ADVANTAGES

Both Curtin and Churchill were looking eagerly to the United States to assist their respective nations in the war most threatening to those nations. This would place them in a headlong competition for resources and control of strategic direction of the war. Churchill saw this competition as potentially damaging to his strategy of enticing the United States into the war against Germany, so he visited Washington to take part in the First Washington conference, known as the Arcadia conference, with Roosevelt, where the beat-Hitler-first strategy was enshirined in a formal agreement, the document detailing these plans being called "W.W.I". Although many US military and naval figures explained the American agreement to this plan as a wily Churchill's scheming pulling the wool over the eyes of a compassionate, yet easily led, Roosevelt to ensure the US would commit to the European theater. From the perspective of the entire global conflict, the idea of focusing maximum offensive power against Germany while fighting a defensive war in the Pacific against Japan does seem to make perfect military sense. Nazi Germany was a powerful central European nation that could, and in many cases did, expand in any direction. Japan is a nation in the north Pacific, already in a war with China that had increasingly become a military quagmire for Japan. This east Asian nation, surrounded by large bodies of water and with few resources of its own, could easily be blockaded by the Allies. Of course, it is tragically convenient that this pragmatic view in a global context is beneficial to the nation represented by one of the signatories, Churchill. Australia did not possess the convenient position of Britain and the United States, it could not afford to wait to be retrieved by Britain after a Japanese invasion. Despite this formal commitment to taking the offensive against Germany, US military planners were beginning to see Australia as a well-positioned and willing territory from which an Allied offensive could be launched against Japan and its massive, recently acquired empire in South-East Asia. By February, Roosevelt had publicly pledged that the defence of Australia was an aim of his administration. US servicemen began pouring into Australia, and this trend continued throughout 1942, the figures rising as the year passed, culminating to a peak in 1943. An Australian guidebook was distributed to them, which contained in its pages a waring that US troops were not here to save Australia, Australian troops have an excellent fighting record from the war underway. The author of the guidebook retells a conversation overheard in a King's Cross pub, two Americans swagger into a bar, spot an Australian, and say "two Americans swagger into a bar, spot an Australian, and say 'You can go home mate, we're here to save you', the Australian looked them up and down, commenting 'I thought you were refugees from Pearl Harbor'". Unlike the arrival of the US naval squadron, the arrival of US servicemen was not announced for security reasons, it was not until March 1942 that the Australian press announced their arrival to the world. Even if the GIs were not greeted with an emotional outpouring, the Australians were friendly enough to their Pacific partners, at least initially, many Australians competed with neighbours to see who could be the first to invite a Yank for a family meal. Through awareness of cultural differences between two societies that accompanies close contact, many Australians began to notice the disparities between the Hollywood image and reality: the US army had more lavish pay scales than the Australian army; GIs had better access to goods; and with many Australian men serving overseas or within Australia, many Australian women opted to fraternize with the sexually sophisticated, relatively wealthy Americans, which, contrasted with the enduring stereotype of the Australian digger who prefers the company of his mates, the Americans being a rare phenomenon prior to the war. The general public complained of women being too friendly with the Americans, showing outrage at this "moral madness". It is little wonder that Australian diggers felt resentment. Groups of them roamed about, acting like moral police: separating embracing couples, and teaching the Yank that public spectacles like that was not welcome here in Australia. The problems were not all one-sided: US troops resented inflated Yank prices in Australian stores; Americans were genuinely puzzled by industrial strikes and stoppages during the war; and, as conscripts themselves, hated with a passion the Australian tradition of refusing to send conscripts overseas. Clashes, occasionally devolving into full blown riots, occurred between GIs and diggers, the general public becoming involved in many cases. Similar to the British population, who witnessed a large American build-up in their country during the war, the Australians' opinion of US servicemen was "overpaid, oversexed and over here". The police were more concerned with individual women's sexuality than cleaning up the professional sex trade, which had grown significantly around military bases. While Curtin turned his attention from Australia's traditional protector, London, to Washington, the Australian 8th Division was heavily involved with a British Commonwealth force, fighting for a common imperial cause, the defence of the fortress on Singapore Island. With almost a million civilians, 85,000 troops, and refugees from Malaya escaping the Japanese, on the island, acute food shortages, and the water supply obtained from the mainland, the military appreciation of the circumstances was grim. On 15 February 1942 General Percival surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. Most of the Australians within the fortress at the time, as well as some British troops, were dragged to Changi prisoner-of-war camp. Occupying twenty-five square kilometers on the peninsula at the eastern end of Singapore Island, Changi POW camp is seven camps instead of only one. As far as Japanese POW camps operating during the Pacific war go, Changi was relatively benign. It was a camp intended to temporarily house POWs before transportation to other camps in South-East Asia, there were 5,549 Australian POWs remaining in Changi and other camps on Singapore Island and Malaya by the end of the war. With the imperial defence strategy in ruins, the fortress that was the centerpiece of the strategy a captured prize for the Japanese, and Australia's fate uncertain, the troops and officers of the AIF 6th and 7th divisions in the Middle East demanded to return to the Far East to defend their homeland. Strangely enough after he had fought so hard for a single Australian division for the Middle East, Churchill obliged, agreeing to send the Australian 7th Division, and elements of the 6th Division within the hulls of seventy ships of varying size across the Indian Ocean, surrounded by waters full of lurking Japanese submarines, and under skies patrolled by Japanese aircraft searching for Allied ships. The division's original destination was Java, to assist Allied operations in the soon-to-be-formed command in the south-western Pacific, the divisions being loaded aboard the ships with artillery transported separately for relatively rapid transport. As the Australian divisions embarked upon their long voyage, the remnants of the defeated Commonwealth defenders of Singapore sought scapegoats for the defeat of the fortress that had long been boasted of by the British as impregnable. The British commanders accused the Australians of looting, rape, murder, defying orders, fighting their way onto civilian evacuation ships, and other breaches of discipline. The 8th's commander, Major-General Gordon Bennett, who should have been setting a good example, fled on an evacuation ship, making his way back to Australia via Sumatra and Java, later claiming his knowledge of effective tactics for fighting the Japanese were necessary in Australia. Bennett, in turn, accused the British commanders in Malaya of a "retreat complex". Later, in June 1942, Wavell unfairly apportioned blame to for the fall of Singapore to the Australians. Unlike Australian politicians, Churchill accepted that Singapore was lost, and the Japanese assault on Rangoon in adjacent Burma competed with Singapore for British reinforcement, the British prime minister arguing that "In the widest view, Burma was more important than Singapore". The Australian government was of the opinion that Singapore should be reinforced at all cost, though all was already lost. Churchill advocated evacuating Singapore for the benefit of Burma. If Singapore was evacuated, reinforcements could be diverted to Burma, and victorious Japanese troops would be employed in capturing the latest Japanese prize, rather than join the Japanese army in the offensive against Rangoon in Burma. In Australia, a stressed Curtin was convinced to take a recuperative trip by train to his home city of Perth. Warned by Australian representatives in London of the British prime minister's intentions for Singapore, a cabinet without Curtin's moderating influence drafted a cable to send to Churchill. With a great deal of input from the aggressive Dr Evatt, it indicated that an evacuation of Singapore would be regarded as

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