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Australia Declares War

8 DEC 1941: Australia is at war with Japan. Australia announces that it is at war with Japan. Some 17,000 Australians would die in the three-and-a-half-year war against Japan, 8,000 as prisoners of war. Just one hour after Japanese bombers struck at Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941, Prime Minister John Curtin of Australia declared that “from one hour ago, Australia has been at war with the Japanese Empire.”

War was formally declared at 11:15 A.M., December 9, Australian time (8:15 P.M., December 8, American E.S.T.). Announcing Australia’s recognition that a state of war existed, Prime Minister Curtin said at 7:30 A.M., American E.S.T., December 8: “The Australian Government and its representatives abroad have struggled hard to prevent a breakdown of this kind.

“We did not want war in the Pacific. The Australian Government has repeatedly made it clear, as have the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Netherlands East Indies, that if war came to the Pacific it would be of Japan’s making. Japan has now made war.

“The hands of the democracies are clean. The discussions and negotiations between Japan and the democracies were no mere bandying of words on the democracies’ part. Since last February it has been the aim of the democracies to keep the peace in the Pacific. The best brains of the democracies were brought to bear for this end.

“It is on record that the President of the United States and Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, and the British and Dominions Governments worked untiringly and unceasingly. Yet when the President of the United States decided to communicate direct with the Japanese Emperor in support of an appeal for Imperial intervention on the side of peace, the war government of Japan struck.

“That war government, bent on aggression, and lusting for power, and acting in the fashion of its Axis partners, anticipated the undoubted weight of the President’s message and shattered the century-old friendship of the two countries.

“For the first time in the history of the Pacific, armed conflict stalks abroad. No other country than Japan desired war in the Pacific. The responsibility for this actual resort to war is therefore upon Japan…. Australia goes to its battle stations in defense of its very way of living.”

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