9. World War II and Australia



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(c) Japan Surrenders

Despite Japan’s already impossible position and readiness for settlement on the terms finally agreed, it became the turn of the US ‘military mind’ to prevail. Yes, Japan’s military leadership had indeed long been ‘luminously insane’, extremely cruel to its victims in China and across the Pacific, but the manner of Japan’s final defeat, involving the targeting of its civil population by the US, provided the worst possible example for others to follow. After first Hiroshima (August 6) and three days later Nagasaki were atom-bombed, Japan formally surrendered to the United Sates on the very terms the emperor had earlier sought: - the Japanese home islands and emperor system to remain intact, all else forfeited . Under US influence the nature of Japan’s economy and society were about to change. World War II was at an end and the Cold War about to begin. But before that, let’s outline WWII’s human costs – in relative national terms.



H. WW II’s Human Costs

(a) Country by Country - historian David Kennedy’s figures

Notwithstanding the truly horrifying human costs of the First World War, those of WWII were far greater. On reflection that should not surprise us for two prime reasons. First not only were so many more nations involved, but with China and Japan included, vastly more people were exposed. Secondly, the physical means for destruction were so much more technologically ‘perfected’– and thus their effects vastly amplified - a simple reflection of industrial ‘progress’ made since 1918, a process that has continued to escalate to the present day, - the stark reality we must ever keep in mind.

Although already referred to, I will again quote overall numbers of WWII deaths, country by country, taken from David Kennedy’s paper.(DK, 10)

Country Total War Dead Civilian Deaths

United Kingdom 350,000 100,000

China 10,000,000 6,000,000

Yugoslavia 2,000,000 1 - 1.5,000,000

Japan 3,000,000 1,000,000

Poland 8,000,000 6,000,000

Germany 6,500,000 1,000,000

Soviet Union 24,000,000 16,000,000

United States 405,000 6

(figures not provided for France, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc.)

Since the figure given for total US military deaths includes those in the US Coastguard and merchant marine, there must have been more than the 6 civilian deaths that Kennedy records. However, the point stressed is that these 6 were the only war-caused civilian deaths to occur on the American homeland – in stark contrast to the civilian losses within the many other combatant countries. The other stark contrast is that of the combined human losses of the United States and Britain, compared to those suffered by all the other countries listed. And of course, as in WWI, besides the human fatalities, there were all the other costs to the people of so many countries – the terrible toll in shattered bodies and minds, the bereavement of relatives and friends, the simply vast material wastes, the ruined economies, the immeasurable opportunity costs.

Some Economic Outcomes

Here too are some stark contrasts, not only between ‘victor’ and vanquished, but among the victor states themselves. Although Britain’s losses in war dead were so much smaller than in WWI, yet again a world war made it slip further down the international economic scale (vast indebtedness to the US, living standards down by a third) a situation further exacerbated by its loss of colonial ‘possessions’. Its final position was in great contrast to that of the United States. However, like all other Depression-ravaged countries, the people of the US had been deeply impoverished throughout the 1930s, remaining so into the early 1940s when US unemployment still stood at 15% with 45% households below the poverty line.(DK, 3) But in the particular circumstances of that resource-rich country, all of this changed dramatically following the stimulus of war-time production. Then, not only did the US produce armaments at increasingly record levels, but record levels of civilian output as well, these together providing both full employment and, with money circulating, a ‘healthy’ market economy. In fact, throughout the war there were essentially ‘no shortages’, America’s standard of living rising some 15%.(DK, 9)

Such an enormous economic upsurge had never before happened to any country engaged in such a war - so how was that possible? Certainly the stimulus of war production was a major factor, but others at least as significant were America’s riches in natural resources, its effective isolation and immunity from homeland attack and its decision (along with Britain) to postpone any major military campaign against either Germany or Japan, until the closing phases of the war, in the meantime limiting its military combatant activities, instead concentrating on its submarine attacks on Japanese shipping and its air war against Germany. To these special circumstances must be added another important factor documented by David Kennedy, one connected to the great savings in manpower from its limited military involvement.

