A Bastard of a Place : The Japanese Invasion of Australia, 1942

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Ian_W, Feb 8, 2019.

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  1. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    • Warning
    The Story of Port Darwin



    ***

    War Plans and Files of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet
    Running Estimate and Summary maintained by Captain James M. Steele, USN, CINCPAC staff at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, covering the period 7 December 1941 –31 August 1942.

    Declassified 3 May 1972.

    February 20, 1942

    All signs point to continued concentration of the enemy on the job at hand, namely the conquest of the Malay Barrier (now Java, as he is on Sumatra, Bali and Timor). The great question is whether he will continue after Australia and New Zealand or will he first consolidate the N.E.I. It is the estimate of the War Plans section that he will soon try to capture Port Darwin and Port Moresby at least.

    February 21, 1942

    A discussion was held as to what was probably making up in regard to the employment of large fleet forces in the Australian-New Zealand Area. The consensus of opinion seemed to be that such supply and repair (no drydock for carrier or battleship) and because of the resulting exposure of U.S. territory to attack. However, that area is the one in which our forces will meet advancing enemy forces, and we may be forced to make the move due to political or "desperation strategical" considerations.

    February 26, 1942

    Vice Admiral Pye returned from Washington today. The chief and most disturbing report was that no over-all plan has been adopted. We don't know how "all-out" our help is to be to Australia.

    ***

    US Army in World War 2 ; The War in the Pacific, Victory in Australia

    The Occupation of Port Darwin and Broome

    Things had gone well for the enemy. He had thus far triumphed everywhere and was now ready for his first move onto the Australian mainland. On 2 February Imperial General Headquarters ordered the 4th Fleet and the South Seas Detachment to take Port Darwin and Broome, and at the proper time Port Moresby. Townsville and Cairns was also to be occupied, on a date as yet unspecified, in order, as the instructions put it, "to protect our Southern Resource Area and bring further pressure on Australia."28

    On 16 February, after some preliminary discussions, General Horii and Admiral Inouye concluded an agreement for joint operations against Port Darwin and Broome, under the terms of which Navy troops were to take both places and Army troops replace them, freeing the Navy troops for further operations. The landings were to be made before the end of the month, and the Army was to supply the permanent air garrisons for both points when their seizure had been completed.29

    The landings were delayed. The U.S. aircraft carrier Lexington and a protecting force of four heavy cruisers and ten destroyers had moved into the area on 20 February with orders to break up the gathering Japanese concentrations at Rabaul in concert with the ANZAC B-17's at Townsville. Japanese reconnaissance detected the Lexington force while it was still some 350 miles from Rabaul. After a running fight which cost the Japanese eighteen bombers, the carrier force ran short of oil and withdrew. The clash with the Lexington force upset the Japanese timetable for the Port Darwin-Broome operation, which, as a result, was postponed to 3 March.30

    The forces chosen to make the landings were elements of the 2d Battalion, 144th Infantry for Broome, and for Port Darwin a unit of the South Seas Detachment, a battalion of the Maizruru 2d Special Naval Landing Force accompanied by a naval construction unit of 400 men, and a naval base unit about 1,500 strong which with the balance of the 144th Infantry troops was to constitute the garrison force. 31

    .
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  2. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    U. S. SECRET BRITISH MOST SECRET
    C.C.S.
    11th Meeting. COMBINED CHIEFS OF STAFF MINUTES of Meeting held in Room 240, Public Health Building, on Tuesday, March 10, 1942, at 2:30 p.m.
    PRESENT
    Admiral H. R. Stark, USN
    Field Marshal Sir John Dill
    Admiral E. J. King,
    USN Admiral Sir Charles Little
    Lt. General H. H. Arnold, USA
    Lt. Gen. Sir Colville Wemyss
    Air Marshal D. C. S. Evill

    THE FOLLOWING WERE ALSO PRESENT
    Rear Admiral R. Willson, USN
    Rear Admiral J.H. Towers,
    USN Rear Admiral R.IL Turner, USN
    Brig. Gen. D. Eisenhower, USA
    Captain Oscar Smith, USN
    Captain F. C. Denebrink, USN
    Colonel T. T. Handy, USA
    Commander R. E. Libby, USN
    Major J. C. Holmes, USA
    Captain J. A. Grindle, RN
    For First Part of Meeting:
    Maj. Gen. A.Q.H. Dyxhoorn, RNA
    Representative COSC
    Admiral J.E.M. Ranneft, RNN
    Dutch Naval Attache
    Col. F.G.L. Weijerman, RNIA
    Dutch Military Attache
    Wing Comdr. C.McK. Henry, RAAF
    ABSENT
    G. Marshall, USA

