Familiarity does seem to breed contempt, certainly in the case of wartime economic and industrial miracles. Oh look theres a country compressing the whole industrial revolution into less than a decade ho hum. As much as anyone does pay attention these days, it seems mostly to secure patriotic bragging rights on Internet forums, or perhaps I dont get out enough. In any case the main point that gets overlooked is that size hardly counts when dealing with the miraculous, a miracle is a bloody miracle if you get my drift. I dont mean to sound like an old codger but it seems to me that people these days have lost touch with the sense of the industrial world. Sometimes I wonder how long itll be before engineers and steelworkers will be as romantic as knights trying to scratch lice in their tin undies and charming peasants in a Arcadian paradise of grinding poverty and ignorance.
Ask someone on the street Whats a ton of steel? and if you get any answer other than a blank look, itd be along the lines of five hundred bucks a ton. Ive had the dubious pleasure of shoveling steel by the ton, so to me a ton of steel is about a foot of swarf on the bottom of a large sized rubbish skip. As for value, the wholesale price of rebar is one thing, but if that ton of swarf would have cost $500 as concrete reinforcing and is now worth $20 as scrap, it took three tradesman over 12 hours of solid effort to scatter all over the floor and a machine worth a couple of years wages, not to mention the $8 an hour for me to sweep it up and shovel it into the skip. Thats 250 odd years of combined experience and development at work, glorious no? Its like gold, knowing todays price per ounce on the stock market is one thing, but people dont get the lust in their eyes until they struggle to pick up a bar.
So the industrial effort put in by all sides during WWII tends to be taken for granted, and that really is selling Rosie the Riveter short, not to mention the work of all those who put the plate, rivets and pneumatic hammer in front of her. In the case of America, taken for granted doesnt do justice to total lack of appreciation I see in the popular view of the USs wartime production program. The assumption seems to be that being the backbone (and a good deal of the musculature) behind the forces of freedom, wasnt just easy, it was an absolute ruddy doddle and America was more than capable of meeting any demand placed upon it arrrrghhh. If my scorn and sarcasm hasnt conveyed the essence of my opinion on this matter, let me be blunt. What the US did industrially between 1941/2 and 1947 was huge. Not merely huge by puny rest of the world standards, I mean Bigger than Texas huge, monumentally massively mammoth ok?
I hate to ruin that string of superlatives with a but, however it must be said the US was not straining itself to the very limits in working wonders, there was still a little slack to take up before America squeaked. How much isnt important, theres plenty academic work been done on quantifying the level of national economic mobilisation during the war years, and the US hardly makes the top 5 in that regard. The point is that while America managed to stay on the positive side of that razors edge, when compared to say Russia or Germany, she did come too close for comfort. There was some reserve in capacity, but the ~35% of the civilian economy that remained uncommitted to the war did not represent enough to have done it all alone. Supporting WWII was a joint effort, but that hardly registers in the smug complacency that stands testament to the labours of Hercules in the Arsenal of Democracy.
OK so this is another excuse laden rant by some tea drinking surrender monkey with a penchant for big words and long sentences. Nah, the main reason Ive gone on about it, is because I really do get peeved at the lack of respect I see for everyones hard work during WWII, especially for the American contribution, mostly from Americans. An absolute confidence in working marvels is no more than a backhanded form of under-appreciation, and just as belittling in my book.
As far as this impacts on Australian AFVs or Australia in general, the heart of the matter is that the US could not do it alone. So where other countries contributed to the job and America assisted them, it was not a case of doing anyone a favour or leaches sucking at the tit. If we gained from the transaction we gave full value in the process.
