Australia-Japan Research Project

AustraliaJapan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial
Australian and Japanese 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.

Printed on 05/20/2022 08:49:28 PM