Australia still has no AEW&C; system at its disposal, and is entirely reliant upon the United States for this capability. Australia has committed $3.4 billion for six Wedgetails to be delivered between 2006 and 2008. The first of this production line is already flying
and being tested in the United State. In addition Australian industry is expected to be involved with $400 million of the project
. The Boeing website explains the systems and capabilities of the Wedgetail
The AEW&C; system combines the new high-performance Boeing 737-700 IGW aircraft with the Northrop Grumman Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. Included in the platform are an advanced identification friend or foe (IFF) system; an expanded, passive surveillance system; a flexible, open-system architecture and a highly effective self-defense capability. The 737-700 features state-of-the-art avionics, navigation equipment and flight deck. It has a maximum speed of .78 Mach and an operational ceiling of 41,000 feet.
The Wedgetail's name comes from the radar wedge on the rear of the aircraft. This is from Northrop Grumman's MESA technologies which can track air and sea targets simultaneously. The radar also does not have a sweep, so the objects being tracked do not "jump" on the screen. The Wiki entry describes the the radar's capability
The radar is located on a dorsal fin on top of the fuselage, dubbed the "top hat", and is designed for minimal aerodynamic effect. The radar is capable of simultaneous air and sea search, fighter control and area search. Other modifications include ventral fins to counterbalance the radar and countermeasures mounted on the nose, wingtips and tail. The cabin features 8 operator consoles with sufficient space for 4 more, the Australian fleet will operate 10 consoles with space for 2 more.
The contract included the options for three other aircraft above the initial order of four. Since the radar systems and mission equipment were paid for in the original contract, adding additional aircraft was quite cheap by defence procurement standards. The AEW&Cs; are also very important force multipliers that dramatically increase the effectiveness of forward assets. Consequently Australia took the options for two more, bringing the Australian fleet to six.
The question needs to be asked why the option on a third was not taken. Since Australia's fleet is quite small, and the importance of the AEW&C; as a force multiplier to the Australian Defence Force (ADF); adding a seventh AEW&C; system would have increased the ADF's effectiveness considerably.
Reforming No.2 Squadron RAAF
No.2 Squadron has been reformed specifically for the Wedgetails. The squadron headquarters is currently at Williamtown in NSW. The Australian government has invested $149 million into Williamtown to support the needs of the Wedgetails. No.2's history can be traced back to the Australian Flying Corps when it was formed in the Middle East. The squadron flew DH5 and SE5a aircraft in the skies of France.
The squadron found itself in the bomber role in World War II, flying Lockheed Hudson's and B25's in the South Pacific. The squadron was later equipped with the Australian built GAF Lincolns, large four engined bombers armed with 20mm cannon. These were used in the Malayan Emergency. The squadron was later equipped with GAF Canberras and deployed to Vietnam. With the retirement of the Canberra, the squadron was disbanded as No.1 Squadron and No.6 Squadron, armed with the F111 provided the RAAF's strike and bomber capabilities.
Innovative RAAF RFP's
The 737-700 IGW Wedgetail is not the first Australian defence RFP that has led to an innovative result. It also not the first Australian initiated project that was used by other forces facing a similar situation. In 1926, Richard Williams was faced with equipping a seaplane carrier, HMAS Albatross
, with aircraft - aircraft which the RAAF did not have. Williams, along with H.C. Harisson drew up an RFP for an amphibian aircraft that solved this need.
Supermarine was part of Vickers in the 1930's and rose to the challenge; requesting that the wings be wood and fabric rather than metal. After failing an initial catapult test, the Supermarine Walrus was operationally tested on HMS Nelson
. Williams ordered twenty-four for Australia, the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force (RAF) ordered approximately seven hundred and eighty.
The Wedgetail project has raised interest with South Korea, Turkey and Italy. This raises the point that Australia is not alone in its regional projection and technology needs. The United States and Britain have moved to global projection - Australia's more modest needs are popular with other nations seeking only regional projection.
There is an opportunity here for Australian defence industries, but it will require the political will as well as funding from the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force. One of Richard Williams' innovative insights was that Australian solutions to Australian problems are superior. The Australian Government would do well to heed that philosophy.
