Australian Divisions kept at SW Pacific in 1943-45

Discussion in 'Australia & New Zealand' started by merdiolu, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Hello there. I have an question to ask. Between 1943-45 after Japanese threat on Australia and New Guinea was neutralised was it necessary to keep all Australian divisons in Pacific ? The way I see it MacArthur simply did not give them (even veterans from North Africa whom had immense experience unlike Americans ) much importance due to his vanity and national arrogance. And most of Australian units were used in occupy / siege duties in New Britain or New Guinea then Borneo after 1943. Meanwhile British/Commonwealth armies were in severe manpower shortage during campaigns in Europe between 1944-45. Would one division like experienced 9th Australian Division or a detachment ease manpower issues of Allies in European Theater ? Why was not asked or why goverment did not send a division or a detachment to Italy or Europe or just Mediterranean in 1944-45 just to show flag ? Was there any strong anti British Commonwealth theme in Australia back then ?

    PS: If there is any offensive meaning in my post I am sorry it is really unintentional. Since Australia was still a part of Commonwealth it seemed strange to me that's all.
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The Australian Army was needed where it was, albeit not always for a first-line combat or assault role. As MacArthur's US troops advanced towards the Philippines in 1944, he needed additional troops to contain the large numbers of Japanese left behind in bypassed areas of New Guinea, New Britain, Bougainville, etc. However, it is also true that the Australian government was not entirely happy with this situation. The level of mobilzation in Australia was very high relative to population, and this was difficult to justify if the army was only being employed in a secondary role. The government and the army high command spent a lot of time in 1944 seeking an alternative strategy that would give the Australian army an important role of its own. The favored project was an attack on the Dutch East Indies, in conjunction with the Royal Navy. However, the plan never took shape because Britain was unable to provide a fleet of sufficient strength.

    After the fall of Singapore, the Australian government became very disillusioned with the British, and this was reflected in the decision to withdraw the entire AIF from the Middle East. By 1944, however, the Australians had become disillusioned with the US as well, and they had by no means entirely renounced the British connection. But the government felt that Australian troops should be best employed in an indepedent role, and not simply as 'flag showers' either with MacArthur or with British forces in Europe. As far as showing the flag goes, the RAAF had a huge commitment in Europe. Bear in mind, too, that by 1944 it was becoming very hard for the Australians both to maintain their forces and to support wartime industry and agriculture as well. At its peak post-Pearl Harbor strength, the Australian Army counted 14 divisions; by 1944, only six remained in the field, the others having been disbanded to strengthen the remainder or to send men back to the civilian economy. Australia, like Britain, was at the limit of its manpower.
  3. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    OP raises an interesting question which concerns many factors including manpower availability, independence of operation, equipment, division type and so on. The only way I can see one division fitting in was with the Canadians or New Zealanders which immediately raises the question of command, by then Blamey would have had a gutful of both the British and the Americans (via MacArthur) styles of command. I suspect that this factor by itself would have been enough to stop any thoughts of an ETO commitment. But let's continue anyway.

    There was enough suitable manpower available so that would no be a deal breaker, the preferred division type would I think have been armoured which brings us to equipment. Neither the 17pdr or 25pdr versions of the Sentinel tank were near full production and given much of the powertrain was sourced from the US this was never really going to happen, mainly because the US knew best and wanted everyone to use the bloody Sherman. But given that the big gunned Sentinels were considered, in the light of previous experience, necessary to fight the Germans it's unlikely that the Sherman would have been acceptable at all and with good reason I think.
  4. Bernhart

    Bernhart Member

    Wasn't there a new zealand division in Italy until the end?
  5. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Yes and they were under Mark Clark. Enough said.
  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    For what, a single mechanized division a la 2nd NZ in Italy? I don't see how such a small commitment in Europe could possibly have served Australian interests. At least in the Pacific and SE Asia the Australians could still field a fair-sized force in an area that was strategically and politically relevant to their security.
  7. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Agree, certainly politically anyway although I get the impression that the army wouldn't have minded having another go at ze Germans.
  8. Over Here

    Over Here Junior Member

    As I see it, Australia and New Zealand both suffered from the problem that afflicted Canada in WWII, but oddly not in WWI: lack of determined national leadership with a clear understanding of the need to fight as a corps with a separate national identiry, and not allow divisions to be parceled out here and there to British command. Canada had Sam Hughes to thank for that, principally, and by the end of WWI everyone else had reason to thank him too, spiteful and misguided though he was at times.

