Saturday, April 22, 2017

25 April

25 April is ANZAC Day.  Wear a sprig of rosemary in honor of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps:    

TheANZACs suffered and endured the stupidity of Winston Churchill and Lord Kitchener at Gallipoli in the worst planned amphibious operation ever.

They fought in France at the Somme, at Passchendaele, at the 2nd Marne.

Their Camel Corps fought and outflanked the Turk in the Sinai, in Palestine, and in Jordan during Allenby's anabasis to Damascus and beyond.

In WW2, they again suffered and endured Churchill's overreaching in Crete and mainland Greece.

That same year they fought off Rommel's (at that time undefeated) Africa Corps for eight months at Tobruk until finally relieved by the Eighth Army.  Later they fought with distinction at the 2nd Battle of El Alamein.

But the Australian mainland had suffered the first of 97 separate air attacks by the IJN and IJAAF (that first attack was by 242 aircraft, most of them from the same aircraft carriers that had hit Pearl Harbor).  And at Singapore, Churchill's so-called Gibraltar of the East, Britain's disastrous defense lost the Australians 15,000 troops to Japanese POW camps.   Many of them died during the Sandakan Death March which matched (or was worse than) our experience at Bataan.  Or they died on the Burma Railway.  So the Aussie Prime Minister turned down further requests by Churchill and brought his troops home to the Pacific Theater.

Section C of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, also known as the Coastwatchers and mostly Australians, played a critical role in the Solomon Islands campaign.
Then in New Guinea, the ANZACs saved MacArthur's entire SW Pacific strategy by taking and holding the Kokoda Track; and doing outstanding work at Buna-Gona and Salamaua-Lae.   After that, Mac then gave them the dirty jobs of mopping up Bougainville, New Britain, etc.  And relegated them to the flank in Borneo while the US Sixth Army got the glory in the Philippines.  There was some strong resentment in Canberra for that treatment.  And rightly so IMHO.

No space to list all their contributions - I missed many other battles.  But on the 25th, my bride is promising to cook up some ANZAC biscuits (guaranteed not to crumble no matter how long they spend being bounced, banged and beaten in the bottom of a military mail sack):    Might even need to wash them down with a tinny of Australia's favorite bevvie.


  1. Ah-hah!
    So that is what ANZAC stands for...was always a question that sat on the shelf for the longest time because so many other things were being researched and studied, and now I feel like a space has opened up for me on that shelf.


  2. Sheerakahn -

    I've always been acronym-challenged, so it sat on my backshelf for awhile also.

    And in truth ANZAC only applies to limited cases, and not for the many examples I listed above. Wiki tells me it only applied to WW1 formations except for:

    1] briefly (less than 30 days) during the Battle of Greece in WW2 (so my listing of Aussie or Kiwi troops at Tobruk, el-Alamein, Darwin, Singapore, New Guinea et al were not officially ANZAC although I bet they considered themselves such);

    2] for Battalion size units in Vietnam when NZ infantry companies were integrated into Australian battalions;

    3] and for a small Aussie/Kiwi Battle Group in East Timor during peacekeeping ops in 2006 through 2013(?).

  3. Buna-Gona was a nightmare, and on it I'm willing to go full-on MacHate with you, Mike; MacArthur was an utter ass in New Guinea and his grandstanding got men killed for no other reason.

    The ANZACs can join the Irish, Canadians, South Africans, and practically every other Commonwealth and British colonial forces in cursing the willingness of the British politician to fight to the last Australian, Irishman, South African...

  4. FDChief -

    I did not intend to come across as a hater of MacArthur. He was absolutely fearless in WW1 and at that time was reportedly well liked by his troops, his peers and his commander.

    I just think he was vastly overrated. Why did he skate the disasters of 12/8/41 and later in the Philippines when Kimmel and Short in Hawaii were judged to be in dereliction of duty? Plus he was a showboat and apparently jealous of his own subordinate commanders. Why did Ike's lieutenants in the European Theater all get national recognition in the press, yet Generals Eichelberger, Vasey, Krueger, and Kenney who worked for Mac were virtually unknown at that time?

    1. I guess my take on the PI is that Mac didn't pick that fight; the War Department and the Roosevelt Administration did. Mac, insubordinate ass as he could be, didn't have much choice but to salute and move out smartly. The 12/8 fiasco probably got swept under the rug because to hammer Mac would have meant airing a whole lot more unpreparedness dirty laundry at a time when the Administration didn't want that.

      I am usually easier on Mac than you are given our discussions re: Bataan and Unsan over at GFT, but this one brought out all of Ol' Corncob Pipe's worst qualities. The terrain, climate, and the enemy were hard enough; adding Mac's vainglory was the perfect shitstorm.

  5. The one really important contribution of the Australians was to keep Port Moresby and thus a staging base for putting pressure on Rabaul.

    Everything else they did was either unnecessary or substitutable.

    BTW, I suppose the only American officers who proved to be worthy their pay were the ones who led guerillas on the Philippines. This very unexpected mode of operation required a lot of adaptability, intelligence and leadership qualities.

