Synopses of papers and speaker biographies (in program order)

Day 1 – Thursday 6 September 2012

Antony Beevor (Australian War Memorial Boeing Visiting Fellow)

Keynote address: The world at war, 1942

Antony Beevor

Antony Beevor is the inaugural Australian War Memorial Boeing Visiting Fellow. He served as a regular officer in the 11th Hussars in Germany. He has written thirteen books, including Crete: the battle and the Resistance (1991), which won a Runciman Prize; Paris after the Liberation (1994) (written with his wife, Artemis Cooper); Stalingrad (1998), which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature; Berlin: the downfall, 1945 (2002), which received the first Longman History Today Trustees’ Award; The mystery of Olga Chekhova (2004); The battle for Spain: the Spanish Civil War 1936–39 (2002); D-Day: the battle for Normandy (2009), which received the RUSI Westminster Medal; and most recently, The Second World War (2012). Antony’s books have appeared in 30 languages and sold five million copies. A former chairman of the Society of Authors, he has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Kent and Bath and is a visiting professor at Birkbeck College in London and at the University of Kent.

Professor David Horner AM (Australian National University)

Kokoda and its place in Australian history

Professor David Horner

David Horner is the Professor of Australian Defence History in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. He graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1969 and served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam in 1971. Following various regimental and staff appointments, he graduated from the Australian Army’s Command and Staff College in 1983. From 1988, until he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel towards the end of 1990, he was a member of the Directing Staff of the Joint Services Staff College.

Professor Horner is the author or editor of 30 books on Australian military history, strategy and defence, including High command (1982), Blamey: the commander-in-chief (1998), and Strategic command, General Sir John Wilton and Australia’s Asian wars (2005). He has been a consultant to various television programs and has lectured widely on military history and strategic affairs. He was editor of the Australian Army’s military history series from 1994 to 2012. As an Army Reserve colonel, from 1998 to 2002 he was the first Head of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre. In 2004 Professor Horner was appointed the Official Historian of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post–Cold War Operations. He is the general editor of this six-volume series and is writing two of the volumes, the first of which, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, was published in January 2011.

In addition, Professor Horner is a member of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal. In the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to higher education in the area of Australian military history and heritage as a researcher, author and academic. In 2009 he was appointed official historian for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Dr Edward J. Drea (Joint History Office, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Making soldiers: training, doctrine, and culture in the Imperial Japanese Army

Dr Edward J Drea

This paper describes the conscription and training of Japanese soldiers before and during the Second World War. Section one talks about the conscription selection process and then discusses the conscript’s life in the barracks as the central element in the making of a soldier. Section two examines the aggressive, infantry-centred nature of Japanese army doctrine and the army’s emphasis on offensive operations and fighting spirit. It provides an historical context to appreciate the development of these concepts within the army and their influence on tactics and operations. Section three addresses why the Japanese soldier was often determined to fight to the death, and links combat performance to training and doctrine. Section four looks at the personnel composition of the 144th Infantry Regiment, the main force of the South Seas Detachment. It analyses the effects of wartime mobilisation on the composition of the unit’s officers, non-commissioned officers, conscripts, and recalled reservists. The paper concludes with a brief selective evaluation by the 144th of its opponents on the Kokoda Track.

Dr Edward Drea is a military historian. After military service in Japan and Vietnam, he received his PhD from the University of Kansas. He taught at the US Army Command and General Staff College and the US Army War College, and worked at the US Army Center of Military History in Washington DC. Dr Drea also served as a historical consultant for the US Government Interagency Working Group on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan War Crimes.

He is the author of several books, including MacArthur’s ULTRA: codebreaking and the war against Japan (1992), Japan’s Imperial Army: its rise and fall, 1853–1945 (2010), and as co-editor and contributor, The battle for China: essays on the military history of the Sino–Japanese War, 1937–1945 (2011). His latest work is volume six in the official Secretaries of Defense Historical Series, titled McNamara, Clifford and the burdens of Vietnam (2011).

John B. Lundstrom (Milwaukee Public Museum)

Confrontation in the Coral Sea: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s strategic plan for decisive battle in the south-west Pacific

John B. Lundstrom

Following the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941, Admiral Ernest J. King, US Fleet Commander, was determined to hold Hawaii and protect the line of communication to Australia. In early 1942 he began building bases in Fiji, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia for an eventual offensive through the Solomons to Rabaul. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, in charge of the Pacific Fleet, feared committing his few aircraft carriers to defend the distant south-west Pacific. Nonetheless, King detached strong forces to protect his nascent south Pacific bases and counter the Japanese advance to New Guinea.