No Tanks Today
Before I talk much about the old Monash, I need to get into a little background, principally TWMAP, and expand a little on some related topics. The Three Way Mutual Assistance Program tends to obscure Australias own industrialisation efforts through the re-armament period and the early war years. Which is rather unfortunate, as without some idea of what went before its hard to paint a clear picture of TWMAP. Its also subject I find very hard to be brief about. Our expansion before the Coup in Great Britain was fairly impressive, as an agricultural and mining economy, we were mass producing (at a modest rate) modern aircraft before we could make a car. After the Coup things took off a rate that beggars belief, driven by the need to replace British supply for ourselves and across the Empire. As each of these phases built on the foundation of the last, so TWMAP fleshed out the muscle on the skeleton that had already formed. As a simple example, in 1939 we could build a few dozen howitzers per year, but not the sights or directors they needed to be of much use. By 1942 we were exporting 25pdrs lock, stock and dial sight No.9. In less than two years Australia had put a firecracker under ordnance manufacture, developed an optical industry from the ground up and was exporting optical glass to the US, Russia and Canada.
The remarkable thing about such a dramatic spurt of growth, is that it wasnt very remarkable at all. The same thing was happening across almost every sector of industry, a shipyard and general engineering firm in Sydney replicated an entire production line embargoed in Britain by the coup from nothing more than the installation drawings - in LESS time than the original contractor took to make it in the first place. Australia put into service the worlds first dedicated shore based gunnery radar in less than a year, and six months later the same set was expanded to dual purpose air search as well, in two years it was a world leading air portable forward air control unit. Just one item amid a multitude.
The basis of TWMAP was the mobilisation of Australian resources and effort to support the war in Russia. American assistance and finance, combined with Australian labour, facilities and materials to produce goods and services for the Russian Front. This broke down into two distinct areas. Firstly the provision of support to the Russian theatre from Australia paid for by the US, and secondly the technical and financial assistance provided by America to enable Australia to meet demand. In essence it was a thoroughly commercial relationship, America as the client/prime contractor, was subcontracting part of the job and helping the subbie (Australia) expand to service the contract. It was never anything as simple as Washington shipping whole factories down here gratis as they did for Russia. The contracts came first and the assistance to Australia was on an as required basis. Better than 75% of the total infrastructure required by TWMAP between 1942 and 1947 was met from Australian resources and 100% of it was paid for by the Australian Government, eventually.
The actual process was pleasantly straightforward. Either of the three countries would propose an item, the Ministry of Supply in Australia would see what could be done, consult with their colleges in Washington if we needed any help, and say yea, nay or as often as not yea but well need a little time. The TWMAP agreements gave Washington the final say of course, but once price and delivery schedules were set, a contract was drawn up and that was basically it. No one was mucking around. Rolling contracts were supposed to be revised on a semi-annual basis. But the usual changes were to reflect increased production, since that fluctuated month to month anyway, this side of things tended to get a little behind which is why there was so much adjustment needed when it came time to settle up.
As for price, quite frankly we were over a barrel. Privately Washingtons aim was Zero-net profit for the Australian end, while naturally enough Canberra was looking more towards maximum attainable profit and the Russkies didnt give a damn so long as their goodies kept coming. From what I can tell there was a certain Darwinian balance about it all. Australias end really came out of the economic development that TWMAP supported, so getting the best possible price for every tin of peaches had more to do with meeting day to day expenses than any attempt at serious price gouging. Killing golden geese, muzzling the kine that tread the corn and pissing off your prime customer, all tend to be rather counter productive.
America was little more serious, of course they wanted the best deal they could get, but they were already getting an absolute steal. Australian labour rates were dirt cheap in comparison to domestic American wages. The unaccounted production costs were carried by Australia not America and if Washington still had to subsidise the establishment of the factories TWMAP needed, it was still cheaper than building the whole thing. Everything sourced from Australia was something America didnt have to supply, relieving the strain on US factories and freeing them up of other things. On a strategic level, the saving in transport costs from East Coast ports and the reduction in shipping congestion on the West Coast alone justified the effort. Then there was the steady demand for American materials; that tin of peaches was wrapped in American tin plate for most of the war, Australia imported all its aluminum from North America and so on. The other advantages in price etc were just gravy. The only real down side was in post war economics, that investment wasnt in US industry and it was contributing to potential competition. However the same could be said in spades for factories built in Russia and the effort put into Canada.
