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Image: State Library of Queensland Image No. 72633 – Air raid shelters on Ann Street, Brisbane, 1942

History of the MacArthur Museum

MacArthur Museum- Brisbane is dedicated to telling the stories of the Allied campaign in the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA); the role of US General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of Allied forces in SWPA; and the impact of the war on the city of Brisbane and its people.

The MacArthur Museum -Brisbane is part of the heritage listed MacArthur Chambers building at 201 Edward Street Brisbane The majority of the headquarters of major formations within SWPA were located in this building. Allied Land Command was located at St Lucia under General Sir Thomas Blamey an appointment he held as the majority of ground combat troops in SWPA were Australian until April !944. General Douglas MacArthur commanded the war in the SWPA from July 1942 to November 1944 from his office on the 8th floor.

Prior to its requisitioning by the Commonwealth Government , General Douglas MacArthur's office had been the Board Room of the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP Society) MacArthur Museum- Brisbane incorporates the restored office of US General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) during WWII.

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MacArthur Museum- Brisbane is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to telling the story of Brisbane at War from 1939 to 1945. It houses a number of important artefacts and documents and attracts large numbers of school students as well as members of the general public to commemorate the significance of this period in Australia’s history.

Stage 1 – Official Opening

The then Queensland Premier Peter Beattie officially opened the MacArthur Museum on 15 August 2004, the 59th anniversary of the end of the fighting in the Pacific.On opening the Museum, Peter Beattie said “We have our indigenous history but we also have our contemporary history – particularly the involvement of MacArthur in the war, and the wars themselves.” (1)

Stage 2 – Brisbane Wartime Experience

Stage two of the exhibition, sponsored by the Brisbane City Council, opened to the public on 6 March 2007. It focuses on the Brisbane wartime experience:

• the wartime experience of children
• wartime entertainment
• the role of the Queensland railways
• the operations and impact on the city of the Navy, Army and Air Force.

At a time when it was feared that Brisbane might be attacked, the Museum takes you through the story of a ‘Brisbane at War’ and covers aspects of the era, and their impact on the people of Brisbane. It covers topics such as the impact of restrictions on food, fuel, clothing and personal freedoms.

Stage 3 – South West Pacific Area Gallery

The SWPA Gallery was funded by a grant from the US Mission to Australia through the US Consul General’s Office in Sydney. Its focus is on the emergence of the spirit of cooperation which developed between Australian and US forces operating in SWPA. The gallery exhibits are designed so that different aspects of the campaign can be highlighted over time. At present, there are exhibits focussed on the cooperation between the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy; the Australian and US defence of Milne Bay and the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Army Air Force. New galleries are being exhibited regularly.

Stage 4 – The Brisbane at War Gallery

This gallery focuses on issues such as civil defence, austerity (War Bonds and rationing of food, fuel and clothing material) and social life. It will expand upon the exhibits already found in Wartime Experience displays.

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August 2022