In early April 1942, radio intelligence revealed a major Japanese offensive being organised against Port Moresby, with indications of a strongly reinforced second phase that would rampage through the south Pacific. Nimitz, now much more aggressive, perceived the opportunity to meet the enemy fleet in battle and not only defend the Allied bases, but secure a victory that could regain the initiative. This paper will examine his plans to commit all four of his carriers for a lengthy stay in the south Pacific, the impact of the battle of the Coral Sea on his strategy, and how he came to redeploy the carriers to meet the new danger brewing in the central Pacific.

John B. Lundstrom is Curator Emeritus of History at the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he worked for 37 years. He is the author of five books on the Pacific war, including The first team: Pacific air combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway (1984), The first team and the Guadalcanal campaign: naval fighter combat from August to November 1942 (1994), and Black shoe carrier admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal (2006), all published by the Naval Institute Press. He is the recipient of The Hook Contributor’s Award, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, and the National Museum of Naval Aviation’s Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award. In August the Minnesota Historical Society published his book on the American Civil War, One drop in a sea of blue: the liberators of the Ninth Minnesota.

James Zobel (MacArthur Memorial)

Victory at all costs: Douglas MacArthur’s Papuan campaign of 1942–1943

James Zobel

Seen through the prism of the Papuan Campaign of 1942–43, General Douglas MacArthur stands out as a man akin to a multi-faceted gem, revealing all the elements of his personality and capabilities as a commander. General MacArthur’s 50-year career in the United States Army is shrouded in controversy. Whether it was his service in the First World War, the Second World War, the occupation of Japan, or the Korean War, history has found him to be a subject worthy of both praise and criticism. General MacArthur’s Papuan Campaign presents no different a case study. Over the past 70 years, Douglas MacArthur’s performance as a leader in Papua has been criticised for his lack of knowledge of the battlefield, limitless self-promotion, and a cavalier attitude towards his American and Australian commanders and men. In juxtaposition, he has been praised as a commander for his ability to ignite the morale of the Australian people and achieve victory, despite working with a headquarters at a stage of infancy in a theatre that was last in line for supplies, behind the European and central Pacific theatres of operations. MacArthur’s drive for victory was motivated by both practical and personal reasons. He knew that the Japanese were a relentless and merciless enemy who would never stop until soundly defeated on the battlefield. He also knew that unless he achieved victory in a drive against Japan from his South-West Pacific Area, his own career in the Second World War would probably end in Papua. He demanded “victory at all costs” in Papua to achieve his goals, and it brought out the best and the worst in him.

James Zobel has been the Archivist at the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, for the past twenty years. He obtained a BA and an MA in History from Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The MacArthur Memorial Archives is an international research centre dedicated to the preservation of and research into materials related to the life and times of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. As Archivist, Zobel has collected, organised, and catalogued the papers of MacArthur and 18 of his subordinate generals, as well as those of thousands of veterans who served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. He has published numerous articles and given talks around the world about Douglas MacArthur and the MacArthur Memorial Archives.

Rowan Tracey (Historian)

A re-evaluation of the part played by senior Australian commanders on the Kokoda Trail in 1942, with a footnote on the Papuan Infantry Battalion

Rowan Tracey

Despite the volume of accounts penned in recent years about the Kokoda Campaign, there remain significant issues that require clarification, greater emphasis or further research. In the 70th anniversary year, there is an opportunity to do so. One such example is the part played by indigenous soldiers in the early fighting in the campaign. Although the indigenous carriers continue to receive praise for their Herculean efforts, little is written about their uniformed countrymen.

A significant part of the withdrawal by the Australians centres on the commander, Brigadier Arnold Potts. He had been a brigade commander for only five months. When Potts assumed command of Maroubra Force at Alola on 24 August 1942, he was intent on advancing to retake Kokoda. But as events transpired, he needed to focus on the principles of war relating to defence and withdrawal. Potts fought two significant battles against the Japanese at Isurava (including the secondary battle) and at Efogi. Following the battle at Efogi, Potts was replaced as brigade commander, returning to Sogeri, where he faced questions from his superior officers about the Australian withdrawal.

