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History Essay – Assess the impact of the war in the pacific on the Japanese and

Australian home fronts.

Like any theatre of war, the impact of the Conflict in the Pacific was not exclusive to
the war fronts. Between December 1941 and August 1945, both Australia and Japan
commenced in total war to sustain the war of attrition, and as a result, significant
political, economic and social changes took place. And although revisionists such as
Thomas Haven claim both home front situations to be quite similar, the war in the
pacific evidently affected Japan’s home front in a more severe way, leading to its
defeat in August 1945.

Effectively implementing total war required a capable government to organise the


home fronts and introduce sustainable war policies. Both Australia and Japan had
polar opposite governments and this had differing effects on their home fronts. Japan
had abolished democracy in the 1930’s and passed the National Mobilisation Bill in
1938, favouring a more militaristic government to succeed in the imminent conflict
ahead. Australia however, was not so equipped; with few armed forces and an
economy unprepared to sustain war. Menzies’ National Security Act of 1939
overcame this, increasing governmental control and achieving cohesion; something
which would guarantee victory. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and
the Singapore in 1942, Curtin’s recent US alliance led Australia to enter the Pacific
War, not only on the war front but the home front as well. Despite their differences,
Japanese and Australian governments both recognised the threat of possible invasion
and pushed for total war policies, including new recruitment and conscription
policies.

Based on differing home front societies, the reaction to conscription differed between
Japan and Australia. In 1943, Curtin introduced ‘limited conscription’ to the Citizens
Military Force; a repercussion of the desperate need for armed forces. This was met
with both controversy and dutiful acceptance throughout the Australian home front;
who thought conscription was outdated from WW1. Japan however faced little home
front resistance, as conscription had long been part of their military. Japanese
industrial labour conscription was also implemented, something Australia would later
follow with the Reserved Occupations and Industrial Priorities act. Despite Japanese
conscription branching to education, historian Shillony argues that to compensate for
Western seclusion, Japanese technical and scientific research was a priority.
Regardless of similar conscription policies and effects, Japanese conscription
encompassed more aspects on the home front; however Australian conscription was
faced with social controversy.

As a repercussion of the Pacific War, the home front economies of Japan and
Australia were both subsequently altered. However the Japanese economy, which
ironically prompted expansion, suffered far greater from reliance on external success.
During this time, American Historian Feary recognised this weakness and claimed
rapid internal development was essential to evade national strife, this was incredibly
perceptive of Feary. Japan’s rapid colonial expansion in 1941-42 beginning with the
fall of Manchuria, allowed economic focus on matching US industrial and military
strength. However without reinforced trade routes, the US sunk Japanese supply
ships. This deemed stringent economic restriction necessary; having strong negative
effects on Japanese society. In contrast, despite the Australian economy initially being
unprepared to sustain total war, former BHP general manager Essington Lewis
organised a war economy fed by Australian resources. By 1941, Australia’s munitions
industry was booming, the federal government controlled tax and the economy was
reasonably self-sufficient. Both Japanese and Australian societies faced economic
obstacles, but due to relative national stability Australia’s home front economy was
not nearly as affected as a result of the war.

Rations and restrictions were introduced on Japanese and Australian home fronts to
control economic instability and harness resources during the war. However, with an
impaired economy, rationing and restrictions was more devastating on the Japanese
home front. As a result of the 1941 trade embargo, supply sabotage and multitudes of
conscripted farmers, Japan implemented rationing in 1940. Inflation rose and an
illegal black market formed. Fuel and metal were salvaged from the home fronts to
produce munitions and military equipment. It seemed as though the war, contrary to
previous assumption, was considerably disadvantaging the Japanese home front by
means of rationing and restriction. Similarly, as a result of the 1940’s drought and
threat of Japanese submarine attack, Australia introduced rationing in 1942. For
Australians on the home front, it was time to give up luxuries in order to sustain the
total war effort. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign of 1942 encouraged personal
produce, substitution was introduced and clothing was regulated. For both nations,
austerity was admired and excess was shunned; it was a time of necessity over luxury.

To boost morale, cover up military failures and reduce fear of invasion, both Japanese
and Australian governments used censorship and propaganda within their home
fronts. Despite contrasting governmental systems, censorship on both home fronts
was conducted at a relatively similar level. Japan had gained full control over the
media since the National Mobilisation Bill of 1938. Even after the Doolittle raid in
1942, propaganda helped quash the fear of invasion. Any opposition was dealt with
by means of terror through the tokko or ‘thought police’. Japanese propaganda was
also used to instil enemy hatred throughout the home front, impacting on childhood
education, leisure activities and dress style. Similarly within Australia, The
Department of Information, headed by Arthur Caldwell, maintained tight control
through mass media censorship. Events such as the bombing of Darwin and the
sinking of the HMAS Sydney were covered up so as not to diminish the publics
support. Considering the vast differences, surprisingly censorship and propaganda
within both home fronts was relatively similar and effective.

The Pacific war impacted on the role of home front women. However, due to the
contrasting cultures, equality and respect were more prevalent within Australia. In
1941 the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was created, allowing women’s
direct involvement in the war effort. The Manpower Commission of 1942 was similar
to Japanese labour conscription; shifting able bodied males and replaced them with
female labour. 1942 also saw the introduction of the Australian Women’s Land Army;
replacing male farmers with women in order to boost troop numbers. The Women’s
Employment Board (WEB) was established soon after; however it could not totally
regulate equality, leading women to opt for higher paying jobs. Despite being in the
same situation, Japanese women on the home front did not receive as many
opportunities and freedom. Women supporting the workplace policy of 1943 and
Women’s Volunteer Labour Corps, found their civil liberties ignored and their wages
too low against the inflated cost of living. Worse still, illness was ripe in factories and
conditions began to diminish. For women on the Japanese home front, their efforts to
aid the war effort were not being met with appropriate conditions or respect.

Another minority who was affected by the Pacific war were the prisoners of war
(POW’s) However, due to cultural differences, the Japanese treated POW’s with
significantly more brutality. They were given scarce meals, denied basic medicine and
forced to engage in slave labour projects such as the Burma Railway in 1942. As
Allied victory became imminent the Japanese began to treat their POW’s with even
more brutality, the Sandakan Death Marches in 1945 reiterate this. Based on the
western guidelines in relation to POW’s, Australia treated theirs with relative respect.
However, this is not to say that all aspects of POW’s on the home front were just. The
Cowra revolt of 1944 was ill reported and didn’t mention the 200 Japanese deaths.
Just as the government controlled propaganda, they also controlled the right to detain
‘Australian aliens’ without sufficient reasoning or fair trial. This impacted on cultural
dynamics and instilled a sense of racial prejudice towards Australians with Japanese,
German or Italian heritage. POW’s on both home fronts faced challenges, but there is
no doubt the Japanese were much harsher in treatment than Australia, this was mainly
due to their culture.

From the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941, situations on Japanese and Australian
home fronts were impacted on politically, economically and socially. Some aspects
were similar but most differ, representing life on the Japanese home front as a harsher
lifestyle to endure. Their crumbling society is one of the main reason for their defeat
in August 1945.

By Asha Forsyth 2010