Allied successes on the Kokoda Track, at Milne Bay, and on Guadalcanal ensured
the security of Australia...If
Port Moresby had been taken by General Horii's troops advancing over the Kokoda
Track, the whole strategic situation would have been transformed. In that sense,
Kokoda was the most important battle fought by Australians in the Second World
1942 Australia was in great peril. The Allied policy of 'Beat Hitler
First' meant that Australia faced the prospect of a Japanese invasion with only
limited support from the United States."
From "Defending Australia in 1942" by Dr David Horner, Professor of Australian Defence History, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. The Japanese withdrawal from Guadalcanal in February 1943 signalled the failure and end of the FS Operation.
seems to be that Australians want to believe that they were part of a war, that
the war came close;
that it mattered....Set against the prosaic reality, the desire is poignant and rather pathetic."
Dr Peter Stanley of the Australian War Memorial speaks of Japan's deadly attacks on Australia in 1942
in the paper "Threat made manifest". Dr Stanley was born in England after the end of World War II.
Chief of Japan's Navy General Staff, Admiral Osami Nagano, wanted Japan to invade
northern Australia in
early 1942 and then cut Australia's lifeline to the United States.
In this history of the Battle for Australia all quotations from Senshi Sosho, the 102 volume official history of Japan's involvement in World War II, are drawn from the translations provided by Dr Steve Bullard and the cooperation of the Australia-Japan Research Project in providing access to those translations is acknowledged with deep appreciation.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, all references to "Professor Frei" or "Frei" are to the distinguished Japan scholar and historian Professor Henry Frei and his authoritative work "Japan's Southward Advance and Australia"(1991).
There is a considerable body of evidence, including the views of distinguished historians, senior Japanese Navy officers, and the official history of Japan's involvement in World War II, to support a conclusion that the Japanese intended to become the masters of Australia in 1942, either by (a) invasion of northern Australia and severing Australia's lifeline to the United States, or (b) severing Australia's lifeline to the United States and then pressuring Australia into surrender to Japan.
Japan's top admirals and generals were aware even before Pearl Harbor that Australia represented a serious threat to Japan as an ally of the United States. They knew that the Americans would be able to use Australia and its two Territories on the island of New Guinea (Papua and the New Guinea League Mandate) as bases from which to launch their counter-offensive against Japan's greatly expanded southern defensive perimeter. Being conscious of this threat, Japan's military leaders were determined to isolate Australia from the United States, and bring Australia under Japanese control. It was only in the means deemed necessary to compel Australia's submission to Japan that there was a difference of approach.
To appreciate fully Japan's strategic aims and war planning in 1941 and 1942, and in particular, the debates that took place between Japan's military leaders immediately following Pearl Harbor in regard to Australia's fate, it is necessary to have some understanding of the structure and functioning of Imperial Japan's military high command. A short outline has been provided in the next chapter Imperial Japan's military high command.
Operation FS: The Japanese plan to isolate Australia and compel its surrender to Japan
At the beginning of the Pacific War, the Imperial Japanese Navy had operational responsibility for the Pacific Ocean area, including Australia and its island territories. To counter the perceived threat from Australia as an American ally, the admirals of Japan's Navy General Staff and Navy Ministry wanted to invade key areas of the northern Australian mainland in early 1942 to isolate Australia from American and British aid. To invade Australia, the Japanese Navy would require troops from the Japanese Army.
The generals of the Japanese Army General Staff, and the Prime Minister of Japan, General Hideki Tojo, appreciated that Australia posed a serious threat to Japan while it remained an ally of the United States. As early as 10 January 1942, the Army and Navy Sections of Imperial General Headquarters had resolved at a Liaison Conference to:
"Proceed with the Southern Operations, all the while blockading supply from Britain and the United States and strengthening the pressure on Australia, ultimately with the aim to force Australia to be freed from the shackles of Britain and the United States."
From Senshi Sosho, the official history of Japan's involvement in World War II, "Debate concerning attack on the Australian Mainland", Chapter 3, "Army Operations in the South Pacific Area - Papua campaigns 1942-43".
