Why we fought?

KEEP IT WHITE / Argus, 9 December 1941, p. 4

The editorial cartoon from the Melbourne Argus of 9 December 1941, the issue which reported the Japanese landings in Malaya and air raid on Pearl Harbor. I guess it's nice to know I can still be surprised, though, of course, there's really no reason why I should have been.

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10 thoughts on “Why we fought?

  1. Leinad

    My grandmother related to me how she used to be terrified of the Japanese due to newsreels and cartoon portrayals of them as these ghoulish nearsighted goblins with big sharp teeth. For most Aussies of that time it must have been the culmination of decades of Yellow Peril warnings.

  2. Post author

    For most Aussies of that time it must have been the culmination of decades of Yellow Peril warnings.

    Absolutely. Peter Stanley covers this very well in his recent book Invading Australia: Japan and the Battle for Australia, 1942 (which, despite the title, argues that there was no battle for Australia and no possibility of a Japanese invasion). This famous poster shows the sort of propaganda around at the time. (And this one.)

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  4. Post author

    Yes, it's a little excessive, isn't it? Interestingly, that poster matches one described in an oral account but which Stanley (who was the Australian War Memorial's principal historian) suggests was confused with the other "he's coming south" poster (in my other link). If the former principal historian of the Australian War Memorial didn't know about it, it must have had a limited life or distribution range. I wonder how it ended up in NZ?

  5. D man

    Anyone ever read of the Japanese atrocities performed on Australian citizens caught in the Pacific conflict? Or for that matter ANY Japanese Army atrocity carried out on anyone? Then you can understand the thinking of the time. They were MONSTERS AND SPAWNS OF SATAN. So I think that portraying them like goblins and freaks wasn't really that bad at the time. So SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Post author

    Seeing as this is my blog, not yours, I don't think I will shut up, but thanks for the suggestion. Yes, of course I've read about Japanese wartime atrocities. What does the political cartoon above have to do with that? It was published in the same issue that reported the start of the war. Virtually none of those atrocities had taken place yet, let alone been reported or informed attitudes in Australia. (Japanese atrocities in China before December 1941 apparently had little effect in Australia.) It's got nothing to do with that at all; instead it is a reference to the White Australia policy, which at this point had been in place for 40 years. I suggest you go away and read up about that before commenting again.

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