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Did Australia provide the majority of allied forces in the Pacific until late 1943?

Discussion in 'War in the Pacific' started by Aussiegoat, Feb 3, 2017.

  1. Aussiegoat

    Aussiegoat Member

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    While there is no doubt that American forces proved the deciding factor in the Allies winning the war in the Pacific, I have read several times that more Australian land forces were in combat in the Pacific than American land forces all the way until late 1943.

    I know there was a huge build up of American forces, particularly in Australia, and that these forces likely outnumbered Australian, but from what i've read they were only fed into combat relatively slowly.

    Does anyone have a timetable on when American divisions entered combat in the Pacific between 1941 and 1945 and how many units were fighting at any given time? And likewise one for Australia?
     
  2. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    I have no dates nor figures for you but remember australia and New Zealand had many troops in the ETO , especially north Africa and in the RAF is the UK already fighting before the PTO really got underway. I imagine as a % of population you would be hard pressed to find a country that did more than Australia or New Zealand..

    Someone here will no doubt be able to give you a real answer to your question.

    Gaines
     
  3. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    Let's try to look at it.

    Australia mobilized fifteen divisions or so in WWII. The four divisions of the first AIF were the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, all of which were overseas by December 1941. The 6th, 7th, and 9th, were in the Middle East, the 8th in Malaya and the NEI. An armored division and two motor divisions were being organized in Australia, and there were also cadres for eight militia divisions (1st-5th, 10th-12th). The 8th was lost early in the Pacific war, but the 6th, 7th, and 9th came home and the militia divisions were mobilized while the two motor divisions were reorganized as armored divisions. It quickly became apparent that Australia could not both support this bloated establishment and maintain its economy, so the Australian Army never got more than five or so divisions into action in the Pacific at any one time. The 7th and 9th divisions and about 2/3 of the 6th fought in the campaigns of 1942-43, together with a shifting collection of militia brigades under the HQs of the 3rd, 5th, and 11th divisions. MacArthur got only two US infantry divisions into combat in New Guinea during the same period, the 32nd and 41st, plus a parachute RCT. Thus it is indeed true to say that Australian troops made up the bulk of SWPA ground forces in contact with the enemy during the first year and a half of the war down there.

    With respect to the Pacific as a whole in 42-43, the story is different. The US deployed four divisions to Guadalcanal, 1st and 2nd Marine and the Americal and 25th Infantry. Two more divisions entered combat on New Georgia in 1943, the 37th and 43rd, and another late in the year on Bougainville, the 3rd Marine. The 7th Infantry Division took Attu in the North Pacific, while the 27th Infantry Division went into action in November 1943 on Makin. Taking all sub-theaters together, then, the United States put eleven divisions into Pacific combat in 42-43, about twice the Australian total. One should not forget that the New Zealanders got the 3rd NZ Division into action in August 1943. So, the saying that the Australians provided most of the ground troops really applies only to the Southwest Pacific, and not at all to the South, Central, or North. Things changed radically in the SWPA in 1944, too, when MacArthur put five more US divisions into combat before he reached the Philippines (1st Cav, 6th, 24th, 31st, 33rd).
     
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  4. Aussiegoat

    Aussiegoat Member

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    Thanks so much both of you, interesting points made.

    Upon further reflection, the question of whose (ground) forces were most engaged until the end of 1943 might need to be a little more nuanced than I originally thought. I completely agree that American forces were numerically much larger than Australian, and that as was pointed out above, more American Divisions were engaged in fighting (I count 12 American vs 3 AIF and 3 Militia ((roughly equivalent to National Guard)) divisions), but I wonder how this would look if the length of time these units were actually fighting was examined.

    I've summarised which units were active at what times below (to the best I can figure) to facilitate discussion. Although it's a little arbitrary it appears to show Australian forces in regular combat between January 1942 and December 1943 (except for a lull between March and June 1942), while American forces seem to be fighting more sporadically. I know this is a rather basic analysis, but I figured it was a good place to start.

    Please note, I have spent more time detailing the exact composition of Australian forces than American, and have included the Australian State these forces were raised from where known.