Pearl Harbor opened hostilities in the Pacific with Japan attempting a knock out blow against the US capital ships. There are two aspects to this, one it was well known by Australia that the attack was going to happen, and two, Japan invaded Malaya at the same time as they attacked Pearl Harbor.
An Australian Flight Officer, Bob Law-Smith from No.2 squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was flying Lockheed Hudson aircraft over the Timor Sea. He related to the Squadron's historian;
When we [No.2 sqn RAAF] arrived in Darwin [Northern Territory] from Laverton [Victoria] on the 6th of December , the aircrew briefing informed us we were to move to action stations at our designated base at Koepang [Dutch Timor]. When we asked why, the answer was Japan was about to attack Pearl Harbor and war with Japan was imminent. It is now clear in retrospect, and especially in view of declassification of much formerly secret material, that from whatever sources our briefing statements were derived, the Australian Government was in no doubt that we should be in a state of war readiness after arriving at Koepang.
And Law-Smith from a speech he made in 1991;
While we were out on patrol we would be sent a signal that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor - when the signal came through, if we found any Japanese ship we may bomb it. This is an interesting bit of history as this was several days before the Japanese did bomb Pearl Harbor - it is all in my log book. Now, I was the lowest form of life in the Air Force - any lower and I'd be out the bottom - so it wasn't a matter of very senior people being privileged to this information.
Since the US blockading of oil and raw materials, as well as freezing Japanese assets in America, went toward the Japanese decision to invade south rather than to continue their invasion and occupation of China, Law-Smith's recollections seem to point out that Roosevelt was very aware of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite this apparent duplicity by Roosevelt, his attempt to achieve and enforce peace through economic measures was a very Madisonian foreign policy.
In 1941, the capital ship was still seen as the dominant form of ocean superiority and power. Despite the Japanese using their aircraft carriers to such effect, many of their commanders, including Yamamoto still saw the carriers as the first phase in a sea battle that would lead to a Jutland like battle of the capital ships.
On December 7th, Hawaii time, the Japanese Navy hit the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor, on December 8th Malayan time (thirty minutes before Pearl Harbor was bombed) the Japanese Army began their southern campaign by moving through Hong Kong, Malaya and the Phillipines.
As part of the Washington Treaty, Hong Kong was not able to be fortified, consequently only a small force of Scots, Canadian, English and Indian infantry existed there. Hong Kong was swollen with refugees and had limited water supply. Attacked by three Japanese infantry regiments, its fall was inevitable.
The Japanese invasion of Malaya began at Kota Bharu. The lynchpin of the British defence of Malaya was the island fortress of Singapore. Australia had practiced defence on the cheap through funding Singapore. It had managed to avoid having to create or maintain an independent Navy capable of challenging for ocean superiority and had instead made a force more suitable for slotting into the Royal Navy's (RN) structure.
It was well known in Australia, that if Britain was involved in a war in Europe, the RN would not be able to come to Australia's aid in the Pacific. The assets that the British did send out to Malaya, in the
Prince of Wales
were promptly sunk when they were not defended by allied aircraft.
The Japanese invasion spread quickly north and west from Pantani and Singora [Thailand], exposing Burma and Siam to Japanese invasion and air power. Bennett's 8th Australian Division inflicted a defeat on the Japanese at Gemas while Indian and British reinforcements started arriving in Singapore; but it was in vain, by February 1942, Singapore was under siege.
Eighty five thousand allied troops protected a population of one million. Of the allied troops, seventeen battalions were Indian, eleven British, six Australian and two Malayan. On the 8th of February, sixteen Japanese battalions crossed the causeway. They were beaten back, but by their third attempt had established a presence in Singapore.
The Japanese Imperial Division attempted to cross but were held off by the 27th Australian Brigade. The Japanese troops continued to land, and with tank support quickly controlled the island. General Percival surrendered the garrison. With the battle for Malaya, the Japanese had taken one hundred and thirty thousand allied prisoners. From Malaya, Japan invaded Burma with the goal of reaching India.
General Douglas MacArthur, the great egoist, commanded the US and Phillipino forces in the Phillipines. In US command circles, the defence of the Phillipines had been seen as an issue - the nearest naval force was 5,000 miles away in Hawaii, and the only maritime strike ability was the new B17 bomber. MacArthur wanted the Phillipines to have a central role in the American defence of the Pacific and consequently boasted of 200,000 Phillipino soldiers that he had at his command. These Phillipino forces largely existed on paper, as they were poorly equipped and trained.
