. This fact would come back to haunt the Japanese in future battles.
The Battle of Midway
The battle of Midway (1942) was not the first tussle between U. S. forces and the Japanese after Pearl Harbor but it was crucial. The Japanese plan was to take over the Island of Midway and destroy the American fleet. Once the fleet was destroyed then Midway Island could become a base upon which to launch attacks on mainland USA.
With the USA taken out of the war in the pacific and facing further enemy bombing runs, it was hoped by the Japanese that the USA would negotiate for a peace settlement that would satisfy Japanese interests. Invasion of mainland USA was never a serious option.
The battle of Midway was won by the U.S. Navy thus dashing Japanese hopes for a quick victory against America. Like the battle of the Coral Sea, the fighting mostly consisted of aircraft carriers and fighter planes. The 2nd World War was the first major conflict in which aircraft carriers played such important roles.
Generally speaking, the American fighter plane was faster but the Japanese opposite number, being lighter, could beat the American on the climb for altitude. A dog fight was too often won by a height advantage over an opponent.
There had been a theory among the British in the South Pacific that, because of their slanted eyes, the Japanese would not make very good pilots. This proved to be false. Not only were many Japanese first class pilots but they were also top-notch navigators.
The Americans probably had no illusions as to what the Japanese capabilities were as airmen. There were American fliers, referred to as Flying Tigers because of the way they had their planes painted, fighting for the Chinese against the Japanese before America's entry into the war.
Was the Invasion of the New Guinea the Beginning of the End?
AUSTRALIA in the Thick of it!
In 1939 an invasion of Australia by Japanese forces just didn't seem possible. The war was in Europe and then in other parts of the northern hemisphere. The goings-on in China didn't seen to concern Australians.
What's more, the Japanese had been Australia's allies during the First World War. In that war Japanese ships had actually protected Australia.
The attack upon Singapore and the taking over of Singapore by Japan was totally unexpected. The gobbling up of much of South East Asia was shocking. The swarming into New Guinea by Japanese forces was unnerving. For some sensitive abstract artists of the day it was like the coming of the end of the world or at least their world. It does not take long by plane to go from New Guinea to Australia.
In 1942 Australian forces in the Middle East were recalled by Prime Minister Curtin, possibly the greatest prime Minister Australia has ever had, to help protect the country from what looked like imminent invasion. Word was getting around how badly the Japanese treat prisoners of war. No one wanted to find out how they would treat Australians as a conquered people.
Churchill, the British prime minister, was against this move. His attitude was that the Australian soldiers were needed in the Middle East and, if Australia did fall to the Japanese, the empire would get it back later. This was not a very popular idea among Australians. What's more, Prime Minister Curtin could not be swayed. There was the possibility that the troop ships might be sunk on their way to the southern hemisphere. Fortunately, this did not happen.
Darwin was bombed in February of 1942 and, in May 1942, two Japanese mini-subs caused havoc in Sydney Harbor. Plans for evacuating major harbor cities were drawn up. Gas masks were issued and windows were blacked out against the possibility of falling bombs. There were bomb shelters. In a small children's park in the middle of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales there is a tiny plaque informing anyone who might be interested that the park was once one of the many bomb shelters created to protect civilians.
Australian volunteers managed to slow down the advancement of the Japanese in New Guinea until the regulars could arrive. It was tough jungle fighting but eventually the Japanese were driven out.
Today it is the consideration of scholars that it is highly unlikely that the Japanese had the resources to take over Australia. By this time they were stretched rather thin.
The Age of Modern Rocket and Jet Warfare had Almost Arrived
AFTER THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
VIs, or Buzz bombs as they were sometimes called, began to menace England. They were small rockets that, once they ran out of fuel and fell to earth, exploded. You were safe while they were still buzzing but, when the buzzing stopped, take cover.
Spitfire pilots learned the knack of either shooting at them until they exploded in midair or nudging them so they didn't land in a populated area.
