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JN the light of earlitfr declarations by Government and Service spokesmen, the latest decision to reduce Australia's operational army strength appears to represent a major policy switch. The divisions now employed, are to be reduced to three, and this will be accompanied by a corresponding discharge of ancillary and base troops. Strangely enough it is only a matter of days since the Australian authorities pointed w'ith justifiable pride to their six divisions deployed over a 3000-mile arc, with the 9th in North Borneo, 7th at Balik Papan, sth in New Britain, 6th in New Guinea, and 3rd and 11th on Bougainville—admittedly an. achievement for a country with Australia's population, and all the more impressive when her contributions in the air and at sea are reicalled. The R.A.A.F., too, is to be approximately halved, but the naval j effort will be maintained at its present level. The Prime Minister, wheij announcing the latest cuts, pledged the country to send a combined air and land expeditionary force to take part in the main offensive against Japan, and there is to be, if possible, a token avenging force taking part in the recapture of Singapore. How do these proposals fit inljo the present programme designed to wipe out all stranded Japs in the Islands adjacent to the Australian mainland? As far as we knbw there has been no great change in enemy dispositions that could account for the present decision. In fact, the Japanese are virtually! immobilised in their island fortresses. Australian Army commanders arj? confident that the final stages of the Bougainville campaign have been reached—they expect to have the costly job completed by Christmas. On New Britain and New Ireland, on the other hand, the shooting is far from over, and latest reconnaissance reports reveal ever-increasing: fixed defences, of the deadly Iwo Jima type, covering the Japanese j garrisons. No one connected with these operations has illusions concerning the cost of storming Rabaul and Kavieng, but the recapture of thesei two centres has been the published aim since the Australian Command Assumed responsibility following the United States Army's move forward!. The decision to hunt down the Japs has been widely criticised in tike Commonwealth, where there has been a large body of outspoken public opinion which, while favourable to the most vigorous action againist Japs further north, did not think more white blood should be' spilt :n dealing with the by-passed Japanese. Mr. Chifley's latest decision would seem to indicate a Government compromise with this outlook. It is obvious that Australia cannot play any worth-while part in the fin'al stage of the Pacific war, and at the same time fight the baltles of New Guinea, New Britain'and New Ireland, with a total strength af only three divisions. To be effective, or even welcome to General Mac Arthur's command, the expeditionary force must be of at least divisional strength, and the experience of New Zealand's Third Division suggests that anything less than a corps is unsatisfactory when working with Allies who do not use the same weapons and equipment. When Bojgainville is cleared two divisions will be freed, but no one would suggest that Rabaul or Kavieng will fall to less than an all-out offensive. More than 100,000 Japs hold these two and, adequately armed and equipped, they are ready to fight it out. On the face of it Australia seems to have decided that since these Japanese cannot influence the course \Of operations they would best be merely contained and dealt with, probably by negotiation, at some future date. If this is the case the latest reduction in army and air force strength can be understood. Ar y other conclusion does not make sense.

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Bibliographic details

AUSTRALIA'S WAR EFFORT, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

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AUSTRALIA'S WAR EFFORT Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945