Chapter 23: After The Cease Fire
THROUGHOUT July and early August the British and Australian Governments had been discussing the part that the British Commonwealth should play in the invasion of Japan. Mr Churchill had cabled to the Australian Prime Minister on 4th July that he was considering a plan to provide a British Commonwealth force of three to five divisions supported by British naval and air forces. He asked whether an Australian division that he understood was available, the Australian Navy, and Australian air squadrons, would join the force, which might consist of “British, Australian, New Zealand, British-Indian and possibly Canadian divisions” and would form “a striking demonstration of Commonwealth solidarity”.
He added that the American Joint Chiefs of Staff had proposed that they should hand over the South-West Pacific Area, less the Philippines and the Admiralty Islands bases, to British command. “They do not intend, however, to leave in this area any resources which it is possible to move farther forward, and we are therefore loath to accept responsibility for this area at the time proposed-15th August.” A tentative British proposal was that the United States should transfer responsibility for the part of the South-West Pacific Area referred to as soon as practicable, probably after the recapture of Singapore, that the Australian Chiefs of Staff, linked with the Combined Chiefs of Staff through the British Chiefs, should take over that part of the area that lay east of Celebes, while the remainder should come within Admiral Mountbatten’s command.
General Blamey drafted a reply to Mr Churchill’s cable. In it he described the proposal for a British Commonwealth force for the invasion of Japan as “most desirable” but “unrealistic and impracticable”. It would not be organised, trained and deployed before about April 1946, and he understood that the American invasion of Japan would begin at a comparatively early date. It was desired that the Australian division should take part in the main operations against Japan. “Public opinion has been restive under the allocation of our troops to secondary roles for so long and this has been cause of considerable discontent amongst forces.” It did not seem to be fully appreciated that about 70,000 Japanese remained in the islands between Celebes and Australian New Guinea and separate “arduous and inglorious jungle campaigns” would be necessary to exterminate them. All the Australian divisions were employed in active operations and no Australian troops were available for their relief or replacement.
The Defence Committee approved Blamey’s draft but the Ministers concerned evidently found some of its terms unacceptable, and the reply finally sent over the signature of Mr Chifley, who had become Prime Minister on 13th July, was much longer and gentler than Blamey’s, but followed his draft on the main points.
This telegram reached Churchill in Berlin where he was conferring with President Truman and Marshal Stalin. He replied on 26th July that the Combined Chiefs had agreed in principle that a British Commonwealth land force and possibly a small tactical air force should take part in the main operations against Japan, and in order to resolve the problems involved “appropriate British commanders and staff should visit Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur and draw up with them a plan for submission to the Combined Chiefs of Staff”. He suggested that an Australian officer should attend this conference and another Australian officer should attend discussions soon to take place in London between the Chiefs of Staff there and Admiral Mountbatten about the reorganisation of the SWPA General Blamey and Air Vice-Marshals Jones1 and Bostock were appointed to represent Australia at the Manila conference, and the Adjutant-General, Major-General C. E. M. Lloyd, flew to London to represent Australia at the conference there.
In a cable on 1st August to Mr Attlee, who had succeeded Churchill on 27th July, Chifley informed him of these appointments and raised the question of command.
It is noted (he said) that you refer to “British Commanders”. This expression is taken to mean officers of the United Kingdom Forces and not officers of British Commonwealth Forces. ... There are, of course, in the Australian Forces, officers who have distinguished themselves in the campaigns in the Middle East and the Pacific who have claims for consideration in the appointment of Commanders and Staffs. It was necessary to make representations on the claims of Australian senior Commanders to command formations comprising British Commonwealth Forces when the AIF was serving in the Middle East.
The British Government replied that it suggested the following commanders: for the naval force, Vice-Admiral Sir William Tennant2; as the army commander Lieut-General Sir Charles Keightley,3 then commanding the V Corps in Italy. For the air component, which would consist principally of Australian squadrons, an Australian should be appointed. Concerning Keightley the British cable said:
We do not think that the fact that this officer has not yet fought the Jap should be considered a handicap, since the terrain of the mainland of Japan is very different from that in which Jap has hitherto been engaged.
The surrender of Japan a few days later terminated this discussion, but it is unlikely that the Australian Government would have concurred in the appointment of an army commander who had had no experience of fighting against the Japanese when so many tried commanders far senior to Keightley were available in the Australian Army and in Burma.
Chifley received Lloyd’s report on the London conference on 11th August when Japan was already suing for peace. It said that MacArthur
had proposed that British participation in the operations against Japan should be limited to a corps including one British, one Canadian and one Australian division, all provided with American equipment, and functioning as a corps within an American army.
The problem was now to fix the scale of British Commonwealth participation not in a force to invade Japan but in an occupation force. On 13th August the United Kingdom Government suggested that Australia might contribute to the occupation force in Japan and to forces to be sent to Hong Kong, and should take initial responsibility for Borneo and all Japanese-occupied territory in the Indies east of Borneo. On the 17th the Australian War Cabinet decided to propose to the British Government that Australia should contribute to the force occupying Japan two cruisers and two destroyers, two brigade groups, and three fighter squadrons. It insisted, however, that this force should operate under an Australian commander who would be subject only to the Supreme Allied Commander. In addition, at the request of the Royal Navy, Australia was making six vessels available for Hong Kong to cooperate with two ships of the Royal Navy in minesweeping, but Australia would not provide other forces for the occupation of Hong Kong. Australia wished to have a share in the occupation of Singapore, however, and would make a parachute battalion available for this purpose.
In making these contributions (the telegram added) Australia is doing so not as subsidiary but as principal Pacific power which has for so long borne the heat and burden of the struggle against Japan.
Meanwhile some doubts arose whether there would be enough volunteers to fill the proposed occupation force. After a visit to the 6th Division General Sturdee informed General Blamey on 22nd August that it would be difficult to obtain enough officers and men to form from that division a brigade to go to Japan. Only one battalion commander was willing to accept appointment. “Most 6 Div seem to be imbued with urge return Aust at earliest for release or remain in army there,” his signal said.
General Blamey advised Sir Frederick Shedden that if the Government stated that the troops in the occupation force would be relieved after one year of service volunteers would probably be forthcoming from the 6th Division. It would be wise to call for volunteers from all divisions. He sought instructions whether he was to assume that the formation of the force would be approved.
After more discussion Attlee, on 1st September, cabled Chifley that his Government still considered that the general interests of the British Commonwealth would be better served if it was represented by a single force. If Australia agreed, Britain would welcome the appointment of an Australian as “inter-service Commander-in-Chief of the United Commonwealth Force of Occupation”. Units of the British Pacific Fleet, however, would remain under the operational control of the Commander of the British Pacific Fleet.
General Blamey signalled Mr Forde, the Minister for the Army, on the 6th that he had come to the conclusion that the occupation force should be organised in Australia. He assumed that the Government would wish home leave to be granted before departure for Japan. New conditions of service, rates of pay and so on, would have to be considered. Shortage of shipping would delay the movement for some time.
On 21st September after more discussion the Australian Government informed the United Kingdom Government that it was agreeable to participating in a British Commonwealth force, but on the assumption that an Australian officer would command it. The strength of the Australian components would be two cruisers and two destroyers, one infantry brigade group and perhaps a second one later, and three fighter squadrons. It was agreed that on policy and administrative matters the commander of the force should be responsible to the United Kingdom and Australian Governments through a Joint Chiefs of Staff body comprising the Australian Chiefs of Staff and a representative of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff. (This body was formed, and named “Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia”, or, briefly, JOCOSA.)
On 1st October the British Chiefs of Staff proposed that the army component of the British Commonwealth force should be organised into one British and one British-Indian brigade formed into a group under an Indian Army officer, and one Australian and one New Zealand brigade formed into a group under an Australian or New Zealand commander, the whole force being commanded by an Australian.
Meanwhile, before the cease fire, the boundaries of the commands in the Pacific area had been re-arranged. On 1st August Chifley had received a cable from Attlee describing decisions reached at Anglo-American discussions in Berlin, one of which was that the eastern boundary of the South-East Asia Command would, if the Dutch agreed, be extended to include Borneo, Java and Celebes. For planning purposes, he said, 15th November 1946 had been adopted as the date for the end of organised resistance by Japan.
Next day the Combined Chiefs issued a directive to Mountbatten informing him that the eastern boundaries of his command were being extended to include Borneo, Java and Celebes and that it was desirable that he should take over these new areas as soon as convenient after 15th August. The area to the east of his command would be an Australian command under the British Chiefs of Staff. When the Japanese capitulated Mountbatten was ordered to take over the new area on 15th August.
On the 23rd General Northcott submitted to the Minister for the Army a proposal that in view of the fact that General MacArthur would soon relinquish command of the forces in the Australian area, a Commander-in-Chief of all Australian forces should be appointed; and on 4th September Blamey asked that he be given command of the army, navy and air forces “to ensure coordination”. However, ten days later Blamey was informed that on 30th August the Government had decided that, from 2nd September, when the South-West Pacific Command ceased to exist,
the command of the navy would revert to the Naval Board, of the army to the Commander-in-Chief, and of the air force to the Air Board. It was a somewhat precipitate decision in view of the fact that the formal surrender of the Japanese forces and the re-occupation of Allied territory would involve combined operations on a fairly large scale.
By this time negotiations with Japanese commanders in the areas of Australian responsibility and planning for the re-occupation of Japanese-held territory had been in progress for some weeks.
At an early stage it was evident to the Australian commanders that the process of taking surrenders throughout their vast area and of distributing occupation forces would take a long time. On 16th August MacArthur had sent a signal to his subordinates informing them that a message had been received from the Japanese Government which said:
1. His Majesty the Emperor issued an Imperial Order at 1600 hours on August Sixteenth to the entire armed forces to cease hostilities immediately.
