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

Japanese suicide bomber plane about to hit the ship HMAS Australia during battle of Lingayen Gulf off Luzon in the Philippine Islands

A depiction of a kamikaze attack on HMAS Australia during the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in 1945, painted by Frank Norton, the Royal Australian Navy's first official artist in World War II. AWM ART27552

Inevitable victories

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

Clipping of a 1945 article from Western Mail newspaper published in Western Australia

GERMANY CAPITULATES, Western Mail (Perth, WA), 10 May 1945, p.3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38557479

Clipping of a 1945 article from Singleton Argus newspaper published in New South Wales

TERRIFIC BOMBARDMENT OF JAPAN, Singleton Argus (NSW), 18 July 1945, p.1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82067425

Newsreels: what people saw

Newsreel footage of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) soldiers on Borneo. This would have been shown at cinemas throughout Australia.

Newsreel footage of the memorial service and funeral for Australian wartime prime minister, John Curtin, in July 1945. This would have been shown at cinemas throughout Australia. British Pathé FILM ID:2084.32

Veterans' stories: what people remembered

Fred Sharon was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He participated in the first landings in Borneo at Tarakan. He went ashore as part of the RAAF’s ground troops sent in to support the operation. He recalled the confusion involved in the landing.

Leslie Boon was a RAAF member who flew with No 576 Squadron RAF, a Lancaster bomber unit. He recalled the squadron's last bombing operation of the war, an Anzac Day raid on Berchtesgaden, the location of Hitler's holiday home, and the beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps. His squadron participated in the food relief drops over The Netherlands when the war ended, and in repatriating recently liberated POWs and flying service personnel from Italy to England.

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 titles

Other resources commemorating Australians who served in the later years of World War II:

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Last updated: 7 September 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), 1945: Paths to Victory in the Second World War, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 22 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/commemorative-stories/vp75-paths-victory/1945-paths-victory-second-world-war
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