Japan wanted the Phillipines as a spring board to invade the oil rich Northern Bornea, as well as to quickly remove the Phillipines as a base for American operations. With a tight timetable, the out-numbered Japanese General Homma had two months to achieve the occupation of the Phillipines. With the Japanese carriers striking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese air force flew from Formosa [Taiwan] in order to provide air superiority. It was from here that American aviation assets were destroyed on the ground. The remaining B17s flew to Australia.
The invasion was strongly resisted. The American and Phillipino infantry out-numbered the Japanese but were low on food and medical supplies. The also lacking air support. The Japanese had suffered 25% casualty rates against the defenders, and the Japanese infantry were also suffering from low supplies and exhaustion. Consequently, the Japanese advance slowed and the tired defenders were besieged in Bataan.
During this siege period, Japanese supplies were refreshed and the Japanese infantry reinforced. The defenders were surviving on less and less - food intake was starvation level. General Wainwright eventually surrendered. The Bataan death march mirrored the experience of the allied troops captured in Malaya. The depravities the Japanese inflicted upon Prisoners of War (POWs) were disgraceful.
MacArthur proved himself a poor leader, his tactics were flawed. He allowed his air force to be destroyed on the ground, he also dispersed his troops rather than concentrating his superior numbers against the Japanese. Unfortunately for the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Australian Army and American infantry, MacArthur was a skilled political general and managed to get control of all allied forces in the South Pacific. To this day, "Dugout Doug" is despised by the USMC and Australian Army.
Speed of Japanese Advance
One thing that is hard to conceptualise is the speed of the Japanese advance from Hong Kong to the Solomon Islands. The distance covered with the forces available is quite remarkable.
Dec 7th 1941 (Hawaii time) Pearl Harbor bombed.
Dec 8th 1941 (9.05 am Malayan time) Malaya invaded.
Dec 8th 1941, Hong Kong invaded.
Dec 10th 1941, Phillipines invaded.
Dec 10th 1941, Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk.
Dece 20th 1941, Japanese invade Borneo.
Dec 25th 1941, Hong Kong surrenders.
Jan 11th 1942, Japanese invade Celebes.
Feb 8th 1942, Singapore invaded.
Feb 15th 1942, Singapore surrenders.
Feb 19th 1942, Darwin (Australia) bombed by Japanese carrier forces.
Feb 20th 1942, Japanese invade Timor [Indonesia].
Feb 28th 1942, Japanese invade Java [Indonesia].
March 7th 1942, Japanese ground forces attack Rangoon (Burma).
March 8th 1942, Japanese occupy Lae [Papua New Guinea]
March 11th 1942, MacArthur leaves the Phillipines.
March 12th 1942, Japanese invade Sumatra [Indonesia].
April 1st 1942, Japanese invade Dutch New Guinea [Irian Jira]
May 6th 1942, Phillipines surrenders.
May 8th 1942, Battle of the Coral Sea.
May 12th 1942, Japanese ground forces within miles of India's eastern border.
With the Japanese in the Solomon Islands and controlling the northern coast of New Guinea, it fell to the USMC to defend the Solomons while the Australian Army defended the south coast of New Guinea. This was to be the stalemate between the allied and Japanese forces until Japan broke its back on Guadalcanal.
Control of the Seas
The allies were fortunate to have a daring commander such as Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. His faith in his carriers and his men to beat their Japanese opposites saved Australia from having its sea lines of communication (SLOC) being cut off from the US.
The Japanese and Yamamoto, for all their innovative use of their carriers, still believed in the capital ship as striking the knockout blow. This thinking was shown at Midway, where the Japanese fleet sailed with the carriers as bait, rather than the carriers being their main strike force.
Midway became a naval battle decided by carrier aircraft where even small numbers of aircraft proved the carrier itself to be vulnerable. Thirty three dive bombers laid waste to the Japanese carriers
. Forty-six bombers from the
soon after which sank two days later. The
was discovered by American bomber aircraft and also sunk.
