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Year 10: Term 3: Australia and the Pacific War

General Topics

The Anzac Portal: Australia and the Second World War

Australian  War Memorial: Encyclopedia
Look up your particular topic here.

RSL NSW: Australian involvement in the Second World War

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Australians at War : WW2
Scroll down the page to the information on WWII.

Cover ArtThe Pacific War 

An American EBOOK which uncovers the whys--the strategies, politics, and personalities that made things happen as they did in the Pacific War.

Includes: Pearl Harbour, Midway, The Defence of Australia (from US perspective), Guadalcanal, Papua and New Guinea, Submarines, Philippines, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japanese surrender.

General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz employed a strategy of “triphibious” warfare to advance through the Pacific. This strategy involved combing air, land, and sea forces to navigate the challenging geography and distances. Over time, this strategy came to be known as Island Hopping.

In the Pacific Theatre(s) in World War II, the percentage of POWs who died in captivity was 27% as opposed to a 4% death rate of those who died in captivity in the European Theatre (Senatore 2010).

Prisoners of war 
From the book 'Heinemann Outcomes History'. Scanned under licence.

The prisoner of war experience 
From the book 'War and Identity'. Scanned under licence.

Prisoners of War  
From the book 'A People's Experience of 20th Century Australia', by David McKinlay. Scanned under licence.

Australian War Memorial: Stolen Years - Australian Prisoners of War

ANZAC Portal: Australian Prisoners of War 1941-1945?: Australians in the Pacific War

YouTube: WW2 Japanese Military Brutality Explained

The Anzac Portal: The Thai-Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass
Australian War Memorial: Prisoners of the Japanese
Click on the links at the bottom of the page.

Australian War Memorial: Australian prisoners of war: Second World War - Prisoners of the Japanese
Click on the links at the bottom.

Australian War Memorial: General Information About the Australian Prisoners of the Japanese

Prisoners of the Japanese Cuture of cruelty

Japanese Treatment of POWs

Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1939-1945

Why Were the Japanese Army So Brutal?

State Library of Victoria: Changi  - One man who did much to improve the survival rate of prisoners in Changi was the Australian Army doctor Major Arthur Moon.

The influence of Bushido: Why Japanese officers drove POWs to work unreasonably hard - From the book: Railwaymen in the War: Tales by Japanese Railway Soldiers in Burma and Thailand 1941–4. Author: Kazuo Tamayama, Written in 2005. Publisher - Palgrave Macmillan.

The Weekend Australian: Powerful history shines a light on wartime slavery - From 17 April 2021.

Cover ArtKamikaze: To die for the Emperor 

EBOOK - Engaging and often incredibly disturbing history of the Kamikaze tradition in Japanese culture, right back to the original Divine Wind (major natural typhoons) that saved Japan from invaders in ancient history.

Cover ArtKamikaze: Japanese special attack weapons 1944-45 

EBOOK - Kamikaze attacks initially consisted of crude improvisations of conventional aircraft fitted with high-explosive bombs that could be crashed into US warships. Called "Divine Wind" (Kamikaze), the special attack formations first saw action in 1944, and became the scourge of the US fleet in the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.

WarHistoryOnline: Japan's Deadly WWII Kamikaze

University of Chicago Press: Kamikaze Diaries - Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Wesleyan University: Kamikaze Images
Check the links on the left for both American views and Japanese views of the Kamikaze pilots.

HistoryLearningsite: Kamikazes and World War II

What happened when a Kamikaze pilot returned?

Dropping the atomic bomb 
From the book 'Contested Spaces: Conflict in the Pacific 1937-1951'. Scanned under licence.

Article from ebook "Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity", by Dinah L. Shelton, ed. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. Scanned under licence.

History Hit: What Were the Long-Term Effects of the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

National Security Archive: The Atomic Bomb and the End of WWII

Washington State University: History and Global Effects of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Bombings

Washington State University: The Effect of the Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Pacific Was the Atomic Bombing of Japan in 1945 Justifiable?

BBC: Was it Right to Bomb Hiroshima?

The The war was won before Hiroshima - and the generals who dropped the bomb knew it

Washington Post: Truman Was Right to Use the Bomb on Japan Was the US Justified in Dropping the Bomb on Japan?

Georgetown University Library: Dropping the Atomic Bomb - Primary Sources

National Security Archive: The Atom Bomb and the End of WWII - A Collection of Primary Sources

Public Enemy Number 1 : Hiroshima 

The War in the Pacific 

The Australian: Those atomic bombs saved so many Japanese lives 
Article choosing the 'pro' perspective about dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The Australian newspaper, Friday 7 August 2020.

BBC: Can nuclear war be morally justified?

Cover ArtHiroshima 

EBOOK which describes how the Japanese city of Hiroshima became the target of the world's first nuclear attack, explaining the development of the atomic bomb, the nuclear arms race that followed, and the city's legacy as a peace memorial.