    1. THE SITUATION IN THE N.E.I.
    GENERAL DYXHOORN outlined the operations in Java from the 3rd to the 7th of March.
    Since this latter date no communications had been received from Java, there was no truth in the statement that 98,000 Dutch troops had surrendered. The total forces in Java had only amounted to 60,000 men, including non-combatants, and Dutch forces had dissolved into small guerilla parties who were continuing to harry the Japanese.
    ADMITAL LITTLE said that is was now presumed that the EXETER, PERTH, ENCOUNTER, STRONGHOLD and two sloops had been lost.
    ADMIRAL KING said no news had been heard of the HOUSTON since the night action in the Sunda Straits.
    ADMIRAL RANNEFT then gave details of Dutch naval losses and the Dutch surface craft and submarines which are at or en route to Colombo.

    2. THE SITUATION IN BURMA

    SIR JOHN DILL gave details of the present situation in Burma, including the fact that British forces were withdrawing from Rangoon and demolitions were being carried out in that city. General Alexander had taken over command of the British forces in Burma.

    3. THE SITUATION IN AUSTRALIA

    WING CMDR HENRY reported that a Japanese force landed north-east of Darwin on the night of the 3rd-4th of March, supported by three cruisers and four destroyers. As enemy forces moved inland, a strong air raid was conducted by around sixty enemy bombers, escorted by twelve pursuit planes. The air raid disrupted the defences, which were further disordered by accurate sustained fire from the enemy cruisers on the afternoon of the 4th. After hard fighting around Darwin Aerodrome, a staged retreat was conducted on the night of the 4th-5th to prepared positions south of Darwin before the enemy forces cut the road south.

    WING CMDR HENRY reported a Japanese force landed at Broome on the day of the 4th of March, supported by one cruiser and two destroyers, landing troops and taking the town.

    GENERAL DYXHOORN stated the loss of Port Darwin and Broome would make it essentially impossible to evacuate civilians and wounded from the N.E.I.
     
  3. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    CHAPTER VII
    THREAT TO AUSTRALIA: THE JAPANESE OFFENSIVE

    https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/ABDA Reports/ABDA V2 P1/ch7.htm#p131


    Plans Against Australia


    While the Port Moresby and Tulagi invasions were in abeyance, discussions between the Army and Navy High Commands on the whole issue of future operational policy regarding Australia came to a head. These discussions had been initiated by the Navy as early as January, but had produced no concrete results owing to a sharp divergence of opinion with the Army.

    On the basis of its estimate that the United States Fleet would not recover from its Pearl Harbor losses quickly enough to assume the offensive in the Western Pacific before the end of 1942, the Navy, particularly the staff of the Combined Fleet, contended that Japan should not switch to a defensive policy of merely holding on to its already-established gains. A reversion to negative policies based on the original war plans, it was argued, would nullify Japan's early victories and invite a prolonged stalemate in which America's growing material strength would spell Japan's defeat.30

    [131]

    In support of this thesis, the Fourth Fleet command at Truk pointed to the gradually increasing flow of American war materiel, especially aircraft, to Australia, warning that this clearly indicated Allied intent to build up the subcontinent as a powerful counter-offensive base. Were this intent allowed to materialize, the Navy's existing defense line from eastern New Guinea to the Bismarcks and northern Solomons might prove inadequate to check an Allied counter-thrust.31 Consequently, the Navy insisted that Japan's wisest course lay in remaining actively on the offensive in the southeastern area, with the ultimate objective of drawing the Allied fleet into decisive battle by attacking Australia itself while gaining bases for the shore based air power that would aid in this decisive battle.

    In addition to these strategic considerations, the Navy proponents of an Australian invasion also advanced the political advantages to Japan of knocking Australia out of war and the added economic strength which would be gained through the acquisition of Australian wool, wheat, fertilizers and other resources.32

    The dominant section of the Navy thus demanded a complete change-over from the original defensive concept of the southeastern front to one in which it would become a stepping-stone to further expansion. The Army Section of Imperial General Headquarters, however, strongly opposed over-extension of army commitments in that area and rejected a full invasion of Australia as a reckless undertaking far in excess of Japan's capabilities.33 Ground force strength required for such an operation was estimated at 12 combat divisions, which would strip other fronts considered more important by the Army. Also, Japan's available shipping, the Army contended, was unequal to the logistical task of transporting and supplying a force of such size.34

