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Presidential Visit

Canberra has been another place today. The hundreds of flag poles are flying the American flag alongside ours. This is nothing unusual; somewhere they have this warehouse full of flags. They'll be out in cherry pickers putting up Chinese flags tomorrow for the President of China.

But the security is unreal. There are barricades everywhere, coppers by the hundred and - most annoying of all - the RAAF has had F-18 Hornets in the air over the city continuously since about 6am. The War Memorial closed at 2:00 in the afternoon and I had to park round the back when I dropped in at lunchtime. This for a visit four hours later to lay a wreath in honour of an SAS trooper killed in Afghanistan. This didn't happen when Bill Clinton dropped in a few years back. Everyone is asking whether this is really necessary. There are several thousand protesters but I don't know what they are protesting about. Probably many different things.

Australians tend to think of the War in the Southwest Pacific as their war, but of course America was involved as well. My thesis will distort this, as it will concentrate on the campaigns in which Australians were involved and pass over the Western New Guinea Campaign and the far more important campaign in the Philippines. Unfortunately, American historians haven't shown much interest in it either.

Southwest Pacific (SWPA) was quite different to Europe. There, General Eisenhower integrated his staff, with each American officer having a British deputy or vice versa. Where tried, notably in the Combined Operational Service Command (COSC) and the intelligence bureau, this worked well in SWPA. But the norm was to have staffs of a single service and nationality. While General Eisenhower enforced the rule that American officers who criticised the British got a slow trip home, this was not the case in SWPA.

Nonetheless, co-operation was better than in Europe and the results no less successful. Perhaps there is a lesson here.