However, when the Japanese Navy requested troops for an invasion of Australia at a meeting of the Army and Navy Sections of Japan's Imperial General Headquarters on 4 March 1942, the generals refused. They had a different but equally sinister plan for bringing Australia under Japanese control. The Japanese generals did not see a need to commit massive troop and logistical resources to the conquest of the Australian mainland in the early months of 1942. The easy capture of Rabaul on 23 January 1942 and the first bombings of Darwin on 19 February 1942 had convinced the Japanese Army that Australia had little with which to defend itself from invasion. It was the sheer size of Australia that the generals saw as an immediate problem. The generals felt that their army resources had already been heavily overextended by Japan's rapid and massive territorial conquests, and that the Imperial Army needed time to consolidate its territorial gains.The Japanese Army was confident that Australia could be pressured into surrender to Japan by isolating it completely from the United States as part of an intensified blockade, and by applying intense psychological pressure. The Japanese plan to sever Australia's lifeline to the United States was given the code reference "Operation FS" (also known as "FS Operation").
By 7 March 1942, the Japanese Navy and Army had agreed that severing Australia's lifeline to the United States (Operation FS) and pressuring Australia into submission to Japan were more important objectives than the limited invasion of Australia's northern coast that the Navy had earlier proposed. At the Imperial General Headquarters Liaison Conference on 7 March 1942, the Navy General Staff and Navy Ministry agreed to their limited invasion proposal being deferred in favour of the Army plan to sever Australia's lifeline to the United States and then pressure Australia's into total surrender to Japan. Planning for an invasion of the Australian mainland was not dropped at this Liaison Conference. It was agreed that planning for invasion of the Australian mainland would be referred back to Navy and Army headquarters for further study. It is important to note that the Japanese generals did not rule out their support for an invasion by force if Australia did not surrender as they expected when the Japanese noose was tightened.
In public addresses to the Diet (Japanese parliament) on 21 January 1942, and on the occasion of the fall of Singapore (15 February 1942), Japan's Prime Minister, General Hideki Tojo, called on Australia to surrender to Japan. General Tojo suggested that Japan would be merciful to Australia if this happened. Tojo would repeat this demand for Australia's surrender in the Japanese parliament on 28 May 1942. To distract attention from the impending Japanese attack on America's Midway Atoll in the central Pacific, and perhaps to demonstrate Australia's vulnerability, Japanese midget submarines penetrated Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942 and torpedoed the Royal Australian Navy depot ship Kuttabul, killing twenty-one sailors. In Australia, Tojo's demands for surrender fell on deaf ears. The treacherous Japanese sneak attack on the American Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor while Japanese diplomats were still discussing peace in Washington was unlikely to produce trust by Australia in Japanese assurances!
Although Prime Minister General Tojo suggested that Australia would be treated with leniency if it surrendered to Japan, I find it difficult to see how an Australian surrender to Japan could serve Japan's purposes without some form of Japanese occupation that would exclude access to Australia by the United States. In fact, after its anticipated surrender to Japan in 1942, General Tojo was planning to incorporate Australia as a puppet state into Japan's compliant political bloc called the New Order in Greater East Asia and its equally compliant economic bloc called The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. For more information about these hostile Japanese plans for Australia, see "He was coming South - to compel Australia's surrender to Japan".
On 15 March 1942, with Emperor Hirohito's approval, Japan's military high command formally resolved to extend Japan's southern defensive perimeter from Port Moresby in the Australian Territory of Papua to Fiji and Samoa in the South Pacific for the purpose of isolating Australia from the United States. "Operation FS" was to be carried out as a matter of high strategic priority under the overall direction of Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue at Rabaul. Once completely isolated from the United States, the Japanese military leaders believed that Australia could be pressured into surrender to Japan by blockade and intense psychological pressures, including an intensified military onslaught against cities on the Australian mainland.