In 1942, on the basis of proposals that a Second European Front might be mounted in July 1943, the US had planned to generate 215 military divisions. However, in reviewing such needs in light of the USSR’s progress on the Eastern Front, it was decided as early as October 1942 to gamble on cutting the 215 divisions back to 90. Since that was before the first Russian victory, that of Stalingrad, it was indeed a gamble. But once Stalingrad and other Russian military gains had occurred early in 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill felt more confident in their decision to postpone by a full year their direct confrontation with Germany. The Russians, holding up as they were, could be left essentially alone to carry on the land war. And this provided the US with the equivalent of 125 divisions, - available to increase its industrial output. As David Kennedy relates, Josef Stalin was all too aware of this situation, on one occasion summarising it to Roosevelt as “It seems that the Americans have decided to fight with American money and American machines and Russian men.” Kennedy could only agree. (DK,9)

Certainly that was the reality, with the obvious consequences not only of an absolutely horrifying death toll among the Russians, but of the simply enormous numbers of wounded and the wide devastation of their cities, towns and countryside and of course their much diminished and delayed capacity to rebuild when it was all over. In American author, John Gunther’s “Inside Russia Today”, published in 1958, we learn of the 30,000 factories wrecked, 70,000 towns and villages destroyed, three quarters of all housing lost and 25 million made homeless.(JG, 65, 446) In commenting on relative military tolls, Gunther mentions that in just one battle, that of Kharkov, the Russian casualties were greater than the total of all American casualties in the war against Japan.(JG, 65) Such statistics are reflected in his further observation that in the 1950s, 30-year old Russian women outnumbered men seven to one.

I. WWII and the Origins of the ‘Cold War’

(a) Contrived Origins

For those who survived the Second World catastrophe (with its 54 million dead and vast other costs), as for those of future generations, there remains the issue of why the world of 1945 progressed from one state of war to another, that is, immediately from WWII to the Cold War. From the above account you may already have a partial understanding of the ‘logic’ of it all, but the enormity of not only two World Wars in just over 20 years, but of the Second World War merging directly into yet another war, the so-called ‘Cold War’, with its ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation and terror, requires urgent re-examination and explanation. It certainly deserves far more critical examination and public debate, both lacking to date.

Briefly reiterating some background, WWII was fought by the US, USSR, Britain and their allies against the ‘Axis Powers’, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the equally militaristic Japan, all these Axis Powers extremely anti-communist ‘right wing’ regimes intent on extending their economic and territorial empires by force of arms. By their aggressive invasions during WWII, (clearly expressions of competitive economic expansion) they saw themselves as taking part in what had been long-standing Western colonial practices. Indeed, for them, their aggressions of WWII in defiance of the League of Nations and international law, were but the extension of territorial invasions they had so recently engaged in during the inter-war period of the 1930s. And of course they were fully aware that these earlier invasions (Japan into Manchuria (1931) Italy into Abyssinia (1935) Germany into the Rhineland (1936) Austria (1938) Czechoslovakia (1938)) had gone ahead without challenge from the ‘Great Powers’. And with hindsight, we can understand that such tolerance existed because at the time of their occurrence, they were not seen to threaten those Powers’vital interests’.

Thus, at the time these illegal acts were either ignored, - or when ‘convenient, encouraged: - as when Britain turned a blind eye to Hitler’s military conscription and rearmament (WC4i, 119-120) - then positively encouraged it, even to promote the re-building of Germany’s submarines through the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935 (WC4i, 123-8); as when the British government formally ‘recognised’ Italy’s take-over of Abyssinia in 1938 (WC4i, 253); as when the British government went along with Hitler’s territorial acquisitions, even those over Czechoslovakia (see 8B(f)(g)). (WC4i, 250-288; and LH, 3-15) Indeed, as explained by Churchill, this tolerance came to an end only with the West’s belated realisation that the Dictator’s territorial and other aims were so far-reaching that ultimately their ‘vital interests’ were at stake. So, in effect, like World War I, World War II was brought about by the same sort of ‘competitive empire’ conflict of economic interest that Hobson (like others) had done his best to warn the ‘civilised’ world of at the turn of the 19th Century, - in what should have been ample time to prevent the First World War! (JH, 11-3; 129-30; 138-9)

None of this discussion about ‘competing empires’, the aggressive economic competitions that have led to so many past wars, is in any way meant to exonerate the WWII dictators. Indeed, since they, their policies, their military aggressions, were manifestly hideous, - even long before WWII began, - they had to be stopped by military action. At the same time, however, we need to understand the validity of Hobson’s ‘aggressive economic competition’ explanation as to why so-called ‘civilised’, ‘Christian’ nations went to war with one another in his day, as being every bit as applicable through to today. For if we fail to recognise this, and thus fail to remedy the flaws in that still-current aggressively competitive economic system and its outdated ways of thinking that have led us into so many international conflicts, then we are destined to continue down the same disastrous pathway.

If for us that seems fanciful - because everything in our lives so far has been ‘just great’ - consider for a moment the world’s current economic disorder: the horrendous rate of environmental destruction, the growing poverty ‘in the midst of plenty’, the disaffection of marginalised people, the ever-increasing hunger for resources such as oil, the resource wars (masquerading as ‘liberation’) as in today’s war on Iraq, (Doubting Monopoly players, please go directly to jail and read Ronald Wright’s “A Short History of Progress” (RW)). Indeed, as long ago realised by Adam Smith, Hobson and others, the issue of economic disorder arising out of unprincipled greed and injustice is of absolutely central importance because only when the ‘system’ is fundamentally re-organised into something far more benign, stable, equitable and civilised, will our children, grandchildren, (and children everywhere) have any prospect of leading secure and happy lives.(AS; GD; JR; JKG2) It is planned to give this key issue additional consideration below.(see also Appendix E)

But for now, lets go back to what transpired following WWII, namely the ever-so-swift, indeed immediate transition into the ‘Cold War’, - the West vs. the communist or socialist nations, - and the extreme danger that ensued after it was claimed (and soon widely accepted on ‘our’ side of the world), that somehow, (magically?) the very very severely war-devastated USSR was both able and motivated to become a ‘military threat’ to the United States, Britain, and the other nations of Western Europe.

The publicity campaign to promote this ‘threat’ was one designed to convince people throughout the West that they should support what was in fact not just ‘unnecessary’, but an ever-so-wasteful and extremely dangerous nuclear-armed ‘Cold War’ stand-off and, if further ‘called upon’, yet another World War (this time nuclear) aimed at destroying the USSR and other communist and socialist states. But how were the huge outlays for armaments and other war preparations to be ‘justified’ when, after such a terrible world conflagration, people everywhere were (as following the awful traumas of WWI) desperately wanting the transition to peace and security? Well the case was that the USSR’s army, which had at such tremendous cost to itself and the country as a whole, so recently fought its way across Eastern Europe into Germany, thereby constituted a military threat to Western Europe.

As well documented, it had been agreed by ‘the Big Three’ (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) at their Yalta meeting that once the war was won, in deference to Russia’s concerns for its future border security, Eastern Europe’s states would lie in Russia’s ‘sphere of influence’ - code for Russian dominance! We may reasonably consider that, like other such ‘arrangements’ around the world - e.g., the US’s dominance in the Middle East, South America, etc.,- this was not justice, but as the Russians had done almost all the fighting on the ground, that is what was agreed (though not published until 1947). It was the very fact of Russia’s military accomplishment in turning back Germany’s military occupation of Eastern Europe (something the West had ‘left her to’) - coupled to the West’s own agreement to support Russia’s ‘sphere of influence’ throughout Eastern Europe, that Churchill and President Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, seized on as the basis of their case that the USSR posed a military threat to the rest of Europe!(see Winston Churchill’s Fulton Missouri speech - WC5)

