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SydWalker.Info is a personal website. I live in tropical Australia near Cairns. I oppose war, plutocracy, injustice, sectarian supremacism and apartheid. I support urgent action to achieve genuine sustainability and a fair and prosperous society for all. I rely upon - and support - free speech as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below).

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Australia & World War Two: Saved by the USA?
July 1st, 2009 by Syd Walker

Australians are frequently reminded of the deep gratitude we should feel to the USA, which ‘saved’ us from Japan in World War Two. The American Alliance, we’re told, is the essential bedrock of our freedom…

USS Essex

USS Essex: a warship America can't afford pissing on a post it doesn't need to foul

Over the last few days, a US warship has been berthed in Cairns, less than 50 kilometres from where I sit. The USS Essex may be bearing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Longstanding US policy is to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ whether weapons of mass destruction are carried on its military vessels into friendly ports.

Raise any complaint about this, and before too long at least one Australian will venture the standard opinion that “if it wasn’t for the Americans, we’d all be speaking Japanese!” (They never seem to explain why, fond as Australians are of sophisticated Japanese technology and its tasty cuisine, we should consider speaking Japanese a fate literally worse than death.)

Actually, the comfortable official saga of how our genial American cousins preserved Australia from the dreaded “yellow peril” in the 1940s leaves out some rather significant elements of a very complex story. As a reaction against the conformist verities that stultify debate and fresh thinking about contemporary ‘Defense’ policy, here’s another view on Australia and World War Two. I’ll call it the ‘Neutral and Pro-Peace version of events’. I admit it’s selective too. I’ve just selected different facts from those emphasised incessantly in the mainstream narrative…

He's Coming South

Was Australia saved by peace-loving Americans?

I’ll frame this version around answers to two rather important questions. Both questions, I believe, receive very unsatisfactory answers in most popular discourse about the period.

Did the USA Save Australia?

First, was Australia really ‘saved’ by America in any meaningful sense?

To answer this question, we surely have to consider why Australia was under threat at all – and from whom. The answer is that no-one seriously threatened Australia in 1941. However, once the USA entered the war, Australia also found itself at war with Japan. Japan did present something of a potential regional threat. So how did America’s war with Japan begin?

The simple version is that the US fleet experienced a savage, wholly unprovoked Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor naval base in the Pacific. Surely this act of aggression was proof positive that Japan had evil intentions to the USA – and by extension to countries such as Australia.

Victory Jobs

Victory Jobs, washed down with Victory Gin?

Well, not really. Over the years a solid case has accumulated indicating that the Roosevelt Administration – at the very highest level – deliberately sought war with Japan in the early 1940s – and that President Roosevelt had prior warning of the Pearl Harbour attack.

Roosevelt wanted the attack on Pearl Harbor attack to happen, despite the ‘sacrifice’ of several thousand American lives. He was relieved when the Japanese Government finally took the bait. It was the trigger he’d been seeking to draw a deeply reluctant American nation into another huge war, for the second time in a generation.

US trade embargoes – especially imposing blocks on Japan’s vital oil supplies – made it more or less inevitable that eventually Japan’s ‘War Faction’ would gain the upper hand in Tokyo and strike out in an  attempt to break free of the encircling boycott.

In short, the very same US allies who supposedly ‘saved’ Australia from Japanese invasion deliberately provoked war with Japan in the first place. That’s like throwing a man in a lake, then fishing him out afterwards. Australians are supposed to be grateful for that?

Stop Strikes! Australian World War Two Propaganda

'Race War' trumps 'Class War' in Australian World War Two Propaganda

Dr Peter Stanley, senior historian at the War Memorial, has written that the Japanese had no actual invasion plan for Australia. According to Stanley, it’s one piece of information to which Australia’s own Prime Minister, John Curtin, was privy. That didn’t stop Mr Curtin from telling his very own war propaganda lies to whip up public hysteria inside Australia and keep the workers hard at it. See Remembering 1942 “He’s Coming South” – not.

Why was Australia at war at all?

The other key question – which chronologically should ahve come first – is how had Australia got involved in an escalating war in the first place?

The answer seems to have been unquestioning clannish loyalty, heightened by alarmist appeals that the British ‘motherland’ was in imminent danger of invasion.

In the words of Prime Minister Menzies, announcing Australia’s entry into the war

“Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.”

It would be hard to frame a sentence more redolent of the wholesale abandonment of Australian national sovereignty to an oversees power.

Was Britain really threatened with invasion? By October 1940, and possibly even earlier, Churchill knew that German plans to invade Britain were on hold.

The British Prime Minister enjoyed access to the ‘ultra-secret’ Enigma intercepts and knew very well that the attention of  Germany had turned east. He was also in receit of peace offers from Germany that even American insiders at the time considered astonishingly generous. And lest we forget…it was Britain after all that declared war on Germany back in 1939 – not the other way round.

Winston Churchill's 'V' for Victory

Winston Churchill: defending truth with a bodyguard of lies

Churchill didn’t even tell the British Foreign Minister about the ultra-secret intercepts – let alone  ‘colonials from down-under such as Menzies’. So soon after Australia’s leadership allowed itself to be dragged into a war in Europe to defend Britain, it found Churchill diverted most Australian troops to North Africa, for reasons that just didn’t seem to make sense.