From this point on, America had the advantage in blue water superiority. Japan was unable to replace its lost carriers, nor was it able to replace the loss of its skilled naval pilots. American industry began supplying the US Navy (USN) with increasing numbers of aircraft carriers - reaching the
remarkable output of nearly three a month
. As an example, Admiral Halsey's force in 1941 comprised four carriers. For the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943, under Admiral Spruance, totalled nineteen carriers. This remarkable industrial output was to be the basis for post-war American hegemony.
Nimitz's command of American naval forces, and in particular his aggressive use of the small complement of American aircraft carriers was the turning point in the Pacific Theatre. Nimitz stands out by far as the best commander in the Pacific Theatre, and in my opinion, the best commander of all nations and all forces in World War II.
Breaking the Back of the Japanese, Part 1: Milne Bay
The Coral Sea battle had deflected a Japanese invasion fleet from landing at Port Moresby where an Australian garrison defended the Papua New Guinean city. With the Japanese Army still requiring control of the southern coast of New Guinea for their aircraft to range over northern Australia, the Coral Sea, the Solomons, Fiji and New Caledonia - they decided to hop their way under New Guinea by under-taking assaults at strategic points. The first hop was the the airfield and port at Milne Bay.
Milne Bay as defended by an Australian garrison, along with three RAAF squadrons. The Japanese landed at Milne Bay on the 25th of August, 1942 and began fighting their way toward the airfield. The coastal strip was hemmed in by water and mountains, thinning the passable land to two hundred metres wide at points. The Japanese troops, supported by tanks fought their way to the edge of the airfield, so close that the Australian fighter aircraft would begin firing their guns before they had their landing gear up.
The Australian troops beat the Japanese invasion force back into the sea by the 6th of September. This was the first time a Japanese invasion force had been defeated.
Breaking the Back of the Japanese, Part 2: Kokoda
With the naval defeat at Coral Sea, the Japanese Army also launched an overland offensive across the Owen-Stanley Ranges to Port Moresby. Initially Australian militia units and Papuan infantry faced the Japanese forces, which had reached Kokoda by July 29th, 1942, but these units were reinforced by the Australian 7th Division. The 7th Division had been returned from North Africa.
On the Kokoda Track, fighting between the Australians and Japanese was murderous and bloody. The Australian militia's were outnumbered by five to one, and the soldiers of both sides were suffering from lack of supplies and illness such as dysentry. MacArthur, believing the Rowell's campaign of defend and retreat, wanted Rowell replaced. Blamey did so. MacArthur did not see that it was bleeding the Japanese of manpower and over-extending their supply lines.
Generals were largely irrelevant in the inhospitable environment of the Papuan jungle and the daily hand to hand combat. The Japanese despaired, as they were had lost nearly a third of their force, were short on supplies and saw no sight of reinforcements with the USMC defence of Guadalcanal. Horii had got within 32 kilometres of Port Moresby before retreating. By November, 1942, the Australian Army had retaken Kakoda.
By January 22nd, 1943 Australian and American forces had cleared the Japanese from New Guinea. David Smurthwaite described the Australian and American operations in New Guinea;
For the first time in World War II a Japanese land operation had been defeated, even though the Allied forces had been outnumbered for much of the campaign. Throughout, Australian and American aircraft had played a vital part in supporting front-line units, droppign everything from food and ammunition - missions decribed as 'biscuit bombers' by the troops - to bridging equipment. This use of air power to provide the logistic support for an overland advance in difficult terrain was to become a particular strength of Allied warfare in the Far East and Pacific theatres. Australian techniques of jungle warfare and tactical leadership, developed during the fighting in Papua, were to be adopted with success by British forces in their campaign in Burma.
Despite these positives, the Australian position in Kokoda would have been even more tenuous if it was not for the American campaign in the Solomon Islands at Guadalcanal.
Breaking the Back of the Japanese, Part 3: Guadalcanal
On the 7th of August, 1942; the 1st Marine Division landed at Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. The American forces had decided to buttress the lines of communication through Fiji and New Caledonia by defending the Solomons. Originally an invasion to displace two thousand Japanese infantry and workers which were building an airfield, it quickly became a defence as the Japanese threw their full might against the American defenders.
