How did World War II impact Australia? List the long-term and short-term effects.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a member of the British Commonwealth, Australia entered World War II when Britain declared war on Germany. The Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Gordon Menzies, made the announcement on September 3, 1939. In total, almost 1 million Australians served during the war in Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

As a member of the British Commonwealth, Australia entered World War II when Britain declared war on Germany. The Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Gordon Menzies, made the announcement on September 3, 1939. In total, almost 1 million Australians served during the war in Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and throughout the Pacific region. Precise statistics vary across research sites, but approximately 39,000 were killed, and 30,000 were taken prisoner.

Within the country of Australia, the war in Europe seemed remote, but when Japan entered the war in December 1941, invasion loomed as a very real threat. The first attack on the mainland occurred in the northern city of Darwin, which was bombed by Japanese warplanes on February 19, 1942. In that attack, approximately 200 civilians were killed. Other attacks of northern Australian cities followed.

Because Britain was unable to send troops to aid in Australia's defense, the United States assumed responsibility for the protection of the country, sending ships, aircraft, equipment, and reinforcements. By 1943, 250,000 US soldiers were stationed in cities on the east coast. Numerous Allied victories around the Pacific theater began to reduce the threat of imminent invasion.

Short term effects of the war in Australia included the rationing of meat, sugar, tea, butter, and other commodities. Barbed wire was placed upon eastern beaches, and blackouts were imposed. Many individual families dug air raid shelters. The Australian government imprisoned citizens born in enemy countries such as Japan, Germany, and Italy in internment camps. The government also censored the news.

As in the United States, wartime brought economic prosperity to Australia as industries ramped up production of wartime needs. Many jobs were created, and because so many men were overseas fighting, women entered the workforce as never before. Women also joined the military forces, although only in noncombat positions.

Long-term effects of the war included mental instability, post-traumatic stress, suicidal tendencies, and alcoholism in returning servicemen. The Cold War, which altered diplomatic relationships around the world, also impacted Australia.

With the awareness that Great Britain was unable to protect Australia in times of distress, the war weakened Australia's relationship with Great Britain. Instead, Australia developed a stronger relationship with the United States. The Australian economy continued to prosper in the wake of the industrial surge during the war.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Australia was involved in World War II (1939–1945) from its beginning. Its navy was active in the Mediterranean Sea. Its airmen helped defend Britain. Also, Australian soldiers fought in North Africa. These early efforts helped Britain in its fight against Hitler's Germany.

Japan's entry into the war in December 1941 changed Australia's role in the war. Japan's aggression posed an existential threat to the nation. Large numbers of Australians were captured at Singapore, and Darwin was bombed. There was widespread fear in Australia because of the threat of a Japanese invasion. Douglas MacArthur, America's commander-in-chief, had his headquarters in Australia, and the two countries worked closely together against Japan. Australian troops distinguished themselves for their bravery in New Guinea. As in the United States, the war had some positive effects for Australia: rapid industrialization, increased prosperity, and an enhanced role for women.

After the war, Australian culture was dominated by American films, music, and later, TV programs. Before the war, Australia had been largely influenced by British culture.

Although Australia supported the British position during the Suez Crisis of 1956, postwar Australia was a strong American ally. Formal treaties of alliance were signed between Australia and the United States, and Australia played an important role in the Vietnam War.

Australia's role in World War II had military, economic, cultural, and diplomatic consequences. The conflict helped shape modern Australia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Australians volunteered for duty in great numbers. These early volunteers mostly served in North Africa and Europe. After Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and other Australian allies around the Pacific, Australia declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Nearly one million Australians served in the war. About twenty-seven thousand Australians were killed in combat.

During the war, Australia came under direct attack several times by the Japanese. Cities in northern Australia were subjected to frequent bomber raids, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Ships in Sydney harbor were once attacked by Japanese submarines. Australian shipping was under the constant threat of attack by the Japanese navy. A lot of Australian resources went into protecting the shipping that was necessary for keeping the country supplied. Rationing was also imposed to help preserve resources.

Australia served as a staging ground for Allied forces in the Pacific Theatre. American, New Zealand, and British forces were all hosted by Australia, which they used as a jumping-off point for battles throughout the region. Australian ports also served the US submarine fleet.

On the home front, Australia increased its industrial output to support the war effort. With the National Security Act of 1939, the Australian government increased its power to mandate industrial production of military goods and supplies.

The war had many long-term effects on Australia. The development of the manufacturing sector that started during the war continued after the war's end, and the country's economy steadily grew. World War II provided a jumpstart to Australian industry which continued long afterward. To work in the industrial sector, Australia encouraged immigration. With so many men fighting overseas, many women joined the workforce. Even though many of these women were forced out of these jobs after the war, this started a nascent women's liberation movement in Australia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Australia was geographically close to Japan and its territories.  Japan occupied what are today Indonesia and the Philippines.  Both are located to the north of Australia.  This proximity made attacks on Australian soil by the Japanese feasible.  

Sydney Harbour was attacked by torpedoes from submarines in 1942.  Air raids by the Japanese in the northern part of Australia occurred nearly one hundred times during World War II.  The city of Darwin was attacked by bombers in 1942, and resulted in approximately two hundred deaths.  These attacks caused fear and anxiety among many Australians.  In addition to this fear, Australians lived with the daily realities of war.  Nearly one million Australians served in the armed forces during the war.  There was some rationing in Australia, though not as much as in Great Britain.

The Australians did not suffer as many attacks as expected despite their proximity to Japan.  After the war ended, the Australian government decided that the nation should be better prepared just in case war were to come again.  They desired a population increase to help build up a larger military.  They also wanted to rebuild and improve their military after the war.

In order to increase the population, the government encouraged increased immigration.  The post-war economy of Australia was much stronger than that of Great Britain, so new immigrants found jobs easily.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team