    AMERICAN GROUND FORCES

    PHILIPPINES DECEMBER 1941 TO MAY 1942
    31st Infantry Division
    4th Marine Regiment


    [SIZE=12.8px]GUADALCANAL AUGUST 1942 TO FEBRUARY 1943[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]1st Marine Division [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]2nd Marine [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]23rd Infantry (Americal) [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]25th Infantry [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]



    NEW GUINEA NOVEMBER 1942 TO SEPTEMBER 1943
    32nd Infantry Division (Nov 1942 - January 1943)
    41st Infantry Division (Jan - Feb & June - Sep 1943)

    503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (September 1943 - Saw almost no combat at this time)


    [SIZE=12.8px]NEW GEORGIA JUNE TO OCTOBER 1943[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]37th [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Infantry [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]43rd [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Infantry [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]


    [SIZE=12.8px]ATTU MAY 1943[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]7th Infantry Division [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=12.8px]MAKIN NOVEMBER 1943[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]27th Infantry Division [/SIZE]


    [SIZE=12.8px]BOUGAINVILLE NOVEMBER 1943 TO OCTOBER 1944[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]3rd Marine [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]Post 1943: [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]23rd Infantry (Americal) [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division, 37th Infantry Division, and 93rd Infantry Division[/SIZE]




    AUSTRALIAN GROUND FORCES


    SINGAPORE DECEMBER 1941 TO JANUARY 1942
    AIF - 8th Division

    22nd Brigade (2/18th, 2/19th, 2/20th NSW Battalions)
    27th Brigade (2/26th, 2/29th, 2/30th NSW Battalions)



    AMBON JANUARY TO FEBRUARY 1942
    AIF - 8th Division

    23rd Brigade (2/21st Vic Battalion)

    RABAUL JANUARY TO FEBRUARY 1942
    AIF - 8th Division
    23rd Brigade (2/22nd Vic Battalion)

    TIMOR FEBRUARY 1942 TO FEBRUARY 1943
    AIF - 8th Division
    23rd Brigade (2/40th Tas Battalion)

    KOKODA TRACK JULY TO NOVEMBER 1942
    AIF - 6th Division
    16th Brigade (2/1st, 2/2nd, 2/3rd NSW Battalions)
    21st Brigade (2/14th Vic, 2/16th WA, 2/27th SA Battalions)
    25th Brigade (2/25th QLD, 2/31st ALL, 2/33rd ALL Battalions)

    Militia (New Guinea Force)
    30th Brigade (39th Vic, 53rd NSW Battalions)
    14th Brigade? (3rd NSW Battalion)


    MILNE BAY AUGUST TO SEPTEMBER 1942
    AIF - 7th Division
    18th Brigade (2/9th QLD, 2/10th SA, 2/12th QLD/TAS Battalions)


    Militia - 5th Division (7th Brigade later became part of 3rd Division)
    7th Brigade (9th, 25th, 61st QLD Battalions)


    BUNA-NOVEMBER 1942 TO JANUARY 1943
    AIF - 7th Division
    18th Brigade (2/9th QLD, 2/10th SA, 2/12th QLD/TAS Battalions)



    GONA-NOVEMBER, DECEMBER 1942
    AIF-7th Australian Division
    21st Brigade (2/14th VIc, 2/16th WA, 2/27th SA, 39th Vic Battalions)
    25th Brigade (2/25th, 2/31st, 2/33rd Qld, 3rd NSW Battalions)



    SANANANDA-NOVEMBER 1942 TO JANUARY 1943
    AIF - 7th Australian Division
    16th Brigade (2/1st, 2/2nd, 2/3rd NSW Battalions)
    18th Brigade (2/9th QLD, 2/10th SA, 2/12th QLD/TAS Battalions)

    Militia - (New Guinea Force)
    30th Brigade (36th, 49th QLD, 55th/53rd NSW Battalions)
    39th Battalion (Vic)



    WAU VALLEY-JANUARY & FEBRUARY 1943
    AIF - 6th Division
    17th Brigade (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th Vic Battalions)



    WAU TO MUBO-APRIL TO AUGUST 1943
    AIF - 6th Division
    17th Brigade (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th Vic Battalions)

    Militia - 5th Division
    29th Brigade (15th, 42nd, 47th QLD Battalions)

    Militia - 3rd Division
    58th/59th Vic Battalion



    WAU TO MARKHAM VALLEY-APRIL TO SEPTEMBER 1943
    AIF - 6th Division
    2/6th Vic Battalion

    Militia - 3rd Division
    24th Vic Battalion



    SALAMAUA-AUGUST, SEPTEMBER 1943
    AIF - 6th Division
    17th Brigade (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th Vic Battalions)

    Militia - 5th Australian Division
    29th Brigade (15th, 42nd, 47th QLD Battalions)

    15th Brigade (24th & 58/59th Vic Battalions)


    LAE-NADZAB-SEPTEMBER 1943
    AIF - 7th Australian Division
    25th Brigade (2/25th, 2/31st, 2/33rd QLD Battalions)

    AIF - 9th Australian Division
    20th Brigade (2/13th NSW. 2/15th QLD, 2/17th NSW Battalions)
    24th Brigade (2/28th WA, 2/32nd ALL, 2/43rd SA Battalions)
    26th Brigade (2/23rd NSW, 2/24th Vic, 2/48th SA Battalions)



    FINSCHAFEN and SATTELBERG-SEPTEMBER to NOVEMBER 1943
    AIF - 9th Australian Division
    20th Brigade (2/13th NSW. 2/15th QLD, 2/17th NSW Battalions)
    24th Brigade (2/28th WA, 2/32nd ALL, 2/43rd SA Battalions)
    26th Brigade (2/23rd NSW, 2/24th Vic, 2/48th SA Battalions)



    NADZAB TO MADANG-SEPTEMBER 1943 TO APRIL 1944
    AIF - 7th Australian Division
    18th Brigade (2/9th QLD, 2/10th SA, 2/12th QLD/TAS Battalions)
    21st Brigade (2/14th VIc, 2/16th WA, 2/27th SA Battalions)
    25th Brigade (2/25th, 2/31st, 2/33rd Qld Battalions)


    Militia - 5th Australian Division
    15th Brigade (24th, 57/60th, 58/59th Vic Battalions)


    WAREO-GUSIKA-NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 1943
    AIF - 9th Australian Division
    20th Brigade (2/15th QLD Battalion)
    24th Brigade (2/28th WA, 2/32nd ALL, 2/43rd SA Battalions)
    26th Brigade (2/23rd NSW, 2/24th Vic Battalions)

    GUSIKA TO FORTIFICATION POINT-DECEMBER 1943
    Militia - 5th Division
    4th Brigade (22nd, 29th/46th, 37th/52nd Vic Battalions)

    ADVANCE TO SIO-DECEMBER 1943, JANUARY 1994
    AIF - 9th Australian Division
    20th Brigade (2/13th NSW. 2/15th QLD, 2/17th NSW Battalions)
    26th Brigade (2/23rd NSW, 2/24th Vic, 2/48th SA Battalions)
     
  5. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Good to see Tasmania getting plenty of jerseys...I wonder if the SA South Australia included forces derived from the NT?
     
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  6. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Just a little bit of tidying up here.


    AMERICAN GROUND FORCES

    PHILIPPINES DECEMBER 1941 TO MAY 1942
    31st Infantry Division
    4th Marine Regiment


    In the above section, it is listed as the 31st Infantry Division as part of the Army Ground Forces in the Philippines. Actually it was just the 31st Infantry Regiment, not division. The US 31st Infantry was part of the Philippine Division, which comprised the 31st Inf and several Philippine Scout regiments. After the war, the Philippine Division was re-designated as the 12th Infantry Division, on paper only since it was lost in the surrender on Bataan.


    [SIZE=12.8px]GUADALCANAL AUGUST 1942 TO FEBRUARY 1943[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]1st Marine Division [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]2nd Marine [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]23rd Infantry (Americal) [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12.8px]25th Infantry [/SIZE][SIZE=12.8px]Division[/SIZE]

    Just a small note here, but the Americal Division was known as the Americal Division, not the 23rd Infantry Division. The Americal was re-activated in the Vietnam War, and was given the 23rd Infantry Division designation since all US divisions were numbered by then. But it was referred to in every day speech and on paper as the Americal. Not so in WW2 with examples being the above mentioned Philippine Division and of course, the Americal Division.

    Nothing wrong with your post. It was quite informative. I just wanted to point out the little discrepancies that jumped out at me. Again, nothing terrible, just little tidbits of info I feel that is important. But that's just me.
     
  7. Aussiegoat

    Aussiegoat Member

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    Thanks for highlighting those errors! I'll make those suggested changes, do a little more research and then repost an updated list.
     
  8. Aussiegoat

    Aussiegoat Member

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    Couldn't agree more! I'm from Tazi originally and have found it hard to find much on these Tasmanian units. Interesting that no Tasmanian militia units seem to have seen any action.

    Not sure whrere troops from NT would have served, but your guess sounds right.
     
  9. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    My whole family is Tasmanian, both sides. I'm the only one to be born in the Territory...lived in Hobart for four years. Tassie offers a glimpse of old Australia, before humans and dingoes and cats...it's beyond beautiful.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    How did Australian and American divisions compare size wise? I'm pretty sure that there were significant differences between Marine and Army divisions as far as numbers of troops goes in US service as well. In the Guadalcanal campaign not all 4 divisions were engaged simultaneously from what I recall reading and indeed the Marines were withdrawn after the Army divisions arrived (again from what I recall). If you want to judge by division days or man days in combat (or near the front line) it's going to get a bit more complicated. We do have some people here that are quite familiar with the campaigns so once there's a clear definition of what you are looking for I suspect you'll get a fair amount of help. Interesting issue in any case.
     
  11. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    Under the 1 August 1942 TOE a US infantry division was 15,514 strong; the 18 July 1943 TOE reduced this to 14.253. The 1 July 1942 Marine division was 19,514 strong and the 15 April 1943 division was 19,965 strong. The Australian Army adopted a new "jungle division" WE at some point early in 1943. This division was just 13,118 strong. Much to my annoyance I can't find a WE for the 1941-42 AIF division, but Mark Johnston's Osprey volume says it was about 17,000 strong.

    One should be cautious when looking at these figures. They reflect the ideal, not necessarily the reality. The 2nd Marine Division, for example, did not deploy all its units to Guadalcanal, and only a portion of the 27th Infantry Division fought on Makin. On the other hand, the 7th Infantry Division was reinforced with extra infantry for Attu, 1st Marine Division had attached parachute, raider, and defense battalions in addition to its organic units, and the 9th Australian Division had the 4th (Militia) Brigade plus extra artillery and sappers under command on the Huon Peninsula.
     
  12. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Figures are bound to differ...for one reason the numbers changed with deaths and injuries...many Australian units were expected to stay and defend certain areas regardless of losses, and had to wait and defend against wave attacks until relieved...many of these wave attacks took place at night, makes for really scary/awesome reading how an Aussie could hide behind a tree at night and wait for the scout to walk past before driving the bayonet in...the "tricks" both sides used to scare each other and make their forces look bigger than they were makes for compelling reading too...
     
  13. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Yes they did. 2d Marines and a portion of 10th Marines Artillery, deployed with the First Marine Division for the initial invasion (7 August). This was because one of the First MarDiv's intrinsic regiments, the 7th Marines, were garrisoning Samoa. The 7th Marines rejoined the division on Guadalcanal on 18 September. The 6th and 8th Marines (the 2d Divisions other two regiments) deployed to Guadalcanal later and stayed on through the end of the battle with the US Army troops. 8th Marines and another slice of 10th Marines arrived on 4/5 November. The First Division was relieved and returned to Australia starting with 5th Marines on 9 December. 6th Marines, 2d MarDiv Headquarters and the balance of the 2d Division support troops were in place by 04 January through the end of the battle.
     
  14. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    I was going by what Bevin Alexander said in his Tarawa book. Either he missed something or I misread him.
     
  15. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I wasn't aware that Bevin Alexander had written a book on Tarawa.

