Saturday 15 August 2020

75th Anniversary of end of WW2 in the Pacific

Today, August 15, 2020 marks 75 years since World War II ended in the Pacific with Japan's surrender to a group of countries that included Australia and New Zealand.

75th anniversary of end of WW2 in Pacific

In Great Britain and Europe the end of WW2 is called VE day and is May 8. 

The Japanese fought on in the Pacific region after Nazi Germany surrendered until the Atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9th respectively convinced Emperor Hirohito that continuing the war would be met with catastrophic consequences. 

Outside of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Timor, Philipines, Indonesia and Papua Guinea, the other WW2 allies Europe, Great Britain and the Americans hardly acknowledge or have much awareness of the Pacific history and the role Australian and New Zealand armed forces had in fighting back the Japanese Imperial Army. As an ally of Nazi Germany the Japanese sought to aid Hitler win the war by dividing the hostilities into separate theatres. Advancing into the Pacific and capturing territory in the name of Emperor Hirohito fulfilled another political agenda that resources could be mined and exploited to modernise Japanese industry. This mid 20thC bid at colonisation of sovereign Pacific nations is never acknowledged by those who prefer the view that only "white" nations are aggressors.

The northern territory town of Darwin was attacked on May 2, 1943 by 242 Japanese bombers. Casualties were around 250 and were mainly seamen and a small number of Darwin civilians.



Still living memories in my town

I'd like to acknowledge today the war service of Ethel Haydon, a Murrurundi resident who lives across my back fence. Ethel turned 100 years old on June 16th. Sadly, due to the pandemic her birthday celebration had to be small and limited to only a small number of people in the room at a time. Ethel was a nurse aide working in Papua New Guinea 1942 - 44.

A second local resident to acknowledge today is Judy Dysart. Judys war service was at the Cowra Internment camp as a guard. She was working the night of the riot and breakout of the Japanese prisoners of war. The breakout occurred on 5 August 1944, when 1,104 Japanese prisoners attempted to escape from a camp near Cowra, a small regional town in New South Wales. Few Americans or Europeans know this but it was the largest prison escape of WW2, as well as one of the bloodiest. During the escape and ensuing manhunt, 4 Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were re-captured and imprisoned.

Judy left Murrurundi to live with relatives a few years ago but during the time I knew her she shared with me some of her ongoing psychological trauma from the violence of that night. 

The last Australian hero I want to salute is the extraordinary nurse Vivian Bullwinkel. Vivian survived the torpedoing of her hospital ship along with a number of other nurses, soldiers, wounded and civilians. The initial war crime of bombing a hospital ship was compounded when the survivors were recaptured onshore. The soldiers, many of them who had been wounded patients being evacuated on the ship, were executed. The nurses were raped then marched into the sea and shot in the back.

Vivian Bullwinkel

Bangka Island Massacre

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