Thursday, July 15, 2010

Enter of Japan in Second World War

Japan entered the war in December 1941 and swiftly achieved a series of victories, resulting in the occupation of most of south-east Asia and large areas of the Pacific by the end of March 1942. Singapore fell in February, with the loss of an entire Australian division. After the bombing of Darwin that same month, all RAN ships in the Mediterranean theatre, as well as the 6th and 7the Divisions, returned to defend Australia. In response to the heightened threat, the Australian government also expanded the army and air force and called for an overhaul of economic, domestic, and industrial policies to give the government special authority to mount a total war effort at home. In March 1942, after the defeat of the Netherlands East Indies, Japan’s southward advance began to lose strength, easing fears of an imminent invasion of Australia. Further relief came when the first AIF veterans of the Mediterranean campaigns began to come home, and when the United States assumed responsibility for the country’s defence, providing reinforcements and equipment. The threat of invasion receded further as the Allies won a series of decisive battles: in the Coral Sea, at Midway, on Imita Ridge and the Kokoda Trail, and at Milne Bay and Buna.

Further Allied victories against the Japanese followed in 1943. Australian troops were mainly engaged in land battles in New Guinea, the defeat of the Japanese at Wau, and clearing Japanese soldiers from the Huon Peninsula. This was Australia’s largest and most complex offensive of the war and was not completed until April 1944. The Australian Army also began a new series of campaigns in 1944 against isolated Japanese garrisons stretching from Borneo to bougainville, involving more Australian troops than at any other time in the war. The first of these campaigns was fought on Bougainville in New Britain and at Aitape. The value of the second campaign, fought in Borneo in 1945, to the overall war effort remains the subject of continuing debate. Australian troops were still fighting in Borneo when the war ended in August 1945. While Australia’s major effort from 1942 onwards was directed at defeating Japan, thousands of Australians continued to serve with the RAAF in Europe and the Middle East. Although more Australian airmen fought against the Japanese, losses among those flying against Germany were far higher. Australians were particularly prominent in Bomber Command’s offensive against occupied Europe. Some 3,500 Australians were killed in this campaign, making it the costliest of the war.

Over 30,000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner in the Second World War and 39,000 gave their lives. Two-thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through south-east Asia within the first weeks of 1942. While those who became prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home at the end of war, 36 percent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity. Singapore Straits Settlements, 19 September 1945: members of 2/18th Australian Infantry Battalion, prisoners of war of the Japaense, in Changi prison. Nurses had gone overseas with the AIF in 1940. However, during the early years of the war women were generally unable to make a significant contribution to the war effort in any official capacity. Labour shortages forced the government to allow women to take a more active role in war work and, in February 1941, the RAAF received cabinet approval to establish the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). At the same time, the navy also began employing female telegraphists, a breakthrough that eventually led to the establishment of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) in 1942. The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was established in October 1941, with the aim of releasing men from certain military duties in base units in Australia for assignment with fighting units overseas.

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