One is constantly reading or listening to the loud declarations of eternal friendship – blood-brotherhood in so many words – of our Australian federal politicians and their US counterparts, including military leaders, generals and so forth. But what is the truth to these vows of undying promises to be all the way with the US of A? Where can we determine the hollowness to these protestations (leading inevitably to our engagement in the imperial wars of that great and powerful friend in parts of the world which have little importance to us – certainly do not threaten us – or else our rolling over to the establishment of US bases on our sovereign soil, or forcing such on our PNG neighbour).
Two-and-a-half years ago I was in the south-east US, in New Orleans, and visited the National World War II Museum. I understand that nations like to use such memorials and the displays they mount within to tell their own story – yet, nonetheless, I expected to see some significant display within the War in the Pacific devoted to Australia’s part in hosting General Douglas M and those troops which managed to escape the Imperial Japanese invasion of The Philippines and the final push back through New Guinea and on up through the western edges of the Pacific towards Japan. I can’t say that I saw much at all – footnote references only.
During many years living in western Japan I visited the Memorial Museum to the Second World War on Etajima (the old Imperial Naval Academy); the Memorial to the Tokko-Tai (which in English, the Special Air Forces, became the Kamikaze) just above Kagoshima-city; the island base in Yamaguchi-ken to the young men (boys in many cases) who sacrificed their lives as living bombs, screwed down into one-man projectiles they steered into shipping; the memorials to the battle of Okinawa on the southern edge of the main island; and to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo which arouses national protests from Korea and China each time a Japanese PM enters its precincts. Within the precincts, though, is a quite moving museum – not too dissimilar to the Australian War Memorial (though minus all the noise introduced in recent times by Brendan Nelson). I have also visited quite a number of the sites around Japan where Australian PoWs were used as slave labour – and in some cases terribly abused and murdered – now transformed into memorials of peace. In the far western Honshu region where I lived I once stood in a forest of memorial headstones commemorating locals in the Imperial Navy who died during the battles of the Coral Sea – I read Guadalcanal on headstone after headstone. And in Shimonoseki at a Shrine, a similar field of headstones commemorating forces killed by foreigners in their attack on the city at the Straits in the early 1860s and which formed the model/basis for the establishment of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo by the Emperor Meiji in 1869.
I am in receipt of regular National World War II Museum e-newsletters. And just recently a notice for a 10-day tour in mid-March next year “Victory in the Pacific”. Hmm, I thought – I wonder if Australia will get a guernsey – and I read the attachment. The only mention I could find of Australia was that one of the accompanying historians had had articles published widely and reference was made to the Australian War Memorial as one of those places. But why is Australia not even a footnote to Victory in the Pacific? (I’d be interested in some kind of proper explanation.)
Jim Kable was born in 1949 and is a retired teacher of English, History, ESL/EAL and Japanese – with time in Europe and a lengthy time till his retirement in western Japan. He is not an expert – but he thinks deeply and is informed by wide reading and travelling. Hypocrisy, hubris and hate, especially from politicians and church leaders, tend to draw his disapproval, even ire.