Meanwhile, Churchill and Roosevelt plotted successfully to get the USA directly involved in the war, despite massive opposition at the time from the US public and repeated pledges from Roosevelt to his electorate that he’d keep America at peace.

Roosevelt pulled off this trick with Pearl Harbour, the trigger for Congressional support to declare war on Japan. Germany immediately honored a mutual defense pact with Japan – and suddenly, for the first time in the conflict, Australia found its own territory under potential threat. Yet by then, most Australian troops were halfway round the planet, doing Churchill only knew what…

It’s not hard to mount the argument that Australia’s World War Two policy is a case study in how to be duped, used and spat out. This is exactly what an indepndent nation’s foreign policy should NOT look like. (Cynics might object that as the USA and Britain didn’t fire-bomb Australian cities, alliances do have some benefits!)

Fool on Australia for getting used like a pawn in a violent game we barely understood. And fool on contemporary Australians for being so blinded by war time propaganda, propaganda with a greatly-extended shelf-life of more than 65 years, that we fail to draw the real lessons of World War Two and thus continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

In August 1939, Britain chose to declare war on Germany (but not the USSR) over an invasion of Poland. Germany’s invasion had been occasioned by Poland’s quite reckless and provocative behaviour; it was Poland, after all, that mobilized first. The Polish Government, in turn, had been emboldened by Britain’s strategically insane guarantee of unconditional military support.

Robert Menzies

Robert Menzies: kept in the dark by Churchill

Menzies’ grovelling radio announcement that Australia would appease its old imperial master by locking its fate to Britain, in a war wholly out of Australia’s control, was the act of a colonial puppet. A truly independent Australian Prime  Minister might have announced to his nation:

“Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that Great Britain has decided to declare war on Germany – and we wish her the very best of British luck!”

Likewise, when the USA subsequently decided it wanted to throttle Japan and then beat the hell out of it,  a more appropriate Australian Government response would have been to withhold approval for this murderous activity.

Had we taken a neutral, war-opposing course in our foreign policy, it’s unlikely that Australians would be ‘speaking Japanese’ today. We might well be speaking more Japanese – and other languages too. We’d most likely have a nice, cheap civil defense strategy to deter invaders. We’d have no Pine Gap or permanent US military presence of any kind, clinging to our neck like the Old Man of the Sea. No visiting warships that won’t deign to tell us whether or not they’re carrying nuclear bombs. We’d probably be friends with just about everybody – a real ‘Lucky Country’ without the scars of war.

The official Anglo-American narrative is that they alone saved Australia from perdition in the 20th Century. But it’s easy to make a case that the reverse is true.

Today’s political leadership in Canberra is probably even more subservient to overseas war-mongering mythologizers than the generation of Menzies and Curtin. Hope for real change lies in a major shift in public opinion. Correcting the bias of official history is a key catalyst. There’s more than one reason why the history of World War Two is such a touchy subject.

Dwight D Eisenhower

Eisenhower: an old warrior who warned about the growing Warfare State

I’ll leave the concluding comments to that old American war horse President Eisenhower, a man knew a thing or two about lies that rationalize wars, who also had a habit of making memorable remarks. His farewell speech, in which he warned of the growing power of the Military Industrial Complex, is well known. Here are three more of his famous quotations:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book”

- Dwight D. Eisenhower


9 Responses  
  • Nick van Voorst writes:
    July 1st, 20098:04 pmat

    Syd,

    You can trace the roots of WW II back to the end of WW I and the treaty of Versailles’
    The Japanese were with “the allies” in WW I and did not receive “the spills of war” that they were promised. There was also the small matter of Manchuria and an oil embargo. Japan felt justified to do the same as the Western colonial powers had been doing in Asia for years. The Western powers did not agree.

    At Versailles the Germans got punished way beyond what was reasonable and sustainable ( especially by a vengeful George Clemenceau) and that in turn laid the groundwork for the next conflict.

    The Netherlands were neutral and opposed war, but were invaded and occupied anyway,mainly for strategic reasons (port and ocean access). Dutch people definitely are grateful to the British, Americans,Canadians and Australians that liberated the country from the Nazis.

    Maybe if Australia had remained neutral, nothing would have happened, but with a small population and massive resources, it would have been a tempting target for the Japanese, so who can tell what would have eventuated.

    The theory that the Americans were aware of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbour and let it happen to change public opinion and isolationist policy has been around for a long time and is certainly not implausible.

    Having visited many war graves in various part of Europe, in Japan, Malaysia and Thailand I am always shocked by the massive waste of life of so many young people. Likewise, there is not a single one horse town in Australia,without a war memorial commemorating where some of the local men/boys who have been killed in one of the many foreign conflicts Australia has been involved in. It never ceases to amaze me.

    • Mike writes:
      July 5th, 20146:06 pmat

      I agree that people lost their lives in the prime of life. That potential was wasted. That horrible emotiona had to deal t with. That mothers and fathers cried nad were devastated. Mine did. I saw a lot too.
      But war does not end. That is a fantasy that has caused more wars than ever. Also those lives were not wasted in the sense they died for something to happen. That happening was the stopping of Japan, Nazism, and Nazi Islam, at the time. So no , they didn’t die wastefully. They would actually say to us now ‘why are we not willing to do the same to make sure our civilisation was safe’
      But no we have reinvented ideas to suit ourselves. Allowed ideologies to slip in that sounded good but were so destructive. And a quick look at the past and the past philosophers and wisdom works would have shown us this. But all that was abandoned too. We live in a world that now, at least in the west, is naive beyond belief.

  • Notsilvia Night writes:
    July 3rd, 20099:06 amat

    Great article Syd, thank you.
    And I disagree with Nick van Voorst, the Japanese were over-extended already with Korea and China. There were enough resources in those countries. The Japanese motto was Asia for the Asians. They would not have been interested in Australia a non-Asian country with a non-Asian population.

  • Robin Harwood writes:
    July 3rd, 200912:28 pmat

    Oh come on! Have you ever tried learning Japanese? It’s a bugger of a language to master. Fortunately, my wife is Japanese, so my son speaks it fluently, but it is a perpetual struggle for me.

    The war? Well, the Japanese government of the time was very nasty, and had nasty ideas about what to do with Asia. Intervention to help the rest of Asia resist would have been justified. But the Japanese forces were pretty tied up with China, and from all I’ve heard they thought that Australia was too far and not worth the effort.

  • john writes:
    August 7th, 20112:19 pmat

    The fact is that Japan and its military leaders including the Japanese Army chief Tojo regularly threatened Australia that if we did not join it’s Asian Ecomomic zone. They said we we would have our cities bombed to pieces (Darwin proof of that threat)IF we did not comply. That meant surrender and by definition occupation. This surrender was so the USA could not use Australia as a base and Japan would be able to attack the west coast of the USA. THESE ARE VERIFIABLE FACTS and your apologetic falsifying of historical facts is appalling ! As a descendent of people who lived here through that war and fought in it, I am conveying their offense and angst at your statements if they were alive today. Being dead now and unable to have their voices heard !!

    John

  • john writes:
    August 7th, 20112:30 pmat

    Further to my earlier post. If it were not due to the success of US forces in neutralising the Japanese Aircraft Carrier battle group at Midway and Coral Sea battles, the Japanese Navy and invasion forces would have had an easy passage to Australia from New Guinea. Our resources were vital to an Imperial power subjugating our region and us. Oil embargos against Japan due to its murderous invasion of China initiated its attack on Pearl Harbour. My BIG question to you is why you wish to sanitise Japanese war history which is surprisingly not taught in their schools (rewriting their own history). Australian soldiers in South East Asia gave very strong resistance to the Japanese and paid for it with the fatal and cruel treatments handed out to them by the Japanese. The USA did ABSOLUTELY save Australia from being invaded and occupied and being bombed into submission !!!!!!!

    John

  • david mckenzie writes:
    April 20th, 20143:55 amat

    What an appalling little mind wrote the above -sydwalkerblog.

    He obviously has never been to Guadalcanal or seen the graves of the thousands of marines
    who died there.

    Without their sacrifice….not giving up their lives for their friends, but for Australians they
    didnt even know…..Australia would have been treated by the Japanese like China, Korea, The Phillipines and their savage massacre of civilians would have been continued in Australia.
    200,000 Chinese were killed at the massacre in Nanking. At Bangka Island the Imperial
    Nippon Army machine gunned Australian nurses and prisoners of war. In Korea they massacred over 300,000 civilians.

    These are the kind of people Syd Walker favours.

    Good ol Syd Walker with his lies,stupidity and malignant insult to thousands of brave Americans buried in battlefields from The Solomons to Okinawa.

    Acta non Verba

  • Mike writes:
    July 5th, 20145:54 pmat

    You are a outright idiot. Japan has never paid for its war crimes. Never said sorry to anyone. The USA did save us all. Get over it. They might remind us to much or use it to much for your liking, and they might be unpopular now, but that does not change the past. It only makes you an idiot for disrespecting all those who fought and died or survived and just makes you look like a looney. You could have focused on why Japan has never admitted or apologised for its crimes. You could have been counterculture and pointed out Japan shouldn’t ever be able to try and guilt anyone about being bombed. When they are the worst criminals around.

  • Mike writes:
    July 5th, 20146:00 pmat

    You could have focused further on why anime has been used as a tool for hate speech against, and blatantly so, america, let alone the west and china. You could also have focused on why there is still the cover up culture existing in Japan. Maybe because no one made them face what they had done. And so now they still hold on to old shame based vices of communication and identity. Which has lead to the denial and non action around the reactor disaster and why they are not fixing it. Millions of tons of water contaminated with radiation being released into the world. Yeah thanks Japan. Your culture rocks. We really respect it. If you want to mock america’s culture and Australia, then you can’t turn the tables and ban any judgement on Japans culture.


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