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The Green Hole

Back in 1993, Dr Peter Stanley presented a paper in which he decried the lack of interest amongst Australian historians in the campaigns of 1943-44 (or, for that matter, 1945). He called it "the Green Hole".

He backed up his claim with statistics that showed that Australian military historians are very fond of the Great War, especially Gallipoli, and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam. The Second World War is decidedly unpopular by comparison. Moreover, for some reason, Australian military historians of the Second World War have tended to focus on the Papuan Campaign. At least eight books were published in Australia in the last decade concerning the Papuan campaign compared with just two on the later campaigns in New Guinea and the Islands -- General Coates' "Bravery Above Blunder" on the Huon Campaign, and Peter Stanley's own book on Tarakan.

A number of plausible explanations have been advanced for the neglect of the later campaigns: that the campaigns were complex and difficult to understand; that they were undramatic; that they were so successful that an account might read like one long and boring sweep towards victory; that they were on such a small scale and did not have a major impact on Australia or on the outcome the war; that Australians are Eurocentric and apathetic towards Melanesia in spite of the country's location. While there is some truth in these points, they are also debatable.

This sure makes it harder. There are few books and all too many of the records have to be opened, which takes time. Too much material is unsorted.

I asked for a file to be declassified yesterday. It was a set of letters from American General S. J. Chamberlin, MacArthur's old G-3. The file looked like one of Sir Humphrey Appleby's. It contained one small sheet of note paper, and all the rest of the pages were sealed in a brown enveloped. The whole file was marked "Open With Exception" (OWE). Most OWEs have just one page in the brown envelope. Sometimes it is photocopied with the offending bits struck out in black texta. Usually it refers to someone coming down with VD. I looked at this one and the reason was the expiration period. The last pages were dated 1965! The classification was applied in 1981. The file should hve been declassified in 1995 under the 30 year rule. But the National archives only declassify a file if someone asks for it. Thousands of WWII files are still classified because no one has been interested enough to ask for them. I have asked for hundreds to be declassified. This never happened with the WWI files.

It would be nice if it contained something interesting to make it worthwhile, but the odds are against it. I will post the results in due course. Expect 6-8 weeks.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
communicator
2nd Oct, 2003 06:56 (UTC)
There are few books and all too many of the records have to be opened... too much material is unsorted.

Sounds as if this is a field where an energetic person can make their mark. Like stout Cortez gazing on the Pacific with a wild surmise.
kerravonsen
2nd Oct, 2003 13:48 (UTC)
Wild Surmise
There are few books and all too many of the records have to be opened... too much material is unsorted.

Sounds as if this is a field where an energetic person can make their mark. Like stout Cortez gazing on the Pacific with a wild surmise.

LOL!

I suspect, however, hawkeye is feeling discouraged because, while he will be discovering things that everyone's forgotten, he suspects that nobody will care. (sigh)

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )