War in the Pacific: Episode 2 of Paths to Victory podcast series

Running time
40 min 17 sec
Date made
Place made
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

This podcast is part of the series, Paths to Victory. Join us to explore some of the many paths our veterans took through World War II on the road to Victory in the Pacific. The bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941 brought Japan into the war. In this episode, we explore some stories of those who served in the Pacific theatre.

Transcript

Archival audio: I ask that the Congress declare that, since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire. Congress, with overwhelming acclaim, then voted the Declaration of a state of war, and the President signed it 3 hours after this historic scene.

Rebecca Fleming: Those were the words of United States President, Franklin Roosevelt.

The entry of Japan and the United States into the war in 1941 made the Second World War global. Australians were immediately engaged in fighting the Japanese in the Pacific theatre. People on the Australian mainland endured attacks and our service personnel began working closely with American forces based in Australia and in the Pacific. The war was now far closer to home.

I’m Dr Rebecca Fleming. Working in the history unit of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, I have been privileged to meet and chat with many Second World War veterans.

This podcast features a curated collection of stories, shared by veterans, that I’ve gathered together to highlight the many paths that Australians took in the journey to victory.

In this episode, we listen to the stories of some who served in the Pacific. From those who fought in the jungles to those who served on the sea and in the air. We hear the voices of Australians who were taken prisoner by the Japanese and we learn something of their struggles to survive. The unique challenges of the war in the Pacific are revealed in these stories.

Guy Griffiths: So, they concentrated their attacks, and eventually we were hit by another 4 torpedoes – 4 torpedoes in fairly quick succession. Then, the dear old ship, you could feel her going down like standing in the bathtub with the plug out as the water came in.

Norman Anderton: So he told us to stop and this Japanese pulled his revolver out and stuck it in our officer’s stomach and said, “You tell them to go back to work or I’ll shoot you”. So our officer says, “No, they’re going to have a rest”. So the Japanese officer says, “You’re a very brave man. Okay, they can have 10 minutes rest every hour”.

David Mattiske: We arrive off Lingayen Gulf with the cruisers and the battleships and destroyers. The main force is a day behind us – 3 days behind us. It's still dark. Nichols gets on the blower. He said, "Gentlemen, we know what we're up against. We've got 3 hard days ahead. I'm asking you, if you see them coming at you, keep firing even if you think they're gonna hit us. Keep firing, keep firing, don't stop.”

Rebecca Fleming: As the Japanese advanced down the Malay peninsula, with British Commonwealth forces retreating before them, the Royal Navy – meant to be the mainstay of British defence in the region – suffered the shocking loss of the battleship Prince of Wales and the cruiser Repulse, both sunk by Japanese aircraft. The loss of these ships dealt a severe blow to British morale. Winston Churchill called news of the sinkings the most ‘direct shock’ he ever received during the war. Britain was waging a war of survival in Europe, and now her interests in the Indian and Pacific oceans were left exposed.

Guy Griffiths had joined the Royal Australian Naval College as a cadet midshipman before the war, graduated in 1940 and was posted to the Royal Navy for further training. In December 1941, he was serving on Repulse.

Guy Griffiths: Around about after 12 o'clock, we were hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, which once again didn't affect our manoeuvrability. It didn't damage the ship except open up the starboard side a little bit. Then, followed by intense – there were some 85 aircraft altogether, and the Japanese attacking force – torpedo bombers, which were based near Saigon. So, they concentrated their attacks, and eventually, we were hit by another 4 torpedoes and I think it was about 12:23, or something like that. 4 torpedoes in fairly quick succession. Abandon ship was ordered at about 12:25–26, something. Then, the dear old ship, you could feel her going down like standing in the bath with the plug out as the water came in. So, abandon ship was given. People got off, those who could, and destroyers picked up the people swimming, those who could. That was sort of the end. The ship sank at 12:33, virtually about, within 10 minutes of the beginning of the attack.

It was a sad, sad day because we lost over 500 officers and sailors from a ship's company of about 1300. A total of 39% of them went down. That was sort of the end of the action for us. Prince of Wales sank a little while later. Picked up the survivors and we were taken back to Singapore.

Rebecca Fleming: Through the end of 1941 and the early months of 1942, the Japanese enjoyed victory after victory, most stunning of all the capture of Singapore in February 1942. Within weeks Rabaul, Ambon and Timor were in Japanese hands, then Java fell. By April, the Japanese were ascendant in Southeast Asia and the south-western Pacific. Hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners were in Japanese captivity, among them some 22,000 Australians.