    The collective schizophrenia of the Imperial identity in the Dominions was one reason for this: were we Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders first or "British" and members of "The Empire" first? It wavered back and forth. As understanding grew of the incompetence of the high command and the habit of using Dominion troops for the hardest tasks while downplaying their role, the Dominions began to be alienated more and more. There was plenty of jealousy aroused by the success of Dominion troops in WWI and WWII, and presumably on the basis of the rather humiliating experience of WWI, in the second war much more comprehensive efforts were made to prevent a repetition of that. Evidence in itself of a mentality that was simply too small to run an empire and could only spell the end of imperial allegiances!

    The Americans of course went into WWII determined to break up the Empire for the greater good of humanity and American business, LOL. Having just sat on the limb since 1914 they were going to saw it off as no longer necessary! A record of brilliance in foreign policy that continues to this day.
  9. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    You have several exaggerations here.

    1. In WWII the Australians in the Middle East, and to some extent the NZedders as well, did their best to establish a supra-divisional organization. 6th Australian and 2nd NZ Divs fought as a corps in Greece under Blamey, and afterwards the Australian divisions were organized as I Australian Corps under Blamey's command. This corps rested and trained as a body in Palestine and Syria in late 1941 and if not for Pearl Harbor it would have played a major operational role in the 1942 campaigns against the Germans and Italians. In the Pacific, the Australians also deployed corps HQ to control their troops even within theaters dominated by the Americans. In 1945, they even put a full army HQ (1st Australian) into the field in New Guinea. The Canadians too did their best to operate under their own corps and divisional HQs. I Canadian Corps became operational in Italy late in 1943, and of course II Canadian Corps and 1st Canadian Army operated in Normandy. Parceling out of divisions, as you cal it, was typically done for sound operational reasons. The Dominion armies all needed to obtain battle experience, and often they only way the could get it was to commit individual divisions. The 6th Australian Div went into action on its own at Bardia because the organization and training of the 7th and 9th were still incomplete; deploying a three-division Australian corps in which only one division was battleworthy would not have made sense. The 9th was on its own in Tobruk because it had been sent to get some field experience and complete its training in what was then considered to be a quiet theater. The 2nd Canadian went into action at Dieppe at least in part because Canadian HQ was anxious to get some of its troops into action to provide a leaven of much-needed experience for the rest. 1st Canadian Div went to Sicily for the same reason, and very many of its officers later joined the other Canadian formations training in the UK.

    2. It is true that after WWI the Australians were more cautious about allowing British commanders free use of their troops. Blamey and Morshead both disagreed with the British command in the Middle East on several important occasions, and Curtin famously (and in my view rightly) insisted that I Australian Corps had to come home. However, your statement that the British command always used Dominion troops for the hardest tasks is not true for either the First World War of the Second. It is not clear to me whether your phrase about "the incompetence of the high command" applies to the first or the second conflict.British command was certainly flawed, especially in the early phases of both wars when staffs and troops lacked experience and sometimes the proper tools as well. If you mainly mean WWI, then you should know that current scholarship takes a much more favorable view of British generalship in that war, especially in the later phase of the conflict. The 100 Days campaign of 1918 and the Megiddo campaign in Palestine were among the greatest victories every won by British armies, and they contributed greatly to the defeat of Germany and her allies. Nor, I think, would most students characterize British leadership in WWII as incompetent either. From late 1942 on British armies were consistently successful, which would argue a pretty fair degree of competence among the men who led them (Brooke, Slim, Montgomery, McCreery, Dempsey).

    3. As to your third paragraph, I don't see how it has any relevance to the matter under discussion. It also takes a complex subject and reduces that subject to cliche.
    A-58 likes this.
  10. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Interesting post, I'll try to respond. My knowledge of the NZ contrabution is poor so that will be left for a Kiwi to fill in.

    There are several aspects of WW1, it's a fact that the first Western front attack the Australians were involved in was badly planned and wasteful so that obviously that made a significant impression. Up until then the British military was considered to be top class but it quickly became apparent that at a higher level they were not, this opinion was formed solely as a result of experience. Certainly things did improve but so did the Australian and Canadian leadership and skills, just look at the record of Monash and Currie and what they accomplished and the type of all arms warfare they waged near the end. Presumably because they were colonials their contributions to the advancement of warfare were ignored by post WW1 commentators.