The VII rockets were larger and presented more of a problem in the damage they could do. Fortunately, they required what was then a sophisticated launching area to take off from whereas the VIs could be carried on the back of a truck and launched from just about anywhere. This meant that it was possible for allied bombers to zero in on VII launch pads and blast them out of existence whereas it was just about impossible to work out where a VI was on the ground or where it might be launched from.
The VIII rocket was capable of traveling from Berlin to New York. When Germany declared war on the USA in support of Japan, Hitler's dream was to launch the VIII against America. Unfortunately for Hitler, the Third Reich never had the resources to build the VIII so it remained on the drawing board.
The Spitfire and the Hurricane did well during the Battle of Britain. Now, however, what was needed was a fighter capable of aiding the bomber in taking the war to the enemy. It was a tactic of the ME 109s to wait until the allied bombers had lost their fighter escort before attacking. Therefore fighters capable of staying with the bombers all the way to a target and back were the new requirement.
Before the coming of the American Flying Fortress, heavy bomber squadrons left alone tended to sustain heavy loses. Even more so when it was low level day time bombing. Regardless, Germany's abilities to continue the war had to be crushed. Factories had to be leveled.
The Mustang was the answer both the Americans and the British had been looking for. With added fuel tanks, it could fly twice the distance of the Spitfire. It also had plenty of punch. It began as a completely American designed aircraft but in tests the engine was found to be somewhat lacking.
It was suggested to substitute the original engine with a British merlin. The basic American design coupled with the grunt of the merlin made for a fighter hard to beat. It may well be the first fighter aircraft two Western powers could share credit for. It proved to be a winner in getting the bombers to target and back.
The British Mosquito, a medium range bomber, light but with plenty of punch and speed, came into prominence soon after the Battle of Britain. It couldn't take the place of the more vulnerable heavy bomber but it proved to be a good all rounder. It could do well in a fight or flight situation against ME 109s thus for short, light bombing missions, eliminating the need for escort craft.
The German U-boat (submarine) had come close to starving Britain into submission. Destroyers and fighter aircraft, however, were making a difference. People living in Britain dug victory gardens to provide themselves with some of the basics. Rationing throughout the war was severe. Ultimately there simply were not enough U-boats to do the job higher command wanted them to do. Even so, they caused much havoc on the Atlantic ocean. There were even U-boats that traveled into American waters during the war.
THE DAM BUSTERS
In 1943 a special squadron of Lancaster bombers was formed to neutralize the dams feeding the industrial heart of Germany.
A special bouncing bomb had been designed by Barnes Wallis. The objective was to have the bomb hit the intended dam at just the right height and angle to cause a breach. This would not be easy. It would take precision flying on the part of the pilot and great timing on the part of the bombardier. It would also have to be low level flying at night which was extremely dangerous. The squadron was successful in meeting its targets but loses were heavy. Among the British in the squadron there were Australians and New Zealanders.
The Weapon that Arrived Too Late
THE FIRST JET FIGHTER TO SEE COMBAT
Both the British and the Germans had been working on the idea of a jet fighter. The British didn't move beyond working prototypes during the war mainly due to lack of necessary materials. The Germans created the Messerschmitt ME 262.
It went into operation in mid-1944 which was too late to make much difference in how the war was going to turn out. Because of resources becoming more and more limited, very few 262s could be made.
What's more, by 1944 the Luffwaffe had run out of knowledgeable fighter pilots. Some had been lost during the Battle of Britain. Others bought the farm over Malta or during the African campaign. What the Luffwaffe was left with was mostly green kids with limited combat experience.
Put a green kid in a revolutionary new plane with limited direction on how to pilot the craft and, no matter how good the ME 262 might be, it wasn't going to meet its potential.
There were pilots afraid to push the ME 262 hard for fear it would either catch fire or blow up. Speed, however, was the main advantage of the plane and, if that is taken away, then it really was a sitting duck to aircraft such as the Mustang. It wasn't hardy and couldn't take much punishment from enemy fire without literally going to pieces.