Most were army – including dozens of army nurses, but the very first Australian captured by the Japanese was an airman. Other RAAF aircrew followed, and so did sailors – hundreds from HMAS Perth when she was sunk off the coast of Java.

Australian prisoners were held all over the Japanese empire, many in places that few Australians will have heard of. But thousands spent time in Changi, the most well-known of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, and thousands were sent to labour on the Burma-Thailand railway, infamous for the enormous loss of lives from disease, exhaustion and brutality.

From October 1942 until October 1943, some 60,000 Allied prisoners, including 13,000 Australians, and an estimated 200,000 civilian labourers toiled to construct the line. With work proceeding from both ends, a string of camps sprung up along its route. Conditions varied but beatings, malnutrition, overwork and disease were commonplace.

Norman Anderton worked on the railway.

Norman Anderton: So the total length of the rail was 415km and, because they were running behind, we got stuck in the middle between the 2 other groups. When the monsoon started, the river that used to supply us by barge was flooded, it was a torrent. The roads were quagmires, you couldn’t get through. And in 1 camp we almost ran out of rice and they had people walking to the nearest depot and bringing rice back into the camp with backpacks. And we existed on 2 mugs of rice pap, that’s a sort of a rice gruel, 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon, and on that we had to put in a full 12, 15-hour day working on the railway. They called it the ‘speedo’ period.

Rebecca Fleming: Most guards spoke little or no English; few prisoners spoke Japanese. It could make a bad situation even worse:

Norman Anderton: They had some terms they used to address us by in Japanese, which I couldn’t repeat over the air and their main thing was ‘speedo’ and ‘nigh.’ ‘Joto nigh’, you know. One instance when we first started, we had to go into the jungle and cut down these trees and trim the branches off and carry it down to the road, where it was put on a barge and floated out. They had a pile driver up on a big scaffolding then they had this great rope running across with about twenty men on the end of it and you had to pull the weight up and let it go. This went on for hour after hour and the officer that was with us, our officer, he asked the Japanese in charge for ‘yasme’ which means rest. So the Japanese officer said, “yasme nigh” which means no.

Actually the Japanese officer was a Japanese airline pilot, and he used to fly between Tokyo and America and when he was home on leave in Tokyo he got swooped up and put in the army. So a little bit longer and our officer says, “They’ve had enough, that’s it”. So he told us to stop and this Japanese pulled his revolver out and stuck it in our officer’s stomach and said, “You tell them to go back to work or I’ll shoot you”. So our officer says, “No, they’re going to have a rest”. So the Japanese officer said, “Well, you’re a very brave man. Okay, they can have 10 minutes rest every hour”.

Rebecca Fleming: While those taken prisoner by the Japanese in the early months of 1942 were at the beginning of a battle for survival in captivity that would last more than 3 years, other soldiers of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force were still serving in the Middle East and North Africa. In January 1942, most elements of the 6th and 7th Divisions were recalled to defend Australia, and the 9th Division followed in early 1943. For those who had been in the deserts of North Africa, the war in the jungles of the Pacific was a stark contrast.

Jim Price, who had fought at Tobruk and El Alamein, explained:

Jim Price: You could see a long way in the desert, but in the jungle, you couldn't see a place 2 yards (1.8m) away. There was only tracks in New Guinea you walk along, whereas in the desert you had a front line of troops, you know, for half a mile either side of you, but in the jungle, it was just – I was a forward scout in New Guinea for my battalion, so you're No. 1 target for the Japs.

Rebecca Fleming: Bob Iskov served with the 2/14th Battalion on the Kokoda track, and he recalled how difficult it could be to locate the enemy:

Bob Iskov: We got word the Japanese were starting to cut us off again, surround us. We fired off all our ammunition and we threw our mortar over a cliff face. And we were told, 10 of us I suppose, we were told to go down and take position up astride the Kokoda Track and hold the Japanese if they should come down the track in our vicinity. So we're standing behind trees, a finger on the trigger for an hour or more, no sound of any fighting, and we suddenly started to wonder what's happening. Have we been forgotten? Fortunately, a messenger came down and told us to move up the ridge, to the right, off the track.

And after about a quarter of a mile a chap in front of us, a Wangaratta boy named Norm Wilkinson, dropped dead in front of me with a bullet through the heart. It was just a ‘twang’. I don't know whether it was a stray bullet; someone suggested it might have been a sniper, but I said a sniper would have shot the officer first, then the sergeant and me next. But anyway we took 1 of his identification tags off from around his neck and left his body there.

