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70th Anniversary Seminar Presenters


On 21 July, 2012, a seminar jointly sponsored by the Royal United Service Institute (Queensland) and the MacArthur Museum Brisbane was held at RUSI Hall, Victoria Barracks Brisbane.

The theme for the seminar was “General Douglas MacArthur – Agent of Change” and it featured a panel of eminent historians presenting views of General MacArthur not usually explored, including his role in the development of the Queensland rail network, the impact of his command of Australian Forces on their subsequent development, and his foundation role in the development of public relations in Australia.

The panel of presenters and extracts of their papers follows:

Keynote Address – Professor David Horner, AM

We were delighted to have Professor David Horner, AM, Professor of Defence History at the ANU Research School of Asian and Pacific Studies deliver the Keynote Address. Professor Horner is one of Australia’s most respected military historians and an acknowledged expert on General MacArthur. The author or editor of more than 28 books he was the Official Historian and general editor for the Official History of Australian Peacekeeping and Post Cold War Operations and is currently engaged in writing the official history of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Topic: General Douglas MacArthur and his Impact on Australia

Abstract: General Douglas MacArthur was one of the great figures in American military history. From the time he graduated from West Point in 1903, until his recall from commanding the United Nations forces in Korea in 1951, he served with distinction in the Philippines (as both a junior officer and as commander in the Second World War), in Mexico, in France (during the First World War), in Australia, and in Japan, where he was Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and, in effect, ruler of that nation. In the early 1930s he was Chief of Staff of the US Army. MacArthur’s command in Australia was, however, a turning point in his career. When he left the Philippines for Australia in March 1942, after suffering a bitter defeat, his career was under a cloud. By the time he left Australia in October 1944 his reputation had been restored. Australian forces had played a major role in helping him achieve his remarkable victories in New Guinea. Beyond the battlefield, however, MacArthur made a major impact on Australia life. This presentation will explain why this foreign general, who served in Australia for less than three years, had such a major effect on Australian history, and will explore the legacy of his involvement with Australia.

Dr Geraldine Mate and Mr Greg Hallam

Dr Geraldine Mate is the Senior Curator, Transport and Energy at the Workshops Rail Museum, a campus of the Queensland Museum. She began her working career as a Metallurgical Engineer, and spent a number of years working at a range of mines and processing plants. Her role at the Museum has allowed her to explore her research interests, which include broad considerations of social/industrial interplay in historical landscapes, the cultural heritage of industry and the adaption and selection of technology.

Greg Hallam is the Official Historian for Queensland Rail.  Greg Hallam is a member of the Professional Historians Association (Qld). Greg has had a professional career involved with cultural heritage in Queensland for nearly twenty years, and provides assistance and interpretation for many projects in (and outside of ) Queensland Rail relating to the 147 year history of the organisation. He also has a family involvement with Queensland Railways stretching back over a century.  

Topic: “They flogged us to death...” – Queensland Railways and the Second World War

Abstract: The role of the railways in World War II in Australia was pivotal. The movement of troops and supplies across such a large continent was a huge logistical undertaking, not least as the result of the variations in rail gauges across the states and territories. IN this environment, MacArthur’s famous passage across Australia in 1942 highlighted the importance and the weaknesses of Australia’s rail network. But did MacArthur profoundly change the face of rail in this country? In this paper, we discuss the role of rail in the context of wartime in Australia, particularly in Queensland. During the Second World War QR remained a civilian undertaking, yet the Queensland Railways remained resistant to change in some areas. The legacy of the war and the “American experience” did, however, influence the post war development of the railway system.

Dr Mark Lax, CSM, OAM

Dr Mark Lax served in the Royal Australian Air Force for more than thirty years, initially as a navigator on operational, test and evaluation, and instructional tours. In later years he commanded RAAF bases at East Sale and Richmond and well as holding senior staff positions in policy, plans and strategy. He is a graduate of the RAAF Academy, RAF Staff College Cranwell, and the US Air War College. In addition he is an alumni of the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales and the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Dr Lax was awarded the Conspicuous Service Medal in 1994 and the Order of Australia Medal in 2011. He is currently a member of the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal and consults for the Border Protection Command and the Defence College.

