Parer was selected as an official war photographer for the Department of Information. He would go on to record many of the iconic images of Australian troops in that war.
Reading time: 5 minutes
Exactly 75 years ago, Australians dressed in steel helmets and khaki shorts, and often not much else, sat in weapon pits in the Egyptian sun about 120 kilometres west of Alexandria. They were preparing for what history would call the second battle of El Alamein, the great offensive planned by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery. In the summer heat of July 1942, his predecessor, Archibald Wavell, had held the German–Italian drive towards Egypt, a battle in which the 9th Australian Division had played a notable part. Now, after gathering more troops, tanks and guns, Montgomery was ready to launch his Eighth Army against General Erwin Rommel’s Panzer Armée Afrika, a commander and a force admired and respected even by their adversaries.
This documentary explores the history of Australian military aircraft manufacturing. Australia had just completed its industrialisation in 1939, becoming a full war economy very rapidly.
Australian Coastwatchers brought the tide of Japanese invasive successes to a shuddering halt when two coastwatchers spotted and reported an invasion fleet of 5,500 Japanese troops sailing south. The Coastwatchers’ observation was pivotal as it precipitated the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 and thwarted the Japanese invasion of Port Moresby.
Reading time: 6 minutes
Between Aug. 7, 1942, and Feb. 9, 1943, U.S. forces sought to capture – and then defend – the Pacific island of Guadalcanal from the Japanese military. What started as an amphibious landing quickly turned into a series of massive air and naval battles. The campaign marked a major turning point in the Pacific theater of World War II. It also revealed important lessons about the nature of warfare itself – ones that are particularly relevant when planning for conflict in the 21st century.
Reading time: 4 minutes
What defence forces should Australia maintain at a time of strategic uncertainty and rapid technological change? This is the fundamental question currently facing Stephen Smith and Angus Houston, the authors of the defence strategic review. Much has been made of the critical nature of this review and the fact it represents a ‘huge moment in Australian defence history’. Recently, however, I was going through a previous review conducted in similarly uncertain times (although for different reasons) and it was difficult not to be struck by the enduring nature of the key issues at stake.
The prelude to the campaign of the 49th Fighter Group covers some of the darkest days of the Pacific War: the fall of Singapore on 15 February; the bombing of Darwin on 19 February during which the Japanese shot down nine of the ten P-40s of Major Floyd Pell’s 33rd Pursuit Squadron; and the sinking […]
Just before midnight on 7 December 1941, Flying Officer Peter Gibbes stepped off the train at Kota Bharu on the coast of northeast Malaya after a long, tiring journey up the peninsula from Singapore. Gibbes, an airline pilot in peacetime, had been newly posted to the Royal Australian Air Force’s 1 Squadron, which in the ensuing hours would become the first Australian military unit to see action in the Pacific War.
Reading time: 13 minutes
In August 1943, a timber merchant from Bendzin, Poland, arrived at Auschwitz. He was among a group of 400 inmates, mostly Jews. First, a doctor examined him briefly to determine his fitness for work. His physical information was noted on a medical record. Second, his full prisoner registration was completed with all personal details. Third, his name was checked against the indices of the Political Section to see if he would be subjected to special punishment. Finally, he was registered in the Labor Assignment Office and assigned a characteristic five-digit IBM Hollerith number, 44673.
Reading time: 4 minutes
When Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 – a bold invasion of Nazi-held territory that helped tip the balance of World War II – they were using a remarkable and entirely untested technology: artificial ports.
To stage what was then the largest seaborne assault in history, the American, British and Canadian armies needed to get at least 150,000 soldiers, military personnel and all their equipment ashore on day one of the invasion.
Reading time: 5 minutes
The story of the intelligence war in South Africa during the Second World War is one of suspense, drama and dogged persistence. South Africa officially joined the war on 6 September 1939 by siding with Britain and the Allies and declaring war on Nazi Germany.
South African historians have largely overlooked the intelligence war, partly because of the apparent paucity of reference sources on it. This lack of attention prompted me to investigate the matter further. The result was my book Hitler’s Spies: Secret Agents and the Intelligence War in South Africa.
Reading time: 7 minutes
Questions remain about what stopped the Japanese from invading Australia, and how it was that many of our personnel came home alive and unwounded despite the dreadful conditions they faced.
The answers largely define an achievement of Australia’s World War II generation.
Reading time: 9 minutes
On December 7, 2022, German federal police arrested 25 people who were allegedly plotting to violently overthrow the German government. This planned coup resurrected the spectre of a failed coup attempt 100 years before, when Adolf Hitler and his then still nascent Nazi party tried something similar. But is there a link between this modern coup and the one of 1923? Does the history of these events rhyme?