2. It is presumed that the said Imperial Order will reach the front line and produce full effect after the following lapse of time:
(a) In Japan proper – forty-eight hours.
(b) In China, Manchuria, Korea and Southern Regions except Bougainville, New Guinea and the Philippines – six days.
(c) In Bougainville – eight days.
(d) In New Guinea and the Philippines and in the case of various local headquarters – twelve days, but whether and when the order will be received by the first line units is difficult to foresee.
3. With a view to making the august wish of His Majesty regarding the terminating of the war and the abovementioned Imperial Order thoroughly known to all concerned, members of the Imperial family will be dispatched as personal representatives of His Majesty to the Headquarters of the Kwantung Army, Expeditionary Forces in China and the forces in the southern regions respectively. The itinerary, type of aircraft, markings, etc., will be communicated later. It is accordingly requested that safe conduct for the above be granted.
4. As regards the request to dispatch a competent representative, accompanied by Service advisers, to the Headquarters of General MacArthur in Manila leaving Satu Misaki in Kyushu on August Seventeenth we feel greatly embarrassed as it is impossible for us to arrange for the flight of our representatives on August Seventeenth due to the scarcity of time allowed us. We will, however, proceed at once with necessary preparations and notify General MacArthur as to the date of the flight of such a representative which will take place as soon as possible.
5. It is proposed to make the communications with the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers in the following manner:
(a) Sender and receiver on the Japanese side the General Headquarters of the Government.
(b) Radio stations on the Japanese side – Tokyo station. Call sign JNP, frequency 13740 kcs.
(c) Means of Communication – radiograph.
(d) Language – English.
6. We fail to understand the type of airplane described in the communication received from General MacArthur. We request, therefore, that the message be repeated dealing upon the type fully and clearly. ...
The next order set out which Japanese commanders should surrender to which Allied commanders, except that it provided that the commanders within the areas facing the SEAC and the Australian forces should surrender to
the Supreme Allied Commander South-East Asia Command or the Commanding General Australian forces the exact breakdown between Mountbatten and the Australians to be arranged between them.
After some discussion Blamey and Mountbatten agreed that the Australian area of responsibility should include all the Netherlands Indies east of and exclusive of Lombok, plus Borneo, New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Nauru and Ocean Islands, Bougainville and adjacent islands. The British and Australian Governments confirmed this arrangement. It was agreed that the British would progressively extend the area under their control in the Indies until the responsibility of Australia was limited to Timor and western New Guinea. It was hoped to hand over to the British or Dutch not later than the end of October. In Dutch New Guinea Australian control would for all practical purposes be confined to Hollandia and Biak.
General MacArthur required that no surrender documents should be signed by the Japanese field commanders until the main surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay had been performed. A series of meetings between representatives of Admiral Mountbatten and representatives of Field Marshal Terauchi opened, however, at Rangoon on 26th August. One consequence of these talks was that Mountbatten, on 30th August, instructed Terauchi to arrange for the headquarters of II Army (formerly Second Area Army) at Pinrang, in Celebes, and the XXX VII Army in Borneo to get into wireless contact with the Australian commander at Morotai on certain frequencies between certain hours of the day.
It soon become evident that each Japanese army commander intended punctiliously to await orders from above before surrendering. It was 7th September, after several messages had been exchanged, before the commander of the II Army, Lieut-General Fusataro Teshima, signalled that he had been ordered, from Saigon, to negotiate matters personally with the Australian commander.
I will be waiting at Pinrang aerodrome at [11 a.m. on the 8th] accompanied by persons designated by your order [6 officers, interpreter, 2 clerks and not more than 4 servants]. I shall be grateful if you will send one plane for our passage. I have only one heavy bomber here sufficient for carrying seven persons.
The surrender ceremony took place at Morotai on the I Corps sports ground at the sides of which troops were lined up seven ranks deep. At 10.50 a.m. on 9th September the troops and the Japanese party were in position, the Japanese standing about 10 yards from a table. At 10.58 the parade was called to attention. At 11 o’clock General Blamey arrived at the table and a guard gave the general salute. General Blamey then read the terms of surrender. General Teshima moved forward to the table and signed the document of surrender. Then Blamey signed the
document and handed Teshima a written instruction – “Second Japanese Army Instruction No. 1.” Teshima returned to his former position and Blamey gave an address which ended:
In receiving your surrender I do not recognise you as an honourable and gallant foe, but you will be treated with due but severe courtesy in all matters. I recall the treacherous attack upon our ally, China, in 1938 [sic]. I recall the treacherous attack made upon the British Empire and upon the United States of America in December 1941, at a time when your authorities were making the pretence of ensuring peace. I recall the atrocities inflicted upon the persons of our nationals as prisoners of war and internees, designed to reduce them by punishment and starvation to slavery. In the light of these evils, I will enforce most rigorously all orders issued to you, so let there be no delay or hesitation in their fulfilment at your peril.
Admiral Mountbatten took the surrender of Lieut-General Seishiro Itagaki, as delegate of Field Marshal Terauchi who was ill, at Singapore on 12th September. Part of the 1st Australian Parachute Battalion took part in the surrender ceremony, and remained in Malaya performing various police duties until January 1946.4
Blamey delegated to Sturdee the task of accepting the surrender in the First Army area of command and at Nauru and Ocean Islands, and nominated three subordinates to accept the surrender of individual Japanese forces in British Borneo and the Dutch Indies: General Wootten was to take the surrender of the commander of the forces in British Borneo, General Milford of the commander in Dutch Borneo, Brigadier Dyke5 of the commander of the forces in Timor or controlled from Timor. When returns were collected from the Japanese staffs it was found that there were about 190,000 Japanese, including auxiliaries, in the area controlled by the Australian headquarters at Morotai and about 150,000 in the First Army area.6 Detailed estimates are shown in the accompanying table.
The tasks presented to the Australians in the First Army’s area were relatively simple in comparison with those faced by I Corps in the Indies. As early as the morning of 11th August General Sturdee had sent signals to the commanders of his four subordinate forces – General Savige of II Corps, Brigadier King (temporarily commanding the 6th Division during the absence of General Robertson), General Eather of the 11th Division, and Lieut-Colonel Neville of the 4th Battalion (operating east
of the Sepik)-ordering that, in view of the probability of an early end to the fighting, operations should be confined to those necessary to maintain the present main positions, and every effort should be made to avoid Australian casualties.
Japanese Strengths in Australian Army’s Area of Responsibility, October, 1945*
|Army||Navy||Japanese Civilians||Formosans||Other Auxiliaries||Total|
|First Army area:|
|North-east New Guinea||12,008||950||305||13,263|
|From Ocean and Nauru Islands||4,046||556||541||5,143|
|I Corps area:|
|British Borneo (and Pontianak)||17,103||183||3,490||20,776|
|Dutch Borneo (excluding Pontianak)||1,394||6,990||6,226||14,610|
|Dutch New Guinea||19,502||1,846||1,845||2,341||613||26,147|
* Source: Advanced Headquarters, AMF, Weekly Operations and Intelligence Report No. 1 (to 12 Oct 1945).
With some difficulty wireless communication was established between Sturdee’s headquarters and Rabaul, and on 22nd August the Japanese army and navy commanders there sent a signal to Sturdee stating that the forces on New Britain and Bougainville were trying to accomplish a cessation of hostilities but “in Bougainville on account of the dense jungle it has not been possible yet to deliver the order to ... those units which have penetrated deep into your lines”. The Rabaul commanders added that they could not open further negotiations until ordered to do so from Tokyo.
In his reply Sturdee asked that the Japanese should receive an envoy carrying a letter about certain information that he required. The Japanese declined to do this but said that they would continue to receive the Australian wireless messages. They asked Sturdee to inform his subordinates on Bougainville “who have been urging our commanders to
open direct negotiations which reach beyond those necessary for the cessation of hostilities” that everything would be handled between Rabaul and Lae.
Sturdee was informed on 22nd August that the British Pacific Fleet would probably make an aircraft carrier available for the surrender of the commanders on New Britain; later he learnt that the carrier Glory and other vessels would be employed. His plan was then to take the surrender of the commander at Rabaul on board Glory about 6th September, and occupy Rabaul with troops carried in one transport.
In due course Sturdee sent General Imamura instructions to present himself aboard a warship of the Royal Navy at 9 a.m. on 6th September when the warship would be at latitude 4 degrees 17 minutes South 152 degrees 15 minutes East. Imamura was to bring a party not exceeding twelve, and including staff officers who would provide information about the Japanese forces. Here as elsewhere the instructions given to the Japanese commander included orders to provide information about dispositions, strengths, details about the sick, about Allied prisoners held, natives employed, stores and ration scales, minefields and weapon states. The Japanese were ordered to evacuate the towns of Rabaul and Kavieng and concentrate themselves and their weapons in defined areas.
On 4th September, in accordance with an arrangement made by wireless, Brigadier Sheehan, General Sturdee’s senior staff officer, went from Jacquinot Bay to a point off Simpson Harbour, Rabaul. Here some Japanese envoys came on board and were given instructions for the ceremony on the 6th.
Thus Imamura – “short and stubby, hard faced, with heavy lips and generous girth” – surrendered to General Sturdee on the Glory on 6th September. Other ships in the convoy were the British sloops Hart and Amethyst, and the Australian ships Vendetta, Dubbo, Townsville, Lithgow and Kiama. At 10.40 a.m. the Glory’s complement was mustered on the flight deck in a hollow box formation. General Sturdee’s party took up positions behind a small table in the centre. General Imamura and Vice-Admiral Kusaka (the senior naval officer at Rabaul) were brought to the flight deck where Imamura placed his sword on the table. When General Sturdee read the instrument of surrender and instructed Imamura to sign, Imamura protested that he could sign only for the army; only Kusaka could surrender for naval forces. After a discussion between the Japanese commanders, Kusaka agreed that, although the instrument was made out only for army forces, he would accept it as including the navy provided he was allowed to sign. Imamura, Kusaka, and Sturdee then signed. Staff discussions about the administration of the surrender followed.