    However, the Navy's insistence upon positive action to check the

    [132]

    growth of Allied strength in the southeast area36 led the Army to concur finally, by 2 February, in a compromise plan envisaging the occupation of strategic points in Port Darwin, Broome, Townsville and Cairns, to be carried out as resources permitted. Port Moresby was to be left 'on the branch', with hopes that Japanese air and submarine forces could successfully attack any resupply, or evacuation, convoys. As further steps to strengthen the Japanese strategic position and disrupt the flow of American supplies to Australia, the Navy had already ordered intensification of submarine warfare in the Pacific and Indian Oceans,37 and planned the early seizure of Nauru and Ocean Islands, west of the Gilberts.38

    The compromise plan had the perceived advantage for the Army of needing many fewer troops, and for the Navy as providing excellent opportunities to bring the Allies forces into decisive battle under favourable terms.

    Preparations by the Fourth Fleet and South Seas Detachment for the Broome and Port Darwin invasions were already complete, and the start of subsequent operations waited the impending arrival at Truk of a supporting Task Force dispatched by the Combined Fleet, including the 5th Carrier Division (Zuikaku and Shokaku) and the 5th Cruiser Division.39

    Through the subsequent conquest of Townsville and Cairns, in particular, the Navy planned to establish air and submarine bases which would enable it to command both air and shipping routes from the United States to eastern Australia. Special emphasis was to be placed upon stopping the ferrying of American aircraft to Australia via the South Pacific, and the destruction of tankers transporting fuel supplies. It was estimated that such a blockade, if effective, would retard, if not prevent, Australia's development into an Allied offensive base.40
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  4. Pangur The Cat Donor

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    Australia
    Interesting! A few quick questions, when did the pacific war start and why was there no one from the RAN at that big meeting?
     
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  5. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    December 7, 1941, and because it's the Combined Chiefs of Staff - the RAN just isnt important enough :) The RAAF Wing Co was at a later meeting of that committee in OTL, (https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/Dip/Conf/Arcadia/POST_ARC.PDF look for the March 31 1942 meeting) so I assume he was Australian and around Washington and thus got to give the report.

    The only change from OTL is the IJN has realised that MO is pointless, and the Army has gone along with a "limited campaign" in Australia designed to pull the Allied fleet to where the Navy can smash it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  6. SenatorChickpea Well-Known Member

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    This is going to have some fascinating cultural effects. Certainly, the traditional xenophobia against Asians coming from the north is going to be grossly strengthened.
     
  7. Pangur The Cat Donor

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    Quite likely, on the other hand if as its a near certainty the aboriginals play there part evicting the Japanese that would help their cause no end
     
  8. SenatorChickpea Well-Known Member

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    Never underestimate Australian society's capacity to ignore our indigenous people.
     
  9. GarethC Well-Known Member

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    @Ian_W, the first post has the year as 1941 in all its dates; should that be 1942?
     
  10. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    Fixed :) That whole section is OTL btw ...
     
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  11. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    War Plans and Files of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet
    Running Estimate and Summary maintained by Captain James M. Steele, USN, CINCPAC staff at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, covering the period 7 December 1941 –31 August 1942.

    Declassified 3 May 1972.

    (Messages from 04 and 05 March 1942)

    04 1525 COMINCH TO COMSOUWESPACTFOR

    CONTINUE ACTIVE SUBMARINE OPERATIONS IN ABDA AREA PARA ATTACK ENEMY VESSELS WITHIN AREA AND EXITING FROM PASSES COMMA OPPOSE ENEMY REINFORCEMENT OF AUSTRALIA LANDINGS AND MAINTAIN ESSENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS WITH PHILIPPINES PARA MAKE USE OF AIR AUGMENTED BY OWN ARMY AIR AND AUSTRALIAN AIR AS ARRANGED FOR BY COMANZAC FOR SUPPORT OF ENEMY AIR BASES PARA REPORT BY RETURN DESPATCH WHAT SURFACE FORCES REMAIN INCLUDING AUXILIARIES AND WHICH OF THEM YOU FEEL YOU CAN ACTIVELY EMPLOY AGAINST THE ENEMY WHILE CONTINUING TO OPERATE IN THE ABDA AREA PARA MAKE SIMILAR REPORT AS TO AUSTRALIAN NAVAL UNITS ALLOCATED TO ABDA AREA

