Issue 30 -- April 1997

Australian War Memorial

Morris F. Low



{1} The Australia-Japan Research Project is a new program at the Australian War Memorial, funded by the Japanese government as part of the Peace and Goodwill Initiative (1994) of the former Japanese Prime Minister, Murayama Tomiichi. Since mid-February 1997, three senior research officers and myself have been working on the project, the primary goal of which is to establish a database for historical materials dealing with the Australia-Japan relationship from 1901 to 1957, focussing especially on the wartime relationship. We have received much assistance from the staff of the Historical Research Section (HRS), where the project is housed, and who conducted some preliminary work for the project in late 1996. To facilitate planning of the database, a symposium was held in late March 1997, drawing on experts from both Australia and Japan. On behalf of the AJRP team, I would like to briefly report on the progress made so far on the planning and design of the proposed database, and comment briefly on papers presented at the symposium.

{2} An important part of the work to date has been extensive consultations in Canberra with academics and archivists, curators and technical staff. One member of the team has been able to visit Kure (near Hiroshima) on behalf of the project. A planning meeting held late last year provided some of the groundwork, but it really has only been since February 1997 that work has begun in earnest on the database. What we have been seeking to do is to gain a sense of the big picture of what archival materials are available, especially in Australia, but also at Kure, where the British Commonwealth Occcupation Force (BCOF) was based; the finding aids and guides to that material (how adequate they are, their strengths and weaknesses); the form that the database might take; and the form that entries might take in the database.


{3} The database will be focused on printed and written records. Despite the good state of order of Australian War Memorial (AWM) and Australian Archives (AA) material, it is recognized that ANGAM II (Australian National Guide to Archival Material) was not designed principally as a search tool but more as a record of already-accessed items which also happens to be useful for finding material. While ANGAM II contains details of more than 600,000 record items held by the AA and by the AWM, most of the records in the database are those which have been examined for public access. The database only covers a small proportion of of total holdings.

{4} A new cooperative venture of interest to the AJRP has been the Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts (RAAM), based at the NLA. RAAM is a register of the collections of personal papers and non-governmental organizational records held by libraries and archives throughout Australia. In effect, it provides a centralized guide to locating primary sources. It is a successor to the Guide to Collections of Manuscripts Relating to Australia. All entries from the Guide are included in RAAM along with all other manuscript entries on the Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN). RAAM includes information on AWM Private Records. While it will be useful, RAAM is more a directory of locations rather than a detailed register of holdings. It is thus difficult or at times impossible to determine from most RAAM entries alone whether material is related to Japan or not.

{4} Also, the lack of staff with Japanese language capability at the AWM has meant that materials in the Japanese language, or dealing with aspects of Japan, or its people, are not catalogued as rigorously as other archival material. The AJRP has identified some problem areas in existing AWM private records which we will seek to rectify in the AJRP database.

{5} We envisage that the database will be accessible via an AJRP home page or the AWM home page on the World Wide Web (WWW).

How to achieve goals?

{6} The AJRP will adopt an incremental approach, intially treating the archival materials as discrete subsets, which can be ultimately searched by a single command or separately. Headings on the home page may simply refer people to finding aids, guides or other databases or to the actual AJRP database itself.

1. Primary source material

  • Private Records: AA, AWM and NLA (AWM material searchable on an AWM database and RAAM; AA on RINSE (personal records)
  • Captured Japanese Documents AWM 82 (catalogues/listings by Tanaka, Heath and Kuwada)
  • POW Material (ANGAM)
  • War Crimes Trials
  • Official Records (initially limited to an overall profile of series, but in time providing details of a wider range of files, perhaps with a focus on New Guinea).

2. Secondary source material

We hope to build up a bibliography of published materials directly relevant to the project. Considerable material can already be found on MIHILIST (The Australian Military History Database). What would be especially useful would be a bibliography of wartime reminiscences in Japanese held in Australian libraries, and also in Japan.

