IN the earlier volumes of this series the story has generally been told in a chronological fashion, with the object of helping the reader to see the whole problem which faced each military leader day by day and not merely a part of it. The chronicler of Australian military operations in the last year of the war, however, has to describe campaigns in six widely-separated areas. In three of these areas fighting was in progress during all or nearly all of the period. In all of them the operations were not much influenced by what was happening elsewhere. This volume is concerned also with the relations between the Commander-in-Chief and the Ministers in the first half of 1945 and the widespread public and private discussion of his policies and his personality. In the interests of clarity and emphasis it has seemed desirable to tell a large part of the story of the higher planning of the final Australian operations and of General Blamey’s relations with the Ministers and the South-West Pacific Command in a narrative unbroken by accounts of the campaigns which the discussions mainly concerned, and to describe the six campaigns each in a self-contained narrative, though inevitably with occasional side glances at other areas.
These narratives are each broken off at the moment when the fighting ceased. Then a single chapter briefly records the part the army played in accepting the surrender of Japanese forces in Australian territory and a large part of Indonesia, and ensuring that the terms of the surrender were carried out, the formation of an Australian contingent for the army of occupation in Japan, and the demobilisation of the wartime army.
The series which this volume concludes is basically a history of military operations in the field. The administrative and technical problems and achievements of the Australian Army in six years of war are touched on only when they directly affected the fighting man or were a subject of discussion between soldiers and statesmen. Largely because of the failure to obtain support for technical and administrative histories of the AIF after the war of 1914–1918 no provision was made for them in this series, except for a medical history.
For a time I worked on an intended appendix to this volume which would record some of the achievements of the wartime army which possessed enduring scientific, educational or economic value: for example, the mapping of practically all the fertile lands of the Australian continent and of most of the outlying territories, the compilation of comprehensive geographical studies of wide areas of the South-west Pacific and east Asia, the work of the Army Education Corps, rehabilitation, the creation in Australia of a large and accomplished team of scholars of the Japanese language, the building of roads and camps, agricultural and forestry development in remote places. To this I intended to add summaries of other large-scale activities of the army which have been referred to only
briefly elsewhere in this history: for example, prisoners of war and internees, canteens and clubs, Intelligence, conscientious objectors, the war artists, and so on. It became evident, however, that there would not be room for detailed treatment of such subjects. The student may find much about some of them in unpublished reports and histories of various branches of the army, and a little about most of them in “The Army War Effort”, which was produced by the Department of the Army at intervals from 1940 to 1945 and eventually grew into a book of 181 foolscap pages, not counting appendixes. The army’s geographical work is described in The Role of Science and Industry by D. P. Mellor.
There are other subjects of importance on which only an occasional beam of light is shed in these seven volumes. Indeed, as the series took shape, we all became more and more aware of the size and historical importance of problems and episodes that we could afford only to glance at. The military administration of the colonial territories, the Australian occupation of eastern Indonesia in the later months of 1945 and early 1946, changing attitudes towards conscription, the relationship between regular and citizen soldier, the development of staff work, the growth of the “tail” of the army, and the Army Secretariat’s relations with the General Staff are a few of the topics, touched on briefly in these volumes, that await their historians.
In an appendix some command problems referred to at intervals in this volume and the two preceding ones have been recapitulated and re-examined.
Before bidding farewell to the readers of this series I would like to say a little about certain principles that we have followed which have been discussed and sometimes criticised by reviewers and others. As mentioned earlier, the story has been told as a rule with a fairly strict adherence to the time sequence. This was our policy at the outset and, we think, practice confirms its value in military history. A theatre commander is generally obliged to survey his whole area each day and seldom may concentrate for a week or a month on one part of it. If I have been right in describing the various operations of 1945 each as a separate episode, that in itself lends support to the contention that they were strategically of minor importance.
In general we have been hesitant to pass judgment, believing with Bloch that the historian is not a magistrate. Military planning and operations are usually fully discussed by the participants and any differing opinions among senior commanders are usually set out frankly and in detail either at the time or later. When the chronicler has described the events and their outcome and set out the opinions of those who bore the responsibility or part of it, he is perhaps justified in feeling diffident about adding to those opinions an opinion of his own, his own inclinations having been given sufficient latitude in his selection and presentation of evidence and contemporary opinion.
The books in this series have been written in considerably more detail than would be feasible in similar histories produced in larger countries.
