The Australian Women’s Weekly combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure in 1942. Image via Trove.
This Christmas Richard Wood, USA Programs Manager, turns back time to 1942 when the festive season in Australia and the USA faced austerity measures and missing family members during World War II but the spirit of the season persevered.
By Christmas 1942, the war had infiltrated every aspect of Australian life. The Christmas cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly featured combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure.
Battleship Missouri Memorial. Image: David Foley / ANMM.
In 1945 the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed aboard the USS Missouri, which signalled the end of hostilities between Japan and the Allied forces. As part of the War and Peace in the Pacific 75 Education Program, we invited schools from the USA, Japan and Australia to investigate the impact of WWII on their community and make documentary videos of what they found. As a climax to this program, student ambassadors from one school in each county attended a Friendship Ceremony on board the USS Missouri to mark the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The student ambassadors each gave a speech on their commitment to maintain and promote peace in the Pacific. They also signed a friendship agreement between Australia, the USA and Japan.
A black and white photograph of HMAT Ceramic, which was used during World War 1 as a troop carrier. The frame around the photograph contains the signatures of soldiers and the date ‘15.12.15’ – it is likely that the soldiers were part of the 12th Reinforcements for the 4th Light Horse Regiment. They departed Melbourne on 23 November 1915. ANMM Collection 00027600.
A British liner, a German U-boat, the mid-Atlantic Ocean and the Royal Australian Navy – what do they have in common? The SS Ceramic.
Formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Images: Naval History and Heritage Command.
This year the formal learning team, funded through the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund, embarked on a new and very different project, reflecting on the cumulative 75th anniversaries relating to World War II in the Pacific. We invited schools from the USA, Japan and Australia to research and reflect on significant battles from the conflict in the Pacific.
Old Man’s Hat, where the 1940 inscription marking the detention of Pierre Loti was carved, offers spectacular views over South Head, the Tasman Sea and hundreds of historic inscriptions left by sailors, passengers and Sydney residents. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.
Saigon bristled with terror in April 1975. As shelling and small-arms fire sounded out an ever-shrinking cordon around the South Vietnamese capital, wails of a different kind split the airspace above the city. On board a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft, over 200 traumatised children and infants – primarily orphans – were being tended by nurses, doctors and military personnel. Leaving Ton Son Nhat airport on 3 April, these bewildered passengers were then transferred to a Qantas flight bound for Sydney. Numbering among the 2500 children scooped up by ‘Operation Babylift’, they arrived at North Head Quarantine Station just weeks ahead of the final collapse of South Vietnam.
Oddly enough, the Babylift children were not the first displaced Vietnamese to be held at North Head. It would be another year before the earliest refugee boats – the vanguard of a rickety flotilla escaping the humanitarian crisis afflicting Southeast Asia – landed on northern Australian shores. Although two small groups of these arrivals were briefly accommodated at Sydney’s Quarantine Station in 1977, in April 1975 only the Babylift evacuees were being tended by nurses and community volunteers at this hilly headland near Manly.
Before its deployment to Asian waters, HMAS Perth saw duty in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Egypt was exotic and exciting for the young Australian sailors, and photographs to send back home were a priority. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.
On the night of 28 February–1 March 1942, the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston fought bravely and defiantly against overwhelming odds – outnumbered and outgunned by a large advancing Japanese naval force – as they approached Sunda Strait, a narrow sea passage between the islands of Java and Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Both ships sank that dreadful night in the Battle of Sunda Strait. Continue reading →
Last Sunday, around 900 people attended a special ceremony at the museum which saw 339 new names unveiled on the museum’s migrant Welcome Wall. The Welcome Wall stands in honour of all those who have migrated from around the world to live in Australia. Continue reading →
My mother has often told me this story of the evening of Sunday 31st May 1942:
‘It had been a normal Sunday: Church, followed by lunch, a visit to my grandparents, some radio and then suddenly, while I was taking a bath, sirens split the air, Dad turned off the lights, and I shivered in the dark.’
Last Thursday I had the privilege to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea on board USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier, where the museum’s new documentary Clash of the Carriers, premiered in front of Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and Mrs Turnbull, President of the United States, Donald and Mrs Trump, veterans of the battle and 700 guests.
Welcome Wall, May 2017. Image: Andrew Frolows / ANMM.
Last Sunday, 7 May 2017, saw 364 new names unveiled on our Welcome Wall in honour of all those who have migrated from around the world by sea or air to live in Australia. The museum unveils new names on the Welcome Wall twice a year. The new names now bring the total number of names on the wall to 28,657. Of these 9,330 are from England, 3,526 from Italy, 1,627 from The Netherlands, 1,630 from Germany and 1,317 from Greece. In all, more than 200 countries are represented.
RMS QUEEN MARY in Sydney Harbour, 1941. ANMM Collection 00045046.
On 28th March 1942 the troopship RMS Queen Mary arrived in Sydney with 8,398 Americans on board, destined for the Pacific War. These first American troops to be transported on the ‘Grey Ghost’ (the nickname for the camouflaged giant, yet fast, former liner) had embarked in Boston on the 18th February on what became known as their ’40 days and 40 nights’ voyage.
Speeches at the opening reception for Guardians of Sunda Strait. Image: Ashley Patranella.
It’s been a busy few days here in Houston with museum’s Guardians of Sunda Straitexhibition. All the objects and their labels have been successfully and safely installed in their showcases or on display panels and all the graphics have been applied to the walls. The final graphic caused a few headaches though! Firstly, the paper didn’t arrive at the factory, then the wrong graphic was accidentally printed, then the colours were wrong. But we have it now and it looks great. Exhibition installation always has a contingency of a few days built in just for this kind of last minute problem!
Wartime: SS Mariposa in Sydney, unloading an aircraft. ANMM Collection 00035944.
SS Mariposa was launched in 1931 by the Matson Line to carry 700 passengers in luxury across the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney. Stripped down to carry up to 5000 personnel, Mariposa was one of the minor ‘monsters’ of the Allied troopship fleet during World War II. The world’s biggest ocean liners, nicknamed ‘the monsters’ were requisitioned to transport troops and materiel because they could outrun most enemy ships and submarines and therefore needed fewer naval escorts as they sailed around the world.