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Australia at forefront of secret war technology

Military historian Dr Craig Bellamy
Military historian Dr Craig Bellamy

New research shows that Australia played a far greater role in the development of technology used to find enemy radar during World War II than has been credited previously.

Charles Darwin University PhD graduand and military historian Dr Craig Bellamy said primary sources showed that early radio countermeasures (RCM) in the Pacific was largely an Australian initiative, in contrast with the commonly held “half-truth” that it had an American genesis.

“Written history emphatically records that the electronic intelligence organisation Section 22 set up by General [Douglas] MacArthur was the first RCM organisation in Australia, but in fact there was a small secret group carrying out RCM operations before Section 22,” Dr Bellamy said.

“The obscure history of the early development of RCM and the role of the RCM Organisation and then Section 22 are important missing elements in Australia’s military history, which I have sought to redress.”

Dr Bellamy said that when WWII began, radar was a new and fast evolving military technology, which provided advance warning of an approaching threat.

“The Allies held the view that Japan was a backward nation and chose to believe they couldn’t possibly have such technology,” he said. “This period of ‘cozy ignorance’ suddenly ended when the first Japanese radar set was captured by US forces in the Solomons in 1942.”

He said this realisation came as a great shock to the Allies and led to a reluctant new respect for the technology possessed by the Japanese.

“Firstly, the Allies needed to figure out the types and efficiency of the various Japanese radars and to map where they were,” Dr Bellamy said. “Once this intelligence had been gathered then countermeasures could be employed, which included to jam or destroy the radar sites.

“Australia’s early RCM operations demonstrated ingenuity, innovation and determination at a time when the national future looked bleak. They were strikingly successful and made a significant contribution to the Allied war effort.”

Dr Bellamy’s PhD thesis is titled “The Beginnings of the Secret Australian Radar Countermeasures Unit during the Pacific War”.

He will participate in CDU’s virtual graduation ceremony tomorrow, 18 September.