Topic: MacArthur and Australian Air Power

Abstract: The presentation will examine General MacArthur’s impact on the Royal Australian Air Force, how the RAAF changed as a result and the legacy of MacArthur’s involvement with Australian air defence. At the beginning of the War in 1939, the RAAF was little more than an amateur flying club. By war’s end it was the fourth largest air force in the world, due mainly to the Pacific campaign. General MacArthur fired his first air commander, General George Brett, and installed a dynamo, General George Kenney, to get the air support he needed. Kenney soon found he had to work with the RAAF under Australian air commander Air Vice-Marshal Bill Bostock. Bostock’s relationship with RAAF Chief George Jones was not a happy one and led to the RAAF being sidelined by Kenney who needed to get on with the job. MacArthur’s legacy was to inadvertently develop the RAAF as able to mount expeditionary air operations across a quarter of the globe. How this emerged is the essence of this paper.

Dr Ian Pfennigwerth

Dr Ian Pfennigwerth spent 35 years in the Royal Australian Navy in seagoing, staff and overseas postings, his last twelve years being spent primarily in the intelligence sphere. He commanded the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth II, served as Director of Naval Intelligence for three years and was the Defence Attaché in Beijing for two. Resigning in 1992, he built a consultancy in Asian business development for the Australian ITC sector. Since 2002, Ian has worked more-or-less fulltime on topics in Australia’s naval history, making frequent public presentations, presenting papers at professional conferences and seminars, lecturing at the RAN College, supporting and assisting other authors in the genre, and researching and writing several books. He is currently a visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

Topic: MacArthur and the ‘Quiet Revolution’ in Australian Naval Affairs

Abstract: General MacArthur did not always enjoy the confidence and cooperation of the US Navy but he was an unknown quantity to the Royal Australian Navy, which became part of his order of battle when he assumed supreme command of SWPA in March 1942. The imposition of MacArthur’s General Headquarters might have sparked painful and radical change in the way the RAN did its business and performed its roles. That it did not is due to the considered and pragmatic outlook adopted by MacArthur’s naval commanders, who were less concerned with issues of nationality and prestige and more with how best to get the tasks set by MacArthur done efficiently, and discovered that the tiny RAN had a lot to offer them. The RAN thrived in this environment as a quiet revolution in its thinking, organisation, operating methods and spheres of responsibility took place. By the war’s end it had transmogrified from one element of a British Imperial Fleet into a ‘full-service’ navy, quite capable and confident of standing on its own two feet.

William Hopper

Will Hopper is a British investment banker who was one of the founders of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Born in Glasgow, he also enjoyed a brief political career as a member of the European Parliament. During his lengthy business career he has served on numerous boards in Europe and North America and provided commentary and criticism of economic and fiscal policy around the world. In 2006, along with his brother Kenneth, he wrote The Puritan Gift, an examination of the impact of the protestant work ethic in the leadership and management of American industrial and commercial enterprise. The book was deemed one of the ten most important business books of 2007 by the London Financial Times and was republished in paperback in 2009. In addition to his business and literary activities, Will Hopper has also been a trustee of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases Development Trust as well being involved in numerous Unitarian church activities.

Topic: Douglas MacArthur and the Meeting of East and West

Abstract: My presentation will be based on the pivotal role that General MacArthur and his staff played in the resurgence of the post-war Japanese communications and electronics industries that launched Japan’s economic miracle and transformed the global balance of power.

