The first time Australian forces fought alongside American troops was in WW1, at the famous and pivotal Battle of La Hamel, not in WW2 as our PM told the US Congress last year. Former serviceman John Ward corrects the record.
During June 1918 in France, ten companies of the 33rd American National Guard Division had been training with the Australian Corps for several weeks and four American companies went into the Battle of Le Hamel on the morning of 4 July. It was the first time that Australians and Americans had fought together in the First World War.
Two Australians, Thomas Axford and Henry Dalziel won Victoria Crosses for their conduct during the battle; Dalziel also becoming the one thousandth VC recipient.
American Corporal Thomas A Pope received the British Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George V on August 12, 1918. General Pershing presented Cpl Pope with his Medal of Honor on April 22, 1919. Cpl Pope was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor during the First World War. Pope and seven other doughboys were awarded the US Army's Distinguished Service Cross for actions during the Battle of Le Hamel.
We have never fought as quite so integrated a fighting force as on this occasion and both sides saw each other as 'brothers in arms'.
That was 93 years ago.
In just 93 minutes there were 1,062 Australian casualties, including 800 dead, as well as 176 American casualties (100 dead). There were probably 2,000 Germans killed and 1,600 captured.
Yet when Julia Gillard went to America in March last year, her speech writer overlooked this history, and had her tell the US Congress that we had fought alongside the USA for only the last sixty years.
You could understand it if this battle was just a minor skirmish — but this was a major turning point in the War.
It is disgraceful that two Victorian Crosses and the first Congressional Medal of Honor in WWI were ignored in this joint sitting of both US houses, where many on both sides of the aisle, and the Defence force representatives from Australia and the USA would have known of this history.
Julia, your speech writer let you, us and our old Diggers down badly.
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