Japanese aircraft attacked constantly from Rabaul, the long flight time travelling over many Australian coast-watchers who would notify the US fighter aircraft at Henderson Airfield of the incoming raids. The initial naval battles were damaging to the allies, Mikawa led a Japanese naval force past Savo Island where they blew the Australian cruiser
out of the water and damaged the
Their surprise was complete, one survivor of the
recollected seeing star shells bursting in the air and saying, "What are the yanks doing now?". He was blown off the ship by the torpeda and shell strikes on the Canberra. Mikawa's force on its path out also sunk the US cruiser
. The allies were fortunate, the Marine transports were undefended just south of Savo.
On the 18th of August, the Japanese Army landed troops Taivu. As the island became a meat-grinder, the 43rd US Division was deployed to Guadalcanal from New Zealand while the Japanese stripped troops, aircraft and ships from China, Indonesia and the Phillipines to throw at the US forces on Guadalcanal.
Continued Japanese naval operations began to have success against the USN, the aircraft carrier
was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in August and forced to limp back home for repairs. Shortly after the
was struck by a torpedo and sank. This left the USN with only one carrier to defend the Marine operations at Guadalcanal.
Fortunately, the carriers were not the total air assets available, Henderson Airfield and it's "Cactus Air Force" had been able to provide air support and air cover to American forces, and eventually establish air superiority in the surrounding area. The airfield survived bombing from the air as well as the bombardment from naval guns.
By the end of November, 1942; there were over twenty thousand Japanese troops on Guadalcanal who were on the verge of starvation. American domination of the ocean and skies had become strong enough that supplies to the Japanese troops were not getting through. Approximately thirteen thousand Japanese troops were withdrawn from Guadalcanal by February 7th, 1943. The battle had been won, and Japan's back had been broken.
The Japanese had invaded south in order to control the oil assets in Java. The Dutch businessmen, partly in disbelief in the Japanese advance, and partly because they thought the allies would quickly recapture their oil fields and refineries, did not bother to sabotage them. Consequently the Japanese captured much of the oil industry intact.
After New Guinea and Guadalcanal, the American forces leveraged their naval power into an island hopping operation which was to cut the Japanese in two. The number of aircraft carriers the Americans had at their disposal meant that they did not need airfields to support their operations. This was shown at Kwajelein when extreme force was brought to bear and Nimitz found himself six weeks ahead of their timetable. David Smuthwaite comments;
An irresistible form of warfare had come to the Pacific; the fast carrier task force and the all arms amphibious assault, supported by the most powerful industrial base in the world.
With the success of these operations, Japanese troops were bypassed, thirty seven thousand in Bouganville alone. As the American forces hopped their way to the Marianas. The Japanese Navy was cut off from Japan as it stayed in Java and Sumatra where the oil was. If the Japanese Navy had of sailed for Japan, they would quickly have run dry.
During the Battle of the Phillipines, Japanese naval assets sailed from Sumatra as well as Japan to face the US forces. The carrier battle that ensued was to be known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" as US Naval aircraft downed two hundred and forty aircraft for the loss of nineteen. American air and naval superiority was complete.
China and the Invasion of Australia
Japan's plan for South East Asia was to create a Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, which would extend from China, through Korea, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and New Guinea to New Caledonia. Including in this economic and political grouping of Japanese hegemony were Australia and New Zealand, as both these countries had the raw materials and commodities that the Japanese needed to maintain its economy.
In the 1920's Japan had expanded her influence into Korea,by the mid-1930's in the Army acting independently of the Japanese Government, the Army set about the invasion and occupation of Manchuria. This was resisted in the south by the nationalists [Kai-shek in Szechwan] and in the west by the communists [Mao].
China and Korea detained the bulk of the Japanese Army's division for garrison and occupation duties. In 1941, of the fifty one divisions of the Japanese Army, only eleven were available for the attacks on Malaya and the Phillipines. Until the end of the war, China, Korea and defending from Soviet expansionism continued to consume the bulk of Japan's infantry.
This is why Australia was never credibly threatened. Even if the US aircraft carriers had been sunk in 1942, and New Caledonia had been successfully invaded cutting Australia off from the US, Australia would not have been able to be invaded. Australian troops numbered too high, even if Australian aviation assets were small, and Australian naval assets were non-existent. For Japan to attack and hold the eastern freeboard would have taken at least ten divisions, more than they had available.
