In the campaign against Japan in the Pacific during the Second World War, the armed forces of the United States, Australia, and in the Australian colonies of Papua and New Guinea made use of Aboriginal peoples in new capacities.
The United States had long used American Indians as soldiers and scouts in frontier conflicts and in wars with other nations. With the advent of the Navajo Code Talkers in the Pacific theatre, Native servicemen were now being employed for contributions that were unique to their Native culture.
In contrast, Australia, Papua, and New Guinea had long attempted to keep Aboriginal peoples out of the armed forces altogether. With the threat of Japanese invasion, however, they began to bring Aboriginal peoples into the military as guerrilla patrollers, coast-watchers, and regular soldiers.
Defending Whose Country? is a comparative study of the military participation of Papua New Guineans, Yolngu, and Navajos in the Pacific War.
In examining the decisions of state and military leaders to bring Aboriginal peoples into military service, as well as the decisions of Aboriginal individuals to serve in the armed forces, Noah Riseman reconsiders the impact of the largely forgotten contributions of Aboriginal soldiers in the Second World War.
Noah Riseman is a senior lecturer in history at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. This book is based on his dissertation, which won the 2009 C. E. W. Bean Prize for Military History.