Minister General Tojo)...encouraged his army operations chief on 30 January
(1942) to actively pursue the plans for FS Operation, which would throttle Australia
into submission by the gradual extension of Japanese control over eastern New
Guinea, the Solomons, and the New Caledonia-Fiji Islands area."
From "Japan's Southward Advance and Australia" (1991) by distinguished Japan scholar Professor Henry Frei at page 172.
is time that Australians stopped kidding themselves that their country faced
an actual invasion threat and looked seriously at their role in the Allied war
From the paper: "He's (not) coming South - the invasion that wasn't" (2002) by English-born Dr Peter Stanley of the Australian War Memorial
Stanley has legitimate arguments in my opinion".
Major General Steve Gower, AO, Director of the Australian War Memorial on 8 November 2005
OPERATION FS - THE JAPANESE ARMY PLAN TO "THROTTLE AUSTRALIA INTO SUBMISSION" TO JAPAN IN 1942
The Japanese Army plan to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan
In the preceding chapter, I mentioned Professor Frei's claim that the Japanese Army was not interested in the Navy General Staff and Navy Ministry plan for partial invasion of the northern Australian mainland because the Army wanted Australia's total submission to Japan.
Minister General Hideki Tojo
Tojo wanted to "throttle Australia into submission to Japan" in 1942 by severing its lifeline
to the United States and applying a blockade and other psychological pressures.
Professor Frei explains how the Japanese Army intended to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan:
"On the political level, Prime
Minister Tojo Hideki continued to support pressuring Australia into submission
by way of cutting her communications lines to the United States. In a Diet*
oration on 21 January he proclaimed decisive defeat for Australia if she continued
to fly the flag of the enemy. His intimidating rhetoric notwithstanding, he
always opposed an invasion of Australia and encouraged his army operations
chief on 30 January (1942) to actively pursue the plans for FS Operation,
which would throttle Australia into submission by the gradual extension of
Japanese control over eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, and the New Caledonia-Fiji
Islands area." See Frei at page 172. The
emphasis is mine. For more on the FS Operation, see the box below.
* Japanese parliament.
"On the occasion of the fall of Singapore in mid-February, he (Tojo) again demanded dramatically that now was the time for the peoples of Australia, India, and the Netherlands East Indies to surrender; any further resistance was futile. And in a further appeal to the leaders of Australia at an extraordinary session of the Diet on 28 May (1942), Tojo repeated his threatening lure that it was not too late to make the right decision and toe the line with the Japanese Empire. Japan was now tightening the noose on Australia. The dates for the invasion of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa were firmly set for 8, 18, and 21 July respectively. See Frei at page 172. The emphasis is mine.
"Psychological warfare against Australia was to be stepped up at the time of the FS Operation..And should Australia still prove unresponsive, psychological warfare would be increased, the blockade of Australia strengthened..At the end of May 1942, the army supreme command was confident that the Australia problem could be solved". See Frei at page 172. The emphasis is mine.
Professor Frei makes it very clear that the Army was not opposed to Japan achieving control over Australia in 1942, but only contesting with Navy General Staff the means by which Australia could be forced to surrender to Japan.
The generals of the Army General Staff, and the Prime Minister of Japan, General Hideki Tojo, did not see a need to commit massive troop resources to the conquest of Australia, with the massive logistical problems that would produce. The generals were confident that Australia could be bullied into surrender to Japan by isolating it completely from the United States and by applying intense psychological pressure.
It is difficult to see how an Australian surrender to Japan, of the kind contemplated by the generals, could be meaningful without some form of Japanese occupation that would exclude access by the United States. It is important to note that the Japanese generals did not rule out army support for an invasion by force of arms if Australia did not surrender as they expected.
Those interested in the true extent of the danger faced by Australia from Japan in 1942 will search in vain through Dr Stanley's two papers on this subject for any mention by him that the Japanese Prime Minister, General Hideki Tojo, demanded Australia's surrender to Japan three times in the first five months of 1942. They will also look in vain through Dr Stanley's two papers for any mention by him that Prime Minister Tojo was determined to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan in 1942 by means of Operation FS. These omissions occur despite the fact that they are mentioned by Professor Frei at page 172 of "Japan's Southward Advance and Australia", and despite the fact that Dr Stanley acknowledges in both of his papers the authority of Professor Frei in this area, and his reliance on Professor Frei's scholarship. We will have to wait for Dr Stanley's explanation for his failure to mention these vital facts bearing on the gravity of the danger faced by Australia in 1942. In the meantime, we are left to suspect that Dr Stanley failed to mention these vital facts because they did not fit his revisionist claim that Prime Minister John Curtin exaggerated the danger facing Australia from Japan in 1942. I will return to Dr Stanley's criticism of Prime Minister Curtin in a later chapter.
We have Professor Frei's authoritative claim that Prime Minister Tojo and Japan's military leadership intended to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan by means of the FS Operation (also known as Operation FS) which would involve "the gradual extension of Japanese control over eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, and the New Caledonia-Fiji Islands area." It is necessary to understand what Operation FS entailed in order to understand the gravity of Australia's danger in 1942, and have provided more details about FS Operation in the box below. It has been placed in a box because its importance makes it a subject of reference from other chapters of this web-site.
Author's Note regarding Operation FS, also known as FS Operation
Japan's military high command was very conscious of the urgent need to deny the United States access to Australia as a base for a counter-offensive. On 15 March 1942, Imperial General Headquarters authorised a major strategic initiative in the South Pacific called Operation FS (also sometimes called FS Operation). The purpose of this operation was to sever communications between the United States and Australia by extending Japan's southern defensive perimeter to Port Moresby in the Australian Territory of Papua, and then across the Pacific Ocean to Fiji and the Samoan Islands. Port Moresby, Fiji, and the islands between them (the British Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia), would be heavily fortified by Japan and equipped with forward air and naval bases. The waters between each island fortress in this chain would be guarded by the Japanese Navy. A tightly enforced Japanese blockade would prevent military support (including troops, equipment, oil, metals, and rubber) reaching Australia from the United States and Britain. Japan's Prime Minister, General Hideki Tojo, saw Operation FS operating as a Japanese noose to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan.
Operation FS was Japan's top strategic priority in the Pacific until the Doolittle carrier raid on Japan (18 April 1942) caused equal strategic priority to be given to the total destruction of the US Pacific Fleet at Midway Atoll in the central Pacific. When the Japanese Navy suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Midway, Operation FS again became Japan's top strategic priority in the South Pacific. The Japanese lost their naval supremacy over the United States Pacific Fleet at Midway, and it became even more vital for Japan to deny the United States access to Australia as the springboard for a counter-offensive. Operation FS was intended to be accompanied by blockade* of Australia and other pressures (almost certainly to include intensification of measures against Australia already operating, such as increased and longer range air bombardment of the Australian mainland from Port Moresby, increased submarine attacks on Australian coastal shipping, and shelling of Australia's coastal cities) to compel Australia to surrender to Japan.
The capture of Port Moresby and Guadalcanal were to be the initial stages of a revised Operation FS that no longer extended further east than the British Solomons. However, the aims of Operation FS remained the same - to isolate Australia from the United States and pressure it into surrender to Japan.
* See Frei at page 172, and above.
In the next chapter, I will examine how Operation FS was implemented by the Japanese in 1942 with the purpose of compelling Australia's surrender to Japan.