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The Invasion Threat To Australia And Its Effects On The Australian War Effort

2521 words - 10 pages

During World War Two, Australians were faced with the threat of war on their own soil for the first time. Japanese anxiety had been brewing in Australia since the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 and Japan had been continually gaining territory and power since then. The culmination of this anxiety came with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour and the subsequent conquests of The Philippines, Malaya and Hong Kong. Australia soon realized that their defenses were very thin and they were open to Japanese invasion. By March 1942 the Southward advances of the Japanese had begun to slow down and the threat of invasion became less imminent. Fear was further eased when America took responsibility for the defense of Australia. Although the invasion threat was relatively short lived, it had wide-ranging impacts on the Australian war effort. One of the major impacts was the shift of Australia relying on British support to Australia relying more on American support. The threat of invasion led the Australian government to take control of most aspects of the Australian economy. The threat also affected the attitudes of Australian soldiers towards the Japanese. In 1941, as a war with Japan became more and more probable, Britain and Australia discussed plans to defend against any possible Japanese invasion of British colonial territories. Britain regarded Malaya as its key position in the Far East. This meant that Singapore must be defended. Singapore was a heavily defended naval base, but it was susceptible to a land based attack from the North. British leaders realized that Malaya would need to be defended by land and air forces. Australia was expected to contribute to this effort. Three Royal Australian Air Force squadrons were sent to Malaya, but a request from Britain for an army division to be sent in addition to the two Australian brigades already there was denied.4 Australia felt that the division needed to stay in Australia for home defense, as three out of four of its divisions were fighting in the Middle East.3 At this time Churchill made a promise to Australian leaders that if Japan were to invade Australia or New Zealand on a large scale, Britain would cut their losses in the Mediterranean and give as much military aid as possible to stop the invasion.4 British aid at this point was limited by the war in Europe. Britain did manage to send in the battleship, the Prince of Wales and the Cruiser, Repulse to Singapore on December 2, 1941. This move was possibly due to Australian pressure but it is difficult to tell. Britain and the United States rarely listened to the wishes of Australia. Australia's defense plans were often quite different from U.S. and British strategies partly due to their feelings of vunerability to Japanese Invasion. Tension between Australia and Britain grew, as Churchill seemed to give priority to defense the Middle East over the defense of Malaya. British and American adherence to their Europe first agreement was a major...

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