Cover ArtHiroshima: The world's bomb 

EBOOK which shows the bomb dropped by a US pilot that hot August morning in 1945 was in many ways the world's offspring, in both a technological and a moral sense. And it was the world that would have to face its consequences, strategically, diplomatically, and culturally, in the years ahead.

Some Possible Key Questions

Why were Australians afraid of invasion by Japan, and were these fears justified?
What made the Japanese military so fearsome during the Pacific War?
What role did Brisbane play in the Pacific War?
Was 'island-hopping' the right strategy to fight the Japanese?
How effective was the military leadership of Macarthur?
How effective was the military leadership of Nimitz?
Who was the best American military leader in the Pacific War - General Macarthur or Admiral Nimitz?
What was the significance of the Japanese defeat in New Guinea, and how was it achieved?
Compare the way Japanese POWs in Australia and Australian POWs in Asia were treated.
How were POWs treated by their Japanese captors?
How important was Emperor Hirohito's role in the Pacific War?
Why is Yamamoto a revered Japanese military leader?
What were Kamikaze attacks, and how effective were they as a military tactic?
How effective was John Curtin's leadership of Australia during the war?
How effective were the policies which the Curtin government implemented?
Were Australian-American relationships cordial and effective during the war?
Why was conscription a divisive issue in Australia during the Pacific War?
What impact did the war have on the role of Australian women?
What does 'turning the tide' in the Pacific War refer to, and how was it achieved?
What was the Manhattan Project, and how effective was it?
Was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?

Planning Your Essay: An Example

Try this order:
1. Write your Key Inquiry Question
    eg. 'To what extent was island-hopping an effective strategy
          during the Pacific War'?
2. Brainstorm some questions (use one of our
    Mind Map sheets) to help find answers to your KIQ 
    eg. What was island-hopping?
          Why was it introduced?
          When did it happen?
          Where did this happen?
          Who was in charge of island-hopping?
          How did island-hopping work?
          Did the strategy of island-hopping work?
4. Write a tentative Hypothesis (which provides an answer to
    your Key Inquiry Question, and includes your opinion)
    eg. 'The American military strategy of island-hopping was an
          ingenious and very effective method of forcing Japan back
          to the Japanese mainland and bringing about the end of

          the Pacific War'.
5. Write the Sub-Questions you will need to write about (3 or
    maybe 4) which will provide the paragraphs giving evidence for
    and therefore PROVING your Hypothesis.
    eg. 1. In what ways was the island-hopping strategy in the
              Pacific War an ingenious one, and why was it used?
          2. How did General Macarthur and Admiral Nimitz's
              leadership help implement the strategy?
          3. Why was it a successful strategy for defeating

MindMap Planner - Blank 

Mind Map Planner - Example 

Essay Template for Writing the Essay

Pacific War Conflicts / Campaigns

Pearl Harbor was was the site of the unprovoked aerial attack on the United States by Japan on December 7, 1941. Before the attack, many Americans were reluctant to become involved in the war in Europe. This all changed when the United States declared war on Japan, bringing the country into World War II.

Pearl Harbour - Why Japan attacked (and why it was such a big mistake)

Smithsonian: Complicated Leadup to Pearl Harbour

National WWII Museum, New Orleans: The Path to Pearl Harbour

USC News: 75 Years Later, What is the Legacy of Pearl Harbour?

Institute of World Politics: The Impact of Pearl Harbour on America

Ohio & Miami Universities: December, 1941 - Pearl Harbour

Modern History Sourcebook: Pearl Harbour Attack Documents, 1941 

Pearl Harbour Attack 
From the book: "Battles that Changed History: An Encyclopedia of World Conflict", by Spencer Tucker, Publisher: ABC-Clio, 2011.

Raymond Callahan, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science and the author of “The Worst Disaster: The Fall of Singapore,” has stated: “The fall of Singapore was a pivotal event with enormous consequences. Not only was it a military defeat, it was a shattering blow to Great Britain’s prestige and marked the decline of the Western era in Southeast Asia, which ended when the last helicopter left Saigon".

Skwirk: The Fall of Singapore

HistoryLearning site: The Fall of Singapore

National Museum of Australia: The Fall of Singapore

Australia Great War: The Fall of Singapore

ABC News: Fall of Singapore Anniversary: How a Military Defeat Changed Australia

National Geographic: On This Day - The Fall of Singapore

On 19 February 1942 Darwin was bombed by Japanese forces, becoming the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. Here an important section of the American fleet was at anchor,  and the Japanese attack occurred with a force greater than that hurled against Pearl Harbour,  The attack left hundreds of servicemen and civilians dead, and countless others injured. 

Attack on Darwin 
From 'A People's Experience of 20th Century Australia', by David McKinlay. Scanned under licence.