It was then discovered that the strength of the Japanese forces round Rabaul was far greater than had been estimated: the Australian estimate in August was 50,000 army and 5,000 navy men. There were, in fact, 57,368 army personnel including 4,156 civilian workers, and 31,923 naval
personnel including 15,705 civilian workers – Rabaul had been a very big naval base. On New Ireland were 12,400 Japanese. In addition there were at Rabaul 28 European prisoners, 5,589 Indian prisoners, 1,397 Chinese, 688 Malayans and 607 Indonesians. The Japanese claimed that the Indians, Indonesians and about half the Chinese were not prisoners but had been released on parole and were working as a service corps of the Japanese Army.
The Japanese at Rabaul were found to be well fed and in fairly good health. Normally the number of men in hospital ranged from 5 to 8 per cent. There was much rice, and supplementary rations included fish, eggs, poultry, beef, pork and vegetables. The Japanese had gardens aggregating thousands of acres. The port and airfield were in ruins, the town overgrown with jungle, and from the air 31 sunken ships could be seen, but the Japanese had honeycombed the hills around Rabaul with a system of tunnels totalling more than 150 miles in length and in these they lived and kept their vehicles, stores and even workshops. Some tunnels were concreted and had stairways, telephones, electric light and built-in furniture. Men’s quarters were lined with tiers of bunks. Hundreds of tons of rice were in underground stores. The underground radio station was about 40 feet below the surface and 60 feet long.
A first contingent of the 4th Brigade landed at Rabaul from the Manoora and Katoomba on 10th September. Three days later General Eather’s headquarters arrived. The 13th Brigade arrived on the 15th. On the 17th Eather summoned Imamura, instructed him to build thirteen compounds to hold 10,000 troops each and said that the Japanese were to cultivate their gardens and provide for themselves as far as possible. On 18th September a party of Australians visited New Ireland and instructed the senior naval officer there to concentrate the arms and ammunition in dumps ready for destruction; the 12,000 troops on the island would be taken to Rabaul. Next day Angau officers took over the administration of New Ireland with headquarters at Kavieng.
On Bougainville the first official contact with a Japanese envoy had occurred on 18th August when a Major Otsu came into the lines of the 15th Battalion on the Mivo River and was taken to Toko and there interrogated by Brigadier Garrett. It was then that the Australians learnt that there were still 23,000 Japanese on Bougainville, not 13,000 as they had estimated.
General Savige tried to persuade General Kanda to surrender promptly, but without success. He sent Kanda an order to assemble his troops in four areas: round Kahili, at Kieta, in Numa Numa Plantation, round Bonis airstrip. He himself, with the naval commander and two other officers, was to go in a barge flying a white flag to a point six miles out to sea bearing 264 degrees from Moila Point and be there at 8 a.m. on 19th August. Thence they would be taken by an Australian warship to Torokina to sign the surrender document.
On the 19th, however, the captain of HMAS Lithgow signalled Savige that Kanda had not turned up. Instead he had sent an officer bearing a message that Rabaul had not yet authorised him to report to Savige. Savige instructed Lithgow to bring the envoy to Torokina to receive a letter for delivery to Kanda. The envoy protested, but in vain, and was brought to Torokina, given the letter and returned in Lithgow to the rendezvous.
Another hitch occurred on the 20th when several shells were fired towards Australian minesweepers off Moila Point. Savige wrote to Kanda and threatened retaliation if this firing recurred. Next day arrived a letter, not from Kanda but from Vice-Admiral Baron Samejima, commanding the naval forces round Buin, instructing Savige that he might negotiate with the naval commander at Rabaul but until then “your naval ships may not be admissible within Shortland bay”.
Finally, after the surrender off Rabaul, Kanda, Samejima and three other officers were taken on board the frigate Diamantina off Moila Point at 8 a.m. on 8th September, disembarked at Torokina at 11.45 and escorted to Savige’s headquarters by Brigadier Field and officers of his brigade. At 12.20 Kanda, Samejima and two Japanese interpreters were taken to the “battle room” at Corps headquarters, where General Savige, six other Australian officers, Air Commodore Roberts of the RNZAF and Lieut-Colonel J. P. Coursey of the American Marines were present. Kanda and Samejima handed over their swords and signed the instrument of surrender.
Savige outlined the terms of the surrender of Japan and said that he would not tolerate “delay, equivocation or neglect” on Kanda’s part. After the ceremony of surrender the Japanese commanders indicated that they wished to perform a bowing ceremony in honour of Australian and American dead. They then formed up in ranks, removed their head-dresses, and bowed in silence for a minute.
It was decided to concentrate the Japanese on Fauro Island or round Torokina, and by 12th October this had been done. There were 18,491 on Fauro and 8,421 at Torokina, including by that time some 3,700 from Nauru and Ocean Islands. The 7th Australian Battalion was placed on Fauro and the other Australian units concentrated round Torokina.
Throughout the First Army area huge quantities of Japanese arms and ammunition were collected and destroyed or dumped in the sea. On New Britain and New Ireland, for example, these included 136 tanks, 568 guns, 1,539,431 rounds of small arms ammunition, 107,591 75-mm shells; at
Wewak 253 heavy weapons of all types, and 181 machine-guns. On Ocean and Nauru Islands 63 guns were destroyed.
At Wewak, as on Bougainville, the Australians tried to hasten the formal surrender. The first contact with the headquarters of XVIII Army was made on 17th August when a party from the 6th Division’s headquarters moved in ML805 to within about 200 yards of Muschu Island and broadcast towards the shore with a loud speaker. After 15 minutes some Japanese came forward with a large white flag. A skiff was sent ashore, two Japanese officers returned in it, and a parley was held. On the 18th and succeeding days messages were passed to General Adachi on the mainland by means of a wireless on Kairiru Island. Adachi refused to surrender, however, without direct orders from his superiors. Eventually on 10th September Robertson demanded the surrender of Muschu and Kairiru Islands, and on that day Rear-Admiral Sato, commanding the force which occupied the islands, signed the necessary documents and handed over his sword on board ML805. On 11th September Adachi with some staff officers arrived in the area of the 2/7th Battalion at Kiarivu, and on the 13th he, an interpreter and three officers were flown from Hayfield to Wewak where, on Wom airstrip at 10 a.m., Adachi signed the surrender and handed over his sword in the presence of 3,000 troops drawn from various units of the division.
The men of the 51st Japanese Division were marched to an assembly area at Wewak, those of the 20th and 41st Divisions to Boiken. They moved in parties 100 strong, except for about 300 bed-ridden patients who were brought in from the Sepik in Australian barges. The march to the assembly areas began on 18th September but it was 25th October before all but a few were concentrated on Muschu Island. The post-war report of the XVIII Army complains that the rations provided on Muschu by the Australians were only enough to give 1,300 to 1,500 calories per man, which was increased with locally produced supplies to an average of 1,800 a day – far too little to enable a rapid recovery by men most of whom were already suffering the effects of malnutrition. Figures in the post-war report of the XVIII Army suggest that more than 1,000 Japanese died during the march to the coast or on Muschu Island.
The Australian Government had been anxious to re-occupy Nauru and Ocean Islands (normally under Australian and British control respectively) so as to increase the supply of phosphates as soon as possible, and as early as July had asked the Joint Chiefs to allot shipping to carry Australian forces against the two islands. The Joint Chiefs replied that they could not spare assault shipping but would not object to the carrying out of the operation by forces available to “the commander designated for that part of the SWPA”. Blamey, of course, lacked the shipping needed to carry out such an expedition.
When the surrender arrangements were announced, the British Government, on 17th August, proposed to the Australian Government that it be
suggested to the United States that the Japanese on Nauru and Ocean Islands should surrender to a British commander, although they were in the area allotted to the commander of the American Pacific Fleet. The Australian Chiefs of Staff said that a suitable force could be provided from Bougainville: a frigate and two transports were available and could land a battalion group at Nauru by 2nd or 3rd September. The American Chiefs of Staff agreed that Australian forces might accept the surrenders at the two islands.
There were 3,200 Japanese and 500 Koreans on Nauru and 500 Japanese on Ocean Island. Sturdee decided that it would be desirable to remove the Japanese from the islands as otherwise it would be very difficult to supply them. He proposed to send, say, one company in each of two freighters to take the surrenders, to conduct the Japanese to the ships and to guard them on the voyage back to Bougainville where they would be confined. He would place one company on each island when most of the Japanese had been removed. The Diamantina would cruise round the islands while the freighters were absent.
Thus a convoy consisting of the Diamantina and the merchantmen River Burdekin and River Glenelg sailed from Torokina on 9th September to take the surrender of the Japanese garrisons on Nauru and Ocean Islands. The military force was commanded by Brigadier Stevenson and included some 200 men of the 31st/51st Battalion under Lieut-Colonel
The Diamantina arrived off Nauru at 7 a.m. on 13th September and in response to signals a Japanese envoy and a Chinese interpreter came aboard at 7.45. The envoy was instructed to have the Japanese on Nauru ready for embarkation by 3 p.m. At 2.45 the commander of the Japanese garrison, Captain Hisayuki Soeda, and five staff officers came aboard. They handed over their swords, Stevenson read the instrument of surrender in English, and the interpreter read it in Japanese. Soeda then signed the surrender document on behalf of the troops on both islands. Parties from the 31st/51st Battalion went ashore on reconnaissance that afternoon, and next morning the occupation force landed and their supplies were unloaded. In the afternoon the Union Jack was raised at a parade ashore.