In this regard we adopted a tradition established by Dr C. E. W. Bean in his history of the Australian infantry in World War I. At this stage little can usefully be added to Bean’s justification of this method in a preface written in 1928. A year later Bean might not have felt impelled to defend his practice, because by that time a procession of books describing the experiences of individual soldiers in that war was being eagerly sought by the public. This volume with its problem of narrating several long and repetitive operations in difficult country has been written in somewhat less detail than the others in the series, but not, I hope, so differently as to create an unwelcome lack of balance.
Throughout the series we have not provided exhaustive references to sources, but have cited them only where they are quoted verbatim or for some other special reason. For this we have been reproved by North American critics. As a rule, however, the sources of most statements are, I think, made evident – whether report, war diary, interview, letter, post-mortem comment, or some printed work. Although no bibliographies have been provided, all books and articles on which a writer has relied to an important extent have been named in footnotes.
The degree to which, in the writing of this volume, I have depended upon the correspondence files lent by the trustees of the estate of the late Field Marshal Blamey will be apparent. I owe much to the excellent operational reports of the Commander, Allied Land Forces, drafted during and immediately after the war under the direction of Lieut-Colonel R. W. G. Ogle. These helped to clarify the high-level story and have sometimes influenced the design of my narratives. It is regrettable that these dispatches were not published in 1945 or soon after; perhaps, in the British fashion, as supplements to the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. As it is, they were not even mimeographed, and the whereabouts of only two or three typewritten or fading carbon copies of each of them are known to us.
Among those participants who have helped me with recollections of the events described in this book or with comments on the first draft are:
General Sir John Northcott; Lieut-Generals Sir Frank Berryman, Sir William Bridgeford, Sir Ragnar Garrett, the late Sir Stanley Savige, Sir Vernon Sturdee; Major-Generals J. A. Bishop, P. A. Cullen, T. J. Daly, I. N. Dougherty, K. W. Eather, R. R. Gordon, the late H. H. Hammer and R. King, E. J. Milford, S. H. W. C. Porter, Sir Alan Ramsay, Sir Jack Stevens, J. R. Stevenson, Sir Victor Windeyer, Sir George Wootten; Brigadiers F. 0. Chilton, J. Field, J. G. McKinna, the late M. J. Moten, C. H. B. Norman, R. L. Sandover; Colonels R. T. Eldridge, C. H. Grace; Lieut-Colonels B. J. Callinan, B. G. Dawson, H. L. E. Dunkley, 0. C. Isaachsen, M. R. Jeanes, H. G. McCammon, J. A. Maitland, G. R. Matthews, W. M. Mayberry, P. K. Parbury, W. E. H. Stanner, G. R. Warfe, J. R. Watch, S. P. Weir; Majors G. W. Bennett, E. J. Cooper, A. C. Robertson, R. P. Serie; Captains L. A. Cameron, G. C. Hart, G. J. Hawke, L. M. Long, R. L. Mathews, E. J. Shattock, T. B. Silk; Lieutenant A. J. T. Ford; Sergeant T. A. G. Hungerford.
I have to thank the Director and staff of the Australian War Memorial for their constant cooperation in providing documents, books and photographs, particularly for the Army series in this history. The valuable
contemporary narratives written in 1945 by members of the Military History Section are acknowledged in footnotes. Some of the descriptions and opinions in this volume are based on notes made while I was on Bougainville in January and February 1945, and on the New Guinea mainland, including the coastal sector forward from Aitape, in March and April of that year. I spent some weeks with the 7th Division at Balikpapan and with the 9th Division in British Borneo in August and September.
I am grateful to the two literary assistants who worked on this volume – first Mr James Brill, and later Miss Mary Gilchrist who prepared it for the printer, made the index, and performed many other arduous and necessary tasks. Mr Hugh Groser drew the maps for this as for all other volumes of the history, helped in the later stages by Miss Elaine Oates. In this my last preface I again express my gratitude to my senior research officer, Mr A. J. Sweeting. The history as a whole owes much to his learning, sound judgment and industry and to the devotion which caused him to stick to this task to the end. Finally I wish to record my admiration for the twelve dedicated men who wrote nineteen of the volumes of this history. Probably for each of them the undertaking proved far more exacting than he had expected; for most of them it demanded sacrifice of leisure and opportunity year after year.