And so it occurred that within days of Germany’s surrender (May 9, 1945) Churchill’s telegram of May 12 to Truman referring to “….this enormous Muscovite advance into the centre of Europe….”, and concluding that ”Meanwhile the attention of our peoples will be occupied in inflicting severities upon Germany, which is ruined and prostrate, and it would be open to the Russians in a very short time to advance if they chose to the North Sea and the Atlantic.” ! (MG2, 685-6) Planting ‘paranoid fears’ must have been Churchill’s aim (as when in 1922 he and Lloyd George, ‘sounding the alarms’, claimed Kemal Attaturk’s Turkish forces were about ‘to invade Europe’! (see 7B(b), 10-12 above) for, given his knowledge of the war’s extreme costs to Russia and its people, there is no way he could have believed it!! Even less could Churchill or Truman have believed in any such threat to Western Europe once Japan had been defeated, the US having by then demonstrated the dire effects of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet the case to ‘justify’ the Cold War to their people was built on this trumped-up proposition.

In fact it was a public façade to cover the real concerns and fears of leaders in the US, Britain and other Western states. In brief, such fears were broadly the same as those expressed by Lloyd George in his Fontainebleu Memorandum following WWI.(see MG3, 189-96) In so many countries, long plagued by traditional inequities, WWII had aggravated these and produced enormous destruction and chaos besides. Understandably then, most people were looking for a different future, not simply a return to the old business-as-usual approach to public affairs. Many in France, Italy and other countries were attracted to communism or some other form of socialism, so the very real concern of many Western leaders was that these ideas might spread, that demands for some radically different ways of organising economies, their own societies, might become irresistible. And it was not only Western Europe that could be affected, but Asia, Africa, Central, South America, anywhere at all might take to some form of ‘socialism’ or other form of cooperative mutual-support ‘collectivism’. And the underlying concern there was that those Western economies, which had for so long dominated these regions, colonially and otherwise, might then no longer be able to do so. Yes, of course, they’d be able to trade, but they would not have unfettered access to others’ resources and markets and they would not be able to control their currencies and financial credit systems.

Accordingly, it was considered crucial to ensure that people in the West would be brought to see that any economic systems involving ‘socialism’ were not the way to success, to present them as impoverished (they frequently were) drab, boring, oppressive and above all as military threats to the nations of ‘the Free World’, which of course they could never have been – even had the desire been there.



(b) …and MAD Nuclear Options

As mentioned, by August 1945 the US had become a ‘nuclear power’, at that stage the only power with what is still the supreme ‘weapon of mass destruction’, the ultimate military tool to terrorise enemy peoples – whether civilian or army, - indiscriminately, the nuclear bomb. Helped by some of Germany’s most gifted émigré scientists, it had been developed during WWII within the US, - lest Hitler get it first – supposedly as a precautionary measure. But as we have seen, ultimately it was ‘tested’ on Japanese cities and their people and then, through a crash programme, added to the US arsenal in ever-expanding quantities. With US help, Britain and then France followed and, though of course not intended, Russia before long too became a nuclear power.

So, the initial advantage of the United States (and its close supporters) of having exclusive possession of atomic weapons was soon lost. But then, with the prospect of an escalating nuclear arms race, instead of proposing a moratorium aimed at the universal abolition of nuclear arms, the US, with its enormous industrial capacity, sought to develop such a vast nuclear superiority – in numbers, power, and sureness of missile delivery, - that it could dictate terms to govern the post-war world. Not just for Americans and Russians, but for all the world’s people that approach was an extremely destabilising, and hideously dangerous ‘game’. Considering Russia’s enormous weakening from WWII and that its industrial development had always lagged far behind that of the US, it may well have seemed that the US’s nuclear dominance would soon be overwhelming. However, the USSR somehow managed to more or less ‘keep up’ with nuclear innovations, including the hydrogen bomb and advanced missile targeting systems, so giving it a degree of ‘parity’. And of course in this ‘game’ even if you had far smaller numbers of weapons, anything over a few tens of nuclear-armed missiles targeted on major cities of the ‘other’ side amounted to a truly dire threat – and hence something of an ‘equaliser’. Thus the US aim of gaining overwhelming superiority failed. Instead there developed between the US and the USSR a ‘nuclear stand-off’, the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation on the grand scale, the acme of terrorism, destruction and death, which soon came to hover over both sides.(JS2)

