1945: Paths to Victory in the Second World War
After 6 years, the war finally ended when Japan surrendered in August 1945. Australian ships had played a role in the push towards the Philippines and the Japanese home islands. Australian aircrew had fought in the air war over Germany while Australian infantry had continued mopping up campaigns in Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea, and on Bougainville.
Allied victories in Europe and the Pacific
The Allied successes of the previous year marked 1945 as a year of inevitability. It was only a matter of time before the Allies would defeat both Germany and Japan.
Action in the Pacific
In the Philippines, Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships fought in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in January. HMAS Australia was again the target of suspected kamikaze attacks.
A plane crash claimed prominent Australian wartime leaders when a RAAF Lockheed Hudson A16-118 carrying Major-General Vasey and Major-General Rupert Downes plunged into the sea north of Cairns, Queensland, on 5 March, killing all on board.
War in Europe
Bombing missions continued over Germany. The near complete destruction of Dresden in February was another example of the war's horror being visited upon civilian populations.
Australian aircrew continued to suffer casualties in missions over Europe.
The Allied advances into European territory formerly occupied by Germany began to reveal the full extent of the debased nature of Hitler's Nazi regime. Death camps were discovered and liberated throughout Europe. Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker at the end of April.
Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini had been captured and executed a few days before Hitler's death.
Discussions to establish a new organisation to replace the League of Nations had begun, and in June, the United Nations was established.
Deaths of leaders
The stress of war arguably played a role in the deaths of the United States President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin. Both men had carried the weight of their nation's wartime decision-making and would be denied the satisfaction of seeing the final victory. Roosevelt died suddenly on 12 April, aged 63. Curtin died on 5 July after a long illness, aged 60.
Victory in the Pacific
Australian operations on Borneo began with the 9th Division's landing at Tarakan on 1 May. Landings at Labuan Island/Brunei Bay followed in June. In July, the 7th Division landed at Balikpapan. These operations, codenamed OBOE 1, 6 and 2, respectively, were controversial.
Many people argued that the OBOE landings were unnecessary given Japan's weakened state, and the fact that it seemed possible to bypass and cut off garrisons in this part of Asia and the Pacific as US forces drew even closer to the Japanese home islands. Nevertheless, they were successfully carried out by Australian troops.
Fighting continued in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The Australian 6th Division captured Wewak in May, while the II Australian Corps' (militia) campaign on Bougainville was ongoing, as was the 5th Division's (militia) in New Britain.
By July, Japan's home islands were under constant attack from the guns of the British and American naval fleets and from carrier-borne air raids.
In August, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russia's declaration of war against Japan, and the smashing victory its armies won in Manchuria, were enough to finally convince Emperor Hirohito to surrender. On 15 August, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. The war was over.
Photo essay: what people did
We've collated images of Victory in Europe and Victory in the Pacific, and life after the Second World War. Browse the image gallery.
In the press: what people read
Newsreels: what people saw
Veterans' stories: what people remembered
More stories of our veterans
We've produced over 100 commemorative and education resources in the past 20 years, most of which are now available free online.
Discover Australia's military history through the experiences and stories of those who served in our armed forces.
Victory in the Pacific 1945
This is a part of the series, Australians in the Pacific War. It explores the end of the war. The Australian Government marked the day with a one-off holiday: 'Victory in the Pacific Day'. Read it online or download the PDF file.
Other resources commemorating Australians who served in the later years of World War II:
- Australia's Home Defence
- Australian Prisoners of War 1941-1945
- Bomber Command
- Borneo 1942-1945
- Bougainville 1942-1945
- Burma and India 1941-1945
- New Britain 1941-1945
- Royal Australian Air Force 1941-1945
- Royal Australian Navy 1939-45
- Royal Australian Navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean
- Sandakan 1942–1945
- Stolen Years: Australian Prisoners of War
- United Kingdom: Australians in World War II