The Japanese reached their final defensive position at Ioribaiwa. Had the Australian reinforcements under Brigadier Kenneth Eather gone straight to Ioribaiwa, there would have been no need to withdraw to Imita Ridge when the Japanese attacked. And when the Japanese withdrew to the north, the Australian follow-up was anything but vigorous.

Rowan Tracey has had an abiding interest in Papua New Guinea and its history since he was seconded to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in the early 1980s. During his posting there, he organised a trek across the Kokoda Trail with members of his agency. Today he leads treks on the Trail regularly. This has given him the opportunity to research on the ground the many battle sites that exist on the Trail and compare his findings with the numerous accounts about the Kokoda Campaign.

Dr Karl James (Australian War Memorial)

A terrible experience: the battle of Eora Creek

Dr Karl James

The battle of Eora Creek was one of the largest actions on the Kokoda Trail and, for Australian forces, one of its more costly. In just over a week of fighting in October 1942, the 16th Brigade, AIF, veterans of the Middle East, suffered nearly 300 men killed and wounded. With well dug-in positions, the Japanese commanded the ridge overlooking Eora village and the river crossings, and blocked any further Australian advance along the Kokoda Trail. Receiving a personal edict from General Douglas MacArthur – “don’t stop” – the 16th Brigade initially clashed headlong, in a vain frontal attack, before one of its battalions worked its way through dense scrub to outflank the Japanese, catching them as they were preparing to abandon Eora. An Australian officer later described the battle of Eora Creek as “a terrible experience”.

It was a near-pyrrhic victory for the 16th Brigade. While there were many individual acts of bravery and initiative, as the Australian official historian commented, Eora Creek was won more through courage than skill. The subject of much of this criticism was Brigadier John Lloyd, accused of mishandling his brigade.

Drawing on Australian and Japanese sources, this paper will discuss the varying performances and competing interests of the Australian commanders, as well as exploring the experiences of the soldiers on the ground, to provide a new insight into this terrible battle.

Dr Karl James, a graduate from the University of Wollongong, is a Senior Historian in the Memorial’s Military History Section. He has worked on several exhibitions at the Memorial, including curating the special anniversary exhibition Rats of Tobruk, 1941, on display during 2011. Karl’s first book, The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville campaign, 1944–45 was published earlier this year. He is currently writing a popular history of the siege of Tobruk.

Richard B. Frank (Historian)

Conference dinner: after dinner address

South Pacific turning points: Guadalcanal, Kokoda and Milne Bay

Richard B. Frank

No campaign in the Second World War matches the six-month struggle for Guadalcanal in its intensity of combat on land and sea and in the air. There were seven major naval actions, many ground clashes from skirmishes to assaults with multiple divisions, and an almost daily cut and thrust of air combat. Few campaigns produced such wide oscillations of fortune, with first one side and then the other gaining potentially decisive advantage. The naval actions in the waters near Guadalcanal in mid-November 1942, which ultimately decided the outcome of the campaign, produced more anxiety in the White House than any event in the war, save the eve of D-Day in Normandy.

This address will explore the relationship of Guadalcanal to global strategy and to operations on New Guinea. It will also examine the three dimensions of the fighting, the critical command decisions, and the vital role of Australian coast watchers. Finally, the significance of the campaign in the Pacific war and the global contest will be assessed.

Richard B. Frank is an internationally renowned expert on the Pacific War. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he was commissioned in the United States Army, in which he served for nearly four years, including a tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an aerorifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He completed studies at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. Soon afterwards he began research on his first book, Guadalcanal: the definitive account of the landmark campaign which was published in 1990 and won the United States Marine Corps’ General Wallace M. Greene Award. Richard's other publications include Downfall: the end of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999), which won the 2000 Harry S. Truman Book Award, and MacArthur (2007). He has appeared numerous times on or consulted for programs on television and radio, and was also a historical consultant and appeared as a key interviewee in the HBO mini-series The Pacific (2010). He is currently working on a narrative history trilogy about the Asian–Pacific War.