By November the Japanese and Koreans controlled by the First Army were concentrated in six areas thus:–
The 9th Australian Division was made responsible for carrying out the surrender arrangements in British Borneo, Sarawak, Brunei, Labuan Island and the Natuna Islands. The area was eventually divided into five zones of responsibility. Sandakan Force, commanded by Colonel C. J. Cummings, was to control the Sandakan area from the Dutch border to a line which, on the coast, was defined by the Sugut River. The 24th Brigade’s area embraced the rest of British Borneo. The 20th Brigade’s area included Brunei, and Sarawak to a line which on the coast was drawn through the mouth of the Rajang River. British territory to the south of that line was controlled by Kuching Force, commanded by Brigadier Eastick12 and including the 2/4th Pioneer Battalion, 2/12th Commando Squadron, 2/7th Field Company and other appropriate units and detachments and totalling about 2,000 men. The Natuna Islands were
to be controlled by Natuna Force, under Lieut-Colonel Argent, and comprising mainly his 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment.
From 19th to 23rd August leaflets were dropped by aircraft over all known areas in which Japanese were concentrated giving the general war news and news of the progress of the surrender. On 27th August letters were dropped on Tenom, Ranau, Jesselton, Riam Road and Kuching instructing the Japanese commanders to make contact with Australian commanders. At Kuching the letter contained a code of panel signals which enabled the Japanese commander to indicate that he agreed to the dropping of supplies for prisoners of war and that he would meet Australian representatives later.
At 11.45 on 3rd September a native had reported to an outpost of the 2/32nd Battalion that six Japanese pushing a hand trolley and carrying a white flag were moving down the railway from Jesselton and were then two miles away. Two officers and four armed men awaited them drawn up astride the railway line, with one officer carrying an Australian flag. A Japanese officer – a Major Mori – approached, salutes were exchanged, and the Japanese said that he was there in accordance with instructions received by letter. The Japanese were taken to a tent, the officers went in, and the escorts stood outside facing each other, at ease. At 2 p.m. Colonel Scott of the 2/32nd arrived and at 3.45 Brigadier Porter. Mori said that General Baba was at Sapong and that he (Mori) could take no executive action without Baba’s authority. Meanwhile some information had been obtained from the Japanese: there were five battalions in Jesselton and groups of from 100 to 2,500 troops at eight other places in the area controlled by General Baba. The railway to Jesselton was in good repair. There was much malaria among the Japanese troops.
After communicating with the Japanese staff at Kuching Colonel Wilson,13 GSO1 of the 9th Division, landed on the Sarawak River on 5th September and conferred with the commander of the Japanese forces there, who confirmed information that there were 2,017 Allied prisoners and internees in the area.
Baba was brought to Labuan on 10th September and there he surrendered to Wootten. On the 15th Colonel Iemura, commanding the 25th Mixed Regiment based on Jesselton, surrendered to Brigadier Porter, and on the 17th the commander of the forces in the Tenom area surrendered to him.
Thereafter the Japanese facing the Australians began to come in to the Australian lines and detached forces began to move to their destinations. The prisoners coming into Beaufort were clean and tidy and well behaved. A translated document showed that these Japanese had been instructed to conduct themselves calmly, discard all feelings of hostility, take care of their appearance, and hand their arms over in good condition. “The misconduct of one individual may adversely affect the welfare of the whole and also the fate of the Japanese Army.”
The task of Kuching Force was to accept the surrender of and impound Japanese forces in the Kuching area; release and evacuate Allied prisoners and internees, believed to include 400 stretcher cases and 237 women and children; and establish military control. The pre-war population of Kuching had been 34,000, and a BBCAU contingent of 20 officers and 40 other ranks accompanied the force to help with civil affairs.
Brigadier Eastick was flown in a Catalina to the mouth of the Sarawak River at Kuching on 6th September and there three Japanese officers came aboard. These said that there were about 700 troops in the area; they were instructed to prepare information under a variety of headings. On the 7th the Japanese commander of the prisoners of war at Kuching asked that two Australian medical officers be sent to care for the prisoners and internees. Immediately Lieut-Colonel Morgan14 of the 2/12th Field Ambulance and Major Hutson15 were flown in. They found a camp hospital of about 30 beds being conducted by Lieut-Colonel Sheppard,16 who had been a prisoner of war, and the Kuching civil hospital being run by two other Australian medical officers.
On 8th and 9th September HMAS Kapunda and USS Barnes with Brigadier Eastick and staff officers on board sailed for Kuching. On Kapunda at 2.35 p.m. on the 11th Eastick took the surrender of Major-General H. Yamamura, commanding the Japanese in the area. Later that day the occupying force landed.
The 2/12th Field Ambulance took a special pride in its work among the recovered prisoners because it had been a unit of the 8th Division to which the prisoners mostly belonged. A few days before the cease fire it had applied for inclusion in a possible “Burma-Singapore” force on the grounds that it belonged to the same division as the prisoners at Singapore.17 The diarist of the 2/12th wrote on 17th September at Kuching that perhaps the most strenuous work yet done by the unit in all its campaigns was performed during three days, when, among other achievements, with serum and blood transfusions it saved the lives of up to 50 sufferers from famine oedema.
Eight Dakota aircraft and two Catalinas were available for evacuating prisoners and internees in British Borneo; and the vessels carrying the occupation force to Kuching could take 110 stretcher cases back to Labuan. The evacuation of internees and prisoners began on 12th September and by the 14th 858 had been removed.
On the 14th, after a conference with citizens of Kuching, an order was issued fixing prices at levels based on those of 1941. A spectacular march past by the troops and processions by the civilian communities
were held on 26th September, and on 10th October the Chinese community began celebrating the Allied victory and the Chinese Republic. Brigadier Windeyer, since 22nd September acting commander of the 9th Division, and Brigadier Eastick and others, attended a dinner given by the Chinese. For three days there were concerts, dances, processions and games, including a Soccer match in which a Chinese team beat the 2/4th Pioneers four goals to two.
The main task of Natuna Force was completed on 26th September when the last of 302 Japanese were removed from the islands and taken to Kuching. By the end of October 8,034 Japanese had been concentrated in three areas, 1,388 prisoners and 597 internees had been evacuated. In December the relief of Kuching Force by an Indian garrison was carried out.
A party of Japanese from Labuan had been sent out to get into touch with the Japanese facing the 20th Brigade, and on 17th September a group of them came into the area of the 2/13th Battalion. On 20th September the commander of the Japanese forces in north Sarawak, Colonel Aikyo, surrendered to Brigadier Windeyer. Aikyo’s troops were scattered over a very large area. Windeyer elicited their whereabouts in the course of a long examination of Aikyo conducted through an interpreter. One of his objects was to discover how many prisoners of war were alive in the area. Aikyo pretended ignorance, but all had in fact died.18 Windeyer sent craft up river to collect parties of Japanese who had been told to concentrate at various points. By 18th October these were collected in a compound at Miri.
Sandakan Force was about 1,100 strong and included the 2/9th Cavalry (Commando) Regiment less two squadrons, the 2/3rd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 14th Field Company, and 53 BBCAU personnel. Before the force had landed at Sandakan Colonel Cummings had been invalided and Major Gannon19 took command, the force eventually coming under the control of East Borneo Force (Lieut-Colonel England20) which carried out a similar task in the Tawao area. At Sandakan there were meetings with the Japanese commander from 12th September onwards. Sandakan Force disembarked at Sandakan on 17th October. The Japanese were concentrated and given a number of tasks, and before the end of the month some 1,800 of them were taken in LSTs to Jesselton. From the Tawao area about 2,900 were taken to Jesselton.
There remained in October one organised Japanese force in British Borneo which was showing no signs of an intention to surrender. This
was a group some hundreds strong known to be moving up the Trusan River. By 17th September it was in the upper Limbang River area; leaflets and orders were dropped but there was no response. A Japanese officer and four other Japanese from XXXVII Army headquarters were sent up the Limbang to find them but apparently did not succeed. On 18th October air force pilots dropped orders to the Japanese force to remain in the upper Trusan River area where they were then believed to be but the pilots saw no Japanese there. It fell to the SRD guerrillas to deal with this last group. Major Harrisson with Major Rex Blow and a signals officer journeyed up the Trusan. They and other SRD men who were in the mountains organised the Dyak irregulars and, after a fight, Captain Fujino on 29th October surrendered a force of 346 Japanese “still in fairly full uniform”. These were concentrated in a prisoner-of-war camp organised and controlled by Blow, until they could be marched to the coast. Thus Blow, one of the very few prisoners of the Japanese who had escaped, and one who thereafter had become a famed guerilla leader, first in the Philippines and then in Borneo, for a time became “benign father of a fantastically varied flock, which included Chinese and Japanese, Indian, Javanese, Malay, Murut and Kelabit, some Kenyahs, odd Tagals, Dusun, Potok and Milau, stray Punans. Nowhere lay any trace of hatred. It was peace at the highest level! And it augured well for any residual fears ... about our ill effects on the latent head-hunting and feuding, classic in all the interior’s past.”21
By 31st October some 21,000 Japanese troops and civilians were concentrated in British Borneo thus:–
|Papan Island (off Labuan)||1,200||–|
|Bau (near Kuching)||3,292||1,226|
|In transit from Ledo||200||–|
The 32nd Indian Brigade took over from the 9th Australian Division early in January 1946 and on the 10th British Borneo was formally transferred to South-East Asia Command. The story of the military government of the British areas of Borneo in the subsequent period has been told by a United Kingdom historian.22 Briefly, between April and July 1946 military government ceased and civil government was reestablished. Sarawak was transferred to the Rajah’s government on 15th April, and on 1st June the Rajah ceded his authority to the British Government and the Colony of Sarawak came into existence. The transfer of administration in North Borneo took place on 15th July, when that territory was taken over from the British North Borneo Company by the British Government and became the colony of North Borneo. Labuan,
hitherto one of the Straits Settlements, was incorporated in the new colony. The hand-over in Brunei took place on 6th July. The British historian concludes his account of the military administration of British Borneo with a reference to “the debt owed by the Administration to the Australian Military Forces for aid of all kinds. In acknowledgment of this a heraldic representation of the Australian 9th Divisional sign now finds a place in the coat of arms of the new Colony of British Borneo.”23
In Dutch Borneo there were meetings between parties of Australians and Japanese from 2nd September onwards and wireless contact was established with Vice-Admiral Kamada at Samarinda on the 4th. As a result, on 8th September Kamada and a party of officers were picked up by a flotilla of seven PT boats and taken to a pre-arranged rendezvous with HMAS Burdekin anchored 10 miles off the mouth of the Dundang River, which was about 20 miles South-east of Samarinda. Squadrons of aircraft circled overhead. The Japanese were led to a trestle table on the quarter-deck of Burdekin where they stood facing the four brigadiers of the 7th Division. Then General Milford arrived and, after some formal questions and answers, Kamada laid his sword in its scabbard on the table. After the ceremony, and after having told Kamada that his forces would be disarmed and treated with firmness but with humanity, Milford departed. At a subsequent conference Kamada was handed “Order Number One” giving detailed instructions.