The Strategist: Remembering the Bombing of Darwin

Australian War Memorial: Remembering 1942 - The Bombing of Darwin

BBC News: Darwin, 1942 - Remembering Australia's 'Pearl Harbour'

Battle for Australia Association: The Bombing of Darwin

Sydney Morning Herald: The Day That Changed Australia

The Australian: The Bombing of Darwin Taught us Fear

The Battle of the Coral Sea is unique in the annals of naval history. It is the first battle in which enemy fleets never came within sight of one another. Instead, aircraft launched from carrier decks were sent out to attack the enemy with bombs and torpedoes.

Australian War Memorial: Battle of the Coral Sea

Royal Australian Navy: Battle of the Coral Sea

ANZAC Portal: Battle of the Coral Sea

Pacific Battle of the Coral Sea

Ohio University: Battle of the Coral Sea

University of San Diego: Battle of the Coral Sea

The Battle of Midway was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that took place 4–7 June 1942, where the US navy defeated the attacking Imperial Japanese fleet inflicting devastating damage on the Japanese fleet (Wikipedia).
National WWII Museum: The Battle of Midway
Britannica: Battle of Midway
Australian War Memorial: Battle of Midway
History Channel: Battle of Midway - Location, Outcome & Significance
Battle of Midway - Naval History and Heritage Command

Forward with Roosevelt: Midway – The Battle That Changed the War in the Pacific (blog with good primary sources)

War on the rocks: The Importance of the Battle of Midway

The Kokoda Track marks the course of one of the most important battles for Australians in the Second World War. Between 21 July and 16 November 1942, the Australian Army halted the furthermost southward advance by Japanese forces in Papua New Guinea and then pushed the enemy back across the mountains.

Prime Minister Paul Keating famously stated on the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign that 'this was the first and only time that we’ve fought against an enemy to prevent the invasion of Australia … This was the place where I believe the depth and the soul of the Australian nation was confirmed.’ He further stated 'Kokoda was ‘the most famous battle in Australia’s history...Australians in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not in defence of the old world, but the new world … it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought.’ From Kokoda: An epic in Australian history?   

Kokoda Campaign 
From 'Global Voices 2: Historical Inquiries for the 21st Century', by Brian Hoepper and others. Scanned under licence.

From 'A People's Experience of 20th Century Australia', by David McKinlay. Scanned under licence.

Anzac Portal: Kokoda Track

Australian War Memorial: Kokoda Track

Australian War Memorial: Remembering 1942 - The end of the Kokoda Campaign

Australian Army: Kokoda Track

Warfare History: Trail of Death - WWII's Kokoda Track Campaign

Significance of Kokoda

Daily Telegraph: Kokoda Campaign: Surviving Veterans Share Their Triumphs and Horrors in Jungle Warfare

On February 19, 1945, nearly 70,000 American marines invaded a tiny volcanic island in the Pacific. Over the next thirty-five days, approximately 28,000 combatants died, including nearly 22,000 Japanese and 6,821 Americans, making Iwo Jima one of the costliest battles of World War II. Iwo Jima

History.Net: Worth the Cost? Justification of the Iwo Jima Invasion

Quora: What Was the Significance of Iwo Jima?

Military Battle of Iwo Jima

Britannica: Battle of Iwo Jima

Pacific War Leaders

There has been considerable debate among historians about the role Hirohito played during Japan’s militaristic period from the early 1930s to 1945, the end of World War II. Many have asserted that he had grave misgivings about war with the United States and was opposed to Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy (the Axis Powers) but that he was constrained to go along with the militarists who increasingly came to dominate the armed forces and the government. Other historians have claimed that Hirohito was actively involved in the planning of Japan’s expansionist policies from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (now northeastern China) in 1931 to the end of the war. Still others posit that the truth lies somewhere between those two interpretations.

Nonetheless, in August 1945, when Japan was facing defeat and opinion among the country’s leaders was divided between those advocating surrender and those insisting on a desperate defense of the home islands against an anticipated invasion by the Allied Powers, Hirohito settled the dispute in favour of those urging peace. He broke the precedent of imperial silence on August 15, when he made a national radio broadcast to announce Japan’s acceptance of the Allies’ terms of surrender. In a second historic broadcast, made on January 1, 1946, Hirohito repudiated the traditional quasi-divine status of Japan’s emperors. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Map of the Japanese Expansion in the Pacific War

The History Place - Timeline of Pacific War


The ENTIRE collection of resources provided by the BBC Birtles Library can be searched on ONE single, powerful search platform, which retrieves print books, eBooks, database articles and websites. Click HERE for assistance.


Primary Sources

National Archives of Australia
Specify World War II and click on 'Browse' to access a range of primary sources including:

Cablegram from Curtin to Churchill about the defence of Singapore – 17 January 1942

Churchill on the return of Australian troops to defend Australia – 27 January 1942

How to Use Signal or Linking Words to Construct an Essay

Examples of In-Text and End-Text Referencing