This meant of course the temptation to ‘strike first’ (before ‘they’ struck first!) in the hope of inactivating ‘their’ weapons, delivery systems, leadership, etc. However, it soon became clear that each side had developed such a surplus of weapons and widely-separated launch sites that ‘striking first’ was anything but ‘practical’. And so the nuclear stand-off between the US and the USSR persisted as that unstable ‘arrangement’ for ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ (aptly shortened to MAD) which inevitably would occur in the event of either planned, accidental, or just wrongly-perceived nuclear launch from either side.(JS2) What a result! - a completely disastrous situation, the total denial of the true ‘security’ so desperately needed by all people in all nations!



(c) Non-Nuclear Strategies of the Cold War - and Civil Wars

Despite the on-going ever-so-precarious ‘MAD’ nuclear stand-off, the Cold War was nevertheless pursued by other means as well. Overt war between the major powers, even that using conventional weapons, was considered ‘too dangerous’ because it could too easily get out of hand and lead to a ‘MAD’, Mutually-Assured -Destruction nuclear war. Nevertheless, the Cold War was still carried on, not only at the propaganda and economic levels, but as ‘hot’ wars using proxy states. That meant supporting lesser powers in their Colonial or other wars; aiding one or other side in a civil war; or even participating directly in a civil war. Prime examples follow, these being the wars in (and on) both Vietnam and Korea.



J. Sources

Australians Events and Places, Aplin, G. Foster, S.G., and McKernan, M., eds., Fairfax, Syme & Weldon, Sydney, 1987 (A E &P)

Charlwood, Don, Journeys into Night, Hudson Publishing, Melbourne, 1991 (DC)

Churchill, Winston S. The Aftermath - being a sequel to The World Crisis. Macmillan, London, 1944. (WC2)

Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War Vol.1. The Gathering Storm, Penguin, London, 1985. (WC4i)

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March 5, 1946, www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=429

(WC5)

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Dower, John W., War Withour Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon, NY, 1986 (JWD

Dyer, Gwynne. War , The Bodley Head, London, 1985 (GD)

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(JKG1)


Galbraith, John K., Annals of an Abiding Liberal, Houghton Miflin, Boston, 1979 (JKG2)

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century vol.1, Harper Collins, London, 1997. (MG1)

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century vol.2, Harper Collins, London, 1998. (MG2)

Gilbert, Martin. The Roots of Appeasement, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1966. (MG3)

Gunther, John, Inside Russia Today, Hamish Hamilton, London,1958 (JG)

Hobson, John A. Imperialism: A Study, Allen and Unwin, London, 1902, 1905 &1938. (JH)

Kennedy, David. Rise to Power: Professor David Kennedy on American History. ABC RN, Background Briefing, Sunday October 21, 2001 (DK)
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McCarthy, John. A Last Call of Empire: Australian Aircrew, Britain and the Empire Air Training Scheme, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1988. (JMcC)

Mordike, John. ‘We Should do this Thing Quietly’: Japan and the Great deception in Australian Defence Policy 1911-1914 RAAF Aerospace Centre, Canberra, 2002 (JM)

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Rawls, John, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Erin Kelly, ed., Belknap/Harvard Press Cambridge, 2001 (JR)

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Schell, Jonathon, “The Fate of the Earth” Picador, London, 1982 (JS2)

Stanley,Peter, Tarakan: An Australian Tragedy, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1997 (PS)

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for Pacific War: www.anesi.com/ussbs01.htm (USSBS-web)



United States Strategic Bombing Survey, (USSBS) The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy, Overall Economic Effects Division, October 31, 1945 (USSBS-Gm)

(USSBS) Summary Report (Pacific War), (Pacific Report #1) July 1946, Vol.7, ed.D.MacIsaac, Garland, New York, 1976 (USSBS-1)

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