Day 2 – Friday 7 September 2013

Dr Mark Johnston (Scotch College Melbourne)

The air war over Papua

Dr Mark Johnston

1942 began disastrously for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the Pacific. Yet by the end of a year that began with the fall of Singapore and the bombing of Darwin, RAAF squadrons could claim to have contributed decisively to victory in Papua. This talk traces the RAAF’s fortunes in Papua: the first perilous sorties by vulnerable lone aircraft to targets as distant as Rabaul, through the epic defence of Port Moresby, to aggressive operations over Milne Bay, Lae and the beachheads. It is a story featuring famous pilots, including John and Les Jackson, Peter Turnbull, Bluey Truscott and Saburo Sakai, as well as the good, bad and indifferent aircraft on both sides, including Hudsons, Catalinas, Wirraways, Kittyhawks, Beaufighters, Bostons, Zeros and Bettys. The dogfights in the senior command of the Allied air forces – between the Allies, but especially within the RAAF – are also discussed. Important as were the efforts of the members of the Australian fighter, reconnaissance and bomber squadrons in the skies over Papua, and despite the fine cooperation of the two air forces there, decisions made by men of the highest rank were profoundly important too, especially in ensuring that after 1942 the RAAF would not have a finer year.

Dr Mark Johnston is the Head of History at Scotch College in Melbourne. He is the author of eight books, including Whispering death: Australian airmen in the Pacific war (2011), as well as histories of the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions. He has just completed a new book on Australian soldiers and their relations with their allies and the local people in the Middle East in the Second World War, to be published at the end of this year. He is currently working on a book about Australian stretcher-bearers in the two world wars.

Dr Peter Williams (Historian)

The strength of the forces engaged on the Kokoda Trail

Dr Peter Williams

Our explanation for the series of defeats suffered by the Australians and Papuans during their retreat along the Kokoda Trail, from July to September 1942, has always been influenced by the belief that the Japanese greatly outnumbered them. In seven actions and engagements, from First Kokoda to Ioribaiwa, the Australians were driven back, it is often said, by an overwhelming force. At First Kokoda the ratio of Japanese to Australians is usually given as ten to one, at Isurava four to one, and six to one at Efogi. If this was correct, then the Australians can be said to have performed well, though defeated, as they could hardly have been expected to win battles at such odds. In fact the Japanese force engaged in each clash was much smaller than has been believed, and this calls into question the prevailing favourable assessment of the Australian performance during their retreat.

Dr Peter Williams, a graduate of Charles Darwin University, lives in Canberra, where he worked for the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs. He the author of The Kokoda Campaign 1942, myth and reality (2012) and The battle of ANZAC Ridge: 25 April 1915 (2006). He is currently writing a book on the battle of Buna–Gona.

Haruki Yoshida (Australian War Memorial)

Japanese commanders in Kokoda

Haruki Yoshida

The commanders of the South Sea Force (Nankai Shitai), which fiercely fought against the Australian troops along the Kokoda Track from July 1942 to January 1943, had to make serious decisions during its early success, its later desperate retreat to Giruwa, and final resistance there. These decisions reflect the severity of the campaign. However, not much has been written about these commanders, mostly because only a few who were close to them survived the war and wrote about them. In this paper I will discuss three commanders: Major General Horii Tomitarō, the commander of the South Sea Force; Major Koiwai Mitsuo, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 41st Regiment; and Lieutenant Colonel Tsukamoto Hatsuo, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 144th Regiment.

Horii, who was reluctant initially to engage in the invasion of Port Moresby over land, was proud of the Force’s early success, but died a tragic death off Giruwa. Koiwai published his memoir in 1953, in which he vividly describes his story of the campaign. Tsukamoto, the only battalion commander who fought the entire campaign, was a controversial figure, but was trusted by his men. This paper will explore the human side of these commanders.

Haruki Yoshida is an independent historian and long-time volunteer in the Memorial’s Military History Section, translating Japanese materials. He has contributed translations of Japanese sources to the Memorial’s Wartime and to other recent publications, such as Paul Cleary’s The men who came out of the ground (2010), Peter Williams’s The Kokoda Campaign 1942: myth and reality (2012) and Karl James’s The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville Campaign, 1944–45 (2012).