Rebecca Fleming: Enemy fire was not the only threat in the jungle. Disease and exhaustion also took a toll.

Bob Iskov: Just before Christmas the battalion was down to forty men – the rest had all been invalided out of sickness. There was one very, very serious disease there called scrub typhus. It was transmitted by a small mite that lived on the animals and there were things like possums, tree kangaroos, rats and so on. This small mite lived on them but dropped off into the kunai grass patches and it got onto the soldiers. Congregated, tended to gather around the belt, the waistline or around the gaiters, which were close-fitting on your ankles. And it transmitted this disease called scrub typhus and there was no cure for it. It never affected the natives, they'd built up an immunity over thousands of years. But people died in as little as 5 days.

One of those blokes had been on the Amboga patrol with me, Bruce McDonald – fittest bloke I've ever seen. Said he was feeling a bit crook when he got back, so I sent him to the aid post. He came back with handful of aspirins; they said, “Stay on duty, your temperature's only 103” – that's in the old Fahrenheit. Next day he was worse, so I sent him back again, and 5 or 6 days later he died back in [Port] Moresby, in hospital.

But an Australian and an American doctor worked on this and they found a cure for it, and it ceased to be a problem after a while. But there were many other diseases, like fevers and jungle sores and malnutrition and just stress. When people have been living in the jungle, seeing their mates die around them, not getting a cup of tea, living on their nerves for weeks on end, and it started to catch up with them. But I never saw anyone actually throw in the towel. They wanted to stop and help their mates out.

Rebecca Fleming: On top of the fear, illness, stress and malnutrition, just walking – just putting 1 foot in front of the other, through the jungle – was exhausting.

Les Cook recalled.

Les Cook: If there’s a root under the ground and your foot slips, hits the root and slips down the root, your feet cross, you go flat on your face in the mud. You pick yourself up, you’ve got to wash your rifle in the next river to get the mud off it. You could do that a dozen times in half an hour, mud up to here. It was pretty uncomfortable living.

Rebecca Fleming: It was a physically draining campaign, and Les and his mates lost a lot of weight in New Guinea:

Les Cook: The end of 1942 was the worst place I was ever in, in the whole war. We all had fever and dysentery and no sleep. Living in the swamp, riddled with mosquitos, and all sorts of other bugs – pretty uncomfortable. And we’d already been, from August, we’d been in the mountains in the advance across to Kokoda and the retreat to Port Moresby, and coming back again. So I guess we were probably a bit fragile. I went up there, I was 19 and I was the heaviest I was ever in my life, I was 12 stone. In January when I – the end of January ‘43 we came back, and I went on leave and got malaria again while I was on leave. They put me into hospital in Melbourne and I weighed 7 stone then. So I’d lost 5-12ths of my body weight. You passed people on the track who you’d known for years and you wouldn’t recognise them.

Rebecca Fleming: Medical evacuation was a challenging task in New Guinea. Wounded and sick men often had to be carried long distances to an aid station, or to an airstrip for a plane that would take them to hospital. From 1944, women of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service were involved in the air evacuation of casualties from forward areas. They worked long shifts that began at 3am.

Joyce Connolly: Well the plane would be loaded there with – they may be taking ammunition, they may be taking – I've been on with a jeep – and well, food, anything. Anything they'd likely to be wanting, up to where we're going, and we'd get on that plane and go to where we'd pick up our patients. The plane would be off-loaded, off-load all their gear, and then we'd go through our patients that were there on the ground. The army, the army hospital [would] usually bring them down, put them on the ground on their stretchers, and you'd go round all those patients and with their papers. You'd have a manifest with their names all on them and just see their general conditions before you loaded them on.

Rebecca Fleming: The patients’ lives were in the nurses’ hands during these evacuation flights. It was an enormous responsibility and the nurses made the final call on whether the patients were fit enough to survive the journey.

Joyce Connolly: We did have to go over our patients very thoroughly, and their papers. You see, the army would send them down and we could refuse to take them if we thought they were not able to fly the altitude and – but yet they would send them down hoping to get them away. So we had to go through that, and I mean if for instance, low blood pressures couldn't fly, or if they'd had a lot of morphia or anything, we took a risk in taking them up into the air because of the altitude and because of their blood pressure dropping further.

