One for the Pacific specialists

Discussion in 'Australia & New Zealand' started by kingarthur, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. kingarthur

    kingarthur Well-Known Member

    My son has ask me a question today which I am hoping one of you more knowledgeable people out will be able to help with as its not an area I know much about. I am sure there are plenty of internet sources,but I prefer the wisdom of the forum members.

    His question was quite simply 'How close did Japan actually come to invading Australia and New Zealand'

    Although I couldnt answer him, I was most pleased that my 13 year old son was taking an interest in something other than football.

    Apparently his reason for asking is that he has a pen friend in Australia and would like to know a bit about the regions recent history, so he can send interesting letters,emails to his new found buddy.

    How quickly they grow up and there was me still treating like a baby and then he comes up with grown up questions and reasoning behind them.

    Thanks
     
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Japan Bombed Northern Australia
     
  3. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  4. kingarthur

    kingarthur Well-Known Member

    Thanks chaps, its always good to get internet source referrals from the membership.
     
  5. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Well, the Japanese had a pincer movement planned for taking care of Oz:

    1. In the north and west, Darwin and Broome took repeated clobberings from planes based in the eastern islands of the former NEI. However, I have always seen them as harrasment and neutralization raids, rather than the forerruners of an invasion.

    2.- In the north and east, the militia battalions in PNG did a wonderfully heroic job in stalling the enemy advance on the Kokoda Trail long enough for the AIF units to come back from the Middle East and join in the fray, winning in turn a desperate victory at Milne Bay, which prevented the outflanking of the whole line. Had Port Moresby fallen, the fate of at least Northeastern Australia would have been sealed.

    IMHO, the Japanese didn't have enough resources to occupy the whole island, but with a well established beachhead (of several thousand miles!) the affair would have acted as a magnet for forces deployed elsewhere, shifting the center of gravity in the Far East; Allied offensive forces tagged for the SWPA would have been employed in holding the "Aussie Line" instead, and many Japanese units fighting the Chinese death match would have been sent southwards.
     
  6. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    The Japanese barely had enough shipping to accomplish what they did early in the war and then supply those conquests, while continuing the war in China. Then, to try to land adequate forces on Australia so that they could subdue the entire landmas, and supply them, was beyond the ability ot the Japanese. At best, I remember reading, they only had eyes on Darwin and defensible parts of the Cape York Peninsula, so as long as the war in China was ongoing.

    The Japanese army and navy did not play well together and so you could expect only the barest of cooperation betweent the two forces. The army pretty much had all it could handle in China and could not provide the necessary forces needed with pulling troops from there or Manchuria. With problems they were having in China and the threat of the Red Army further north, there was little likelihood of that happening.

    If you look at who provided forces for a large portion of the landings in the Pacific proper, you will see that it was the IJN. However, the Navy did not have the infrastructure to support a ground force in a protracted fight such as they would face trying to take all of Australia. Their scratch-build Special Naval Landing Force units were not logistically equipped to support operations very far off of the beach. The IJA had the means, though on a somewhat lesser scale when compared to Western armies, to conduct protracted ground combat, but they were not supportive of such a venture since China proving was to be a tar baby.

    Look at the distances involved, both in terms of the round trip from Japan and then across the continent itself. The Japanese knew the problems that they would have just supporting the campaign, and that is not considereing a pissed off United States building strength faster than Japan possibly could threatening their left flank. Compared to Australia, the US was the more capable adversary of Japan, both on the ground and the sea and the Japanese knew that the big fight was with the US, even if they erroniously thought that the US lacked the moral fiber to see the war through to total defeat for Japan. Any Japanese campaign in Australia would be conducted with an eye looking over their shoulder for the ever-growing US fleet threatening the shipping lanes supporting that endeavor.
     
    A-58 likes this.
  7. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    The Japanese barely had enough shipping to accomplish what they did early in the war and then supply those conquests, while continuing the war in China. Then, to try to land adequate forces on Australia so that they could subdue the entire landmas, and supply them, was beyond the ability ot the Japanese. At best, I remember reading, they only had eyes on Darwin and defensible parts of the Cape York Peninsula, so as long as the war in China was ongoing.

    The Japanese army and navy did not play well together and so you could expect only the barest of cooperation betweent the two forces. The army pretty much had all it could handle in China and could not provide the necessary forces needed with pulling troops from there or Manchuria. With problems they were having in China and the threat of the Red Army further north, there was little likelihood of tht happening.

    If you look at who provided forces for a large portion of the landings in the Pacific proper, you will see that it was the IJN. However, the Navy did not have the infrastructure to support a ground force in a protracted fight such as they would face trying to take all of Australia. Their scratch-build Special Naval Landing Force units were not logistically equipped to support operations very far off of the beach. The IJA had the means, though on a somewhat lesser scale when compared to Western armies, to conduct protracted ground combat, but they were not supportive of such a venture since China proving to be a tar baby.

