When there was unexpectedly swift success in
Malaya and the after the attack on Philippines Pearl Harbor there are many in the navy eager to attack . The army was opposed, worrying about over-extending the army, and doubtful about the benefit of occupying part or all of Australia . Had they realized Australia was essentially defenceless, having sent its 3 best divisions to fight in Australia North Africa, the Japanese would have attacked. I had not realized the depths of the antagonism between ’s Prime Minister, John Curtin, and Winston Churchill over Curtin’s insistence the Australian troops be returned to Australia when Churchill judged an invasion unlikely. Australia
Providing a human Japanese perspective Wurth focuses on the midget submariners who knowingly set forth on their missions knowing they were suicide missions. While he wonders why Japanese admirals had so much concern for this small group a disproportionate share of his book is devoted to the submariners. It was poignant to read of their sacrifice and provoked anger at the admirals who sent them to their pointless deaths.
Eventually the Japanese army and navy agreed to capture
and then consider anew invading Papua New Guinea . 1942 makes clear that the pivotal naval contest of the Pacific was the Australia of the Battle Coral Sea in which a Japanese fleet on its way to attack Port Moseby was forced to retire by the American navy.
Kokoda sets out how these militia, primarily the 39th as most of the 53rd did melt in combat, stopped the Japanese and then conducted a fighting retreat through the mountains until finally reinforced by regular Australian army soldiers. The 39th fought hard and well.
Fitzsimons focuses on the experiences of Joe Dawson and Stan Bissett to illustrate the men who fought on the Kokada Track.
I had only vaguely known of the battle and thought the Japanese were stopped more by disease and supply problems than the Australian militia. I was wrong. The Australians suffered just as much from disease and struggled to supply their troops.
It was startling to read how difficult it was to go up and down the hills that made up the Kokoda Track. While in
we had visited with Bob and Jan Sydes. At 59 Bob made the trek with a son and his daughter. I was deeply impressed by his strength and stamina to walk the Track. I could not have made it. Australia
Fitzsimons is not afraid to write about the stupidity of upper Australian army leadership which sent soldiers to fight in the jungle in khaki uniforms and tried to run the defence from
The Japanese, at a huge cost, did drive the Australians almost back to Moresby where they were halted by a combination of supply problems that left the troops on the verge of starvation and strengthened Australian forces. Fitzsimons has little use for “Dugout” Doug McArthur and the Australian Army leader, General Thomas Blamey.