ON August 15, 1945 the Japanese surrendered and the Second World War was over.
Australians reacted to the surrender with spontaneous celebrations that broke out all over the nation. The immediate aftermath of these celebrations saw Australians began to appreciate that the world had changed because of the six years of destructive of conflict; and that Australia too was forever changed.
This was the scene set by RSL vice president Pat McMahon at the commemoration service held at the Inverell cenotaph on Wednesday, which marked the 67th anniversary of end of the war in the pacific. VP Day.
“Of the many occasions and anniversaries we commemorate in the course of each year…this one is of particular significance,” Pat told those gathered to remember.
“The Pacific war was the first and only time in the short history of our nation when our territorial integrity was subject to threat, and when acts of war were carried out against our people on, and above, Australian soil.
“VP Day is an important occasion for all Australians. But it holds special meaning for those who endured the Second World War…and for those whose loved ones did not return or who returned suffering grave physical and mental injury.”
Pat said it was worthwhile to reflect upon and consider what the veterans fought for.
“The bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941 signalled the start of Japan’s rapid advance through the Pacific…Japan landed its first troops in Malaya. A powerful Japanese offensive ensued, and Australia hastily prepared for possible invasion,” Pat said.
“The war arrived on Australia’s shores on the morning of February 19, 1942 with a devastating air raid on Darwin. In succeeding months air attacks were made on many towns in northern Australia.
“In May 1942, three Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour, followed by several minor attacks on Australia’s southern coastline by conventional Japanese subm-arines. This included the shelling of Newcastle … Japanese submarines sank six Allied merchant ships of the east coast of Australia…268 perished when the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was sunk in Queensland waters….and the Japanese landings in Papua New Guinea in July led to most Australians feeling a great sense of peril.”
Pat said at that time it was not hard to imagine Australia being the next objective of the Japanese.
“After the defeat of the Japanese at Kokoda and Milne Bay, Australian and American units…fought the Japanese in…a series of costly battles, where no quarter was shown or expected,” Pat said.
“In 1945, Australian land, air and sea forces launched coordinated assaults against the Japanese at Tarakan, Labuan and Balikpapan. These were the biggest, most complex and the final Australian campaigns of World War II. “Preparations were then being made for what would have been an extraordinarily costly assault on Japan itself.”
The war ended after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The Emperor of Japan surrendered unconditionally.
“Almost one million Australian men and women enlisted during the Second World War. It remains the largest commitment of Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen in our history,” Pat said.
“For Australia, Victory in the Pacific Day ended six years of hardship, sacrifice and anguish…So in remembering the nearly one million Australian men and women who served, and the 40,000 who died fighting to protect the freedom we enjoy today, it is worth reflecting on the legacies of that great generation of Australians.
“The war in the Pacific tested the character and commitment of the Australian people. Whether they served in the sands of north Africa, the jungles of New Guinea, in the air over Europe on the high seas, or in the factories and farms of the home front, we remember today a generation of magnificent Australians who fought to protect our way of life; our democracy, our culture, our land.”