History Essay – Assess the impact of the war in the pacific on the Japanese and Australian home fronts

. Like any theatre of war, the impact of the Conflict in the Pacific was not exclusive to the war fronts. Between December 1941 and August 1945, both Australia and Japan commenced in total war to sustain the war of attrition, and as a result, significant political, economic and social changes took place. And although revisionists such as Thomas Haven claim both home front situations to be quite similar, the war in the pacific evidently affected Japan’s home front in a more severe way, leading to its defeat in August 1945. Effectively implementing total war required a capable government to organise the home fronts and introduce sustainable war policies. Both Australia and Japan had polar opposite governments and this had differing effects on their home fronts. Japan had abolished democracy in the 1930’s and passed the National Mobilisation Bill in 1938, favouring a more militaristic government to succeed in the imminent conflict ahead. Australia however, was not so equipped; with few armed forces and an economy unprepared to sustain war. Menzies’ National Security Act of 1939 overcame this, increasing governmental control and achieving cohesion; something which would guarantee victory. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and the Singapore in 1942, Curtin’s recent US alliance led Australia to enter the Pacific War, not only on the war front but the home front as well. Despite their differences, Japanese and Australian governments both recognised the threat of possible invasion and pushed for total war policies, including new recruitment and conscription policies. Based on differing home front societies, the reaction to conscription differed between Japan and Australia. In 1943, Curtin introduced ‘limited conscription’ to the Citizens Military Force; a repercussion of the desperate need for armed forces. This was met with both controversy and dutiful acceptance throughout the Australian home front; who thought conscription was outdated from WW1. Japan however faced little home front resistance, as conscription had long been part of their military. Japanese industrial labour conscription was also implemented, something Australia would later follow with the Reserved Occupations and Industrial Priorities act. Despite Japanese conscription branching to education, historian Shillony argues that to compensate for Western seclusion, Japanese technical and scientific research was a priority. Regardless of similar conscription policies and effects, Japanese conscription encompassed more aspects on the home front; however Australian conscription was faced with social controversy. As a repercussion of the Pacific War, the home front economies of Japan and Australia were both subsequently altered. However the Japanese economy, which ironically prompted expansion, suffered far greater from reliance on external success. During this time, American Historian Feary recognised this weakness and claimed rapid internal development was essential to evade national strife, this was incredibly perceptive of Feary. Japan’s rapid colonial expansion in 1941-42 beginning with the fall of Manchuria, allowed economic focus on matching US industrial and military strength. However without reinforced trade routes, the US sunk Japanese supply ships. This deemed stringent economic restriction necessary; having strong negative effects on Japanese society. In contrast, despite the Australian economy initially being

unprepared to sustain total war, former BHP general manager Essington Lewis organised a war economy fed by Australian resources. By 1941, Australia’s munitions industry was booming, the federal government controlled tax and the economy was reasonably self-sufficient. Both Japanese and Australian societies faced economic obstacles, but due to relative national stability Australia’s home front economy was not nearly as affected as a result of the war. Rations and restrictions were introduced on Japanese and Australian home fronts to control economic instability and harness resources during the war. However, with an impaired economy, rationing and restrictions was more devastating on the Japanese home front. As a result of the 1941 trade embargo, supply sabotage and multitudes of conscripted farmers, Japan implemented rationing in 1940. Inflation rose and an illegal black market formed. Fuel and metal were salvaged from the home fronts to produce munitions and military equipment. It seemed as though the war, contrary to previous assumption, was considerably disadvantaging the Japanese home front by means of rationing and restriction. Similarly, as a result of the 1940’s drought and threat of Japanese submarine attack, Australia introduced rationing in 1942. For Australians on the home front, it was time to give up luxuries in order to sustain the total war effort. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign of 1942 encouraged personal produce, substitution was introduced and clothing was regulated. For both nations, austerity was admired and excess was shunned; it was a time of necessity over luxury. To boost morale, cover up military failures and reduce fear of invasion, both Japanese and Australian governments used censorship and propaganda within their home fronts. Despite contrasting governmental systems, censorship on both home fronts was conducted at a relatively similar level. Japan had gained full control over the media since the National Mobilisation Bill of 1938. Even after the Doolittle raid in 1942, propaganda helped quash the fear of invasion. Any opposition was dealt with by means of terror through the tokko or ‘thought police’. Japanese propaganda was also used to instil enemy hatred throughout the home front, impacting on childhood education, leisure activities and dress style. Similarly within Australia, The Department of Information, headed by Arthur Caldwell, maintained tight control through mass media censorship. Events such as the bombing of Darwin and the sinking of the HMAS Sydney were covered up so as not to diminish the publics support. Considering the vast differences, surprisingly censorship and propaganda within both home fronts was relatively similar and effective. The Pacific war impacted on the role of home front women. However, due to the contrasting cultures, equality and respect were more prevalent within Australia. In 1941 the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was created, allowing women’s direct involvement in the war effort. The Manpower Commission of 1942 was similar to Japanese labour conscription; shifting able bodied males and replaced them with female labour. 1942 also saw the introduction of the Australian Women’s Land Army; replacing male farmers with women in order to boost troop numbers. The Women’s Employment Board (WEB) was established soon after; however it could not totally regulate equality, leading women to opt for higher paying jobs. Despite being in the same situation, Japanese women on the home front did not receive as many opportunities and freedom. Women supporting the workplace policy of 1943 and Women’s Volunteer Labour Corps, found their civil liberties ignored and their wages too low against the inflated cost of living. Worse still, illness was ripe in factories and

conditions began to diminish. For women on the Japanese home front, their efforts to aid the war effort were not being met with appropriate conditions or respect. Another minority who was affected by the Pacific war were the prisoners of war (POW’s) However, due to cultural differences, the Japanese treated POW’s with significantly more brutality. They were given scarce meals, denied basic medicine and forced to engage in slave labour projects such as the Burma Railway in 1942. As Allied victory became imminent the Japanese began to treat their POW’s with even more brutality, the Sandakan Death Marches in 1945 reiterate this. Based on the western guidelines in relation to POW’s, Australia treated theirs with relative respect. However, this is not to say that all aspects of POW’s on the home front were just. The Cowra revolt of 1944 was ill reported and didn’t mention the 200 Japanese deaths. Just as the government controlled propaganda, they also controlled the right to detain ‘Australian aliens’ without sufficient reasoning or fair trial. This impacted on cultural dynamics and instilled a sense of racial prejudice towards Australians with Japanese, German or Italian heritage. POW’s on both home fronts faced challenges, but there is no doubt the Japanese were much harsher in treatment than Australia, this was mainly due to their culture. From the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941, situations on Japanese and Australian home fronts were impacted on politically, economically and socially. Some aspects were similar but most differ, representing life on the Japanese home front as a harsher lifestyle to endure. Their crumbling society is one of the main reason for their defeat in August 1945. By Asha Forsyth 2010

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