Dr Christopher Strakosch

Dr Chris Strakosch is the Associate Professor of Medicine and Head of Medicine at the Greenslopes Hospital campus of the University of Queensland. A graduate of Sydney University, he was awarded a Doctorate in Medicine by the University of Queensland in 1980. At Greenslopes he specialises in endocrinology, but has had a lifelong passion for history and armchair soldiering. He is Chairman of the History Unit at Greenslopes and has published two books on hospital history. He also maintains two history websites dealing with medical and general history.

Topic: US Military Hospitals in Brisbane during World War Two

Abstract: The first military medical unit of the US arrived in Australia on Dec 22, 1942 on board the Pensacola convoy which had sailed before the attack on Pearl Harbor but which had then been diverted from the Philippines. Colonel Carol later transferred from Manila and took command of US medical services from a base in Melbourne. The US Army divided Australia into sections for medical administration, Southern Queensland being designated Section 3. By Sept 1943, Section 3 controlled 2 General Hospitals: 42nd GH Holland Park with 3000 beds (moved from Stuartholme October 1943) staffed by University of Maryland Medical School, and 105 GH at Gatton with 1200 beds staffed by Harvard Medical School. There were also 2 Evacuation Hospitals, (155 Station Hospital at Camp Cable, Tamborine and 153 Station Hospital, The Southport School, Gold Coast), 2 Surgical Hospitals, 8 Portable Surgical Hospitals, 1 Medical Supply Depot and the 3rd Medical Laboratory Brisbane. The US Navy also operated 109 Fleet Hospital (initially known as Mobile 9) at Camp Hill with another 2600 beds. The naval hospital ratio of battle casualties to medical patients at approximately 1:2 was much higher than the army hospitals in which the majority of patients were admitted with malaria, other tropical diseases or for treatment of routine problems such as appendicitis or venereal disease. Malaria was the second front in the South West Pacific area, allied with scrub typhus, dengue fever and dysentery. During the course of the war, at one time or another, about 65% of US and Australian troops were rendered combat ineffective due to malaria and much research was performed by the US and Australian Armies into, ultimately successful, ways of combating and treating this devastating problem. Another 25% of troops were evacuated with scrub typhus, dengue and dysentery- a total of 90%, though most returned to the field. Battle casualties were about 10% killed in action and 20% wounded.

Michael Watson

Mike Watson, BA, MA, FPRIA has 30 years’ experience in media, public relations consultancy, corporate, not-for-profit, government, and research. He is Officer of the Public Relations Institute of Australia College of Fellows, a lecturer with Swinburne University, and working on a PhD.

Topic: Emergence of Public Relations in Australia – The Role of General Douglas MacArthur

Abstract: At least two sets of circumstances link the emergence of modern public relations in Australia to the onset, progression, and post World War II (1939-1945) period. One involved Richard “Dick” Casey, Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, 1939-1940. From Washington, Casey propagated Australia’s wartime media profile to a then neutral United States. The second started shortly after February 1942 when Darwin (Australia’s most northern city) was first bombed by the same Japanese navy fleet that had earlier devastated Pearl Harbour. Less than a month later, US General Douglas MacArthur arrived in northern Australia from the tunnels of Corregidor with a small team of officers, including at least two skilled in public relations. After headquartering briefly in Melbourne before Brisbane, MacArthur relocated to Port Moresby, where in 1944, a RAN officer Asher Joel, (later Sir Asher), was seconded into the General’s PR unit. An experienced journalist and publicist, Joel served with MacArthur during the liberation of The Philippines. After learning how modern PR was practised in the US and by its Army, Joel used his de-mob money at war end to create one of Australia’s first public relations consultancies. As a pioneering PR practitioner, Joel helped establish the first Australian association for public relations professionals in 1949. Australian public relations is now a billion dollar a year industry. Perceived – rightly or wrongly – to have significant influence, socially, politically and economically, little is known or published on how public relations emerged in Australia. MacArthur, a catalyst for change, is still debated and written of 70 years later by Australian public relations scholars, but much more detail about his role remains to be rediscovered and shared.

The seminar ran from 9am to 4:30 pm.