Advancing National Interests: Deciding Australia's War Strategy, 1944-45

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    Australia's war effort during the last two years of the Second World War has been the subject of considerable criticism, much of it ill-informed. Some historians have claimed that the operations in Bougainville and New Guinea were part of an ‘unnecessary war’. The British historian Sir Max Hastings went further when he claimed that ‘as the war advanced, grateful as were the Allies for Australia's huge contribution towards feeding their soldiers, there was sourness about the limited contribution by this country of seven million people’. According to Hastings, the Australians were ‘bludging’ he has claimed, for example, that the government cut the Army's size by 22 per cent because of the ‘unpopularity of military service’. These claims are a distortion of what actually happened. The deployment of five Australian divisions during the 1943 offensives was hardly a ‘limited contribution’. And in July 1945 Australia had more infantry divisions (six of its seven) in action at one time than in any other month of the war. Hastings was, however, right in one respect: in the last year of the war, the Commander-in-Chief (C-in C) of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), General Douglas MacArthur, sidelined Australia's troops into campaigns that could not affect the outcome of the war. While it is important to examine views such as these, it is equally important to ask other questions. Why and how did Australia change its war strategy for 1944 and 1945? What were the alternatives? Were Australia's national interests advanced? Did Australia have the most appropriate machinery for determining its war strategy? What roles were played by the key individuals? The answers might help place Australia's war effort in a broader historical context and also provide some guidance for latter-day strategic decision-makers. In considering these issues it is important to remember that that strategy is not just about the deployment of forces, but also about the allocation of resources.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAustralia 1944-45: Victory in the Pacific
    Editors P.J. Dean
    Place of PublicationPort Melbourne, Australia
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107083462
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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