The Invasion of France was no Picnic
THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY
By May 1944 Allied forces were prepared to take France back from the Germans. The question was where to make the landing. Calais seemed to be the perfect spot. Like Normandy, it had once belonged to the Normans. Unlike Normandy, the English channel was narrower at Calais.
After it was decided that the landing would be the Normandy coast, elaborate schemes were put into motion to convince the Germans that Calais would be it. One scheme involved the placing in appropriate areas ships that looked good from the air but were actually fakes with no real military value whatsoever. Hitler was completely fooled.
Despite the delays due to bad weather, the operation known as Overlord was a complete success.
On the 6th of June a great armada, including fighter planes, left England for Normandy. There were very few German fighter planes to stop the invasion. The tanks that might have caused a lot of American and British casualties were at Calais waiting for the so-called real invasion to commence. Even so, fighting was still fierce and there were lots of casualties.
THE END OF NAZI GERMANY
THE FALL OF NAZI GERMANY
By June 1944 it was obvious to most Germans that the war could not be won. Resources were depleted. British and American bombers could no longer be stopped from getting through to their targets.
There had been some hope that German scientists would break the riddle of atomic power and create the first atomic weapon. Perhaps, if certain scientists hadn't been forced to flee Nazi persecution because they had a Jewish background, the Germans might have got there first. In the 1930s there was a proposal to build a long range bomber. It was based on a long range passenger aircraft.
When it was discovered that just about two medium range bombers could be built for the price of one long range bomber, the proposal was dropped. The long range bomber would not have been that useful in the German invasion of France or the low countries but it would have been the very thing for the Battle of Britain.
There were members of higher command who wanted to broker a surrender to save German lives but Hitler would not be in it. He was coming to the belief that the German people had failed him and if he was to be destroyed by the allies then they, too, should be destroyed. There were numerous assassination attempts upon Hitler but none were successful.
At one time the Americans had come up with a novel idea of handling Adolf. There had been a plan to smuggle estrogen into his food so that his moustache would fall out and his voice would sound feminine. This would damage his credibility on the radio and in public speeches, giving his enemies within the chance to rise to power.
This plan and other plans to get rid of Hitler, however, were abandoned when it was realized that Hitler's mismanagement of the war was advantageous to the American war effort. In other words, he was more useful alive and messing up than removed from power or dead.
The Battle of the Bulge was the last major battle in which the Germans stood a chance of staving off the inevitable. It was held in winter and one of the weapons used against American forces were Germans well educated in American English dressed as American soldiers. There was sabotage and misdirection. The battle raged from December 1944 into January of 1945. The Germans lost but casualties among the Americans were very high.
Meanwhile the Communist Russians, once friendly with the Germans due to a non-aggression pact, were on the move. Despite the pact, Germany had invaded Russia. At first they were successful and it looked like Russia would become part of the new German empire. Then there was a turn around.
The Russian winter can be hard on invaders as Napoleon found out. It can also be hard on tanks and planes as well as men. The Russians knew what their weather could do and how to take advantage of it. The weather bought them time to come up with a new, revolutionary tank with a slanted body that could handle enemy shells better than the tanks the Germans had. The Germans eventually built tanks using this new idea but by then it was too late. By early 1945 it was a question of who would get to Berlin first, the Americans, the British or the avenging Russians.
Victory against the Germans came on the 7th of May, 1945. This was after street to street frighting in Berlin. This was after much loss of life. Hitler took his own life rather than fall into the hands of the Russians. Berlin would now be divided up between the conquering allies and in dividing up this city the cold war would begin.
THE A BOMB
THE A BOMB
There had been theories going back to before the 2nd World War began concerning the possibility of enormous energy being released with the splitting of the atom.
There were researchers in Britain, Germany and the USA working on how it could be done. With great resources and the cream of European scientists, it was the Americans who came up with the first atomic bomb. The question was what to do with it?
