Yesterday marked 75 years since the end of the World War II, the most destructive global conflict in human history both in terms of economic cost and in terms of the estimated 70-85 million combatants and civilians killed during the fighting.
Due to differing time zones the event was celebrated across much of the world on August 15, which has been called VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day ever since.
For the 75th anniversary, and to demonstrate its gratitude and pay its respects to the surviving veterans, the Federal Government has struck a medallion for issue to all remaining men and women who served during World War II.
Families of the Western Australians who count amongst the nearly one million Australians who served, can apply for the Commemorative Medallion and Certificate of Commemoration.
More than 100 Western Australian veterans of World War II have applied already.
Japan’s acceptance of the Allied demand for unconditional surrender was not formalised until September 2.
The previous six years had seen almost one million Australian men and women serve in bloody campaigns against Germany and Italy in Europe, the Mediterranean and north Africa, and against Japan in south-east Asia and other parts of the Pacific.
The Australian mainland came under direct attack for the first time, as Japanese aircraft bombed towns in north-west Australia and Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour.
At the time of the German defeat and Japanese surrender, 39,000 Australians had lost their lives.
More than 30,000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner during the war. Those imprisoned by the Germans in Europe and the Middle East had a strong chance of returning home at the war’s end, but 36 per cent of prisoners taken by the Japanese died as captives.
For Australia as a nation, the end of the World War II was also the start of a transition to a peacetime society and economy.
By the end of 1946 more than 500,000 men and women had returned to civilian life. Rationing of sugar, meat and clothing had ended by 1948, but unpopular rationing of petrol, tea and butter remained until 1950.
While the conflict brought significant changes to Australia as a nation through post-war immigration, population growth and a modern economy, the sacrifice of those who served will never be forgotten.
The medallion and the accompanying certificate can be applied for by World War II veterans or their families on their behalf.
Applications can be made online at https://portal.nationalmailing.com.au/DVA/certificate or by phone on 1800 838 372.
As stated by Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley:
“An estimated 88,000 Western Australians served in World War II overseas and at home.
“More than 61,000 Western Australians enlisted in the Army, the highest number per head of population of any Australian State or Territory.
“About 12,000 Australian World War II veterans are still alive today, so we are fortunate to still have a tangible, human link with the conflict.
“Unlike the Great War of 1914-18, that never reached our shores, World War II came to us.
“On March 3, 1942 Broome was attacked by Japanese fighter planes. At least 70 people were killed and 24 aircraft destroyed. Japanese fighters also attacked Wyndham on the same day.
“Broome was again hit on March 20, and Derby suffered its only raid the same day.
“It could be said that World War II made Australia a modern nation, so in that regard it is very much part of us today, and will be part of us for generations to come.”
Minister’s office – 6552 5300