Phillip Bradley (Historian)

The battle of Milne Bay

Phillip Bradley

Milne Bay, at the eastern end of the New Guinea mainland, was strategically important for both the Allies and the Japanese in the Second World War. On the night of 25 August 1942 the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces went ashore well to the east of the airfields which were at the head of the bay. Locally based RAAF Kittyhawks ruled the skies by day but at night the landing force pressed on towards the airfields. The Australian commander, Major General Clowes, faced with unchallenged enemy naval control of Milne Bay, had to guard against further landings, which limited his options and irritated his impatient superiors, Generals Blamey and MacArthur. The battle climaxed with the costly attacks across the well defended No. 3 airfield site on the night of 31 August. From then on it was a fight to push the Japanese back to their landing place, from where the remnants were evacuated on the night of 6 September, leaving behind up to 36 Australian and 59 native victims of massacres. The battle for Milne Bay was one of the pivotal battles of the Pacific war, and the first complete Japanese defeat on land in that conflict. As Field Marshal Sir William Slim later wrote, “It was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army.”

Phillip Bradley, a scientist by profession, has had a lifetime interest in military history. Two years working in Papua New Guinea led to his first book, On Shaggy Ridge (2004), about where his father had fought. This was followed by books on other long-forgotten New Guinea battles, The battle for Wau (2008) and To Salamaua (2010). All his books are characterised by extensive battlefield research. He also writes for After the battle and Wartime magazines and leads treks for Kokoda Treks and Tours. His fifth book, Hell’s battlefield: the Australians in New Guinea in World War II, will be published in August 2012.

Robyn Kienzle (Author)

On the trail of an extraordinary man – the making of the architect of Kokoda

Robyn Kienzle

With the help of the contents of a large camphorwood box, Robyn Kienzle pieces together the remarkable story of her father-in-law, Herbert Kienzle, affectionately known as “Bert” to his compatriots during the tough years of the Kokoda Campaign. While focusing on Bert’s extraordinary role in forging a track north from Port Moresby to Kokoda, and on his efforts to ensure that Australia’s troops were adequately supported with food, water, munitions and shelter, Robyn tells the unlikely story of this amazing man. He was born of Samoan and German heritage in colonial Fiji, and interned in Australian camps for “enemy aliens” during the First World War. He married an Australian and in the late 1920s headed to the wild and untamed land of Papua, where he worked on a rubber plantation and a goldmine before the outbreak of the Second World War. Following the war, Bert continued to contribute to the development of PNG as it grew towards nationhood. Indeed in 1986, when Bert was awarded a Papua New Guinea Independence Medal during the 10th Anniversary celebrations of independence, it was said of him, “He was a monument to private enterprise and devoted to his chosen country … He spent 53 years of peace and war between Port Moresby and the Yodda … If PNG wishes to become an independent people, then this is an extremely good example of personal effort for them to study.”

Robyn Kienzle is the author of The architect of Kokoda: Bert Kienzle – the man who made the Kokoda Trail (2011). Based in Queensland, she is the daughter-in-law of Bert Kienzle, whom she knew from the mid-1970s. Robyn lived with her husband Soc on the family estate at Kokoda for more eight years, during which time she became fascinated by Bert’s story and achievements. While she originally trained in Queensland as a maths and science teacher, since her time in Papua New Guinea helping to manage the family estate, Robyn has been involved in cattle and asparagus farming, running a supermarket and various motels, and now management rights.

Deveni Temu (Australian National University)

A lone Papuan voice and the myth of the so-called Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel

Deveni Temu

Much has been written by outsiders about the experiences of Australians who served in the Second World War Kokoda Campaign, but little or nothing has been written about the experiences of the Papua New Guinean carriers (or rather, labourers).

There are no accurate and comprehensive histories of the Papuan carriers/labourers written by the people in whose country this cataclysmic event took place, simply because, unlike their Australian counterparts, Papua New Guineans have not allowed this event to loom large in their national consciousness.

This presentation will attempt to tell a story of one such carrier/labourer, a simple Papuan villager who was deviously recruited and almost lost his life during his term of so-called employment with the armed forces in Buna at the end of 1942.

Deveni Temu is the Pacific Librarian and Information Access Coordinator at the Australian National University. He is a direct descendant of a Papuan carrier/labourer.

The Hon. Charlie Lynn (Kokoda trek leader)

Trekking Kokoda

The Hon. Charlie Lynn

Charlie Lynn served in the Australian Army for 21 years. This included tours of duty in Vietnam, Singapore, and the United States. He graduated from the Army Staff College in 1981.