All these factors were enough to keep things interesting, and if a little friction developed around the negotiating table, the Russians were always there to pour a drop of oil on the squeaky wheels, it turned out to be real oil too but nobody knew that back then. Canberra had extended a line of credit to Russia while Stalin was still on the throne, although a rather limited one, it wasnt like we had any money either at the time. But Zhukovs people were not above placing orders on Australian producers against their own account, often at quite inflated prices to smooth things over between their partners. Of course it was bribing us with our own money in the short term, and I suspect Canberra fully expected to either transfer the cost to the US at some point or were just accepting it as a face saving measure. But the Russians dont forget their debts, at least the modern ones dont, and TWMAP kept Australia in cheap Siberian oil for many a year.
To get back on topic, what TWMAP did for Australia was provide a sound footing and a hard currency cash-flow to underpin the continued development that had started in the late 30s and had been picking up steam ever since. In the fullness of time giving the war time start ups sufficient mass and momentum to survive as a viable industrial economy, rather than run out of puff and collapse, once the Governments extraordinary wartime spending returned to normal levels. <as happened largely @> The assistance from America came in three forms.
USTAMA, the US Technical Assistance Mission (to) Australia changed a great deal over the war years, its primary function was actually quality control, making sure Uncle Sam got what he paid for. For the most part these people were civilian specialists in their fields before being called up and provided a great deal of expert advise in bringing the Australian factories they worked with up to scratch. The whole area of Food Science in Australia grew out of canning industry set up to meet TWMAP and guided by Major B.L Seabrook USA and a couple of former USDA people, building on the CSIR, State Agriculture Departments and Victualling organization that had been feeding the RN in Asia since WWI. Its rather pleasant to say this worked both ways, high Vitamin B wheat (Aust flour had about 230-270 IU/lb, US flour at the time averaged 77), inert-dusting for weevil prevention and a host of other things from the CSIR flowed back to American and Russian farms. Australia fed between thirteen and fifteen million people a year during WWII, and getting close on twenty million in the years immediately afterwards, not bad for less than 750,000 agricultural workers.
Something similar happened in many other fields, Electronics were one of Australia's stronger areas before the war, and it certainly boomed after 1939. I've already mentioned Radar, but all areas of telecommunications and electronics grew like topsey. Along with the Canadian No.19, the AWM-331 became almost the defacto standard Russian tank radio for WWII. Like the No.19, the AWM-331 was a local decedent of the British WS9 along lines already laid out before the Coup. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it, if I were looking for an example of Australian genius I could pick one of a dozen better bits of kit. However the 331 and No.19 were roughly equivalent and TWMAP ordered them them in huge numbers, mostly so the rumor goes, so the Yanks didn't have to reveal their best stuff to the Russians, but I don't really buy that.
Our problem was making them so USTAMA rustled up a couple of boffins from Bell and other US concerns and hay presto Colonel's Shewheart and Deming appeared and again opened up a whole new vista never seen before in this country. Seabrook and his mates in the Ministry of Food probably saved more lives, but Shewhart and Deming, the latter in particular along with their local disciples have had a huge influence on Australian industry over the years.
The second arm of American assistance under TWMAP was a line of credit in the US at 3.5% over 50 years. Post war this was renegotiated down to 2.75% over 70 years during the settlement and adjustment process as TWMAP was being wound up.
Lastly, and most importantly for this little monograph, was access to the US industrial distribution pool. The US production miracle during WWII didnt happen by accident or without a good deal of planning. Manufacturing resources like plant and machine tools, along with semi-processed and raw strategic materials were all carefully allocated and prioritised. TWMAP got Australias toe in this door, not with any great influence, but being inside was a damn sight better than being out in the cold. As a rough approximation Australias place was a distant forth after US domestic needs and Russia/Canada.
Crudely speaking the way this business worked was that a program (or a country in Australias case) would put in a bid for what it required along with a justification. Washington would attempt to match supply with demand and prioritise things, then allocated the means of production as best it saw fit. For Australia payment was then organised with some mix of cash, kind or credit, and in due course the ACME Little Giant Vacuome-Cleaner would arrive from Walla-Walla Washington.