Thus ended, off the coast of Borneo on an Australian warship, a long road for the Seventh Australian Division – a long road of war that began in Australian training camps in 1940, was continued in England, the Libyan Desert, Syria, New Guinea and entered its final phase on 1 July of this year, just over two months ago when the Division assaulted the beaches of Balikpapan. The enemy has finally been defeated.24
Milford sent forces to various outlying centres and arranged to concentrate the Japanese prisoners at Samarinda and Manggar. Thus the 2/25th Battalion landed at Sangasanga and marched into the town of Samarinda through lines of cheering Indonesians. It soon had everything in hand in the Samarinda area. By the end of October more than 6,600 Japanese, including 2,100 sick, were concentrated there.
The Indonesian nationalist movement which was to complicate the task of Australian occupation forces throughout the Indies became increasingly active in this town in November. The movement was less strong in the outer islands of the Indies than in Java and Sumatra. Nevertheless for the four to five months during which Australian troops were in control of Borneo and the eastern part of the archipelago some of the commanders had to cope with a variety of touchy political problems.25
On 7th August, on the eve of the Japanese surrender, Field Marshal Terauchi had given the Indonesian nationalists permission to establish a committee which was to prepare to take over the government of Indonesia. Its leaders were Dr Soekarno and Dr Hatta. These found, however, that the leaders of the Indonesian underground movement, as opposed to their own above-ground movement, did not want to receive independence as a gift from the Japanese and were resolved to organise an uprising against the Japanese as soon as the Allies attacked Java and Sumatra. Japan surrendered before Allied troops arrived in Java and Sumatra. As mentioned, General MacArthur required that no surrender documents should be signed in outlying areas until the surrender at Tokyo, and thus in the second half of August the Japanese Army remained in control of Indonesia. The Indonesian leaders broadcast a declaration of independence on 17th August. The Japanese soon confined themselves mainly to retaining control of the cities and bigger towns while control of large outlying areas passed to groups of armed nationalists. On 31st August the nationalists formed a Cabinet; already they had proclaimed Soekarno as President of a Republic of Indonesia. Indian troops landed in Java on 29th September and soon were engaged in the distasteful task of policing a country that was in the throes of a revolution.
On 13th September Mountbatten’s headquarters had warned the subordinate headquarters, including Blamey’s, that some Indonesians had proclaimed independence in Java and Sumatra, and instructed that it was essential to deal only with the Japanese and to give the Indonesians no grounds for saying that their claim to independence was recognised by the occupying forces.
On 20th October Mountbatten cabled to Blamey that, because of the danger of civil war in the Indies, the British Government had instructed him to send an additional Indian division to Java and, as a result, shipping to take the Australians home from British Borneo would not be available before late December. Another consequence was that for some time no British brigade would be available to join the occupation force in Japan.
The policy followed by the Australian forces in Indonesia was expressed in the following proclamation, thousands of copies of which were printed in English, Dutch and Malay, and circulated throughout the islands:–
The forces of the United Nations have decisively defeated the Japanese by land, sea and air, and the whole Japanese nation has unconditionally surrendered to the United Nations. Troops under the command of General Sir Thomas Blamey have arrived in your country and have accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces, on behalf of the United Nations, and will protect the people and maintain Law and Order until such time as the lawful Government of the Netherlands East Indies is once again functioning.
By command of General Sir Thomas Blamey, Allied commander in this area, the Netherlands East Indies laws, with which you are familiar, will be applied and enforced by the Officers of the Netherlands East Indies Civil Administration now present in your country, subject only to any further orders which the Allied Commander may be obliged, in the interests of good order, to issue.
On 12th October Army Headquarters instructed the commanders of the eight forces in the Indies that demonstrations were not to be permitted, displays of flags other than recognised national flags or wearing of emblems were to be neither authorised nor forbidden by AIF commanders “who should adopt an impartial attitude in regard to internal political questions unless in their opinion the maintenance of law and order may be endangered”. The maintenance of law and order was primarily a responsibility of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration and the Netherlands East Indies companies under Australian command, and Australian forces were not to be committed unless it was necessary to prevent bloodshed or a coup d’état, or to safeguard essential public industries and communications.
The interpretation of these instructions was the task of a number of Australian infantry officers whose ranks ranged from major to Major-general. At Samarinda, for example, when the nationalists began to demonstrate, Major A. C. Robertson, now commanding the 2/25th Battalion, forbade public political meetings but permitted such meetings in houses; forbade the display of the red and white republican flag but permitted the wearing of red and white badges on the coat. These instructions were obeyed.
At Bandjermasin the 2/31st Battalion landed on 17th September from HMAS Burdekin and HMAS Gascoyne. It was a large town with a population of about 45,000 including 8,000 Chinese. Here Major-General Uno and 2,500 Japanese surrendered to Lieut-Colonel Robson and the Australians marched through the town.
The skirl of bagpipes mingled with the overwhelming cheers of a welcoming populace as the Battalion marched through the thronged streets of Bandjermasin. A most moving tribute was given by the Chinese community. Dressed in spotless white duck with Chinese Republic rosettes on their breasts they stood in cheering ranks behind a banner inscribed “WELCOME – CHINESE COMMUNITY”, under which sat their venerable leaders, two 80-year-old men wearing black bowler hats.26
By 21st September the 2/31st had released 65 Indian prisoners of war, and 174 Dutch and 3 English civilians. In October the republican movement became vocal in this area also. Robson, learning that there was to be a demonstration, ordered that there were to be no raising of the republican flag, no demonstrations, and no distribution of pamphlets, and the local republican leader complied. On 18th October, its task practically done, the main body of the battalion returned to Balikpapan, leaving one company at Bandjermasin.
In all areas the Japanese strove to behave with meticulous correctness. At the same time they provided much evidence that defeat had not diminished their pride. At the Manggar prison compound
the members of the guard [of the 2/14th Battalion] gained the following impressions of the prisoners: firstly that they were disinclined to recognise defeat, and that they believe the Emperor has only called a temporary halt necessary to save many civilians from being slaughtered by the Allies. On the first day in the compound
every opportunity was taken by the Japs to show their so-called superiority. This was done by strutting around the compound flexing their muscles and performing antics calculated to draw envious looks from the Australians.
Most Australian soldiers seem soon to have lost their animosity towards the Japanese, though in some places it was fanned into flame again by evidence of the slaughter of defenceless natives and by the accounts given by recovered prisoners and internees of killings and brutal bullying. In the 7th Division area by December it was found necessary to instruct troops not to treat the prisoners in too friendly a fashion.
Many instances noted of fraternisation with Japs which even extended to gifts of cigarettes and food (stated a rather pompous divisional instruction). This will on no account be tolerated. Strong disciplinary action will be taken against any persons who fail to treat Japs with severe justice. The following particular orders are issued. ONE. Japs will be informed that increasing failure to salute officers and general lack of smartness have been noted and will be rectified immediately. TWO. Any AUST officer or NCO who observes failure to salute or other slackness will immediately report the matter for disciplinary action to be taken against Japs even though he is not directly concerned. THREE. An officer will in no circumstances return salute of a Jap but will merely indicate that he has noted the action by a direct and severe look in the eyes of the Jap concerned. FOUR. No preferential treatment will be given to Jap personnel such as artists or interpreters who will be made to do their share of manual labour unless required for full time special duties. FIVE. Units employing Jap labour will ensure that Japs are fully employed under supervision at all times. SIX. Commanders will ensure these orders are brought to notice of all ranks.
In the Balikpapan area Indonesian nationalist agitation soon became an embarrassment. For example, on the morning of 14th November between 6,000 and 8,000 Indonesians assembled in the NICA compound, raised banners and displayed emblems. From 10 to 15 Australian soldiers were reported to have been present inciting these Indonesians. Indonesian troops arrested some demonstrators, but the Australians had disappeared before Australian military police arrived.
The fact that the war was over did not reduce the animosity of the Dyaks in Dutch Borneo towards the Japanese, who appealed to the Australians to hasten the sending of a force to Pontianak where the Dyaks were harassing them. On 16th October a company of the 2/33rd Battalion, a company of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army and a NICA detachment arrived and established control.
In the II Japanese Army’s area, excluding Borneo where the 9th and 7th Divisions and the 26th Brigade between them shared responsibility for the whole island, five Australian occupation forces were created. These were initially:
Timor Force (the islands from Sumbawa to Timor).
Ambon Force (Buru, Ambon, Ceram, Tanimbar, Aru Islands and small adjacent islands).
Menado Force (Menado and part of the northern peninsula of Celebes).
Macassar Force (Macassar and the South-western peninsula of Celebes).
