From: 20 yrs ago - SDO -> med down, w/BC glasses on
John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia, 12/27/41
That reddish veil which o'er the face
Of night-hag East is drawn ...
Flames new disaster for the race?
Or can it be the dawn?
So wrote Bernard O'Dowd. I see 1942 as a year in which we shall know the
I would, however, that we provide the answer. We can and we will. Therefore I
see 1942 as a year of immense change in Australian life.
The Australian government's policy has been grounded on two facts. One is that
the war with Japan is not a phase of the struggle with the Axis powers, but is a
new war. The second is that Australia must go on a war footing.
Those two facts involve two lines of action - one in the direction of external
policy as to our dealings with Britain, the United States, Russia, the
Netherlands East Indies and China in the higher direction of the war in the
The second is the reshaping, in fact the revolutionising, of the Australian way
of life until a war footing is attained quickly, efficiently and without
Now with equal realism, we take the view that, while the determination of
military policy is the Soviet's business, we should be able to look forward with
reason to aid from Russia against Japan. We look for a solid and impregnable
barrier of the Democracies against the three Axis Powers, and we refuse to
accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle must be treated as a subordinate
segment of the general conflict. By that it is not meant that any one of the
other theatres of war is of less importance than the Pacific, but that Australia
asks for a concerted plan evoking the greatest strength at the Democracies'
disposal, determined upon hurling Japan back.
The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily
one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the
direction of the democracies' fighting plan.
Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks
to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the
We know the problems that the United Kingdom faces. We know the constant threat
of invasion. We know the dangers of dispersal of strength, but we know too,
that Australia can go and Britain can still hold on.
Summed up, Australian external policy will be shaped toward obtaining Russian
aid, and working out, with the United States, as the major factor, a plan of
Pacific strategy, along with British, Chinese and Dutch forces.
Australian internal policy has undergone striking changes in the past few weeks.
These, and those that will inevitably come before 1942 is far advanced, have
been prompted by several reasons. In the first place, the Commonwealth
Government found it exceedingly difficult to bring Australian people to a
realisation of what, after two years of war, our position had become. Even the
entry of Japan, bringing a direct threat in our own waters, was met with a
subconscious view that the Americans would deal with the short-sighted,
underfed and fanatical Japanese.
The announcement that no further appeals would be made to the Australian people,
and the decisions that followed, were motivated by psychological factors. They
had an arresting effect. They awakened the somewhat lackadaisical Australian
mind the attitude that was imperative if we were to save ourselves, to enter an
all-in effort in the only possible manner.
That experiment in psychology was eminently successful, and we commence 1942
with a better realisation, by a greater number of Australians, of what the war
means than in the whole preceding two years.
The decisions were prompted by other reasons, all related to the necessity of
getting onto a war footing, and the results so far achieved have been most
heartening, especially in respect of production and conservation of stocks.
I make it clear that the experiment undertaken was never intended as one to
awaken Australian patriotism or sense of duty. Those qualities have been ever-
present; but the response to leadership and direction had never been requested
of the people, and desirable talents and untapped resources had lain dormant.
Our task for 1942 is stern ... The position Australia faces internally far
exceeds in potential and sweeping dangers anything that confronted us in 1914-
The year 1942 will impose supreme tests. These range from resistance to
invasion to deprivation of more and more amenities ...
Australians must realise that to place the nation on a war footing every citizen
must place himself, his private and business affairs, his entire mode of living,
on a war footing. The civilian way of life cannot be any less rigorous, can
contribute no less than that which the fighting men have to follow.
I demand that Australians everywhere realise that Australia is now inside the
Australian governmental policy will be directed strictly on those lines. We
have to regard our country and its 7,000,000 people as though we were a nation
and a people with the enemy hammering at our frontier.
Australians must be perpetually on guard; on guard against the possibility, at
any hour without warning, of raid or invasion; on guard against spending money,
or doing anything that cannot be justified; on guard against hampering by
disputation or idle, irresponsible chatter, the decisions of the Government
taken for the welfare of all.
All Australia is the stake in this war. All Australia must stand together to
hold that stake. We face a powerful, ably led and unbelievably courageous foe.
We must watch the enemy accordingly. We shall watch him accordingly.
The remarks bolded is the only instance I can recall of a national leader referring to his country in a past tense. The underlined part is a rather unusual remark about a hated enemy. Read on for an interesting story and some food for thought.
In college I took a simple course on WWII history that I fully expected get an “A” by just enlighten the masses with my presence. It was pretty much true, but there was a paper or two that I had to do. I’m not sure what I did them on, but do remember a quick and dirty on the Doolittle Raid that I pretty much pulled from my head and ass. After all, I had been playing the largest and most detail war games about WWII since my early teens. Such a background was more than enough to float by in this class.