Exactly who got what and why would fill a shelf of very dry books that I certainly have no intention of writing. However for Australia the criteria were fairly simple, if a bid was specifically to service a TWMAP contract it went into the general pool and was dealt with accordingly. The same thing happened if the bid was to indirectly support a TWMAP program, but at a lower priority. Everything else fell to the bottom of the heap to be addressed if there was anything left over, all which was fair enough. The trick was of course if the item bid for had a direct role under TWMAP and would support other TWMAP programs, it rose up the list quite some ways. This is largely why Australia kept moving heaven and earth to meet as much of its own requirements as it could and reserved drawing on the US for only the most critical items. By bidding only for key items tied in to multiple efforts, we got the best value for our money and with a better then normal priority, the order actually had a chance of being filled sooner rather than later. Consumables were handled differently, and I really dont need to get into that side of things here.
TWMAP bought a good deal of AFV related business to Australia in addition to the stuff we were making for the Val. But after the Chauvel there was little prospect of another domestic tank design. If anything it looked more likely wed be making a Russian or American design if we produced a tank at all. Prior to TWMAP you could make a case either way as to the most significant contribution Australia was making to the larger war effort, our own forces or our manufacturing sector. Once TWMAP hit town there was no contest. Everything else, bar aircraft manufacture, fell to second place and this included the needs of our Army and that of our Cw brethren.
After the coup had forced us to stand on our own feet times were not good, for the Civilian economy they only got worse with TWMAP. With a clear focus and a light at the end of the tunnel, the Government simply couldnt afford to hold back. Given the breakneck pace of wartime development, this was a chance to make up enough ground to secure a hold on the future in an uncertain post war world, as they say extreme times call for extreme measures. Im not going to call our attitude to TWMAP greedy, far from it. Enlightened self interest and simple pride counted for too much, we didnt just want to help, we needed to help, and helping does not involve fleecing those youre trying to assist. But we were still going to milk every last advantage we could from TWMAP. This wasnt so much an official attitude as a national one, I suppose they could have mounted a propaganda campaign to drive the point home, but it wasnt really necessary. Losing Britain, which was still home even to people whod never left the country, was enough of a shock. Not to put to finer point on it, the population were scared spitless of the future and working their guts out today was about the only way most people could see to improve things. I was only a nipper at the time, but even I felt it.
This meant industrialisation was the national panacea. Tomorrow will be better if we get this chemical plant finished early. What goes around comes around, feed a Russian today. Beating the quota this month will keep the Japanese that much further away oh yes hard times bring hard attitudes, and a goodly dose of paranoia. The point Im trying to make here is Australia was in an odd mood, scared, sensitive, paranoid, cooperative, and bloody minded. TWMAP didnt take long to become a sort of touchstone, it provided for today and built the future at the same time. In a murky world it was pretty open and above board, even when we were being screwed over the situation was clear and understandable.
One of Australia well established strengths was in steel production, a child of the previous war, BHP had started off serious steel production in Australia following a request from the Government during WWI. Now BHP might be bastards to work for, but theyve always been damn good businessmen, the Newcastle steelworks was the most modern plant money could buy in 1917, and it still is today. I doubt theres a bit of plant there more than a decade old and the minute something better comes along they buy it, if they didnt develop it themselves. BHP turned the plant over twice, or it might have been three times, between the wars. Their business was so good another consortium set up at Port Kembla to copy them too bad about the Depression, BHP bought them out, and hooked up with the backers of Kembla to open a third operation to make alloy steels.
Just as a useful datum point, in 1935 Australia rated fifth in the world for steel production per head of population, (USA-0.601 ton/pp, Belguim-0.445, Germany-0.306, UK-0.300, Aust-0.246, Canada-0.229), and 13th in the world overall. Not bad for one company at the arse end of the planet. Australias steel was also some of the cheapest too. You see, BHP owned the smelters and the mills right enough, but they also owned the iron ore mines, the limestone quarries, the collieries, the docks, the ships and the shipyard. It was (and is) a dream set up, the iron ore and limestone is in the west, while the coal and the markets are in the east. A ship takes a load of ironstone from say Whyalla to a steelworks at Newcastle or Kembla (both right next to major collieries), swaps it for coal to run back to Whyalla for the steelworks there, picks up steel to take to Fremantle for onward shipping, runs up the coast in ballast for a load of limestone to take back to Whyalla and starts all over again. Its a licence to print money. Theyve only had to pay for the ships fuel in the last twenty years or so, and I still think they might run a couple of coal fired bulk carriers.
