Australia 1942: In the Shadow of War – Peter Dean (Ed) – Book Review

This is the first of three books edited by Peter Dean that examine Australia and its situation from 1942 to 1945. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour, invasion of the Malay Peninsula and the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Australia came to realize that the status quo no longer existed – the dependence upon Britain and its Middle East ‘fortress’ had gone and it was time to immediately and urgently compensate for a policy that had allowed Australia’s military defence to decline to its current level.

Australia 1942 is a series of papers that examine Australia’s position at the time, the state of its defences, government reaction, Japanese military actions on Australian targets, the naval, ground and air battles in the South West Pacific, and the impact of American forces moving into Australia. With contributions by highly credited Australian and Japanese authors, a comprehensive picture is drawn of the most crucial year in Australia’s security.

The genuine mobilization of industries and the enactment of rationing of food, clothing and fuel were among the first measures to be instigated in an effort to make up for much-needed defence materiel and resources. Realizing that Britain was in no position to assist Australia, Prime Minister John Curtin had no option but to reach out to the United States. This produced a massive change in how the country functioned and its people reacted with so many US troops based here. Australians accepted these measures taken by Curtin, and his 1941 minority government was returned to office in 1943 with an absolute majority in both Houses.

The Japanese government’s intent in relation to the occupation of Australia was limited to utilizing resources in northern Australia and preventing Allied interdiction from Port Moresby and mainland Australia. Japan’s war with China took far higher priority, and the disparity between the Japanese naval and military commanders in the Pacific meant that initial thrusts in our direction were not pressed home.

Each chapter is accompanied by comprehensive endnotes and a further reading list. With almost 40 photographs, ten maps and index Australia 1942 is a ‘must read’ for those seeking a genuine and complete picture of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War.

Reviewed by Neville Taylor, May 2016

Peter Dean (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2013 - Hardback RRP: $64.99
Peter Dean (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2013 – Hardback RRP: $64.99

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