    Here's a link to the Marine Corps Monograph on the Guadalcanal Campaign, it gives the unit data.
    https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-M-Guadalcanal.html

    For those that don't know the 1st Marine Division consisted of the 1st, 5th and 7th Marine Regiments (infantry) and the 11th Marines (artillery) and associated support elements Special Troops (HQ BN 1st Marine Division, 1st Special Weapons BN, 1st Tank BN and 1st Parachute BN), and Service Troops (1st Service Support BN, 1st Medical BN, 1st Amphibious Tractor BN, 1st Engineer BN and 1st Pioneer BN). The 2d Marine Division consisted of 2d, 6th and 8th Marines (infantry), 10th Marines (artillery), Special Troops (HQ BN 2d Marine Division, 2d Special Weapons BN, 2d Tank BN and 2d Parachute BN), and Service Troops (2d Service Support BN, 2d Medical BN, and 2d Amphibious Tractor BN), and 18th Marines (engineer regiment). 18th Engineers consisted of 1/18 (former 2d Engineer BN deployed to Guadalcanal), 2/18 (former 2d Pioneer BN deployed to Guadalcanal), and 3/18 (18th Naval Construction BN/Seabees added through a TOE change while the division was deployed). The 1st Division got it's engineer regiment (17th Marines) later in Australia after Guadalcanal, the 17th Marines took the existing 1st Engineer and 1st Pioneer BN's and added a NCB as it's third BN. The 18th Marines was formed in Australia while the 2d Division was deployed to Guadalcanal, along with it's 2d Engineer BN and 2d Pioneer BN. The HQ 18th Marines and 18th NCB did not deploy to the battle, as stated earlier, they were the result of a TOE change that took place while the division was in combat. The respective Headquarters Battalions had a HQ Company, a Signal Company and a Military Police Company. Afaik, 2d Parachute Battalion is the only unit intrinsic to the 2d MarDiv that did not deploy to Guadalcanal.
     
  16. Aussiegoat

    Aussiegoat Member

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    I put some further thought into this question, and I was wondering what everyone thought of the following:

    My original question asked whether Australia provided the majority of allied forces in the Pacific until late 1943, and I just realised that most of the discussion surrounds the units engaged in combat, and that this does not take into account units which were positioned defensively. In 1942 (and to a lesser extent 1943), rightly or wrongly, many Australians feared a Japanese invasion and the majority of Australian forces, comprising 6 infantry and 2 motorised (much of which was lacking transport) Militia divisions and 4 (although one was lost in Singapore/Timor/Ambon in early 1942) infantry and 1 armoured (equipped between April and June 1942) AIF divisions, were tied up defending key strategic locations such as Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, and Fremantle.

    As of January 1942, all of the Militia divisions were training or posted around Australia (with only 1 battalion in Papua), while 3 of the AIF Divisions were in the Middle East (6th, 7th & 9th), 1 in Singapore/Timor/Ambon (8th) and 1 in Australia (1st Arm). By mid-1942, three of the AIF Divisions were in Australia (6,7 and 1st Arm), 1 Militia division was in Papua, and 7 Militia Divisions were in Australia. Of these, the AIF were all refitting, training or on leave after returning from overseas, but the vast majority of militia were retained to defend key areas such as those listed above in 1942 and 1943.

    There were approximately 100,000 American troops (Army, Navy and Air Force) in Australia in July 1942, 200,000 in July 1943 and 300,000 by December 1943, however few soldiers were positioned in areas most likely to be attacked.

    Although no Japanese attacked eventuated, I think Australia most definitely contributed the majority of forces in the Pacific until late 1943; it's just that the majority of them were understandably and justifiably employed defensively. I should recognise that American naval (especially) and air forces greatly outnumbered Australian forces, and I have concentrated on Army units in this discussion.

    Thoughts?
     
  17. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Sounds right from my (limited knowledge)...glad you have the interest mate.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Having just finished Quartered Safe Out Here I wonder if how you define "in the Pacific" makes a difference? If Burma and even India are considered it may effect the outcome. There's also US forces employed defensively on the US West Coast and in Alaska that may or may not be included. Interesting question though. Then there's the Chinese.
     
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  19. green slime

    green slime Member

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    ...

    :)
     
  20. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    If we are talking South West Pacific, then undoubtedly. If you include the CBI it becomes a lot more iffy. If you include the western US, Panama Canal Zone and Alaska you again get into iffy territory. Like Australia, many recruits were trained and stationed in the western US to counter a feared Japanese invasion that never materialized. You must also consider who you consider as 'service' personnel. Many African Americans served in labor units under military discipline and in uniform. It wasn't their fault they never got into combat, many joined in the hope of service overseas.

    Unfortunately though, Australia and New Zealand does not get the credit it deserves outside their own countries.
     
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