So Australia could make steel, our output averaged about 1,300,000 tons of pig iron and 1,650,000 tons of ingot steel a year from 1939 to 47, peaking at 1,850,000 ton in 1946, plus 70,000 tons a year (average) of mixed alloys. What we couldnt make was armour plate, well not of any great thickness or quantity. <@ note, average was 1,412,913 tons of ingot per year, peaking in 42 and restricted by labour not plant, materials or demand>
Naturally enough, one for the first big things we put in a bid for under TWMAP was a plant to roll armour. It only made sense, Australian steel was going to America to be rolled into armour destined for Russian factories, and this was just the sort of thing TWMAP was intended to short circuit. The Russians certainly saw the potential too, and they happily endorsed our bid, adding that they were ready to place orders the minute we could guarantee thered be something to buy. None of this was in anyway a demand, if anything it was more a registration of interest should something come up. It was a worthwhile project, but nobody expected a facility of this sort to just fall from the sky when summoned. As keen as we were to get it, the armour mill was just one of a number of bids, and if nothing came of it, well there was no shortage of other work to be done. Actually, if Im reading between the lines correctly, the Ministry of Supply werent even expecting a complete plant if the bid was accepted, more a DIY kit of second hand stuff delivered in irregular instalments.
It might seem a little counter intuitive, but American industry was producing a reasonable trickle of scrap machinery all through the war. As their factories ramped up, the Americans were taking every possible opportunity to modernise at the same time. One of the fundamental traps for any industry is reinvestment in the means of production. Nobody likes to spend money even to make money, in good times enlightened self-interest has a fighting chance, but people are people. Time of course marches on and Darwin has something to say about firms that dont keep up, so the state of any factory at any time is usually some mix of new, middle aged and old with a smattering of ancient kit to boot. One of the nastier aspects of all this is the vicious loops that crop up. Big things (relatively speaking) tended to be real the money-spinners and the core of any production effort, but big usually means expensive to replace. Theres basically two ways to upgrade a production line, a factory (or almost anything really), the proper way is too rip out the existing plant, or the vast majority of it, and install new. The quick and dirty method is to identify the operational bottleneck or problem and just replace that bit. Both techniques have their place in the greater scheme of things, and the practical course is to patch up to cover short term issues and bite the bullet for a total renovation every so often to clear the decks.
Human nature dictates the cheaper option gets more use than it should, and this leaves an established factory with a mishmash of accreted plant, equipment and machinery that can often date back decades. With Daddy Warbucks footing the bill, a lot of American firms were taking what chances came their way to clean house. Some got lucky and managed to turn over a whole line or plant. Others had less luck and had to make do with quilting a better patchwork for their existing operations, but over the first few years of Americas mobilisation most managed some reasonable level of improvement. All this produced a welter of second hand stuff that ranged from junk though obsolete to almost new.
A production line is really just a series of integrated operations performed in a set order with the means of moving the product between them. The classical picture of a conveyor belt churning out Model T Fords is one view. But a blast furnace sitting in the middle of what looks like a railways yard; a shed full of identical machine tools filling trolleys with semi-finished components; or a row of workbenches can all fall under the same heading, if not the same scale. As a crude approximation industrial plant and machinery comes in three forms; general purpose stuff that has wide range of potential applications, a screw cutting lathe being the classic example. Specialised kit that can only do small range of tasks, but tasks that have a general application, say a grinder or gear cutting/grinding machines. Lastly all the other odds and sods made to do a specific job and mostly useless for anything else. In the middle of a war the first two groups could always find a ready home in just about any condition. The latter are impossible to generalise about, except to say they tended to be old and large, very large in some cases, like a blast furnace.