Ternate Detachment (Ternate and adjacent islands of the northern Moluccas).
From its headquarters at Pinrang in Celebes the II Army controlled the 57th Independent Mixed Brigade in northern Celebes, the 32nd Division in Halmahera, the 5th in the Ceram–Aru–Ambon area, the 35th and 36th in western New Guinea. Soon after the cease fire control of the XXXVII Army in Borneo and the 48th Division in Timor and the Lesser Sundas was transferred to the II Army.
The commander of the II Army was informed that the Allied forces were occupying only parts of their allotted areas. Elsewhere the Japanese commanders would for the present be responsible to the local Allied commander for maintenance of law and order.
At Morotai on 21st August Brigadier Dyke, commanding the artillery of I Corps, had begun to form a force to be used to occupy some area in the Indies, as yet undecided. The staff was drawn mainly from Dyke’s headquarters, and officers and men from the Advanced Reinforcement Depot, Morotai, were formed into two battalions. Dyke was sent to Darwin on 29th August to take a battalion thence to Dutch Timor, the plan then being that the remainder of his brigade would join him from Morotai.
However, on 17th September the force waiting at Morotai was informed that it would not join Dyke, as more troops were not needed on Timor, but would go to Ambon and occupy it and other islands in the Moluccas, and also the Kai, Aru and Tanimbar Islands. Brigadier W. A. B. Steele of the staff of I Corps was appointed to command what was now named the 33rd Brigade; the two battalions, numbered the 63rd and 64th, were commanded by Lieut-Colonels Ellison27 and Costello28 respectively.
The tasks of the 33rd Brigade were to establish headquarters on Ambon, to receive the surrender there and supervise the evacuation of the Japanese, through the 5th Japanese Division to ensure control of Japanese forces in other areas, and to assist the re-establishment of the NEI Government.
As soon as the fighting ceased an Australian naval force of six small vessels was sent to Ambon where it arrived on 16th August. One corvette entered Ambon harbour and got into touch with the Japanese commander, but he refused to negotiate and asked the corvette to depart immediately. The whole force thereupon returned to Morotai. After the surrenders of senior commanders had taken place a second naval force was sent to Ambon and on 10th September it removed all Allied prisoners of war who were there.
Brigadier Steele with a detachment totalling 100 officers and men landed at Ambon from HMAS Glenelg at 9 a.m. on 22nd September, twenty-four hours ahead of a convoy of four corvettes carrying 588 troops. A “follow-up force” of about 2,150 in five naval transports, including the LSI Westralia, was to arrive later. The 64th but not the 63rd Battalion was included in this force.
The formalities on the first day were smoothly performed. The Ambonese welcomed Glenelg, the Australian and Dutch flags were hoisted at the control tower on the wharf, and at 10 a.m. Vice-Admiral Ichise, commanding the naval base, and Major-General Kobori, commanding the 5th Division, reported and were given instructions. Next day the convoy arrived and the troops disembarked. That afternoon General Blamey’s proclamation was read in the presence of an assembly of Ambonese, and a bamboo-flute band performed. The follow-up force arrived on 27th September.
The Japanese were “correct and most cooperative”. The Australian troops found it strange that Japanese officers and other ranks saluted all Australian troops. (They did not know that Australian prisoners of the Japanese had similarly been required to salute all Japanese soldiers.)
Ichise was instructed that all his men would be concentrated on Ceram. The troops transferred from Ambon were allowed to take food, eating and cooking gear, sleeping kit, office equipment, 159 dismantled huts, and “8,378 yards of cloth for barter purposes”. They were allowed five rifles and 300 rounds of ammunition for each 100 men.
Colonel Kaida, commanding the Japanese forces on Timor – a total of 3,235 men – signed the instrument of surrender in HMAS Moresby at midday on 11th September. That afternoon Brigadier Dyke inspected Koepang and next morning his troops, mainly the 12th/40th Battalion from the Northern Territory, disembarked.29 The preliminary inquiries revealed that there were no Allied prisoners left on Timor, Penfui airfield was serviceable, and there was plenty of aviation fuel on the island. The Japanese had dumped their weapons and had concentrated as they had been ordered to do.
Included in the area controlled from Timor was the 48th Japanese Division. Lieut-General Kunitaro Yamada, commander of the division, signed the instrument of surrender at Koepang on 3rd October, and was left responsible for civil administration and preservation of law and order in Sumbawa, Flores and Sumba. Meanwhile the Australian force was busy supervising the concentration of the Japanese troops into defined areas, repatriating Indonesians, organising food supplies and services, and apprehending Japanese likely to be charged with war crimes.
Late in August Blamey had asked the Minister for Defence whether he was to occupy Portuguese as well as Dutch Timor and was instructed to limit action to Dutch Timor. On 13th September Dyke signalled that the surrender off Koepang on the 11th had included the forces in Portuguese Timor, who numbered only about 150 on guard and police duties. Finally the Australian Government directed that Dyke should go to Dili, inform the Portuguese Governor of the surrender of the Japanese forces to him, arrange with the Governor for the landing of a small party to check that the terms of the surrender were effective, and arrange for the disposal of the Japanese, the recovery of any Allied prisoners, and
the control of war material. He should also discuss arrangements concerning war graves and war crimes. Mr Forsyth,30 of the Department of External Affairs, was flown to Timor to act as Dyke’s political adviser.
Forsyth met the Portuguese Governor at Dili on 22nd September and satisfactory discussions were held. Next day Dyke went to Dili with Forsyth and others and a force of five corvettes. Dyke went to the Governor’s house, formally apprised him of the surrender, and congratulated him on the restoration of his authority. Satisfactory arrangements were made to ensure that the surrender in Portuguese Timor was effective.
A surveillance party visited Menado on 13th September, inspected the area and collected 354 Dutch internees and took them to Morotai. A small occupation force under Lieut-Colonel R. A. C. Muir landed on 2nd October and supervised the concentration of the Japanese – on Lembeh Island and in Minahassa on the mainland – and saw to the destruction of warlike stores and the arrest of men who might be charged as war criminals. In November a company of the RNIA took over. The Japanese forces included the 57th Independent Mixed Brigade and 8th Naval Garrison Force and totalled 8,150. While the Australians were at Menado there was no resistance to the re-establishment of Dutch control in the immediate area but, as will be seen, there was trouble elsewhere in northern Celebes.
Small surveillance parties dealt with Halmahera, Ternate, eight areas in western New Guinea, and the Talaud Islands.
As shown earlier, the Indonesian nationalists did not greatly embarrass the Australian occupation forces in Dutch Borneo, and in British Borneo there was no revolutionary movement. In the islands to the south, however, larger problems were encountered. Until December the Indonesian revolution produced few effects in the Lesser Sundas, but in December and January disturbances began on Sumbawa, where 21,000 Japanese troops were then concentrated. There were clashes between members of the Free Indonesian movement and Japanese, whose arms the Indonesians were anxious to acquire.
On 3rd January, for example, the Japanese reported a clash with 200 Indonesians at Gempe on the night of the 1st, when four Japanese were wounded and two natives killed. At the request of the Sultan a Japanese patrol went with the Sultan’s chief of police to the village and told the villagers it must not happen again. On the morning of the 3rd at Sape 400 natives attacked a Japanese post; one native was killed. Then a Japanese post of seven men near Sape disappeared. At Raba that day 80 natives assembled, and when a sentry went forward to ask them their business he was speared, his rifle seized, and his body thrown down a well. Thereupon the Japanese commander was ordered to instruct the Sultan to proclaim that attacks must cease and that the Australian Army had instructed the Japanese to shoot to kill if natives attacked them.
Next day Lismore took a party to Bima to inform the Sultan that he would be removed if his control of the people did not improve.
In the next few days the Japanese arrested “253 out of 257 natives involved in Sape incident”, and impounded 17 rifles: the Sultan would try all the people who had been arrested. On 13th January NICA was installed at Bima and a company of RNIA troops landed there. NICA now controlled all Sumbawa except the district where the Japanese were concentrated.
The Australian Army’s share in the rehabilitation of the islands north of the Timor Sea ended on 19th March, when Timor Force, now under Lieut-Colonel Bartley,31 closed its headquarters.
In November the Indonesian leader at Gorontalo in northern Celebes had gained so strong a grip that he refused to obey an order to attend a conference with the Australian authorities. Some 600 Indonesian youths were being drilled on the outskirts of the town and the Chinese and Arabs were being boycotted. On 29th November additional Dutch troops were sent to Gorontalo in HMAS Burdekin, an Australian officer, Major Wilson,32 took command, the Indonesian leader was shipped off to Menado, and a satisfactory agreement was reached with his followers. By 1st December business was more or less back to normal, and control was handed over to a Dutch officer.
The nationalist movement flourished in large towns rather than small ones and it was inevitable that the Australian force that occupied south Celebes and the city of Macassar, whose population was about 90,000, should have a difficult task. Macassar Force, which was built round the 21st Brigade, had been given the tasks of recovering prisoners in southern Celebes, taking the surrender there, controlling the troops of the II Japanese Army in Celebes and concentrating them in one area, taking preliminary action to facilitate the re-establishment of NEI Government, and helping the civil population to maintain their economy. An advanced group including a headquarters and a company arrived at Macassar in the corvettes Barcoo and Inverell on 21st September, the 2/27th Battalion was complete at Macassar on 27th September, and the remainder of the brigade group arrived between 1st and 17th October. When the first group arrived the town was quiet. The Australians were welcomed by a guard drawn from about 500 British seamen, former prisoners of war, mostly from HMS Exeter which had been sunk off Java in 1942.
As mentioned, the II Japanese Army controlled the Japanese troops in Celebes, Ambon, Ceram, the Vogelkop, Timor, the Lesser Sundas and Halmahera, so that Macassar Force not only controlled south Celebes but was the liaison with the Japanese commander of forces in practically the whole of the Australian area outside Borneo.
The attitude of the Japanese could be described as one of complete “correctness”. They went to extraordinary lengths to produce complete and tabulated details of their strength and locations, their holdings of arms, ammunition, food, petrol, clothing and medical supplies. ... The impression given was that, as a beaten nation they were determined to establish themselves securely at the foot of the international ladder down which they had recently fallen, by demonstration of their unfailing desire to assist, almost to ingratiate themselves.33
At first Brigadier Dougherty found himself hampered by the lack of cooperation between the Japanese Army and Navy. Each claimed no knowledge of or responsibility for the other and the Navy “plainly showed their utmost contempt for the Army”. Finally he insisted on dealing only with a liaison officer responsible to both Services.
Because of shortage of vehicles it took until 15th November to concentrate all Japanese forces in the selected areas near Pinrang, and it was not until 20th December that the Japanese from Kendari and South-eastern Celebes were concentrated about Malimpung.
The NICA unit with Macassar Force was gradually increased until it was 150 strong, but it worked under great difficulty because the local rajahs and other leaders were unwilling to recognise Dutch authority. The diplomatic and political problems encountered by Macassar Force were more acute than those faced by the other Australian occupation forces, and its experiences will be described in a little more detail than those of the others.
At an assembly of townspeople at Macassar on 23rd September General Blamey’s proclamation had been read and Brigadier Dougherty had given an address in the course of which he said, through a translator:–
We Australians come to you as friends to help you until your government organises itself. I have seen some of the people of Macassar, and I am very pleased that you are more fortunate than the peoples of many other countries of the world. In many other countries the people’s crops, animals and homes – almost everything they had – have been destroyed. In Macassar there is practically no damage at all. Elsewhere big cities twenty or thirty times the size of Macassar have been completely destroyed. ...
In these islands of the Netherlands Indies your own government is taking over administration. I hope it will not be long before we Australians can leave a happy people here. The Netherlands Indies Government has appointed Major Wegner as Netherlands Indies Government representative here. The Japanese will continue temporarily to administer certain things. These will be taken over by NICA as soon as possible. There will naturally be some difficulties to overcome but they will not be difficulties as great as in many other countries. From time to time while I am here as military commander I will have occasion to make decisions affecting your life and work. I have no doubt that you will give me your fullest cooperation.
From the outset, however, the Indonesian leaders refused to cooperate with NICA; in their eyes Indonesia was now an independent republic. On 5th October the commanding officer of NICA ordered a number of Indonesian leaders to assemble at Macassar on the 8th to confer with him. The Indonesians refused, and five of them wrote to Dougherty asking him to invite Dr Ratu Langie and Dr Tadjoeddin Noer to confer with
him. Ratu Langie had been appointed Governor of Celebes by the Indonesian Republican Government in Java.34
In a letter to the commanding officer of NICA five Indonesian chiefs who had been summoned declared that they and their leaders were capable of carrying on the administration, that they objected to carrying it on under the guidance of Dutch officials but would carry out the orders of the Australian commander. On the 9th Dougherty addressed the village chiefs of Macassar at some length and made it clear that NICA was the only administration that the United Nations recognised in the Indies, and therefore the only one he recognised.
The Indonesian leaders were the more ready to believe that the Australians would recognise their authority because of the sympathy that was being expressed towards the republican movement by some groups in Australia. For instance, one of those who wrote to Dougherty to say that his colleagues were willing to work under Australian Army orders but not those of the Dutch functionaries, offered the Australian commander “cordial thanks for the sympathetic attitude of a great part of the Australian people regarding the movement for national freedom of the Indonesians”.
On 12th October 18 republican officials signed a letter requesting that Indonesian officials be entrusted with the administration directly under the command of the Australian Army, and again suggesting a conference with Ratu Langie. Dougherty still would not agree to treat directly with these officials.
A renewed request that he confer with Ratu Langie and the Indonesian princes and chiefs was sent in by four village chiefs on 15th October. That day in Macassar there was a clash between some Ambonese, who supported the Dutch, and some Indonesian nationalists and at least 18 people were killed and 15 wounded. No Australian troops were involved. As a result of this clash and because of the enmity between Ambonese, whom NICA were using as police, and other Indonesians, Dougherty ordered that no Royal Netherlands Indies Army soldiers were to carry arms outside barracks unless posted on guard duty by his headquarters, no RNIA soldiers were to be used for street patrols, and no NICA or RNIA personnel were to “interfere with or remove any badge or emblem worn by any person”. And he ordered the commander of the RNIA troops to keep his men in barracks until further orders.
A further complication arose on 16th October when a Chinese leader approached Dougherty and informed him that the Indonesian nationalists had threatened that if the Chinese did not close their shops they would be dealt with as the Ambonese had been. Thereupon Dougherty himself, through NICA, issued an order that all Chinese shops were to be closed. On the morning of the 17th, however, after the men of the 2/27th
Battalion had done a fine job of quiet patrolling, Dougherty ordered the immediate reopening of shops.
On 15th October Brigadier Chilton had arrived at Macassar to take over from Brigadier Dougherty, who was to be given a period of leave in Australia. In the next few days Dougherty, with Chilton beside him, gave several talks to Indonesians to whom he repeated the principles to which he was adhering. On the 16th he spoke first to a general assembly of village leaders and then to a group of “youth leaders”, among whom was Dr Ratu Langie. Hitherto, as mentioned, Dougherty had taken pains not to recognise Ratu Langie in any way and now called him in merely as one member of a group claiming influence over Indonesian youths.
General Blamey arrived at Macassar on 18th October with General Milford and some staff officers. Blamey made it clear to Dougherty and Chilton that the responsibility for maintaining law and order rested with the commander of Macassar Force, that NICA was an agent of the commander, and that if the commander arrested anybody it should only be for inciting people to interfere with law and order and not for “political reasons”.
At a conference on 20th October between Brigadier Chilton (who took command of the force on the 18th) and officers of the NICA it was agreed that Australian troops would be established at key points and would patrol and establish road-blocks to prevent movement of political agitators; NICA representatives would accompany the Australian detachments, and under their protection would take over civil administration as far as possible.
The 2/14th Battalion had been in the Pare Pare–Pinrang area since 5th October; the 2/16th now occupied six points in the southern half of the peninsula, while the 2/27th remained in Macassar. One way in which the authority of NICA was established was by making the local rulers go to its officers for rice and other supplies. At first the nationalists were so determined to boycott NICA that they prevented the NICA trucks carrying rice from moving about the country and even stole some of the vehicles. To cope with this action Dougherty, soon after his arrival, had used Australian trucks, and some trucks and coastal ships taken over from the Japanese, to transport rice.
The Indonesians continued to give trouble in small ways, and at Pare Pare on 22nd October a counter-demonstration was staged for their edification; in the presence of 400 natives, Australian machine-gunners used their weapons to clear the scrub from a knoll 2,000 yards away.
In the five months during which the 21st Brigade was in control of Celebes, with its big city population in Macassar and its closely-settled surrounding country, there was constant danger of the kind of strife and bloodshed that was occurring in Java. The Australian leaders and men were proud of the way in which they helped to preserve peace. Brigadier Chilton could justly write afterwards that
a policy of firmness in the maintenance of law and order, and our patent impartiality in regard to their political problems, succeeded and after the first few weeks there
was no serious trouble. This happy result was very largely attributable to the magnificent bearing, patience and discipline of the members of the Force, at a time when their thoughts were naturally towards home, and to the innate qualities of kindness and sympathy with all sections of the community, Indonesian, Chinese and Dutch.35
In February Macassar Force handed over control to the 80th Indian Brigade. Before the Australians departed General Teshima on 1st February wrote to Brigadier Chilton reporting that the concentration of all Japanese at Malimpung had been completed on 20th January, and adding:–
Since the advance of your forces at Macassar, all the Japanese forces and civilians have endeavoured to obey your orders and instructions, but owing to the difference in custom and the manners, difficulties in language and different local condition, I regret very much that we have bothered you considerably. Yet you have been very lenient and patient and tried to understand us, maintaining a very fair attitude and at the same time accurate and correct in dealing with all matters and all these has won my admiration and whole-hearted confidence in you.
All matters dealing with the termination of the war have almost been completed and all Japanese are now enabled to carry on their collective life in an orderly manner, as mentioned above, through your understanding and correct direction, for which we are all very grateful to you.
Having fulfilled your duties here Your Excellency is leaving Celebes soon and recollecting all you have done for us, I extremely regret that you should go now: I am sure I shall miss you very much.
In bidding farewell to you, I wish Your Excellency and Your Excellency’s Officers and Men the best luck and every happiness.
Australia’s tasks in the Indies were practically finished before her component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force arrived in Japan.36 The 34th Brigade Group was formed in the last part of 1945, the 65th Battalion being initially composed of men of the 7th Division, the 66th of men of the 6th and the 67th of men of the 9th.37 At the outset more than enough volunteers were obtained, but because of the delay in sending the force to Japan more than 2,000 withdrew and the force fell below strength. As had been arranged, the commander of BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Force) was an Australian: Lieut-General Northcott was chosen and remained in command until June 1946 when, on his appointment as Governor of New South Wales, he was succeeded by Lieut-General Robertson.
The Australian army and air force components totalled about 11,500 officers and men, the strength of the whole of BCOF being about 36,000 at its maximum. The first Australian troops arrived in Japan in February 1946. Already, in December, Northcott had conferred with MacArthur and they had agreed that BCOF should be located in southern Honshu,
an arrangement which gave the force a good port, an area in which it was self-contained and not dispersed among American forces, and a fairly comfortable climate. Force headquarters were at Kure, and the 34th Brigade occupied the Hiroshima Prefecture.38
By that time the wartime army had ceased to exist. On 15th September 1945 General Blamey had addressed a memorandum to Mr Forde in which he reported formally that he had been present at the surrender of the Japanese Empire in Tokyo Bay on 2nd September. There was no further occasion for the exercise or continuance of his powers as commander-in-chief; the residual task could be carried out under Government supervision “by the machinery of corporate control”.