    Look at the distances involved, both in terms of the round trip from Japan and then across the continent itself. The Japanese knew the problems that they would have just supporting the campaign, and that is not considereing a pissed off United States building strength faster than Japan possibly could threatening their left flank. Compared to Australia, the US was the more capable adversary of Japan, both on the ground and the sea and the Japanese knew that the big fight was with the US, even if they erroniously thought that the US lacked the moral fiber to see the war through to total defeat for Japan. Any Japanese campaign in Australia would be conducted with an eye looking over their shoulder for the ever-growing US fleet threatening the shipping lanes supporting that endeavor.

    Shipping for the Japanese was a big problem but up until Guadalcanal was secure in early 1943 everything was up in the air.

    As you say, invading Australia (with hindsight) would have been impossible however it was a vicious fighting theatre with many unknowns as to how everything would fit together.

    The Japanese were at their peak, the allies were stepping up to the plate very gradually and many things could have gone wrong on land and at sea and in the air.

    US manufacturing power was seen as the big winner in the long run but in October 1942 Hornet was the only Carrier in the Pacific. Outside of the Solomons and New Guinea the theatre was a Naval war with the IJN always dangerous.

    This thread shows the importance of both Guadalcanal and New Guinea, especially the need to hold Port Moresby although much of the discussion was against the hindsight debate.

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/war-against-japan/11646-battle-new-guinea.html#post110375

    The reason the thread was interesting is the allies WERE in a precarious position and without the benefit of hindsight everything was not rosy.


    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I'll not disagree with most of the points you brought out, Geoff, concerning their ascendency. However, I cannot help but think that the IJA General Staff (which essentially controlled the government) knew that conducting a land operation with the goal subjugating the entirety of the Australian continent was not going to be within their immediate (1941-42) grasp, considering that nearly 80% of their ground forces (40 of 51 divisions) were involved in active operatons in China or staring down the Red Army in Manchuria. And these 40 division do not include forces fighting in SE Asia. As it was, they never could spare enough divisions to dispatch to that campaign and fully defeat the British in India. That left less than 10 divisions available to take Darwin, then push down the East coast of Australia, provided they left little or no strategic reserve in the home islands.

    The forces fighting in Burma relied on shipping to supply a large amount of the war materials that were needed there. If the IJN could not support that effort adequately, so close to Asia and away from Allied surface ships and aircraft, how would they be able to support an operation of the size needed to take all of Australia, which was well within range of Allied ground-based aircraft? I realize that had they succeded in taking New Guinea and holding the Solomons, they could have interdicted transports bound for SE Australia. I do not doubt, however, that Allied operations to supply and hold that part of the continent would have warranted efforts not unlike those used to supply Malta and the Mideast.
     
  9. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    I'll not disagree with most of the points you brought out, Geoff, concerning their ascendency. However, I cannot help but think that the IJA General Staff (which essentially controlled the government) knew that conducting a land operation with the goal subjugating the entirety of the Australian continent was not going to be within their immediate (1941-42) grasp, considering that nearly 80% of their ground forces (40 of 51 divisions) were involved in active operatons in China or staring down the Red Army in Manchuria. And these 40 division do not include forces fighting in SE Asia. As it was, they never could spare enough divisions to dispatch to that campaign and fully defeat the British in India. That left less than 10 divisions available to take Darwin, then push down the East coast of Australia, provided they left little or no strategic reserve in the home islands.

    The forces fighting in Burma relied on shipping to supply a large amount of the war materials that were needed there. If the IJN could not support that effort adequately, so close to Asia and away from Allied surface ships and aircraft, how would they be able to support an operation of the size needed to take all of Australia, which was well within range of Allied ground-based aircraft? I realize that had they succeded in taking New Guinea and holding the Solomons, they could have interdicted transports bound for SE Australia. I do not doubt, however, that Allied operations to supply and hold that part of the continent would have warranted efforts not unlike those used to supply Malta and the Mideast.

    Good points Jeff.
    With a 1940 population of only 7 million people spread over a large continent, defending Australia would have been a difficult task had the Japanese sufficient resources and resolve. Reinforcing and resupplying Australia, given the distance and risk of interdiction, may not have been feasible.
     
  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    I'll not disagree with most of the points you brought out, Geoff, concerning their ascendency. However, I cannot help but think that the IJA General Staff (which essentially controlled the government) knew that conducting a land operation with the goal subjugating the entirety of the Australian continent was not going to be within their immediate (1941-42) grasp, considering that nearly 80% of their ground forces (40 of 51 divisions) were involved in active operatons in China or staring down the Red Army in Manchuria. And these 40 division do not include forces fighting in SE Asia. As it was, they never could spare enough divisions to dispatch to that campaign and fully defeat the British in India. That left less than 10 divisions available to take Darwin, then push down the East coast of Australia, provided they left little or no strategic reserve in the home islands.

    The forces fighting in Burma relied on shipping to supply a large amount of the war materials that were needed there. If the IJN could not support that effort adequately, so close to Asia and away from Allied surface ships and aircraft, how would they be able to support an operation of the size needed to take all of Australia, which was well within range of Allied ground-based aircraft? I realize that had they succeded in taking New Guinea and holding the Solomons, they could have interdicted transports bound for SE Australia. I do not doubt, however, that Allied operations to supply and hold that part of the continent would have warranted efforts not unlike those used to supply Malta and the Mideast.