Other achievements

{7} In addition to providing access to the database via the WWW and CD-ROM, it may well be possible to cooperate with the AA and publish guides and brief fact sheets to records held by them and also by the AWM. An example of a guide is that compiled by Julie Stacker and Peri Steward entitled Chinese Immigrants and Chinese-Australians in NSW (Canberra, Australian Archives, 1996). It includes many series descriptions. The CD-ROMs and such publications would provide the project with practical goals to work towards, and visible outcomes.

Sources held in the AA and NLA

{8} A member of the team has been working on ANGAM and RINSE (Records Information Service), as well as with the official records themselves, in order to obtain a sense of what is available outside the AWM. An inventory of some selected agencies and series so far examined has been produced, and it may eventually be possible to work towards something along the lines of Commonwealth Archives Office, Selected items covering topics relating to the Second World War, Reference Guide No. 5 (Canberra: Commonwealth Archives Office, 1972), and in due course provide a profile of relevant items (especially those NOT dealing with War Crimes Trials). There are some helpful fact sheets available, but there has yet to be a revised edition, perhaps given the amount of material on ANGAM and RINSE. We are using the footnotes and bibliographies of studies such as David Horner’s book Inside the War Cabinet: Directing Australia’s war effort, 1939-45 (Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 1996) which contains a useful description of relevant materials in the AA on WWII.

{9} Speakers at the Symposium drew our attention to the secondary literature on various topics, as well as relevant archival materials. We hope to build up a bibliography of published materials directly relevant to the project.

{10} Much secondary-source material can be found at the NLA. The General Sakakibara collection consists of 2,600 volumes of books in Japanese on various topics, including military affairs. This collection has been absorbed into the Japanese language collection. The Hertz Collection, for example, includes many war related books and several POW memoirs. Essential reference materials such as specialist dictionaries and published bibliographies available at the NLA and AWM could also be added to the proposed database bibliography. By systematically going through the'Japanese Awareness Bulletins’ (previously published by the NLA) which listed books in Japanese acquired, we can identify items for the bibliography relatively easily.

{11} The single most important item held by the NLA is The history of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific series, the official war history published by the National Institute of Defence Studies in 102 volumes between 1966 and 1981. A complete set is held in the National Library Asian Collection. We have a listing of English titles of volumes and sub-series, which can be incorporated into the bibliography. Vol. 102 contains a useful Chronology of the Japanese Army and Navy and glossaries of Japanese military terms. Each volume includes maps showing the deployment of the Japanese and Allied Forces in the campaign areas, as well as charts with information such as commanding officer names and types of aircraft used. The AJRP hopes to (a) identify sections of the History which are relevant to Australia, (b) provide subject headings of the relevant sections, and if possible (c) provide brief descriptions of the relevant sections

Sources held outside Australia

{12} We have been encouraged to get a sense of the location and type of source materials on the Australia-Japan relationship (especially wartime) held throughout the world. Papers presented at the symposium helped us to obtain a better sense of this.

{13} One member of the team visited the Kure City History Office and surveyed the holdings of primary and secondary source materials, and finding aids. The principal actitivity of the Kure City History Office is the compilation of a local history. The last two volumes (vols 7 and 8) were published in 1993 and 1995 respectively. Both volumes have been donated to the AWM. The Office is currently compiling volumes of historical materials scheduled for completion in 2002. The Office has a collection of local histories from towns in the region. In terms of primary source materials, the major focus has been the Occupation Forces. Materials have been gathered from the National Diet Library, Defence Force Agency Library, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives. Also, the office holds materials obtained from the AWM, AA, NLA and US archives. Of particular interest is the collection of photographs and other memorabilia sent directly to Kure by British and Australian servicemen. When former British servicemen stationed in Kure were surveyed about their experience and impressions of Japan, some responded by enclosing old photos and other materials. A selection of the photographs have been reproduced in Kure no ayumi II (History of Kure II) (1995).

{14} Microfilmed copies of material from Japanese Government archives are held in Australia by the NLA. These are ‘Japan: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Records 1868-1945’, and ‘Selected Archives of the Japanese Army, Navy and Other Government Agencies, 1868-1945’. Checklists are available. Furthermore, the NLA holds lists produced by the National Diet Library in Tokyo of books in English, including war memoirs which have been translated into English. Details of these could be added to the bibliography as well.