    1. The Filipino resistance is pretty amazing when you consider that it was only a couple of generations earlier the U.S.had been hammering the PI pretty hard to do what the Japanese had done. Not sure what that says more about: Filipino character or the relative nastiness of American vs Japanese colonialism...

    2. The Americans had promised independence, the Japanese announced colonialisation.

    3. Promises are pretty cheap, tho, especially when made by the folks who'd herded granny into concentration camps and filled grampa full of canteen water. I still think that the combination of Japanese brutality, Filipino hope, and the individual abilities of the U.S. officers must have been pretty strong...

    4. FDChief -

      There were atrocities on both sides. And many of the atrocities were Filipino-on-Filipino. Multitudes of Filipinos fought against Aguinaldo. He had more Spanish and Chinese genes than Filipino. He and his cronies were not well liked by the common people, many of whom enlisted in droves in the US Army's Philippine Scouts or in the Philippine Constabulary to fight against him. He was a collaborator during the Japanese occupation.

    5. Mike...we invaded the PI while they were rebelling against Spain and subjugated them by force. Period. Full stop. From there it doesn't really matter if Aguinaldo was a gold-plated sonofabitch or the Moros bloodthirsty heathens. We had no business there and anything we did other than leave was indefensible and vile. Arguing tit-for-tat on atrocities is a game the U.S. cannot win.

    6. FDChief -

      Agreed. I am not arguing an eye for an eye or retaliatory cruelty. I was trying to answer (albeit badly) your amazement about the joint Filipino/American resistance against the Japanese.

      The truth is many if not most Filipinos back in 1900 did not want to be governed by a patrician class from southern Luzon. They viewed Aguinaldo's Republic as an oligarchy ruled by the mestizo descendants of hidalgos and wealthy foreign merchants. When they resisted Aguinaldo's troops or his secret society members, they were murdered or tortured. It is not amazing to me at all that they welcomed American intervention and fought with the Americans against Aguinaldo at the turn of the 19th Century. And neither is it amazing to me that they fought with the Americans against the Japanese in the 1940s.

  6. Port Moresby was obviously important to Japanese strategy in the SW Pacific, because they tried to take it three times. Their Landing Forces which were scheduled to take the port in May 42 had to turn back due to the Battle of the Coral Sea. Later they tried an end-around at Milne Bay and also the direct overland assault via the Kokosa Track.

    They met disaster at Milne Bay as the Aussies knew they were coming (Ultra) and reinforced in strength.

    Kokoda was a horrific campaign. At first the Aussies only had an indigenous Papuan unit and an untried Aussie militia to defend with. They pulled off a fighting retreat. They were reinforced with elements of the 21st Brigade under Brigadier Potts but still no match for the 6,000 man Japanese attacking force, so he kept fighting, retreating, delaying - fighting, retreating, delaying, etc. There is a good post on it here:!msg/gec-people-cultures-moderated/wtvEM7fhIF8/sMILFczDOFIJ

    Potts' delaying tactics probably saved Port Moresby, but he was relieved of command. Check out the 'running rabbits' story in the link above.

    Eventually the Japanese advanced to a ridge looking down on Port Moresby. But they had overextended their supply lines and could not close the deal. The Aussies again reinforced, and this time got well supplied and well supported by air so managed to throw back the Japanese advance. Mac comes out looking good here, he consolidated all American and Aussie supply assets to support Kokoda. Although many of the airdrops were miles off the intended drop zones. So much of the supply had to be done by native Papuan porters. The Navy and the 5th Air Force disrupted Japanese logistics at coastal Buna on the north end of the Track. So that poor supply support for the Japanese turned their retreat into a starvation alley. And there are accounts that say many of the retreating Japanese panicked as they were hunted down by Papuan headhunters. Tropical diseases were a killer also.

  7. The Kokoda Track Campaign should have broken the myth that Japanese soldiers were accomplished jungle fighters. I assume they first got that reputation in Malaya and the Philippines. And that meme was later reinforced in the early years of their Burma Campaign. But in Malaya they had air supremacy, 200+ tanks, 3000+ trucks, and bicycling infantry. They used amphibious attacks down the long Malay Peninsula to outflank British strong-points. None of that counts as being jungle warfare, not in my mind anyway? Plus they had allies in several Malayan nationalist organizations that had been groomed for a few years before the invasion. Those allies helped them navigate the jungle roads and trails on the times they went overland instead of along the coast.

    In the Philippines the IJA 14th Army did have a small group of experienced jungle fighters. But they were not Japanese; they were of the indigenous Austronesian people of Taiwan. Their unit designation by the Japanese was Takasago Giyutai. They were a highland people, skilled hunter-gatherers, from the jungle covered mountains of Southeastern Taiwan. They came from a tribal society that celebrated head hunting even up until the 1930s. They reportedly were a big part of the Japanese victory at Bataan. They served in the PI, in the Solomons, in New Guinea, and in Morotai. The last Japanese holdout in 1974 was at Morotai and he was a Takasago, not Japanese: