The closing throes of the Second World War saw Australian forces involved in campaigns in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Borneo. With the remaining Japanese forces dwindling in number, Australian troops were largely tasked with ‘mopping up’ isolated footholds across swathes of the above-cited areas.
Twelve Australian Army brigades replaced US troops stationed in various parts of PNG in late 1944. While US forces in the area had largely been tasked with static defence operations, Australian troops were instructed to mount active offensive operations against Japanese contingents. This would ultimately kick off a chain of similar interventions, keeping the AIF committed to war through to the Japanese surrender in September 1945.
Late-stage intervention in by the AIF in 1944-45 remains a point of political controversy to this day. Certain critics have suggested that the government continued with these actions in order to bolster Australia’s bargaining position in post-war negotiations; they argue that, by the time of the Borneo Campaign, Japanese influence in south-east Asia and the Pacific was negligible in terms of Australian interests.
True to form, however, it must be said that the Japanese troops fought through to the bitter end, and victory came all but easily to the AIF contingents. Australia even played a supporting role in operations against the Japanese home islands, assisting the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) during the Battle of Okinawa.
The following photographs document Australia’s involvement in these campaigns, and round out Defence Connect’s series on the Second World War.