More than little heroes: Australian Army Air Liaison Officers in the Second World War

Author/s (editor/s):

Nicola Baker

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 106

The Second World War marked a major turning point in the history of army-air relations, as the demands of modern warfare confronted Allied armies and air forces with the inescapability of cooperation and the importance of instituting optimum communications, control and coordination arrangements. One of the most creative and formidable army-air partnerships of the war evolved in the South-West pacific between 1942 and 1945. It was there too that Australian forces gained their most extensive experience to date in the coordination of land and air operations.

This monograph chronicles the wartime experiences of a small Australian Army unit whose contribution to the success of the South-West Pacific campaigns was out of all proportion to its size. Individually attached to air force commands and squadrons, the Australian Air Liaison Officers facilitated the safe and effective coordination of air and land operations through the timely two-way transmission of pertinent intelligence. Their command and imaginative assistance to both services did much to create the mutual understanding and respect so fundamental to successful cooperation and the full exploitation of tactical air power.

More Than Little Heroes is more than a unit history for it places air liaison in the context of the wider Australian experience of army-air cooperation, charting the evolution of doctrine and reflecting on the challenges and opportunities that shaped practice at every level - from strategy to tactics. It explains the fall and rise of interest in tactical air power from its inception in the First World War through the dark days of 1940 to its rehabilitation in the Middle East campaigns; discusses the air support difficulties which required the attachment of army Air Liaison Officers to air force units; details the political and operational imperatives that shaped air support doctrine and command policy in the South-West Pacific; and reveals that Australian soldiers and airmen were pioneers in the development of army-air liaison, air support communications and airborne forward air control.

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