I know I had – where was it? Labuan I think – a patient came down to me. He had both legs amputated and had a tourniquet on the stumps and he was in a very bad state. He was having – he'd just had a blood transfusion to get him there, and he was to go on an American plane and the American sister said she wouldn't take him, he was too much of a risk. And I remember getting very upset about that and going up to [him] – he was lying on the strip – and he’s crying and he said, “I've been down here 3 times, no one will take me”. So I went up to our pilot and I said, “Come over here and have a look at this boy and see what you can do”. I said, “Could you fly him at a low altitude?” And they had a look at him and they said, “Oh yes, we can go a long way around but not over any of the mountains”. And I spoke to him, the fellow, and I said, “Will you let, you know, will you have the oxygen mask on your face all the time we fly?” And you know, I realised I was taking a risk but he said he would, and the pilot flew all around, went between mountains. It took us longer to get there, and the orderly I had, I left to sit with him all the time and to watch. It was a very anxious time, but we got him there.

Rebecca Fleming: Like many who served in later battles in the Pacific, Jim Price had served in the Middle East. He had returned in early 1943, and after training for jungle warfare in Australia he went to New Guinea. In September 1943, his battalion – the 2/23rd – landed at Red Beach, north-west of Lae. Some of the landing craft were attacked by Japanese aircraft.

Jim Price: We travelled all night and we landed at Red Beach, the other side of Lae. It's about 60 mile or 80 mile (97 or 129km) behind Jap[anese] lines, I think it was. As we were coming in to land about 300 yards from the beach, 3 machine guns, Jap planes come over and machine gunned some of the boats, but not the one I was on. For some reason I was put on a different boat at Buna to the rest of my crew, my gun crew that I trained with, so I was pretty lucky I suppose. And the 3 Jap bombers came over, Zeros came over and they dropped bombs – and they dropped a bomb, hit a direct hit on the LCI that was carrying quite a few of the 23rd.

Our CO (commanding officer) was killed with the bomb blast. The ship's captain was killed. Captain Reid vanished. 9 killed, including my mate. Every officer of my company, bar one, was injured and I was a couple of hundred yards away on this other boat. So I suppose how lucky are you?

Rebecca Fleming: The loss of so many comrades endured in Jim’s memory. Thoughts of fallen friends must have come to the minds of veterans everywhere amidst the celebrations of VP Day. The joy and relief of victory tempered by sorrow and memories of the fallen.

Death did not come only to those on the battlefields of the South-west Pacific. Sometimes tragedies occurred in training. The RAAF’s No 82 Squadron suffered a terrible loss in training in Australia on Christmas Eve 1943. Flight Lieutenant Clyde Douglas Hill and Flying Officer Kenneth Baxter were killed doing target practice.

Tom Tyne was on the squadron when it happened.

Tom Tyne: They collided in mid-air and Flight Lieutenant Hill went into an orchard and the plane drove right into the ground about a quarter of the way in. Lost his life and the other fella got caught in the trees. He tried to jump out and he got caught and he got killed too. That was a sad time for 82 Squadron. We were just about to go to Darwin and the advance party that happened and me, being a truck driver with a licence, I had to take them out to find out what had happened, and it was very sad, very sad. He was a lovely bloke and we lost him.

Rebecca Fleming: Both men were buried in the Sydney War Cemetery at Rookwood.

The Royal Australian Navy played an important role throughout the war against Japan. Australian sailors supported amphibious operations, transported troops, carried out patrols, bombarded targets onshore, laid mines and did surveying.

Navy veteran Pat Curtis remembered that soldiers being transported on board his ship were quite nervous of being at sea. At the same time, sailors could be just as scared of the dangers on land.

Pat Curtis: Just for the navy crew, no troubles at all except that they didn’t like to go ashore. When we went ashore at Bougainville we used to be scared to be shot, but the troops that were on there, they would not stay below decks because they were fearful of a torpedo hitting the boat and they would drown in the boat. Because we used to have doors that used to be closed, keeping each section, so if a torpedo hit it the damage could be isolated to that section. And if they were in a section like that they wouldn’t get out, because the doors would be closed if a torpedo hit them, see?

So they would be all up on deck, and seeing we had to work at night we had to go up on deck too, because you couldn’t walk through them at night because you had no light – you just walked in the dark. I know my bed then was under the stairway from B deck up to A deck so that no one would walk on me either. I used to sleep under the steps, going like that. I had a bit of canvas that was lying on the floor or the timber deck and that was my bunk when there were troops on. But they were scared of the fact of the submarines, the same as we were probably scared when we were ashore. When we were at Bougainville one time they did come in and charge at the Australians.

