In 1942 the threat of Japanese invasion hung over Australia. The men were away overseas, fighting on other fronts, and civilians were left unprotected at home.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese advance south, Prime Minister Curtin ordered state governments to prepare. From January 1942, a team frantically pulled together secret plans for a 'scorched earth' strategy. The goal was to prevent the Japanese from seizing resources for their war machine as they landed, and capturing Australians as slaves as they had done in Malaya and elsewhere in Asia.
From draining domestic water tanks to sinking dinghies and burning crops, from training special citizen squads to evacuating coastal towns, 'Total war, total citizen collaboration' was the motto. Today these plans vividly evoke the fraught atmosphere of the year Australia was threatened with invasion.
After the war these top secret plans were forgotten. This is the first time they have ever been made public.
“This is a treasure trove, a gold mine, a Christmas-every-day cornucopia of rich Australian history, particularly Second World War history. Arguments over the "Brisbane Line" are settled here. Now we have the detailed plans for the "scorched earth"tactic that might follow a Japanese invasion of Australia. We know that Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra were to be defended at all costs: too bad if you lived in Darwin, Perth, Adelaide or Hobart, still worse if you lived in Alice Springs or Townsville. Outside the big four cities, Australians could expect evacuation if all else looked like failing. The detail is mind-boggling: how to sabotage water supplies; how to wreck a car; a safe walking route from Grafton to Glen Innes; how to "trip: a tank with a crowbar. Read and wonder!”
— Peter Grose, author of An Awkward Truth and A Very Rude Awakening
VIEW SECRET DOCUMENTS
These once classified "Scorched Earth" documents are not included in the published book! See first hand correspondence between the NSW Premier's Department and stakeholders initiating the "Scorched Earth" project, as well as other associated plans and reports discovered by Sue Rosen.