    05 0337 CINCPAC TO COMINCH

    Your 282035 believe there should be retained in Souwestpacfor maximum number of submarines that can be supported within reasonable range of the NEI and Northern Australia. Additional tender should be assigned if required. Of submarines which cannot be maintained by the Souwestpacfor all Sail class should be assigned to Anzac area and large type with appropriate tenders shifted to Sydney which is considered satisfactory as base for patrols to east of Anzac. Pearl based units should take over Pelews and other Asiastic areas when Comsouwestpac is ready to release them also Solomon-Rabaul Area. 10 S-type enroute should be assigned to Anzac less Solomon-Rabaul area with tender or tenders as necessary. Comsubpac considers 1500 miles their maximum practicable operating range. Present sound school and assignment to Dutch Harbour with appropriare rotation should be continued.
     
  12. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    Journal of the Australian War Memorial - Issue 34
    David Horner, Blamey: the Commander-in-Chief, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1998, xviii + 686 pp., illustrations, bibliography, index, hard cover, rrp A$49.95.
    Reviewed by: CARL BRIDGE, Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College, London
    Australians of my generation - whose parents fought in the Second World War - grew up with a number of oft-repeated stories that were hardly complimentary to our nation's wartime commander-in-chief. "That bastard Blamey", as he was almost invariably called, was the man who accused some of our men of "running like rabbits" at Darwin, though he himself was safe in Melbourne at the time. He was the bloke who escaped by plane from Greece taking his son with him and leaving many other people's sons behind to die or be captured. He was the police commissioner in 1930s Melbourne whose badge was found in a brothel. He was the general who dismissed his field commander in Queensland to save his own skin, while having denied the same commander the resources to defend his positions. In short, we heard that Blamey was selfish, corrupt and cowardly, and that we saved Australia in 1942 despite Blamey rather than because of him.

    Assessments by Blamey's peers were more mixed. His American superior, General Brett, thought him a "sensual, slothful and doubtful moral character but a tough commander who kept going in an emergency. The best of the local bunch." Another American senior officer saw only a "drunken old fool". Churchill described Blamey as a "more ardent politician than soldier". An Australian general, George Vasey, called him "the Lord", a "tiresome fellow - swollen-headed and pig-headed beyond words". No wonder Curtin had to come to Blamey's defence, saying he had appointed "a military leader not a Sunday School teacher".
     
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  13. Sam R. Well-Known Member

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    May 11, 2011
    I guess this characterisation by an American military historian author suggests something about Australia’s competence. Not that it isn’t a subcontinent within the larger actual continent, but not even bothering with nationalist soft soap.

    Depends on the liberation of what became Indonesia doesn’t it? “Indonesia, Australia’s bulwark against imperialism.” “Labour helps our anti-Jap mates. Where were the Dutch?” “We must acknowledge and help our neighbours to the north in their endeavours against communism.” Bingo bango “not all asians.”

    There was no chance that the aboriginal movement was going down a national liberation route despite its links with the CPA. You need to remember that the CPA were electoralist left social democrats. A left opposition to labour. One place the CPA could be of help is in Army Education as historically with anglos. This might mean a nationally networked liberal/social democratic network of aboriginal peoples much earlier.

    What you’re going to get from The State is the fuzzy wussy angel syndrome. Look how Australia treated the protectorate and the nation of PNG. Expect The Big Australian to build Nasty Big Mines, and more of them.

    Surely this is a bowdlerisation? Bastard would be a term of respect in this context?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  14. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    Second World War Official Histories

    - Volume V – South–West Pacific Area – First Year: The Defence of Australia (1st edition, 1959)

    Chapter 1 – Before the Storm

    Military thinking had long been based on the premises that "an invading force will endeavour to bring our main forces to battle and defeat them. The most certain way to do this will be to attack us at a point which we must defend. The objective of an invading force therefore will probably be some locality in which our interests are such that the enemy will feel sure that we shall be particularly sensitive to attack. Thus the geographical objective of land invasion would be some compact, vulnerable area, the resources of which are necessary to the economic life of Australia."9
    So the problems of the defence of the Newcastle-Sydney-Port Kembla area to which the above conditions plainly applied, became the paramount ones in Australian defence thinking. That area contained almost a quarter of the Australian population, the chief commercial ports, the only naval repair establishments in the country ,and the largest industrial plants; these were dependent upon the large coal deposits which the area contained.

    In accordance with this general outline Mackay was required to think in terms of the defence of his vital areas plus provision for the defence of Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Fremantle and Albany.

    Points outside this perimeter were accordingly issued with very little of the limited resources available, even after the return of the experienced divisions of the AIF.

