This study is about the relationship between the Australian civilian and military communities and United States service personnel in Australia and the changing role of the use of Australia as an American base between 1941 and 1945. The thesis examines the impact of the American presence on Australia's development and cultural identity, and deals thematically with the major social issues which arose as a result of wartime conditions and behaviour. In this context it contributes to our understanding of the Australian government and people's response to the experience of total war.
The deployment of United States forces to the South-West Pacific Area placed enormous and in numerous instances excessive demands on the Australian war effort for labour and materials for the construction of defence facilities throughout Australia, for accommodation, for services of supply and for locally-engaged staff. The civilian community also became conscious of American requirements for scarce and rationed commodities, for entertainment and for companionship.
As an ally the United States forces were warmly welcomed by the Australian government and people during the early months of 1942. Subsequently this wartime partnership produced friction at many levels. Following the introduction of economic controls and a civilian austerity campaign during the second half of 1942 and the impact of the American policy of fully utilising the Australian base, the Curtin administration endeavoured to maintain a balanced war effort. Despite repeated requests by the Australian Army, the Australian government failed to establish appropriate administrative machinery to co-ordinate American requirements and review periodically the impact of these demands.
The influx of United States forces into Australia also posed many legal and social problems, the most significant of which were the jurisdictional status of those forces and their effect on traditional social behaviour as well as the family structure and values. Against the background of crimes of murder and rape committed by American personnel, the Australian government readily acquiesced to the United States Army's requests to exercise legal jurisdiction over members of its forces who committed civil and criminal offences on Australian soil.