Menzies and Curtin
Australian historians rated John Curtin and Robert Menzies, Australia's two wartime Prime Ministers between 1939 and 1945, as the best Australian Prime Ministers
. From the article;
But the two who have been judged Australia's greatest modern leaders have at least one thing in common. In both cases, as Geoffrey Blainey puts it, their period of power seemed to be over well before it actually began. "They both faced great adversity."
In my opinion they were the two worst Australia has had. They were both stunning examples of the Australian "waitocracy". Joe Scullin has a greater claim than Curtin or Menzies, his battle against the Colonial Office and King of England to establish the precedent of an Australian Governor General was more worthy than those two hacks, with their bungled and cringing efforts in World War II.
Richard Williams was the best leader Australia had in World War II, his role should have been central as head of the Air Force, except Robert Menzies replaced him before the war, with a retired British hack, Charles Burnett, that the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force did not want. With Williams' sacking by Menzies, all three Australian Chiefs of Staff were member of the UK forces, rather than Australian forces. William's wrote;
Gavin Long in an unofficial war history volume
refers to this and says, 'A British soldier (or admiral or air vice marshal) was considered [by the government] likely to possess virtues an Australian could not acquire'. I [Williams] recall discussing this subject some years earlier with General Sir Brudenall White when he was Chief of General Staff and he expressed the view that 'It is better to have Australian troops commanded by an Australian with a second-class brain than by an Englishman, even if he has a first-class brain.' and the United Kingdom was not in the habit of sending its first-class brains for temporary duty with the Dominion forces.
Williams was a firm believer through his leadership experiences in World War I, that Australian solutions to Australian problems were superior. It was Williams who saw in the 1920s that Australia would be most vulnerable in a two front war if it did not have an indigenous aerospace industry. He established the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation which was the basis for the "panic fighter" Boomerang to be quickly produced in 1942.
Just When They Needed Us The Most
In 1940, Britain had lost a great deal of men and material in the French campaign. The Canadian troops were committed to the defence of Britain, and there was no real force to face the Italians who were expanding through North Africa and the Middle East. The only country with the troops and equipment to allow the allies to open a second front was Australia.
The North African and Syrian campaigns against the Italians, Vichy French and Germans could not have been maintained without Australian troops. This was probably the theatre where Australia made the greatest difference in World War II. This was an advantage that Menzies should have pressed home with Churchill. Unfortunately Churchill saw the Australian political and military leaders as colonials. His view that Dominions did what they were told.
The Anglophile Menzies who believed Australian interests were shared by Britain, offered no suitable defence. When Australia was the most necessary he should have been screwing the British for aircraft in what was becoming an inevitable showdown between Australia and Japan. Instead Menzies allowed Australian airmen to be traded away to England with the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). He also willingly handed over sovereignty of Australian assets to British interests. Churchill abused Menzies and Blamey by lying to them about an Australian deployment to Greece and Crete, but even so, Menzies was out of his league and failed Australia.
This is when Curtin took over. One of his first moves was to make the statement;
Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom
While this is often remarked as Curtin's strength and his subsequent tussles with Churchill over Australian troops being detained in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] to be deployed in Burma by the British, rather than in PNG to defend Australia, it really just swaps America for Britain. Curtin handed over sovereignty of Australian forces to MacArthur, who viewed Australia with the same colonial contempt that Churchill had.
In 1942, the United States could not defend New Guinea without Australian troops. The first allied land victory was handed to Curtin and MacArthur by the Australian Army but no political capital was made of it. When Churchill demanded Montgomery deliver him a victory, he was handed El Alamein to use as a political club against America and Russia. When Rowell handed Curtin Kokoda and Milne Bay, Curtin allowed MacArthur to replace Rowell and replace him with Blamey.
Once again Williams is an insider that viewed much of this ineptness and political cringe first hand;
Australia was still  sending large numbers of air crew trainees through the United States for service with the Royal Air Force and they had often been held up on the east coast, sometimes for several weeks, waiting for ships to cross the Atlantic. Numbers were also building up at the personnel reception depot in England and sometimes months passed before aircrew reached a Service squadron - some never did.
Whilst this was going on Churchill was drawing attention to mounting losses of British shipping. At the same time newly formed squadrons of the US Army Air Corps were being sent to the South-West Pacific area and I could not get the aircraft that Australia was asking for.