An extrusion machine for making lipsticks could be a gem beyond price for producing graphite/wax grease pencils for dry lubrication in extreme cold, or a couple of tons of potential scrap if it couldnt process nitrocellulose tubes for propellant. The same applies to the hardware stripped from a demolished copper smelter or a reaction vessel from a chemical plant. It all depended on what was needed under what sort of priority and the specific machines available.
The modernisation process in American factories produced a few complete or mostly complete lines that were either snapped up for new expansion plants or shipped off to Russia or Canada, and a lot more orphan items. Once the orphans had been sorted through and picked over, the good stuff was easy to get rid of, either dished out individually or packaged into kits for new factories. The dross was another matter, some vanished in the blink of an eye to fill some slot that desperately needed a wigwam weaver from a flywhisk factory, but the rest of it was a happy hunting ground for budding industrialists like Australia. There was less competition for pre-loved equipment, it came at a scrap price and generally there were no strings attached.
This sort of kit might not have been the best available, but it was generally better than we had and a damn sight better than nothing. Prowling American junkyards has been a very profitable exercise for many people over the years, its amazing the stuff they throw away. In Russia the RAAF might have been called The Borrowers, but they managed to put together the better part of a Light Armoured Brigade from the US Armys cast offs. Anyway the lack of strings attached to scrap machinery wasnt all that important, generally the terms of sale tied a machine to a designated TWMAP program and the rest was just boiler plate. That specific program was to have first call, followed by other TWMAP programs and contracts, and only then could it be used for other work. Even the three or four machines the US refused to sell outright werent much bother, the leases were structured into the contracts they supported and Australian industry had all the access they needed to copahem, make contingency spare parts in anticipation of shipping and ordering delays, so as not to disrupt vital war production.
By the last weeks of 43 all this was starting to firm up into a pretty smooth operation, the first fruits of TWMAP expansion works were starting to reach Russia, people on the ground had generally sorted out how things were to work and all was well with the world. Then the response to the bid on the armour mill came in. A simple Yes/No/Well see what can be done was about all the Australian authorities were expecting. Well the good news was that Australia wasnt going to be getting an armour mill from the US. Our bid had set out the potentials we saw for armour manufacture in Australia, TWMAP contracts for Russia specifically, TWMAP production for the general pool to go anywhere it might be needed, naval construction/repair, and lastly potential AFV manufacture. Its worth remembering we were already making/had made armoured vehicles in the Chauvel, the LP series carriers and a few others Ill talk about later, not to mention components for export under both TWMAP and pre-existing arrangements. So this was nothing new and we were not talking about making a new tank either, the only thoughts in that direction amounted to perhaps licensed production of a US or Russian type under TWMAP at some point in the future. Meeting our current armour needs was a major embuggerance to the steel industry. They werent set up to make it as a regular item, so slipping armour plate runs into the rolling mills messed up their production flow. None the less Washington seems to have taken an extreme dislike to the idea we might waste our time making AFVs.
The bad news was the measures Uncle Sam proposed to discourage our naughty diversion of effort into AFVs. I suppose just asking would have been too easy. Obviously they didnt ask, or Id not have mentioned it, the rejection of our bid came with what amounted to a demand that we stop wasting time on all sorts of things, there was a three-page list backed by a politely worded note that that suggested our continued endeavours in these divergent activities would present grave difficulties for the Government of the United States to perpetuate the current arrangements and in the future provision of assistance and material.
My opinion, for what its worth, is someone on the Potomac went on holiday, and his stand in came down with a rush of blood to the head and a severe case of the stupids.
Nowhere under TWMAP was control of the Australian war economy vested in Washington, not that it was specifically excluded either as America did hold the final authority over TWMAP and that was expanding to cover evermore of the Australian war effort which inturn fed back into TWMAP. So there was a loophole, it totally violated the spirit of the whole things, but thats never stopped a legal hatchet job and I can only say it must have been some sloppy work that left it in. However I cant help thinking the US had a dozen more subtle ways to make the same sort of ground without ramming the whole business down our throats and have had a better chance of getting away with it too.
The key element here was that list of things we were supposed to stop, Im not going to get into the details, there were three pages of single line items. The first half page was devoted to industrial developments, or expansion projects either already underway or in some stage of advanced planning, the rest of the page was chemical and semi-processed products in production that were to be sacrificed for higher outputs in other areas.