Even the professor, who was of British decent seemed to be a little lost in the material. The guy was nice enough and genuinely sincere but his specialty was clearly not military history. I was more than happy to earn college credit hours, on some sugar coated course of WWII, but don’t make me actually pay attention. Besides, this instructor had a terrible tendency to drift off into stories about his childhood experiences that revolved around his father’s diplomatic duties serving as a British diplomat in the USA in the 30’s and 40’s.
Anyway I typed a 10 page paper on Doolittle and his raid while drinking beer or something. A superior grade was expected and deserved. Yet, to my surprise, the paper was returned covered in red pen comments in the margins. How? No matter, there was an “A” on the cover page and I wasn’t in school to learn anymore. Working 40 hour weeks, while being a full time college student had worn me out. I was ready to graduate and leave.
After a week or two, the professor asked me if I had any ideas about his comments he made on my paper. I was stunned. I kind of gave one of those “oh yeah, well I was thinking hard on it. . . “ reply that made it clear I hadn’t even read them. He kind of laughed and said “here read this paper, It was one I wrote 30 years ago.” I thanked him and was off to my next class or work. All I could think about was that I just got handed a reading assignment.
I never really read much of his paper. Towards the end of the semester he hinted that he wanted it back. So as I was walking to class to return it, I flipped through some of it. Heh, he got a C- and his professor was none too impressed. Great, he wanted me to read a C- paper.
As best I can gather from skimming the thing, he spent 30 pages detailing diplomatic maneuvering that was going down in December 1941. Makes sense, since he was kind of there being a son of a British diplomat serving in Washington DC. He actually stated in the paper that the volume of cables between Australia and the US during 12/10 and 12/20 was incredibly high. During this period he claimed that John Curtin and his government made it perfectly clear to Roosevelt that they were terrified. Their best military units were out of the country and they had nothing significant left to defend their shores. The Japanese on the other hand were rolling up Malaysia and had earned a very bad reputation from their atrocities in China. The people of Australia were basically waiting for them - bent over with their pants down.
All of this is pretty much true. And we all know how easily it would have been for Japanese to take much of the northern parts of the continent even with significant US and British assistance. With no help at all, IMHO Japan could have taken the continent at their leisure.
Back to the C- paper from my professor: He claimed that in December 41, John Curtin told Roosevelt that he wasn’t going to stand alone. Either the USA gets jumps into action with their ships and men or he was going to pull a Vichy and negotiate a surrender before his people literally start getting raped. Whoa?! Rather crazy assertion I thought. He went on to state that Roosevelt’s promised he’d do something to stale the Japanese if he would just hold tough for a few months. Help was coming and he would keep the Japanese busy. Curtin’s response was – do it already and like yesterday.
Back then, I kind of thought the idea had some merit. After all, the planning for Doolittle’s raid started at the insistence of President Roosevelt himself on 12/21/41. By all rights, it was a worthless risk that netted nothing militarily. The text book story that it was for American morale doesn’t hold much water. American civilian morale was never higher in the weeks following Pearl Harbor which was when planning for the raid was started. Roosevelt also need little political capital or national support, he was in his 3 term as president.
So Roosevelt was knee deep in the Doolittle raid. What about Coral Sea? Again we have a rather risky operation for what? To check the Japanese in the Solomons or New Guinea? Why? And then you get to Midway. Stake all of our naval striking force for a worthless rock in the middle of the Pacific? We know all about the risks – a thunderstorm could have changed the outcome. I most certainly believe they knew risks as well. You lose your carriers at Midway you’d think it would be pretty bad news for the allies? Or would it?
We don’t play WitP/AE like Roosevelt and Nimitz. But then we don’t have HR’s that have AU pushing away from the table either. Today, if you factor in the speech by John Curtin on 12/27/41, I seriously wonder if my professor’s had hit the nail on the head. The further you look the more it seems to make sense. And it would go a long way in explaining USN aggressiveness in early 1942. Perhaps Roosevelt told Nimitz/Navy to get out there and fight; not caring at all about any consequences since he knew that they would all be replaced come 1943-44 anyway. What he need was to buy time which would be accomplished with either victories or defeats. We know from our WitP/AE play that battle damage and air losses can push out our time tables. Was Roosevelt betting that no matter what the outcome of these early battles, the US would be keeping Japan busy and telegraphing to the Aussies that they must stand firm for everyone’s sake?
BTW, if you run with that idea, you can easily see why there was no effort to do much with Darwin. Nobody wanted to give Japanese any reason to invade the place.
AFB’s try this HR for something different –
John Curtin Home Rule: If the allies can’t sink major IJN units or don’t come out and contest IJN operations during the first six months of the war, the moment a Japanese lands on Australia, the continent surrenders and is off limits to everything but AU units. All AU units stop playing
Gary S (USN 1320, 1985-1993)
AOCS 1985, VT10 1985-86, VT86 1986, VS41 1986-87
VS32 1987-90 (NSO/NWTO, deployed w/CV-66, CVN-71)
VS27 1990-91 (NATOPS/Safety)
SFWSLANT 1991-93 (AGM-84 All platforms, S-3 A/B systems)