Rebecca Fleming: The fear of being torpedoed was not unreasonable. HMAS Hobart was hit by a torpedo on 20 July 1943, en route to Vanuatu.

Sailor Roy Scrivener was on board.

Roy Scrivener: It was the change-over time and this was at 10 to 7, when the early birds arrived early relieved their opposite number. But not an official period of a change-over. So we had nothing to do and I was simply looking on the quarterdeck and suddenly everything went black. I didn't see anything other than for the fact that the world seemed to be obliterated. I wasn't covered with water or anything. It was an explosion that blew high rather than from underneath, it blew everything up, raised our quarterdeck by probably 3 feet (91cm). All the timbers were wrenched apart, huge hole in the side and we lost power, but the engineering side soon had power restored. We lost 2 propellers. Action stations was sounded. We all went to our action stations and we all manned our guns, our action stations, as though we were about to be attacked. We waited to be told what had happened. We didn't know whether we'd hit a mine or whether we'd been torpedoed. We waited for action stations and then when power was restored, the message came over the public address system that the ship had suffered a torpedo hit, port side aft, and we were settling but not to a dangerous degree. The ship is not expected to sink at all, or heel over. The escorting destroyers are searching for the submarine.

In the meantime, our flagship has increased speed to make Espiritu Santo, the base from which we had the previous day sailed. We were to be escorted by, I think, one destroyer while the 2 of them took the flagship HMAS Australia in and tugs were being sent to ease us into Espiritu Santo. The water was perfectly calm and we just simply sat and waited.

Rebecca Fleming: The Royal Australian Navy had a proud history of service in the Pacific, and Australian ships were involved in some key battles. The most well-known might be the Battle for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, a massive United States amphibious operation.

Guy Griffiths, who had survived HMS Repulse’s sinking, was there on board HMAS Shropshire.

Guy Griffiths: It was a huge landing, enormous force. That was when [HMAS] Australia was damaged by a Japanese aircraft. One never knows at that stage whether it was a pure kamikaze or that he was damaged and he slid into the Australia. It killed a lot of people, over 30, including the captain and the navigator, and Commodore Collins was wounded and so on. It was not good.

We went in on the 20th, 21st of October and supported the landings and so on and then on the 24th of October, the warning had come out that the Japanese were moving 2 forces, one to come through the southern end of Leyte Gulf and another to come through the middle of the Philippines and San Bernardino channel, to get rid of the landing force. It's all a very complicated matter, but for the 25th, we were all positioned across the entrance to Leyte Gulf from the south. We had a night surface action, firing at the Japanese force coming up. We participated certainly in the sinking of the Japanese battleship. But there were ships as far as you could see across the horizon because they're all in formation and we were there guarding them en route to Leyte Gulf, certainly against air attack, which didn't eventuate on the approach, only when we were in the Gulf.

Rebecca Fleming: When Commodore John Collins was wounded at Leyte, Captain Charles Alfred Godfrey Nichols took command. David Mattiske, who had also served aboard Shropshire, greatly admired Captain Nichols:

David Mattiske: Everybody loved him. We worshipped the ground he walked on. I have never, ever seen a leader like him. He guided us through the Philippines campaign. He never had to shout an order. He would go around, "Would you mind doing this? Do this? Thank you, thank you". A devout Christian, a brilliant navigator...

He brought everyone home. I think this is worth recording. In a day and age when people have given up a lot of their basic motivations and faith. After the big Leyte battles, we're heading for Lingayen Gulf. By this time, the kamikazes were at their top and still had lots of expert pilots. We arrive off Lingayen Gulf with the cruisers and the battleships and destroyers. The main force is a day behind us. 3 days behind us. It's still dark. Nichols gets on the blower. He said, “Gentlemen, we know what we're up against. We've got 3 hard days ahead. I'm asking you now, if you see them coming at you, keep firing even if you think they're gonna hit us. Keep firing, keep firing, don't stop”. He said, “Years ago, I think it was the Civil War 400 years ago, Lord Somebody said to his men before a battle a prayer: Dear Lord, we will be busy this day. If we forget you, do not thou forget us”.

That vast force was in there for 3 days. Out at night, back in day. Shropshire was only 1 of 4 ships not hit. The Australia was hit 5 times. Unbelievable. If that's not divine intervention, I don't know what is.