A simple example in the chemical industry was acid manufacture, there were three new acid plants that had been started in 1939 to make sulphuric and nitric acids for explosives. Two had been finished by this time, the third was getting close and the MoS with ICI(A) were scratching up the means for a fourth. Well the C plant was to be mothballed for spare parts. Nitric acid production halted in favour of sulphuric in the other two with all surplus to be shipped to Russia or America and we could forget about the forth. This made perfectly good sense sort of. There was a current glut of nitric acid in North America and a shortage of Sulphuric, fine, except we needed both acids in bulk here to make propellants and explosives. Acid wasnt on the TWMAP list for export simply because all of Australias production was needed here, mostly to service existing TWMAP orders for munitions. Acids were certainly one choke point in expanding TWMAP production but not a crucial one, theyd already been factored into the existing plans and things time tabled to suite. Plus without nitric acid production wed not be making anything anyway, there was no stockpile to tide us over and little money to import the stuff.
The rest of Washingtons list was all about military equipment we werent making for TWMAP. At two pages it didnt cover everything Australia was producing, but it was the pick of the crop and the lions share. Some of these items were to give way for their US or Russian equivalents and the remainder would have permitted a substantial increase in overall TWMAP output once the capacity had been reallocated. But then we werent making this stuff for the fun of it, as Canada was drifting into the Northern Front and Americas industrial orbit, it left Australia as the only source for British spec equipment. Without our production the Commonwealth would be in very dire straights in deed.
The rapid growth of the US Army is one thing, but in India and South Africa they were still addressing deficiencies and filling holes in War Establishments left over from Halifaxs capitulation, so were we for that matter. It wasnt just about meeting outstanding requirements either; training creates attrition even with the most careful husbandry. Ammunition was part of the problem, but mostly Im talking about more sophisticated stuff, artillery, radios, transport, optical gear and spare parts for the lot of it. Australias post coup spasm of industrialisation had been intended to address the gap left by Britain and it had, more or less. Now the US wanted to strip this away and the usual reply I get when ever I bring this subject us is so what?
I can just about take the suggestion that Commonwealth forces did nothing during WWII without turning puce, Ive had a lot of practice thanks to the internet. But I can usually manage to convince people that they at least had a purpose. Any mention of LEOPARD usually brings a few chuckles. But I ask you, before TRINITY proved that an atomic device was any more then a cleaver bit of theoretical physics, was TBO a realistic option? The amphibious invasion of North West Europe was the only truly viable second front available before 1945, and it remained a fall back position up the last minute in my opinion. Ok it ended up as a big fraud, maskirova for the B-36s. But I dont see anyone laughing at the USNs carrier assaults. Yet if LEOPARD was a deception, the Carriers were providing the smoke and mirrors, long before dragging the Luftwaffe down to low altitude was any more than a contingency move. You laugh at LEOPARD and you laugh at Shiloh. But the invasion was never serious and Uncle Sam didnt create all those divisions of his Misguided Children to play with in the bathtub. If the USMC were the spearhead, it was the Cw Army Group that was a large part of the shaft.
For those folk who like to think the mighty USN, the threat of US retaliation and a little bribe in the form of China was what kept the Japanese quiet please, out the back door and turn left for the sandpit. China was no more a quid pro quo to Tokyo than Austria and Czechoslovakia were to Hitler, it was a sponge thrown out to soak up the Japanese Army. You cant buy somebody off with what they see as rightfully theirs. The Japanese War-faction was kept in check by a balance of military power, just as it always has been well up until they fell apart anyway. The major slice of that military counterweight was provided by America for a time, it was the USN and a Roosevelt-ian big stick, that carried the load from 40 to early 44. But from the minute the first GI landed in Russia, America couldnt get out of South East Asia fast enough, quite reasonably too IMHO. There were much more useful things to be done than garrison the Philippians and grounding on stale leis and pineapple cores in Hawaii.
