Head Military History
Dr Karl James is a Senior Historian in the Military History Section of the Australian War Memorial, where he has worked since 2006, and Departmental Visitor with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. A graduate of the University of Wollongong, he specialises in Australia’s involvement in the Second World War, and the history of Australia’s Special Operations Forces.
His recent publications include Kokoda: beyond the legend (as editor, Cambridge University Press, 2017), Double diamonds: Australian commandos in the Pacific war, 1941–45 (NewSouth Books, 2016), and The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville campaign, 1944–45 (Cambridge University Press, 2012). As well as publishing many journal, magazine, and newspapers articles, book chapters, and conference papers, Dr James is a member of the editorial staff and a regular contributor to the Memorial’s magazine, Wartime.
Dr James has worked on a number of Memorial exhibitions. He was the curator for “Rats of Tobruk, 1941”, a special anniversary exhibition on display during 2011, and the refurbishment of the Second World War Galleries in 2010. He is currently the lead curator for a special exhibition on the history of Australian Special Forces, and has an enduring interest in the siege of Tobruk in 1941. Please feel free to contact him if you have unpublished documents relating to these topics. You can follow his work here: http://awm.academia.edu/KarlJames.
- (ed.), Kokoda: beyond the legend, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2017.
- Double diamonds: Australian commandos in the Pacific War, 1941–45, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2016.
- The hard slog: Australians in the Bougainville campaign, 1944–45, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2012.
- “Rise and fall: Lieutenant General Sir Sydney Rowell”, in Craig Stockings and John Connor (eds), The shadow men: the forgotten legacies that shaped the Australian Army from the Veldt to Vietnam, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2017.
- “Kokoda: the immortal trail” in Karl James, (ed.), Kokoda: beyond the legend, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2017.
- “More than mopping up: Bougainville”, in Peter J. Dean (ed.), Australia 1944–45: victory in the Pacific, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2015.
- "Galleghan: hero of Changi", in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi book, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2015.
- “‘I hope you are not too ashamed of me’: prisoners in the siege of Tobruk, 1941”, in Joan Beaumont, Lachlan Grant and Aaron Pegram (eds), Beyond surrender: Australian prisoners of war in the Twentieth Century, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2015.
- “The Salamaua magnet”, in Peter J. Dean (ed.), Australia 1943: the liberation of New Guinea, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2013.
- “On Australia’s doorstep: Kokoda and Milne Bay”, in Peter J. Dean (ed.), Australia 1942: in the shadow of war, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2013.
- “The unnecessary waste: Australians in the late Pacific campaigns”, in Craig Stockings (ed.), Anzacs dirty dozen: twelve myths of Australian military history, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2012.
- “Final frame”, Portrait: magazine of Australian and New Zealand portraiture 54, 2016, pp. 20–25.
- "Lauded legacy", Portrait: magazine of Australian and New Zealand portraiture 50, 2015, pp 22–27.
- "World War II generation fading quietly away", Sydney Morning Herald, 14 August 2015; The Age, 14 August 2015; "A great generation might quietly pass without notice", The Canberra Times, 15 August 2015: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/world-war-ii-generation-fading-quietly-away-20150814-giz0nx.html.
- “The Kokoda Trail", Australia: the story of us 3, 2015, pp. 58–65.
- “Hell was let loose’: the RAN Beach Commandos at Balikpapan, July 1945”, International Journal of Naval History, vol. 8, no. 2, 2009.
- “‘The track’: a historical desktop study of the Kokoda Track”, report commissioned by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2009.
- “The ‘atmosphere of the place and the spirit of the people’: why historians visit battlefields when writing operational history”, Sabretache 48, 2007.
- “Hell at Porton”, Australian Army journal 3, 2005–06.
Conferences and seminars
- “Gallipoli and Kokoda: enduring resonances”, address, Anzac Day 2017 Breakfast, Anzac Hall, Australian War Memorial, 25 April 2017.
- “‘Be cunning, ruthless, and audacious’: Australia’s independent companies and commando squadrons in the Pacific war”, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre war studies seminar, Hedley Bull Centre, Australian National University, Canberra, 13 December 2016.
- “The war that shaped Australia” in Victory in the Pacific: war and art symposium, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 15 August 2015.
- “No parade-ground soldiers: Australian commandos in the Pacific war, 1941–45” in Asia–Pacific war, 1931–1945 international conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 9–11 July 2015.
- “‘Australian has got to play her part’: Australia’s late Pacific campaigns, 1944–45”, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2 December 2014.
- "The Kokoda campaign and key military battle sites”, Kokoda military heritage workshop, Kokoda Initiative, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, 11 November 2014.
- “The 7th Division on the Kokoda Trail”, 7th Australian Division AIF Association, 7th Division Memorial Wall, Bass Hill, Sydney, 25 October 2014.
- “They also returned: Australians in the liberation of the Philippines”, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 21 October 2014.
- “Not just ‘mopping up’: Australian aspirations and frustrations in the Pacific war, 1944–45” in 1944: Seventy years on international conference, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Camberley, Surrey, United Kingdom, 14–17 April 2014.
- “‘I hope you are not too ashamed of me’: Prisoners in the siege of Tobruk, 1941” in Prisoners of war: a conference on the Australian experience of captivity in the 20th century, Australian National University, Canberra, 5–6 June 2013.
- “A terrible experience: the battle of Eora Creek” in Kokoda: beyond the legend international conference, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 6–7 September 2012.
- Tour historian, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion Association Java pilgrimage, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours, Java, Indonesia, 23–29 July 2012.
- “Morshead at Gallipoli”, Australian War Memorial/Imperial War Museum Gallipoli Study Tour, Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey, 24 May to 3 June 2012.
- “On Australia’s doorstep: Kokoda and Milne Bay” in In the shadow of war: Australia 1942, Military History and Heritage Victoria, Melbourne, 21–22 April 2012.
- “Resources on the war in the Pacific at the Memorial” in War in the islands: the Second World War in the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, 9 February 2012.
- “Australia’s Thermopylae: the Kokoda Trail” in The International conference on World War II: from Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA, United States of America, 7–9 December 2011.