I am desirous (he added) of laying down my office as early as possible in order to facilitate transition to such control. I would appreciate therefore an indication from the Government as to when this step would be acceptable.
He had, on 23rd July, conveyed to the Government his views as to the form this corporate control should take.39
I feel (Blamey concluded) that I cannot lay down my high office without expressing my very great indebtedness to the late Prime Minister, the Right Honorable John Curtin. His sacrifice and devotion to Australia’s cause and his wise cooperative
leadership afforded to those entrusted with the execution of the national plans the assurance of that loyal and affectionate support which made possible the measure of national cohesion necessary to overcome our difficulties.
Mr Curtin had died on 5th July. Long before Curtin’s death it had been evident that, after he had gone, Blamey would not receive the same kind of support from the Ministers that he had been given in the previous four years. Blamey’s letter of 23rd July was briefly acknowledged by Forde six days later. Meanwhile Shedden had informed Blamey that the Ministers were receiving advice that conflicted with Blamey’s: General Lavarack, a former Chief of the General Staff, now Head of the Australian Military Mission at Washington and second in seniority in the Australian Army, had written to Mr Forde recommending that Blamey should vacate his office, that the Military Board should be re-established, and a commander be appointed for the Australian oversea forces.
It was not until 15th November that Blamey heard from Forde on the subject again. Then Forde informed Blamey that the Government had decided to re-introduce the Military Board organisation at an early date (Blamey had suggested a somewhat different organisation), and had decided that General Sturdee should be acting Commander-in-Chief from 1st December and hold that office until the introduction of the Military Board (three months later as it turned out).40 Forde then expressed appreciation of Blamey’s “outstanding services ... to the Australian nation”.
Blamey and Forde met that day. On the 17th Blamey wrote a reply thanking the Minister for his “kind remarks” but adding:–
May I express my surprise at the very short notice of the termination of my appointment and also my regret that the brief period which you have allowed me will not permit me to complete tasks which I deem to be of some importance, e.g. completion of dispatches on the latter phases of the war.
He reminded Forde that Forde had on 3rd November directed him to refuse an invitation to the Annual National Convention of the American Legion in Chicago because of “the complexity of the problems confronting the Army”. “I am naturally somewhat disturbed,” he added tartly, “at what appears to be a sudden and unseemly haste to meet my personal convenience.” In a reply nine days later and four days before Blamey was due to be replaced Forde proposed that Blamey should complete his dispatches in a period to be added to his accumulated leave. Blamey agreed and said that he had fixed the maximum date for completion of all tasks as 31st January.
Blamey had received no honour since being made a GBE in 1943 and received none now. He had had no promotion since he was made a general in September 1941, before his return from the Middle East, nor was he to receive any until, another Ministry being then in office,
he became the first Field Marshal in the Australian Army in June 1950. He was handed his baton on his death bed in the following year.
His generals were treated little better in the matter of honours. On 8th September 1945 Blamey had written to the Minister recommending that knighthoods should be conferred upon five generals whom he named and that certain other commanders should be made Commanders of the Order of the Bath (CB).
There is (Blamey wrote) a genuine ground for the feeling that Australian commanders are treated far less generously than those of other parts of the Empire. Also that greater generosity was displayed when Australian forces served under British Command in the Middle East than under Australian command in the SWP Area. ... I have raised the matter from time to time and have made certain recommendations but, so far, have received no reply.
He added that he would make recommendations at a later date concerning officers who had not served in the field.
On 10th October Blamey sent the Minister the later list in which he recommended that three generals on his staff be knighted, and other senior staff officers be awarded C.B’s. He pointed out that certain of these had served in the field in the Middle East and the others had spent frequent and fairly long periods in operational areas. At this point the correspondence appears to have ended. The knighthoods were not then awarded.
It is clear that the Government had been unable to decide on a clear policy towards the award of knighthoods to military commanders and others. Since it came into office General Morshead had been awarded the KBE and KCB, General Herring the KBE (in 1943), Shedden the KCMG (1943). Blamey had received the KCB in 1942 and the GBE in 1943. Thus if the policy was to recommend lower awards but not knighthoods it had existed only since 1943; and if the policy was to limit awards to leaders who had served in the field it had not been followed consistently. In the event only two of the awards recommended by Blamey in these lists were made within a year or two after the war; and the one army commander and the two corps commanders received no recognition of this kind in that period. In 1946 two divisional commanders, and, in 1947, a third one were awarded the CBs for which Blamey had recommended them, but the other divisional commanders mentioned received no awards then, nor did any of the senior staff officers.41 So far as a policy can be discerned it seems to have been this: if a field commander was already a CB, the Government would not recommend any higher award (which would necessarily be a knighthood); and in any event the Government would not recommend any awards at all to senior staff officers not in the field formations.42
After a change of government most of those whom Blamey recommended for knighthoods received that honour, either for their wartime services or for other public service performed in peace.43
The total strength of the Australian Army early in August 1945 was 383,000 of whom 23,000 were women. The numbers in forward areas were: New Guinea mainland and New Britain, 53,000; the Solomons, 32,000; Borneo and Morotai, 72,000. There were some 20,000 prisoners in Japanese hands.
Blamey had written to Forde on 3rd October that demobilisation had begun in accordance with the plan approved in March. He estimated that about 40,000 men and women would be discharged in that month. The army plan was based on a normal rate of dispersal of 1,965 and 125 women a day; but provision had been made to increase this to 2,948 and 187 women. He did not think the increased rate would be achieved because of lack of shipping, the anticipated inability of the civil economy to absorb such numbers and the difficulty of dealing with them at the re-establishment centres.
The general plan of demobilisation provided for the retention of an “Interim Army” to perform such duties as the occupation of territories held by the enemy, the care of equipment, and the administration of demobilisation. Otherwise troops would be demobilised at a rate decided by the Government. The principles governing discharges would be: generally speaking the existing points system would be observed; members might request a “deferred priority”; members whose service was essential could be retained regardless of priority, but members whose early return to civilian life was considered essential and members whose applications for discharge on compassionate grounds were approved would be given a special priority.
Under the points system two points were awarded for each completed year of age at enlistment plus two points for each month of service plus, for men with dependents, an extra point for each month of service.”44
It was calculated in September that to keep the Interim Army units in the First Army area at full strength of 46,500 only men with 178 points or more could be released at that stage. As demobilisation proceeded units that were not needed were declared “redundant” and their low-priority men transferred to Interim Army units. At length the Interim Army, its tasks completed, would merge into the Post-war Army.45
Thus when the 11th Division at Rabaul, for example, learnt that a ship had been allotted to take away a draft of men due for discharge, it reported the unit, rank and trade of each man in the draft. Thereupon First Army requisitioned corresponding replacements from other areas and, so far as possible, the ships landed these replacements at Rabaul before embarking the men they were replacing. It was estimated that 12,800 men would have to be moved to Rabaul from other areas to bring the garrison there up to the required strength and maintain it at that level.
Initially Australia asked London for enough shipping to lift 23,500 men a month. This, added to Australia’s ability to lift 6,500 a month in her own ships and 6,000 in her aircraft, would have enabled her to move 108,000 men back to the mainland between October and December. But in fact London could provide only enough shipping to lift 12,000 a month from October to December and 10,000 thereafter. However, the use of the aircraft carriers Implacable, Glory and Formidable, and of other vessels, made it possible to move 76,000 by sea up to the end of December. At the beginning of January only about 20,000 were awaiting repatriation from the First Army areas not counting garrison forces totalling 45,000. In the later stages a number of enterprising soldiers, sometimes with the connivance of more fortunate comrades, stowed away, well knowing that they would not be returned to the islands, and regarding the subsequent fine as fair payment for the voyage home.
As the men at length moved through the depots in their home States in the process of being discharged, they were handled for the most part with commendable speed and efficiency. Dental treatment was available before discharge and medical examination and chest X-ray were obligatory. Each soldier was given the opportunity of stating before a doctor any disabilities that he considered had been a result of army service.
Dekitting, pay and the issuing of food and clothing coupons and allowances followed. The webbing and pack that had borne personal possessions to a war at first half a world away and then, nearer home, into the green jungle, went into store. The brown boots that had distinguished their wearers from most other soldiers would soon be put away, never to carry the Australian warrior to war again. For the last time the rifle number
was checked – hitherto a daily act of almost religious significance for the infantryman. Discharge certificates and “Returned from Active Service” badges were distributed – making a leave pass no longer a necessity. At this stage in the proceedings “Private Smith”, to his astonishment, was suddenly addressed as “Mister” again.
Not only the Australians but the Japanese had to be repatriated. The first ship to remove Japanese from Rabaul was the aircraft carrier Katsuragi, which embarked 2,658 men on 28th February 1946. Thenceforward, until 13th June 37 ships, including some Japanese-manned American ships, embarked groups ranging from 500 to 4,554, until a total of 90,909 had departed. By Australian standards the ships were grossly overcrowded.
The embarkation of Japanese of the XVIII Army began at Muschu Island on 27th November when 1,130 men departed in the demilitarised cruiser Kashima. In January six ships took prisoners away, including one which carried 1,200 Formosan troops to Formosa. On 6th March 1946 the last man of the XVIII Army disembarked in Japan.
By the middle of 1946 the only Japanese in New Guinea, apart from a few stragglers, were some 550 charged with war crimes, and by the end of the year only 388 Australian troops were there.46 From 30th October 1945 onwards a “provisional administration” had progressively taken over control of the territories, and on 24th June 1946, when it took charge in the Gazelle Peninsula, the military administration of New Guinea came to an end.