The need to tell young Australians the truth about Japan's hostile plans for Australia in 1942
It is disturbing to find that young Australians are being given false information about planning that was taking place at the highest levels of the Japanese government and military in 1942 to compel Australia's submission to Japan by severing Australia's lifeline to the United States and applying intense pressure for surrender, including intensified blockade, bombardment, and psychological warfare. The primary source of this false information about the gravity of the danger faced by Australia from Japan in 1942 is a former senior historian at the Australian War Memorial, Dr Peter Stanley. Since 2002, and until his resignation in late 2006, Dr Stanley used the Australian War Memorial as a platform to deny that Australia's war in 1942 involved "deliverance from a Japanese threat" and to accuse Prime Minister John Curtin of exaggerating the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 for political advantage or because he had become mentally unhinged by the stress of high office in wartime.
These offensive and insulting claims, and others of similar tenor, were made by Dr Peter Stanley in two published essays "He's (not) coming South - the invasion that wasn't" (2002) and "Threat made manifest" (2005). Although publicly challenged by me to do so, Dr Stanley has never been able to provide any sound historical foundation for his controversial claims by reference to acknowledged authorities on Japan's hostile plans for Australia in 1942 such as the massive official Japanese history of the Pacific War Senshi Sosho, or the published research of internationally recognised Japan scholars and historians such as Professor Henry Frei, Professor John J. Stephan, and Professor Herbert P. Bix.
Having proclaimed his English birth at the beginning of his essay "Threat made manifest", Dr Peter Stanley makes very clear his belief that the only battles that really mattered in World War II occurred over his English birthplace during the Battle of Britain and on the continent of Europe. He speaks dismissively about Australia's perilous situation throughout 1942 as repeated attacks aimed at Australia by Japan were repulsed by American and Australian forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, and in the bloody Kokoda and Guadalcanal campaigns. Dr Stanley compounds the insult to Australians by dismissing their belief that their country faced grave peril from Japan in 1942 with the words:
"It seems to be that Australians want to believe that they were part of a war, that the war came close; that it mattered...Set against the prosaic reality, the desire is poignant and rather pathetic."
From "Threat made manifest" (2005)
The persistence of false claims about Japan's hostile intentions towards Australia in 1942 justifies a detailed treatment of the debates concerning the fate of Australia that were taking place in Japan's military high command during 1942. It will be necessary for me to deal with the structure and functioning of Japan's military high command in 1941 and 1942; Japan's strategic aims and war planning in 1941 and 1942; and the forces that shaped the Pacific War in 1941 and 1942.
It is also important to bear in mind that Japan's strategic aims were not set in concrete in 1942. Those aims changed as the tide of battle ebbed and flowed against Japan or in its favour. Important changes in Japan's strategic aims were produced during 1942 by events such as the carrier-launched Doolittle Raid on Japan and as the tide of the Pacific War turned against Japan. Those changes are mentioned elsewhere on this web-site in the context of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Kokoda Campaign, and the Guadalcanal Campaign.
I will demonstrate in the chapters beginning with "Challenging a denial of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 promoted by Dr Peter Stanley" that there is no historical foundation for Dr Stanley's denial of the gravity of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 and his appalling attacks on the character and leadership of Prime Minister John Curtin.
INDEX TO JAPANESE PLANNING TO COMPEL AUSTRALIA'S SURRENDER TO JAPAN:
Imperial Japan's military high command - structure and functioning
Before Pearl Harbor, Japan targets Australia's New Guinea Territories
After Pearl Harbor, Japan's military leaders debate their next targets for conquest
Japan's Navy proposes a limited invasion of the northern Australian mainland
The Japanese Army rejects a limited invasion and demands full control over Australia
The Japanese Army plan to "throttle Australia into submission" to Japan
He was coming South - to compel Australia's surrender to Japan
Japan's hostile plans for Australia beyond the Japanese Army's plan to force Australia's surrender?
Challenging a denial of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 promoted by Dr Peter Stanley
Proving that Dr Peter Stanley is promoting a false history of 1942
Defending the character and leadership of Prime Minister John Curtin from Dr Peter Stanley's unjustified slurs
A foolish decision by Japan's Admiral Yamamoto averts a major Japanese threat to Australia
The final Analysis
Historical Source Material
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