Year

2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of History and Politics - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

Although Australian troops fought on Bougainville during 1944 and 1945, few people today know much about the campaign. The little discussion there is, merges the Bougainville campaign with the Australian army's other final campaigns, which have all been dismissed as just 'mopping-up' operations. The Bougainville campaign deserves to be remembered. This thesis is an examination of the campaign fought on Bougainville. It has a clear operational framework and adapted the methodology developed by Peter Stanley in Tarakan, which contrasts and explores the experiences of the commanders with those of the men. Time is spent developing the personalities and characteristics of the various commanders as this influenced the decisions made during the campaign. Each commander had his own strengths and weaknesses; each had his own peculiarities and eccentricities. The Corps commander, for example, micromanaged the campaign even down to the level of platoon, while one infantry brigadier was widely recognised as being 'mad'. Some commanders were keen to commence the campaign and engage the Japanese, and pushed their men into battle accordingly. Yet others were less than enthusiastic and resented serving in militia units. The view of the men was very different to that of their commanders. Tactics, strategy and commanders' idiosyncrasies, meant little to the men who did the fighting and dying. This thesis also examines the experiences of the men, their thoughts, feelings and fears. It gives a sense of jungle warfare and the nature of the fighting: the strain of patrolling, the fear of constant Japanese attacks, and the men's reaction to combat. From a close study of the commanders and men, two sub-themes have also emerged as they appeared throughout the campaign. The first was the ever-present AIF and militia debate. The Bougainville campaign demonstrated that the rivalry between the two groups had not completely dissipated with the creation of the AMF and was, in fact, still an emotive issue in 1945. The second was the legacy of the First AIF, the prevalence of the 'Anzac legend' and the 'Digger myth', and the 'big-noting' Australian soldiers in official reports and unit war diaries. Although the focus of the thesis is on the Australians, some attention is also given to the Japanese and the Bougainville Islanders.

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