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Attitudes to the war
Australian attitudes to the Japanese
Generalisations about the attitude of Australian fighting men towards the Japanese during the Second World War need to be treated with a degree of caution – one will always find individual testimonies to contradict them – but any reasonable sample of the views of Australian veterans, whether it be based on wartime diaries and letters (as in Mark Johnston’s book, Fighting the Enemy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)) or postwar interviews (as is the case with this site) quickly reveals clearly identifiable attitudes held in common across different units and even services. This site explores six areas where such generalisations can be made.

The first section reveals the derogatory pre-war stereotypes of the Japanese held by the men who would soon be facing them on the battlefield. Those stereotypes were rudely shattered by the scale and swiftness of Japan’s victories against the Allies in the first half of 1942 and the second section deals with the Australians reassessment of the fighting ability of the Japanese forces. While many Australians came, however grudgingly, to respect the bravery of their Japanese opponents, this attitude was tempered by their horror and outrage at the Japanese atrociticies committed against Australian prisoners of war and others. The impact of these atrocities on Australian servicemen is examined in section three. This reaction was closely tied to the Australian's own treatment of Japanese prisoners of war and this is the subject of the fourth section. The fifth section looks at the reaction of Australians to the use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Finally the last section deals with the attitudes of Australian veterans towards the Japanese after the war ended.

All of the statements included in this site have been taken from transcripts of interviews conducted with Australian Second World War veterans in the late 1980s and early 1990s and held in the Australian War Memorial's collection as part of the Keith Murdoch sound archive.

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Australian Attitudes links
Australian Attitudes
Pre-war perceptions
Fighting Ability
Japanese POWs
Atomic Bomb

Attitudes links
Australian Attitudes
Tamura diary
Southern Cross
Midget Submarine

Click images to enlarge. Japanese troops manhandling a Type 41 75mm infantry gun through the jungle, Malaya, 22 January 1942.  The Japanese Army had spent most of the previous decade preparing to fight the Soviets in Manchuria while waging a real war against the rest of China: it was woefully ill-equipped for tropical warfare.  Nevertheless, the stoic endurance, discipline and determination of its soldiers saw the Japanese Army overwhelm the equally ill-prepared British and American forces arrayed against it in the first months of 1942.
AWM 127896
A huge fireball bursts through thick black clouds of smoke from burning oil tanks set alight during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin, 19 February 1942.  Dwarfed by the explosion HMAS Deloraine, a Bathurst-class corvette, lies at anchor in the foreground.  The Japanese attacks on the Australian mainland touched the collective psychological nerve of the nation in a way that distant European enemies, Germany and Italy, did not.  Throughout 1942 most Australians held real fears of Japanese invasion.
AWM 128108
Australian troops display a Japanese flag they took during the capture of Lae, September 1943.  By this stage of the war the myth of the Japanese ‘superman’ had been broken by a string of Allied victories dating back to Milne Bay the previous year.  While Australian soldiers would maintain a wary respect for Japanese fighting abilities to the end of the war there was no doubt in their minds as to who would ultimately prevail.
AWM 015776

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