    In WW2 it certainly appeared that the British used Australians as shock troops and convenient dyke hole pluggers, from what I've read about Dieppe it seems that the Canadians were used similarly. As for 'blooding' or the necessity of combat experience that depends. Rather than go on if the truth wants to be known just look at the performance of certain inexperienced Dominion troops in North Africa. The other point is that Churchill consistently 'misled' and manipulated to get his way in the use of Dominion troops in the Middle East generally and specifically in Greece and Crete. All this has been the subject of various books and comment, there is nothing new about it.

    I like your last paragraph :) What we don't hear about as far as Lend Lease goes is that Australia was in credit at the end of the war due to the goods and services we provided to the the US. But when it came to the US to supply us with powertrains and machine tools for our Sentinel tank project, oh sorry, we don't have any spare. Right.

    Just to be clear, the above is just to provide some balance to what the major powers did and claimed to have done during WW's 1 and 2, the situations, perspectives and contributions of the little fellows tend to get overwhelmed by those of the big fellas.
  11. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member Patron

    Do you have any references for this claim? Or is it just your personal assessment? I have not read anything that reflects ideology of this sort in my studies, but of course that doesn't mean that some sort of reliable claim for such a position exists, and if so I would greatly like to have access to it for my own academic fulfillment on the matter.

    What I have learned was that Uncle Sam was not interested in fighting to save the Empire, British or others, but to end the war. If colonies or countries that composed the assorted empires were to gain their independence as a result of those empires in question being bled white by the war, then so be it. But there was no diabolical plan to dismember anyone's empire. If there was, then we wouldn't have opposed the French demands to be let back into Indochina, or opposed the Dutch re-establishing their holdings in Indonesia for example. Nor would we have gained any UN Trusts in the Pacific. Those that we did gain were handed over to us by the UN. They were League of Nations Mandates that the Japanese obtained from the Germans during and after WW1. However in keeping with the anti-colonial leanings, we did grant the Philippines their independence in 1946. They suffered enough under the benevolent Japanese and their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and also when Douglas returned in the 1944-45 campaign to clear the Japs out. Boy he did make a mess out of the place, but we freed them dang it!

    And as for "sitting on the limb since 1914", well y'all made a mess of things in Europe in 1914. It was not incumbent on US to go over there and straighten things out until the Kaiser decided to re-unleash unrestricted U-Boat warfare and try to convince Mexico to join the Central Powers and attack the US in hopes of reclaiming their losses in the Mexican Cession after the war in 1846-48. And who can forget Pershing's Punitive Mission wasteful jaunt into Mexico, looking for Pancho Villa.

    Here's a little background material for those who feel so inclined to brush up on the events of Uncle Sam's lead-up to the Great War.

    And as for the lead-up to the festivities known as WW2, well we really didn't want to be involved in another European War. Some did, but most folks here didn't. We were mired in the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, Prohibition and other pastimes. But when the Japanese invited us, we obliged them along with the Krauts and the Ities as well.

    I really don't know anything about the above mentioned Australian Sentinel tank project at all, and Uncle Sam's reluctance to supply technology for it either. We were supplying and feeding a lot of other people then, maybe that had something to do with it. I don't know. I do know that we refused Stalin's request for B-29s, and didn't include them on the Manhattan Project either, so there's no reason to feel totally left out. The Rooskies invited themselves to Los Alamos anyway, by spying on the entire operation. Can't trust those commies eh!
  12. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    What evidence is there for the belief that the British high command had a policy of throwing Dominion divisions into the hardest of the fighting or giving them hopeless assignments? Someone please give some specifics, by which I mean documents, official histories, eyewitness accounts, or recorded conversations. Hints and allegations are not enough.
  13. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Greece and Crete were hopeless assignments by any reasonable military assessment, another political extravagance by Churchill using other countries resources and then not reasonably supporting them. Singapore which according to Churchill was impregnable and which turned out to be undefendable due to neglect and Churchill's preference to send aircraft to Russia rather than support those who had volunteered to help Britain there. Three out of the four infantry divisions at El Alamein selected to be involved in the main attack were not British, the other was Scots. And of course it's the infantry divisions there, poorly supported except by artillery, who were always going to cop the heaviest casualties.

    Noone is going to sit down and put any such preferences on paper for obvious reasons, in this actions speak with conclusive authority compared with mere words anyway. Or was all of the above just a inexplicable coincidence?
  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    So, no evidence is the proof of a conspiracy?
  15. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    No conspiracy involved but evidence of an intention does not necessarily involve the writing down or discussion of that intention. Doing an act repeatedly is very good evidence that the act is done intentionally if you want to get legal about it. Even doing it once is often good enough legally.

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