Australian Historians Debate about Japan's wartime invasion intentions

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As the new Battle for Australia Day approaches, heated debate has broken out about whether it merely perpetuates a myth about Japan's wartime invasion intentions.

ONE lesson learned from history is that history so often teaches the wrong lesson. Wars can be fought or lost on a faulty premise, a misreading of events, or thinking one step will logically follow another - just as surely as it did before. Drawing on the wisdom of the past presumes the record can be settled.

More than 60 years on, a fresh battle is raging over the telling of World War II, Japan's wartime intentions in the Pacific and the threat to Australia. To understand what has become a bitter and vexed debate, Peter Stanley, an accomplished historian who spent more than 25 years working at the Australian War Memorial, suggests a simple quiz. "Ask your family, workmates or friends whether Japan planned to invade Australia in 1942. The chances are that many will say that they thought they would have, if only they had not been stopped in the Coral Sea . . . or was it Kokoda?"

But in Stanley's view, Japan had given up any dreams of invading Australia well ahead of these dramatic engagements, before the bombings at Darwin or the midget submarine attack in Sydney Harbour. In his book, Invading Australia, Stanley confronts what he regards as a distortion of the historical record, the attempt to portray these conflicts as a narrow "battle for Australia" rather than a wider war against Japanese tyranny.

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Stanley Lawrence Falk - 8/4/2008

In January 1942, the Japanese Navy proposed an ambitious southern advance beyond already captured territories, culminating in an invasion of Australia. The Army was skeptical about invading Australia, although it did go along with advances in the Solomions and New Guinea. By late April, however, continued Army opposition to an Australian invasion, and its refusal to provide the necessary troops, killed the idea. Instead, the Japanese set out on operations to isolate Australia and cut the Allied line of communications to that continent. There was no further intrention to invade Australia.