Coalition Warfare: Australia & the United States in the beach head battles, November 1942 - January 1943


The nature of warfare involving coalitions is always fraught with difficulties. The competing strategic interests of each partner and the complications arising from two foreign armies working together inevitably leads to tension. The relationship between the United States and Australian during 1942/1943 is no exception.

One of the dominating images of this partnership centres on the relationship between the two countries most senior military commanders, General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey. MacArthur’s comment, during the Kokoda campaign, that ‘these Australians wont fight’ set the initial tone for the relationship. Blamey’s retort, during the subsequent campaign, that he would prefer to send in Australian reinforcements over American troops ‘as he knew they would fight’ only soured an already fragile connection. This paper will explore the extent were these views shared by the senior Australian and United States ground commanders in New Guinea who fought the battle of the beach heads from November 1942 to January 1943. Furthermore it will investigate the nature of the operational command relations during this campaign and analyse the extent to which these partners were able to forge an effective working relationship on the battlefield.


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