Rebecca Fleming: From May 1945 Australians were involved in a campaign on Borneo. Some have questioned whether there was any purpose to it, whether the 2000 Australian casualties had sacrificed themselves for nothing. But no one then knew that the war was soon to end – many senior military personnel believed the fighting would continue into 1946. In this context, the liberation of South-East Asia might have seemed an important goal.

The Borneo campaign involved the navy, army and air force. Tom Tyne was in the RAAF’s No. 2 Airfield Defence Squadron. He served at Balikpapan on Borneo’s east coast.

Tom Tyne: The invasion of Balikpapan was on. The liberators were bombing the Japs there, and they said they wanted 50 to go to Tarakan – air force, infantry – and 50 to go to Balikpapan. So my mate and, I instead of sitting around, we joined up to go on the invasion of Balikpapan. The 2/2nd Pioneers took us in on the barges and took us up the hill behind the AIF. They were fighting the Japs all the way up and they told us to keep back, there’s too much going on upstairs. So after a couple of days we finally got down to a place called Manggar and we were sent out doing guard work on all the main objects of the place where we got into a scrap with the Japanese. 2AD was what we were called, and we got 8 Japs and 1 got away at half-past 4 in the morning, with hand grenades mostly. I was just hoping, I had a Tommy (machine) gun but I didn’t shoot any of them. But maybe I did, I don’t know. But I was in it, and we got 8 and 1 got away.

Of course, the funny part about that was I used to go to school with a bloke by the name of Mackay, big fellow, and he was the head of the commandos and they’d been chasing these Japs for weeks in the bush and they all came out of the bush with these big sprays on them, camouflage, and he looked over and he saw me and he said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “We’ve been chasing them for 3 or 4 weeks” and he said, “And you just go and knock ‘em off”.

Rebecca Fleming: The end of the war came after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Russia’s declaration of war on Japan. But before atomic weapons were unleashed, the Allies were planning the invasion of Japan’s home islands.

Roy Scrivener was on HMAS Hobart, pondering what this might mean.

Roy Scrivener: Pretty exciting time and maybe in my own personal experience … truly realising that our war had only been a bit of a game up to now, because of the power of the American ships that were congregating in Manila Bay for the big push on Japan. Okay, to see the battleships and I mean the works, the whole lot of them, their aircraft carriers, the biggest and best that the world ever had at the time. Numerically tremendous; both battleships and aircraft carriers, cruisers – more cruisers than one would expect to see – and destroyers, they are the fellows that are around by the dozens. Here there were cruisers by the dozens, there were destroyers by the hundreds and destroyer escorts, mine sweepers. Everything was mustering there in Manila. That was okay, you'd expect that. But when we saw the number of hospital ships, you started to straighten your brain out and say, “Wow, the others will produce some damaging effect on the enemy but the hospital ships are to assist the damaging effect the enemy is going to have on us”, and it sort of made you toe your own mental line to see the number of hospital ships. Then you got scared because we were all waiting for the invasion of Japan. And that was imminent.

Rebecca Fleming: Then came news of the atomic bombs and rumours that Japan was about to surrender. Relief swept through the ranks:

Roy Scrivener: Fortunately, we read a signal on the ship's company notice board and other notice boards around the ship that a bomb of devastating power had been dropped on Hiroshima … and it is expected to force the Japanese to submit. Okay, it went on to give some analysis of the power of the bomb from the Americans' little experience. Then a few days later a second bomb, and that the Japanese had been appealing for some sort of soft peace terms and then full peace terms and then the war was over.

We were then in Subic Bay. We'd moved up from Manila and in Subic Bay there were – if it was in a peacetime city, there would have been fireworks, but they were shells. The Americans were firing anything they could put their hands on through a gun and a number of deaths, of course, but a great night. There were fireworks all over Subic Bay. And a big thing, the next day we were allowed to have 2 swims that day. We had a swim each day but because it was peace, the captain allowed us to have a swim in the morning and a swim in the afternoon. And that's how we celebrated peace.

Rebecca Fleming: In the next episode, we will listen to some of the experiences of women who served in Australia during the war. The war provided an opportunity for women to perform new kinds of roles. It was an adventure for many – some young women moved out of home for the first time, to live in different parts of the country. Their contributions are not well known, but they were an important part of Australia’s war effort.

The interviews for this series are sourced with thanks from the Australian War Memorial and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veterans’ Stories project.

To see some videos of veterans’ stories visit anzacportal.dva.gov.au

Thank you to all the veterans who have shared their stories of service.

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