By late 1944, the war in the Pacific had been reduced to Island hopping by the Americans. Successful bombing raids on Japanese cities had not forced surrender and every piece of land leading up to mainland Japan had to be secured before Japan could be conquered. All of this was costing a lot of lives. By this stage, the Japanese could not win but fought on because the emperor had not told them to surrender. What was to be done?
In August of 1945 two bombs were dropped. One bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki. There was the threat that more such bombs would follow. Both cities were devastated. Soon after this devastation the war in the Pacific was over. The atomic age had begun.
The Freedom from War Dance!
The Dancing Man
In Sydney, New South Wales, Australia the end of World War Two and the return of the servicemen was celebrated in high fashion.
There was a parade down George Street. Unofficially at the head of this parade of soldiers, sailors and airmen was the dancing man. He was in civilian clothes. Who he was is uncertain. Two men have been identified as possible candidates. In any event, he was celebrating the desire of many Australian men to down uniforms and to resume civilian life.
My mother was a seamstress working in George Street at the time. No one in her work area had the money for streamers to toss down at the marchers in celebration but they did have left over bits of cloth that looked colorful if not beautiful thrown into the air.
In other places of business staplers were emptied of their paper contents and the contents became like confetti on the wind. It was a joyous time.
My mother said that the Australian soldiers marched proudly and in good order but the Americans in the parade marched somewhat lackluster. Maybe they missed their homes in the USA and were just anxious to get back to them.
The Threat of Communism
AFTER THE SECOND GREAT WAR
The dividing up of Berlin by the allies led to animosity. The Russians felt cheated. The Americans and the British were afraid of war starting up between democratic forces and communist forces. At the end of 1945 no one wanted war but all wanted to protect their interests in Germany.
In 1948 the Russians clamped down on Berlin attempting to starve the part of the city not belonging to them. Food and medical supplies, however, were airlifted in by the Americans. This operation continued for as long as it was needed. The cold war was definitely on.
In Vietnam, the Vietnamese that fought alongside the Americans to defeat the Vichy French and the Japanese during the war were now snubbed by the Americans for being communists. In reality they were more nationalistic than communistic in their views and needs.
New Wars and New Evil in the World
The world today is hopefully much more stable than it was just before the First World War and also just before the 2nd World War.
The notion of the First World War being the war to end all wars was dispelled before the coming of the 2nd World War. Even so the 2nd World War put the final nail into the coffin of that particular idea.
There is now the great fear in the world of religious wars starting up in earnest.
This has really only been a snap-shot of a truly turbulent time in our collective history. There is a lot I have left out. For example, the fact that the Italians were allied for some time with the Germans and proved to be poor allies indeed.
A good thing to remember would be the heroic actions taken by the Greeks against the invading Italians (1940-1941) which culminated in the Germans storming into Greece (1941). With nothing but old British rifles left over from the Great War and whatever else they could make use of, the Greeks had thrashed a well armed modern army - the Italian army.
They could not do as well against the Germans. Australian troops were sent in to relieve the situation but were poorly supplied by the British. They were defeated by the Germans. Crete held out against the Germans until German forces had to pull out of Greece.
Tobruk should get a mention as the holding out of British and Australian forces at this strategic spot in modern Libya in 1941 slowed down the German advance to where allied forces were given time to organize against the Germans. Referred to as rats by their enemies, the name stuck and carries with it to this day a certain pride, The Rats of Tobruk.
Australians were also prominent at defeating the Germans at the Battle of El Alarmein in 1942.
More by this Author
Lies, distortions , Australian people, Cronulla riot, Children harassed, The Book Thief, reverse racism, the blame game, Islamic State, Muslim Youth, Melbourne, Sydney, Seachange, bikinis, Western.
The Jazz Age, Josephine Baker, Ken Burns, The League of Nations, radio, the gramophone, Kangaroo, Ragtime, Ku Klux Klan, Elvis Presley, World War One, The Saint, The Great Gatsby, Pollyanna, Paris.
Bullying in the USA, Australia and France. School boy bullies. Nations throwing out democracy for dictatorship because of bullying. Religious bullies. Computer bullies. Fighting against bullying.