    All of Australia - never, I agree. Leaving Alaska out, Australia is the size of the United States less 100,000 sq miles or so. We were prepared to let them have everything above Brisbane (the Brisbane line) however all of the livestock and food in that area was to be moved south or destroyed.

    "Only" 10 divisions for Darwin was about 10 times more than what we had there. They would have only needed to take Cairns/Townsville which would give them Ports and airfield bases as well as some of the areas of Northern Western Australia.

    We know now that their shipping was limited (and at that time we were not sinking enough of them, that came later), but did not know that then. We know now the infighting that was evident but did not know that then. Not having Port Moresby put them under extreme pressure from allied air forces and a port that could supply those forces from Australia.

    Not having Port Moresby kept their Garrison of 100,000 troops tied to Rabaul. 83,000 were still there at the surrender.


    This link below makes good reading and shows that the Japanese pulled their forces from Guadalcanal to reinforce New Guinea and protect their flank.

    HyperWar: US Army in WWII: CARTWHEEL--The Reduction of Rabaul

    The section on page 45 on shows how the Japanese tried to restructure their forces in New Guinea.

    By not taking Port Moresby, all and any thoughts of landing in Australia's north were well and truly forgotten.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  11. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I wonder if there are any Japanese documents from the era covering planning for the endeavor?

    I have suspicions that the stand on the Kokoda Track by the Australians precluded any detailed planning to land forces in Australia on the part of the IJN and IJA.
     
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    A lot of great info in this thread. I learned a lot. The only thing I would throw in is that New Zealand is a heck of a long way from Australia. I'm often guilty myself of lumping them into one geographic unit. If Japan had managed to occupy parts of Australia, they'd have a long way to go to get to New Zealand.

    Dave
     
  13. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Speculative at best, would be the involvment of William Hughes in securing German NG for Australian Administration. I remember as school learning about this as the Japanese forced their claim to control the territory at the Paris peace talks.

    If true, one can only speculate how the Japanese would have faired in the Battle for Australia had they had 20 odd years to impliment infrastracture & logistics in that part of the world.

    Simon
     
  14. kingarthur

    kingarthur Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input guys, its been a very interesting read about a subject I knew very little about.
     
  15. Oggie2620

    Oggie2620 Senior Member

    Am just reading a book by Chris Rudge called Air to Air that asks and answers that very question...Good to see the others replies..As far as Kiwi land is concerned they got very worried but the Japanese losses in the Midway Campaign made them put off their advance to the South East so the Kiwis breathed a sigh of relief..
     
  16. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Speculative at best, would be the involvment of William Hughes in securing German NG for Australian Administration. I remember as school learning about this as the Japanese forced their claim to control the territory at the Paris peace talks.

    If true, one can only speculate how the Japanese would have faired in the Battle for Australia had they had 20 odd years to impliment infrastracture & logistics in that part of the world.

    Simon

    Japan did keep the German territory they took at the outbreak of WW1 however when Woodrow Wilson wanted to give New Guinea to Japan at the Paris Peace Conference, Australian Prime Minister "Billy" Hughes argued with Wilson.

    President Wilson asked Billy Hughes, attempting to belittle him, Who do you speak for? Billy Hughes replied, "I speak for 60,000 dead, how many do you speak for?

    Australia was granted the mandate over New Guinea and the rest is history.

    Billy Hughes was born of Welsh parents and makes a good read even though there is a lot of bad in there as well.

    His voice for a country of only 4 million people and never taking a backward step ruffled many however it gave Australia a voice of its own!

    Biography - William Morris (Billy) Hughes - Australian Dictionary of Biography
     
  17. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Thanks Spidge

    Regards

    Simon
     
  18. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    New Guinea is the 2nd biggest Island (nearly 800,000 sq kms/10 times bigger than England) in the world after Greenland with an area twice as big Japan's with a very small population (now only 7.5 million).

    New guinea has huge Copper, Gold, Silver, Ore, Timber etc etc etc.

    Thank God they did not get their hands on this country.
     
  19. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    My uncles Bill & Roy MacGregor were on the Akmana Expedition in 1929-1930. Having discovered gold, Bill became a plantation owner & Roy a District Officer.

    During WW2, Bill was a commissioned officer into the ANGAU & Roy served as a WO11 with the NGVR.

    Interestingly Bill lost his medals (WW1) when the Japanese overran the area where his plantation was & a duplicate set issued after WW2. Always wondered if they are sitting in shop or house in Tokyo or still in the ruins of their fired Homestead.

    Regards

    simon
     
  20. Clint_NZ

    Clint_NZ Member

    New Zealand had the odd Jap sub in its waters I believe but no sinkings, the missions were more reconnaissance related. The subs launched some small seaplanes which made a couple of flights over Auckland and Wellington I believe.
     

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