WHEN Victory in the Pacific was declared on August 15, 1945 it ended six years of world war for Australians. During that time Australian defence forces had been deployed to a number of war zones throughout the world.
Almost a million Australians, both men and women, served in the Second World War. They fought in campaigns against Germany and Italy in Europe, and in the Mediterranean and North Africa as part of the British and Allied Forces. They also fought against Japan in South-East Asia and other parts of the Pacific to prevent a Japanese invasion of Australia. Australian troops were mainly engaged in land battles in New Guinea, Indonesia and other islands of the Pacific, but Australia’s Air Force and Navy played a major part as well.
When Germany signed an unconditional surrender in May, 1945, the war in Europe came to an end. But it wasn’t until August 14th 1945 that Japan accepted the demand for surrender and the Second World War was finally over for Australia.
American involvement in the Pacific had become the driving force in the defeat of Japan, with the addition particularly of American sea and air support. The bombing of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans brought an abrupt ending to war in the Pacific and so the Second World War ended.
More than 30,000 Australian servicemen and women were taken prisoner in the Second World War and 39,000 gave their lives. Two thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through South East Asia in the first weeks of 1942.
While those who became prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home at the end of the war, 36 percent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity.
Unlike previous wars, women were to become more involved in war activities during the Second World War. Nurses had gone overseas with the AIF in 1940. Labour shortages at home forced the government to allow women to take a more active role in war work and, in February1941, the RAAF established the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. At the same time the Navy also began employing female telegraphists, a breakthrough that eventually led to the establishment of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service in 1942. The Australian Women’s Army Service was established in 1941, with the aim of releasing men from certain military duties in base units in Australia for assignment in fighting units overseas.
Outside the Armed Services, the Women’s Land Army was established to encourage women to work in rural industries. Other women in urban areas took up employment in industries such as munitions production.
Victory in the Pacific saw the return of Australian Armed Forces from overseas to Australia.
To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VP Day on August 15, Foster RSL Sub-Branch and Foster and District Historical Society have placed flags on the graves of all former servicemen and women from all wars who are interred at the Foster cemetery. Similarly, flags have also been erected at both Toora and Welshpool cemeteries.
Carole Williams, Publicity Officer