I suggested, therefore, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that if the aircraft now going to new United States squadrons in the South-West Pacific were given to Australia, we could man them, and reduce the demand for shipping for the transfer of Australians first across the Pacific and then across the Atlantic and for Americans to the South-West Pacific. Further I suggested that Australians would be more interested in fighting in the Pacific, involving the defence of Australia, than elsewhere - not to mention their greater interest than other nationals in that defence.
There was at first some hesitation about accepting this proposal but finally General Marshall (US Army Chief of Staff) said that he would agree to this if both General MacArthur and Mr Curtin agreed - he would ask them. I did not expect for one moment that MacArthur would agree to this suggestion even if those above him did; it was not likely that he would wish to employ other than United States forces to return to the Phillipines as he said he would do, but I was surprised when, at the next meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, General Marshall told me that Mr Curtin had also opposed the suggestion on the grounds that he did not want anything done that would make it appear to the Australian people that American aid was being reduced.
That, I thought, said little for the intelligence of the Australian people in 1944, or was it the Government who were the most fearful? And so Australia continued to send aircrew across America to England, while the Americans came down to the South-West Pacific.
Menzies and Curtin were one and the same, both deserved censure for their unenlightened management of Australian forces, and the manner with which they uncritically turned over the sovereignty of Australia's forces to Churchill and MacArthur. Neither used Australian achievement in battle to further the country's needs or fortunes. They were both failures as wartime Prime Ministers.
Just finished reading Bruce Gamble's Fortress Rabaul
which covers the air war over Rabaul and its surrounds through 1942 and 1943. Rabaul was initially defended by an Australian Army garrison (Lark Force) and No.24 Squadron RAAF which was armed with Wirraways and Hudsons. The experienced Japanese forces went through them quickly.
After that was the period when Port Moresby was undefended until No.75 Squadron RAAF got their hands on some Kittyhawks from the Americans and for a time were the only fighter squadron in New Guinea. They fought the Japanese toe to toe, but suffered loss of experienced pilots and aircraft until they were down to one serviceable aircraft. Fortunately aircraft were starting to arrive from the US and they were replaced with an American P39 squadron, which unfortunately went through the same experience of increasing losses and dwindling aircraft.
Fortunately for the Allies, the Japanese suffered the same. With each aircraft lost, so too did Japanese lose an experienced airmen, or aircrew which could not be replaced. Additionally, aircraft were slow coming to the South Pacific and Japan was not able to gear up their factories like the United States did, so the losses hurt them as much as they did the RAAF and USAAF in early 1942 and 1943.
It is obvious that the only professional allied air arm in the Pacific in the early parts of World War II was the US Navy. It showed in the results they achieved against the Japanese by stinging Japan during the Battle of Coral Sea and then handing out a defeat at Midway. The USN pilots were disciplined and experienced, and the USN had their logistics and training in place. It made a difference.
The RAAF and USAAF would not solve those problems until 1943. The RAAF cheated by bringing back experienced pilots from the African desert war, such as Les Jackson. However, like the Japanese, experienced pilots are not immune to be shot down and the loss of battle veterans meant untrained pilots were often defending New Guinea.
Until the allies were able to establish air superiority the air war against Rabaul was undertaken by the USAAF heavy bombers and the RAAF Catalinas. The B17s, B24s and Catalinas were about the only ones with sufficient range to reach Rabaul from Port Moresby, though the US bombers would fly from Australia, stage overnight in Port Moresby and then continue on.
Like the allied fighter squadrons, the bombers suffered the same issues. Lack of parts, lack of amenities, no rotation of aircrew so battle fatigue was an issue, constant losses to enemy fire, lack of serviceable aircraft and super long missions with little rest. Often the pace was so demanding that as few as three bombers would get to Rabaul to actually drop bombs.
Until skip bombing as introduced in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea the heavy bombers were largely ineffectual as they didn't have the numbers to carpet bomb and the mobile targets like ships were easily able to avoid the dropped bombs. Sadly, other than a couple of effective raids, the heavy bomber campaign against Rabaul was largely inneffectual.
It was not until airbases on northern New Guinea and islands closer to Rabaul were established by the allies that air power was wrested from Rabaul for good. Until then it was a central thorn in the allied side that was able to provide Japanese projection of air power through New Guinea, the Solomons and across the seas that separated them. It was a hard fought air war.