    On 4th February 1942 Mackay produced and Sturdee generally concurred in" a memorandum stating the principles mentioned above butextending the area of concentration to embrace Melbourne, and Brisbane where newly-arrived American detachments had established themselves. Mackay wrote that the Melbourne-Brisbane region, 1,000 miles from north to south, had scarcely five divisions to defend it. He did not propose,therefore, while the main areas remained equally threatened, to attempt to defend either Tasmania or Townsville with more troops than were in those areas then . The troops then in north Queensland—a few battalions —should remain there for reasons of "morale and psychology". He asked that the Government should either confirm his proposal not to reinforce Townsville or Tasmania or else give"some further direction regarding thedegree of such defence".

    On paper the home forces of February 1942 appeared fairly formidable; in reality deficiencies in strength, training and particularly equipment were likely for some months to make them less powerful in the field than perhaps three well-trained, well-equipped divisions. In addition Mackay was well aware that he could not defend his main areas simply by clustering his forces round the immediate vicinity of those areas. Fully alive to the intrinsic importance of Brisbane and Melbourne he none the less considered them chiefly important as defining the flanks, or perhaps the front and rear, of his most vital areas so that, in effect, to carry out the task of protecting Newcastle-Sydney-Port Kembla, he had to think in termsm of the vast area Brisbane-Melbourne.Mr F. M. Forde, the Minister for the Army in the recently elected Labour Government, whose electorate was in north Queensland, recommended that the Cabinet decide to defend "the whole of the populated area of Australia". This discussion was still in progress later in February when knowledge that the 6th and 7th Divisions were returning and that an American division had been allotted to Australia altered the situation. The Japanese occupation of Darwin on 4th of March brought these issues from the theoretical into utmost urgency.
    .


    https://screenshots.firefox.com/pVMG40Ystm9TRIZM/s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com

    ***

    Sturdee memo regarding the return of the AIF, and subsequent deployment

    https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1070592/document/5519875.PDF
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  15. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Bastard is one of those words thats very heavy on the context :)
     
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  16. Sam R. Well-Known Member

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    Uhh. Elections 1940 and 1943. Recently appointed? Recently negotiated? Curtin achieved confidence after the conservative parties failed the conservative cross bench independents confidence. The official Australian history is unlikely to make this error certainly?


    > you old bastard

    I had more been thinking the c— of the Stuart. Also an Australian context sensitive noun.
     
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  17. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    That exact part is unedited cut-and-paste from the official Australian history of WW2 :) Page 8 here.

    https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1070130/document/5519456.PDF

    The tension between Frank Forde's desire to see North Queensland protected and the Mackay/Sturdee memo are pretty obvious ...
     
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  18. Sam R. Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    GJ official history! I guess it was Friday Arvo at AWM when that page was being written.

    As far as Australia being NSW and NSW being Newcastle Sydney Wollongong he is right. But the Brisbane line makes a lot of sense. Because this is the line defensible by the RN^wUSN. For IJA long range recon patrols there’s a desert.

    The Far North Queensland and North Queensland issues go back to the debate over whether Australia should be white or slave^wBritish Pacific Islander guest worker. Conceptions about unfitness for white settlement were challenged historically by chokos in the PNG campaign. Sending companies of chokos to harass the Darwin perimeter by land—before the yanks build the railroad—are certainly going to cause a reaction against the white and aboriginal populations.

    Merry Christmas Missus Tenko.
     
  19. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    U.S. Army in World War II:
    The War in the Pacific
    Strategy and Command, the first two years

    https://history.army.mil/html/books/005/5-1/CMH_Pub_5-1.pdf

    In the record time of two weeks, not without considerable difficulty and confusion Task Force 6184, including about 4,000 air and service troops for Australia, was organized, equipped, and loaded aboard seven transports, all that could be assembled on the east coast at that time.
    On 23 January it sailed from New York and reached Melbourne, via the Panama Canal, on 26 February. In Australia, where there was considerable anxiety over the safety of the homeland and where American ground forces had not yet made their appearance, envious eyes were cast upon this large force, not only by the Australians but by the American commanders as well. But there was no mistaking the destination of Task Force 6184 or General Marshall's injunction that this force was to be used along the line of communications, not as reinforcements for Australia or the ABDA area.