{15} While the database may not be able to provide details of overseas repositories in any great detail, we hope to provide users with historiographical and bibliographical essays providing them with an overview or details of finding aids. For example, Professor Hank Nelson, Astralian National University, has drawn to our attention material held in Papua New Guinea, some of which is described in Nancy Lutton (comp. and ed.), Guide to manuscripts held in the New Guinea collection of the University of Papua New Guinea Library (Port Moresby, University of PNG Library, 1980).

Sources held in the Australian War Memorial

1. Primary source material of special interest at the AWM:

  • Private records
  • Captured Japanese documents AWM 82 (listings by Tanaka, Heath and Kuwada)
  • Prisoner of War material
  • Official records (possible focuses: BCOF, New Guinea).

2. Private records

In the coming year, we hope to focus on private records held in the AWM, NLA, and AA.

3. Captured Japanese documents

{16} These remain a priority area. Listings of Captured Japanese Documents have already been created by General Kuwada Etsu in 1982, Doris Heath in 1987, and Professor Tanaka Hiromi in 1995. The lists prepared by Kuwada and Tanaka are in hand-written Japanese, with little English. With the assistance of Professor Tanaka, we hope to identify the more important documents and enter details of them into the database. The documents constitute the only original Japanese documents requisitioned by ATIS remaining in the world. Those sent back to the USA can no longer be located.

{17} Some of the documents are of special historical interest. AWM 82 can be divided into two categories: ATIS documents, and documents from Japanese soldiers who surrendered to the Australian Forces at Rabaul after the war. Some of the original documents have been repatriated to bereaved families in Japan. The catalogue will assist both Japanese and Australians to locate other materials which have been or may be requested in future.

Symposium papers

{18} Papers included in this issue of the Journal of the Australian War Memorial were among papers presented at the symposium at the Memorial, 20-21 March 1997. The speakers included both Australian and Japanese scholars. On the first day, Profesor Hank Nelson (ANU) and Professor Watanabe Akio (Aoyama-Gakuin University) spoke on how the database might assist Australian and Japanese Scholars, followed by a report by myself on database planning and design to date. The afternoon was devoted to an overview of Australian sources dealing with various theatres of conflict: Malaya and Singapore (Dr Alan Warren, Monash University); New Guinea, New Britain, and Bougainville (Professor Hank Nelson, ANU); Netherlands East Indies (Dr Peter Stanley, AWM); Higher Direction and Policy (Dr David Horner, ANU). The first day ended with papers dealing with the postwar occupation of Japan; war crimes trials, and the changing Australia-Japan relationship. The Australian perspective was provided by David Sissons and Associate Professor Jeffrey Grey (ADFA); and Professor Utsumi Aiko (Keisen University) spoke about these issues as viewed from Japan. All three papers have been included in this volume.

{19} The following day, Associate Professor Neville Meaney (Sydney University) and Professor Tanaka Hiromi (National Defence Academy) surveyed the Australia-Japan relationship from 1901 to 1941, with Professor Tanaka giving special emphasis on Japanese naval visits to Australia. He then proceeded to give a second presentation on Japanese sources dealing with the Japanese Navy during the Pacific War, and Hara Takeshi spoke on historical materials related to the Japanese Army. The next session dealt with war in memory, with Professor David Walker (Deakin University) looking at the topic from the Australian point of view and Dr Rikki Kersten (University of Sydney) surveying the situation in Japan, past and present.

{20} The success of the symposium was a reminder that the AJRP relies on the expertise and generosity of a large number of people and organizations in Australia and Japan, as well as elsewhere. We hope that this issue of the journal gives readers some sense of the way that the AJRP can make a contribution in coming years.

NOTE: In accordance with Japanese practice, Japanese names appear with the surname first.

Dr Morris Low is a Research Fellow in Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University. He is also working as a consultant to the Australian War Memorial as the manager of the Australia-Japan Research Project.