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Victory in the Pacific

Today we commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific. On the morning of 15 August 1945, the Emperor of Japan announced that his country would accept the Allies’ ultimatum to surrender. For Australians, this signified the end of the World War II. A war that had seen nearly one million Australians serve in the armed forces. Of those, over 30,000 were taken prisoner and 39,000 did not return to their loved ones. A legacy which is still felt today. 

Today we commemorate by pausing to remember and respect the ANZACS who served their country for us, the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, the veterans who returned and were forever scarred, and the family, friends and mates who cared for them.  

Fortunately, some of our precious veterans are still alive today and are dedicated members of the League. They returned to Australia and got on with life, helped to build Australia to be the country it is today, and are still committed to helping their mates. We are the beneficiaries of their courage, sacrifice, and selflessness. 

Like many, my own experience of World War II and the Pacific Campaign was through the experience of my father who lied about his age and at the age of 16 served in the Infantry, 7th Division, 2nd / 25th Battalion on Kokoda in 1942.  

When the Allies attained and celebrated victory my father was in Balikpapan and, rather than returning to Australia, he volunteered to sail to Kure, Japan and serve in the British and Commonwealth Occupation Forces until 1947.  

In less than 50 years Australia had been involved in two global wars and had suffered attack on home soil. I was born in 1949 as the country was being re-built from devastation that I hope Australians never have to experience in their lifetime.  

The ranks of our World War II veterans and those who served in the Pacific are dwindling, but their sacrifices and the impact they had on our nation shall never be forgotten. Like those who served in the Great War, we will remember those who served when total war came to Australian shores.  

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop many World War II veterans from marching on ANZAC Day, but it has now left some isolated and disconnected from their family, friends, and mates at their sub-Branch. I encourage every member of the League and indeed every veteran to consider what you can do for a veteran in your community who can’t attend their sub-Branch meeting to see their mates or access the support and services they need at this time. Take some time to engage with them and listen to their story and treasure their insights while you still can. 

I am grateful that some commemorations can still go ahead in our communities, but I am disappointed for those who those who can’t come together and remember. I hope to see you at a commemoration soon. Lest we forget. 

Image: Crowds of civilians and soldiers fill a city street in Sydney during celebrations for VP day, 15 August 1945. Source: Australian War Memorial 

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