    The transshipment of Task Force 6184 from Melbourne to New Caledonia was a heavy task. The troops had to be debarked and those intended for use in Australia sent to their destinations with their equipment. Laboring in the heat of the Australian summer, the dock workers at Melbourne were at their task when news of the Japanese landings at Port Darwin and Broome broke, and a sudden crisis of political and labor dimensions enveloped Task Force 6184.

    The Australian Minister for the Army, Frank Forde, whose district comprised much of North Queensland, contacted General Barnes to request that Task Force 6184 be re-routed to Queensland, as the natural next target of the Japanese. General Barnes replied that he had his orders from General Marshall, and suggested that the Australian government put that request through to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. On the news that the American convoy was not going to Queensland, the Australian dock workers declared a wildcat strike, which was ended by personal reassurances from General Monash that the Task Force the convoy carried would indeed be protecting Australia. In the febrile atmosphere of invasion, this was interpreted by the dock workers that the convoy would in fact be going to Queensland, and work recommenced.

    On the political side, the Australian Prime Minister repeated the same request by telephone, and was given the same answer. It is reported that Mr Curtin and Mr Forde agreed 'we need Mac', in the hope that General MacArthur, the American commander in the besieged Philippines, would be a more effective advocate for reinforcements to Australia.

    By 6 March the work was complete, and on that date the the seven transports of Task Force 6184, with naval escort, set sail for New Caledonia.
     
  20. Ian_W Well-Known Member

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    Aug 2, 2015
    U.S. Army in World War II:
    The War in the Pacific
    Strategy and Command, the first two years

    On 6 March, when the situation in Australia was critical, John Curtin had asked Roosevelt if the United States would, among other things, send two divisions to Australia and one to New Zealand. After consulting his military advisers, Roosevelt agreed to the Prime Minister's proposal, together with all military resources in Australia and New Zealand coming under a single ANZAC command. The Australians, who had correctly diagnosed the Japanese plans of invasion, accepted this arrangement, and requested General MacArthur to lead it.

    The War Department there-upon selected the 32d Division, already alerted for shipment to Ireland, for assignment to Australia. It would arrive in May, and, with the 41st, scheduled to leave within the month, would place two American divisions in the Southwest Pacific.

    For New Zealand the Army planners picked the 37th Division (Ohio National Guard). Already that division's 147th Infantry Regiment (less one battalion) had been sent to Tongatabu, and in mid-April an advance detachment of eighty men left for New Zealand. The division itself was scheduled to sail late the next month.

    The administrative split of ABDA command had already been suggested by General Wavell, and given the views of the Australian and New Zealand governments, it was relatively simple to create an ANZAC area with all land and air forces under unified American command. However, the Australian government's request for haste in appointing a joint commander had an unfortunate concequence, with the loss of General MacArthur and his aircraft in his fatal landing accident in Australia after his hurried evacuation from the Phillipines. Despite this unfortunate event, his planned deputy General Brett was able to take over his position with minimal friction.

    The Australian government also made a similar request to London, and Prime Minister Churchill immediately promised the return of 30 000 rifles that had been sent by Australia in 1940 following the Dunkirk evacuation, plus whatever anti-tank weapons, artillery amd sub-artillery that were not needed for immediate use in the Middle East or for Home Defence.

    But before the 37th Division left the President precipitated another comprehensive review of deployment to the Pacific by raising the question early in April of the defenses of Fiji and New Caledonia, a review that led to a change in the destination of the 37th Division.
    The question that divided the participants in this review was whether the Japanese landings in northern Australia were a limited operation with limited objectives, a feint designed to attract attention away from an operation against Pearl Harbour or the chain of islands that provided the line of communication between Australia and the United States, or the opening steps of a campaign to conquer, as opposed to isolate, Australia.

    Generally, the Army was of the first view, and the Navy of the second and the Australian government was of the third.

    Leading up to the review, the best estimate was the Japanese had a mixed brigade of IJA and IJN troops in Port Darwin, and a reinforced company in Broome. A detachment of Japanese engineers were repairing the aerodrome and port facilities of Darwin, with the aim of making it a base for aircraft that could dominate the northern Australian waters.

    On the Allied side, facing them south of Port Darwin were an under-strength ad hoc battalion of mixed Australian army, navy and air force personell, the remnants of the Port Darwin garrison that were planning to hold any Japanese advance to Katherine. Townsville was defended by a battalion of Australian troops, while the five under-equipped Australian territorial divisons were mostly concentrated within the triangle defined by Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane. Two Australian divisions were on their way back from the Middle East, and expected to be ready in April. The Australian garrison at Port Moresby provided another understrength battalion, but it's safe return appeared chancy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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