|Simpson and His Donkey|
We make a big deal in Australia of ANZAC day, which commemorates the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli [now part of
1915. Many young Australians had joined the army during WW I to help Turkey because
at that stage in our history we still thought of ourselves as British. Britain
If WW I was a particularly brutal and pointless war, the Gallipoli campaign was a particularly appalling waste of human life. If any good resulted from it at all, it marked a turning point in the national psyche – Australians came to see themselves as, and be seen as, possessed of a unique national character. It was a point in our history when we not only showed the world we had value in our own right, but came to learn the British did not think of us as British so much as mere colonials – as second class Poms.
For some reason we make less of a big deal in Australia of the New Guinea campaign, which consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and Allied—primarily Australian—forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua.
This campaign marked another important turning point in our national psyche.
To be sure, WW II was not quite so pointless as the first had been, though the devastation it caused was horrific.
A death, is a death, is a death, regardless of when it occurs.
We had been at war since September 1939 when our fellow Brits first declared war on
of our troops were located in Europe and the Middle East, with some in Germany Britain’s Asian territories, when the Japanese
attacked the US naval base
at Pearl Harbour
[ Hawaii] in December 1941, and then managed to
a few months later. Singapore
Japan had been
bombing Darwin and other parts of Northern
Australia since February 1942, it was reasonable for Australians to believe the
Japanese advance through New Guinea
was just another step in their plan to invade . Australia
Most of the Forces who fought in the “Kokoda” campaign were soldiers in the Australian Militia – citizen soldiers who volunteered to fight the Japanese and so protect
We were no longer fighting for a Britain we thought of as our Mother country, or even a Britain we thought of as a military Ally in WW II – when we started to fight in New Guinea, we were fighting for our lives.
This also marked a turning point in another important respect: As the US had entered WW II after Pearl Harbour and had decided to use Australia as a base for their Pacific campaign against the Japanese we were, for the first time, thinking of the US as our most important Allies.
Being the smaller country in any military
our sense of security comes at a cost: To some extent we are now simply sucking
up to a different world power when we get involved in various wars around the
globe. But none of this should detract from the greatness of the gifts we were
given by those who fought in Alliance . New
Kokoda campaign were local villagers, many of whom were press-ganged into
helping but went on to become heroes for the Australians caught up in this
|This picture of Raphael Oimbari giving a blinded Private Whittington a helping hand|
has become something of an Australian icon.
The locals, who came to be known [God forgive us] as “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”, carried supplies, assisted with the construction of airfields and bases, and helped evacuate the sick and wounded through some truly inhospitable terrain.
Oimbari and 5 of his fellow Angels were finally recognised with medals in 2010.
“Fuzzy Wuzzy Day” - November 3 - is becoming an increasingly significant day of commemoration, in The [now] Independent State of
Rude and Ruder
On 22 October 1942, after a setback in the campaign, our General Blamey addressed the men of the 21st Brigade on a parade ground. The men of the Maroubra Force expected congratulations for their efforts in holding back the Japanese. However, instead of praising them, Blamey told the brigade that they had been "beaten" by inferior forces, and that "no soldier should be afraid to die". "Remember," Blamey was reported as saying, "it's the rabbit who runs who gets shot, not the man holding the gun.”
He is not fondly remembered for this remark.
Historians – based on paper evidence – now insist that
had no intention of invading or occupying . Australia
Fast forward 70 years to the anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, and there is some argument abroad that it’s ridiculous to elevate the significance of the WW II Kokoda campaign to the same significance as WW I’s Gallipoli campaign.
Given the significance of Kokoda to
sense of self, this attitude is extraordinary. Australia
Putting aside any conviction that war is ultimately stupid, the notion that Kokoda or any other battle is less important than Gallipoli is an insult to everyone involved – Australian or Allied Soldiers, Papuans, families, and even the Japanese soldiers themselves.
A death, is a death, is a death, regardless of when it occurs. It’s not a competition.