While several sizable lists of names have been assembled at a national level by the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the Australian National University, as well as several that are state or regionally based, none is currently capable of offering a definite figure for the number of Indigenous Australians who served during the Second World War. The best estimates range between 3,000 and 4,000, with the most extravagant proposing about 6,000. The reality is that no one has yet subjected these databases to the same rigorous screening undertaken for comparable listings from the First World War. Even cursory examination reveals glaring problems, including entries comprising nothing more than a first and last name, with no date of birth, service number, unit title, or anything that helps the process of proper identification, let alone verification of heritage.
Even so, it is clear that Indigenous participation in the war effort of 1939–45 was, by enlistment in one or other of the armed services, on a much greater scale than that of 1914–18. Similarly, it can be noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people volunteered for service in the Second World War from an early stage, and as a consequence “black diggers” were present at the Second AIF’s first campaigns in the Middle East, including those in the Western Desert, Greece and Crete, and Syria – long before Japan entered the war and brought the conflict to the Australian mainland. In this two-year phase some Indigenous servicemen even became prisoners of war of the Germans (a case in point being Tommy Harold Green of the 2/1st Battalion).