Charlie has trekked across the Kokoda Trail 64 times since 1991. He established Adventure Kokoda in 1992 and the company has led almost 5,000 people across the track since then. Adventure Kokoda specialises in the military history of the Kokoda Campaign. Since 1992 Charlie has rediscovered the original battlesites of Brigade Hill and Isurava, which had been bypassed after the war and reclaimed by the jungle. The introduction of satellite-based GPS systems has allowed the original wartime tracks, marked on Australian Army Survey Corps maps, to be retraced. Over the past decade, Adventure Kokoda trek leaders have recorded the original wartime tracks and today’s more popular eco-tracks.

Charlie has submitted a number of papers in support of protecting the military heritage of the Kokoda Campaign. He established Network Kokoda as a foundation to ensure the wartime legacy of Kokoda is properly honoured.

Dr Peter J. Dean (Australian National University)

Grinding out a victory: Australian and American commanders during the beachhead battles

Dr Peter J. Dean

The story of the interactions between the United States and Australia in the South-West Pacific Area has generally focused on the relationship between the two senior military commanders in the South-West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey. MacArthur’s comment during the Kokoda campaign that “these Australians won’t fight” set the initial tone for the relationship. Blamey’s retort, during the subsequent campaign, that he would prefer to send in tired Australian troops rather than fresh American reinforcements, “as he knew they would fight”, only unravelled an already fragile relationship.

What is often overlooked is the interaction between US and Australian commanders on the battlefield. The first of these joint operations was undertaken as 1942 drew to a close. From October 1942 to January 1943, Advanced New Guinea Forces HQ (Lieutenant General Edmund Herring) and the US 32nd Division (Major General Edwin Harding, then Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger) and the Australian 7th Division (Major General George Vasey) fought a gruelling campaign of attrition against the Japanese on the northern shores of Papua. This paper will explore the nature of the operational command during this campaign, analysing the performance of the senior officers and investigating the extent to which these partners were able to forge an effective working relationship on the battlefield.

Dr Peter J. Dean is the Director of Studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre as well as a Senior Lecturer at the Australian Command and Staff College. In 2011 he was a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre (Sydney University) and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Australian and New Zealand Studies (Georgetown University, Washington DC). Peter is a managing editor of the journal Security challenges and a contributing editor and board member of the journal Global war studies. Peter is the author of The architect of victory: the military career of Lieutenant General Sir Frank Horton Berryman, 1894–1981 (2010) and editor of Australia 1942: in the shadow of war (November 2012).

Dr Garth Pratten (Australian National University)

"Our textbooks may need adaption, but never alteration": Papua and organisational change in the AMF

Dr Garth Pratten

By 1945 the Australian Army was arguably the best tropical warfare organisation in the world. Its operations in Papua during 1942, however, were characterised by confusion, ad hockery, and decision-making often based on desperation rather than considered military judgement. Success was founded on bloody-minded endurance and courage, and Japanese overstretch, rather than tactical sophistication. This paper will explore how the experience of the Papua campaign influenced the process of organisational change within the Army by considering the themes of doctrine, training, command, structure, and operational culture. It will reveal how the Army began to come to terms with operating in the tropical environment and to realise that enduring military principles and hard-won experience from the fighting in the Mediterranean theatre, both often abandoned in haste at the shock of first contact with the Japanese and the jungle, still provided a critical foundation to success on the battlefield.

Dr Garth Pratten is a lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. An historian by training, he has had a varied career, having worked for the Australian Army's Training Command and the Australian War Memorial, and taught at Deakin University and in the War Studies Department at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. In 2010, while working for the British Ministry of Defence, Dr Pratten deployed to Afghanistan as part of the team compiling the war diary for ISAF's Regional Command South. Dr Pratten’s interest in the conduct of military operations has led him to undertake field work in France, Belgium, Libya, Malaya, Singapore, Turkey and Cyprus. In April 2006, Dr Pratten was awarded the Australian Army's C.E.W. Bean prize for his PhD thesis, the book of which – Australian battalion commanders in the Second World War – was runner up for the Templer Medal in 2010.

The conference was proudly supported by Boeing Australia. The support of the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is gratefully acknowledged.

This conference is proudly supported by Boeing Australia. The support of the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is gratefully acknowledged