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Australia 1942
In the Shadow of War


  • Editor: Peter Dean, Australian National University, Canberra
David Horner, Pam Oliver, Albert Palazzo, Kate Darian-Smith, Ross McMullin, Hiroyuki Shindo, Steve Bullard, Alan Powell, Mark Johnston, Ian Pfennigwerth, Karl James, Peter J. Dean
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  • Date Published: December 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107032279
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About the Authors
  • In 1942, the shadow of modern war reached Australia's shores for the first time. In this compelling volume, leading historians explore why 1942 was such a pivotal year in Australia's history and explain how the nation confronted some of its greatest challenges. This broad ranging study covers key issues from political, economic and home front reform to the establishment of a new partnership with the United States; the role of the Air Force and the Navy; the bombing of Darwin; as well as the battles of Kokoda, Milne Bay, the Beachheads and Guadalcanal. Australia 1942 provides a unique and in-depth exploration of the controversy surrounding the potential for invasion. Japanese and Australian historians offer perspectives on Japanese military intentions and strategies towards Australia and the South Pacific. Generously illustrated, it is essential reading for anyone interested in one of Australia's most decisive and critical years.

    • Commemorates the 70th anniversary of one of Australia's most decisive and critical years
    • Features scholarly yet accessible perspectives from Australia's leading historians
    • Generously illustrated throughout
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    Customer reviews

    31st Mar 2014 by Robbo

    As Professor David Horner writes in an instructive opening chapter, 1942 was a pivotal year in Australian history. The long term effects of the challenges faced at that time changed forever Australia’s character, and how we thought about ourselves in the world arena. Looking back 70 odd years, one sees a vastly different, under developed. sparsely populated country with limited infrastructure. Yet, in those dark days Australia was pivotal to Allied success in the South West Pacific, providing a base from which the Americans could sustain the initial counter offensive against the Japanese. 1942 was not only a contest to preserve the lines of communication between that base and the United States, it ushered in a new era in Australian society. Covering a wide spectrum in twelve tightly written chapters, Dean and his co-authors trace the political, strategic, and societal impact on Australia, the poor state of our defences, and the desperate, hard fought battles in the horrendous terrain of Papua. Along the way a few well worn myths are disposed of, and Albert Palazzo reminds us of the folly of entrusting a nation’s defence to another country on the other side of the globe, and allowing our own defence capabilities to erode to such a parlous state. Dealing with the Home Front, Pam Oliver suggests our relationships with the Japanese before the war which were friendlier than post war views would have us believe, Kate Darian-Smith highlights the lasting impact the influx of American servicemen made on society in general, and Ross McMullin provides a hagiological view of the Curtin government that seems short on objective assessment. Several chapters explode the myth of intended Japanese invasion, and in particular Hiroyuki Shindo and Steve Bullard demonstrate that while the Japanese Navy certainly considered it, the Army had no interest and both Services had overreached their capacity to do so. In a similar vein Alan Powell places the air raid on Darwin in perspective, demonstrating that its significance, both as a military operation and within Australian history, is a recent phenomenon generated by successive governments to boost the Northern Territory’s profile. Ian Pfennigwerth delivers a fine analysis of the RAN’s readiness, capabilities and contribution during 1942, which sadly the RAAF chapter does not, and Karl James brings a balanced view of the Kokoda and Milne Bay campaigns free of nationalistic hyperbole. Perhaps the best analysis is Peter Dean’s assessment of the battles for the beach heads around Buna, Gona and Sanananda, in which he places the pressures on MacArthur and Blamey, together with the relative performance of the AIF, Militia and US Forces, in objective perspective. Australia 1942 is a welcome addition to the historiography of this momentous year in Australian history. Well written, well researched, objective in its analysis, and instructive in its topics it is a strong antidote to the mythology peddled by the more popular histories.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107032279
    • length: 276 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • contains: 37 b/w illus. 10 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Australia in 1942:
    1. Australia in 1942: a pivotal year? David Horner
    Part II. Relations, Politics and the Home Front:
    2. World wars and the anticipation of conflict: the impact on long-established Australian Japanese relations 1905–43 Pam Oliver
    3. The overlooked mission: Australia and home defence Albert Palazzo
    4. The home front and the American presence in 1942 Kate Darian-Smith
    5. The 'dangers and problems unprecendented and unpredictable': the Curtin government's response to the threat Ross McMullin
    Part III. Australia Under Threat:
    6. The Japanese Army's 'unplanned' South Pacific campaign Hiroyuki Shindo
    7. Japanese strategy and intentions toward Australia Steve Bullard
    8. The air raids on Darwin, 19 February 1942: image and reality Alan Powell
    Part IV. The War on Australia's Doorstep:
    9. Vanquished but defiant
    victorious but divided - the RAAF in the Pacific 1942 Mark Johnston
    10. The war at sea - on, above and below the waves Ian Pfennigwerth
    11. On Australia's doorstep: Kokoda and Milne Bay Karl James
    12. Anzacs and Yanks: US and Australian operations at the beachhead battles Peter J. Dean
    1942 in reflection.

  • Editor

    Peter Dean, Australian National University, Canberra


    Kim Beazley


    David Horner, Pam Oliver, Albert Palazzo, Kate Darian-Smith, Ross McMullin, Hiroyuki Shindo, Steve Bullard, Alan Powell, Mark Johnston, Ian Pfennigwerth, Karl James, Peter J. Dean

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