But if the US deterrent diminished from then on, the Japanese threat didnt. For my money the stakes only got higher. In the early years if the Japanese wanted to kick America in the nuts as so many people suggest, they had to come out to do it. I dont know if the plan to attack Pearl Harbour that surfaced a few years back has anything too it, but thats pretty much the sort of thing they would have had to do as an opening move. Then the US Army in Russia shoved a throbbing, pulsing jugular vein right under their bloody noses. Two massive armies and a country all living off a lifeline that ran a right past the Japs front door, oh yes and as the flow got heavier both the escorts and the big stick in Pearl got thinner. If China limited Tokyos options on land, the ruddy IJN were hanging about with stuff all to do. True, they were little worried about their oil supply, but they could have cut the transpacific bridge with a duck punt and kept it closed until the USN could get into the northern Pacific with sufficient force to sort them out. As a one shot effort they would have had everybody by the short and curlys, especially if they picked their moment with regard to the front three million hostages, not counting the poor old Ivans, is a pretty fair bargaining position.
What stopped them getting bolshie was scale, they would have been like a bank robber holding a gun to someones head, lots of power, but not that many options in the long run. Their getaway car and jet to South America were in the opposite direction, it was only in South East Asia they could find the raw materials to make anything of the situation, and no matter what America might have thought about that, all the goodies were guarded by us tea drinking surrender monkeys. Once the bulk of the RN got down here, between the fleet and the Indian Army the Japanese were just clear out of options.
So all in all I dont think Im too far out in suggesting Australias support of the Commonwealth forces, even at some expense to TWMAP, wasnt a waste of effort. And damn if I havent gotten well of track. Where were we oh yes. The immediate result of complying with the demand from Washington would have been a great deal of disruption down here, for little gain for TWMAP, not to mention cutting the Commonwealths drip feed of military kit off at the knees and the Commonwealth with it.
On the face of thing, this might be seen as nothing more than Washington applying a little arm-twisting to set a wayward ally back on the path to righteousness, a clarion call to the group effort with a little emphasis to underline the gravity of the situation. Thats certainly they way I think it was suppose to be seen and lets hear it for the US of A going straight for the moral high ground.
The subtext is where things get a bit dirty, with the best will in the world this looked like an attempt to cripple Australias industrial diversification with an eye to the post war marketplace. At this point I usually get howls of protest from the more liberal Americans about how dare I accuse Uncle Sugar of something so horrid while the Republicans get all bullish about all being fair in love and war, countries dont have friends they have interests and all that jazz. Me, well I dont give a continental, this is what happened as best I can tell. Im not being judgmental, and if I were then Id be agreeing with the right wing gun nuts and SAC Cheer Squad, although Id not be quite so vocally proud of screwing people over. Anyhow this is view Canberra took of the US message.
Australian reaction was naturally one of sincere regret. Out of a sense of deep anxiety for Washingtons peace of mind, it was decided to set American fears to rest. If they were so perturbed about our ability to produce tanks, then damn it wed make a tank just to show them they had no reason to be so concerned on our behalf - yes Im sure that was the reason. Actually the big book of words said the American note was pointedly ignored which is a polite way of saying we told them to Get <expletive>-ed. Of course Rome on the Potomac is not defied lightly, there must be consequences for such transgressions and examples made. Its worth remembering that this wasnt a histrionic dummy spit between governments, it was a histrionic dummy spit between mid level bureaucrats; there was a war on and theres a limited to how far such things can go. So if this whole business started over an armour rolling plant that was where the axe would fall, there would be no armour plant for Australia ever. Just to drive the message home Washington gave a cobbled together armour mill to India a few months later. But generally speaking that was the last of it, as a spat it was petty and unnecessary, but at least it drew a few lines in the sand for TWMAP. It also explains why Indian tanks have been welded and Australian one cast, if anyone was curious.
I recon the bloke got back from holidays, saw the mess his stand-in had made, and buried the lot under a ton of old socks. Anyway, thus was the Monash I; born of spite and pride, sired by greed and arrogance, a total waste of time and effort by all concerned. To be brutally honest Australia did not need the Monash and we had no business building it in the middle of WWII, but I for one am damn glad we did all the same.