British Commonwealth Occupation Forces – Japan

 

Participation in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) marked the first time that Australians were involved in the military occupation of a sovereign nation which it had defeated in war. BCOF participation in the allied occupation force was announced on 31 January 1946, though planning and negotiations had been in progress since the end of the war. The main body of Australian troops arrived in Japan on 21 February.

Up to 45,000 Australians served in BCOF, including an infantry contingent of 4,700, base units consisting of 5,300, an air force wing of 2,200 and 130 from the Australian General Hospital. The Australian Navy also had a presence in the region as part of the British Pacific Fleet. For two thirds of the period of occupation the Commonwealth was represented solely by Australians and throughout its existence BCOF was always commanded by an Australian officer.

Japanese prefectures

The BCOF area of responsibility was the western prefectures of Shimani, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima and Shikoku Island. BCOF headquarters were located at Kure, the army was encamped at Hiro, the RAAF at Iwakuni, and the naval shore establishment at the former Japanese naval base at Kure. At the peak of its involvement the Australian component of BCOF was responsible for over 20 million Japanese citizens and 57,000 sq. kilometres of country. Adjacent to the area of Australian responsibility were prefectures occupied by the 2 New Zealand EF (Japan), the British and Indian Division (Brindiv) and, further away, the US 8th Army. 

100 Yen BCOF note

The main Australian occupation component was the 34th Infantry Brigade, which arrived in early 1946, and was made up of the 65th, 66th and 67th Battalions. The RAN ships that served were: HMAS Australia, HMAS Hobart, HMAS Shropshire and the destroyers: HMAS AruntaBataanCulgoaMurchisonShoalhavenQuadrantQuiberon. Landing Ships Infantry: ManooraWestralia and Kanimbla were used for transport. 

The Australian air force component was stationed at Bofu, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The RAAF Squadrons which served were No. 76, No. 77 and No. 82, all flying Mustangs. The air force component of BCOF was known as BCAIR. By 1950 only one Australian squadron, No 77, remained in Japan.

By early 1947, BCOF had begun to decline from its peak of over 40,000 service personnel from the UK, New Zealand, India and Australia and, by the end of 1948, BCOF was composed entirely of Australians. The force was dismantled during 1951 as responsibilities in Japan were handed over to the British Commonwealth Forces Korea. Some personnel stayed on to serve in the Korean War. Members of No 77 Squadron, for example, had their ‘going home’ celebrations interrupted by the news that they were to be sent immediately to Korea. BCOF ceased to exist on 28 April 1951 when the Japanese Peace Treaty came into effect.

BCOF

The primary objective of BCOF was to enforce the terms of the unconditional surrender that had ended the war the previous September. The task of exercising military government over Japan was the responsibility of the United States forces. BCOF was required to maintain military control and to supervise the demilitarization and disposal of the remnants of Japan’s war making capacity. To this end, Australian army and air force personnel were involved in the location and securing of military stores and installations.

BCOF medal, Australian

The Intelligence Sections of the Australian battalions were given targets to investigate by BCOF Headquarters, in the form of grid references for dumps of Japanese military equipment. Warlike materials were destroyed and other equipment was kept for use by BCOF or returned to the Japanese. The destruction or conversion to civilian use of military equipment was carried out by Japanese civilians under Australian supervision. Regular patrols and road reconnaissances were initiated and carried out in the Australian area of responsibility as part of BCOF’s general surveillance duties.

The RAN component of BCOF was responsible for patrolling the Inland Sea to prevent both smuggling and the illegal immigration of Koreans to Japan. In this task they were assisted by the RAAF whose aircraft were also involved in tracking vessels suspected of smuggling or transporting illegal immigrants. RAAF squadrons also flew surveillance patrols over each of the prefectures in the BCOF zone in order to help locate left over weapons and ordnance.

During 1947, the BCOF began to wind down its presence in Japan. However, BCOF bases provided staging posts for Commonwealth forces deployed to the Korean War from 1950 onwards. The BCOF was effectively wound-up in 1951, as control of Commonwealth forces in Japan was transferred to British Commonwealth Forces Korea.

Click on images to enlarge.

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BCOF Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kjell F. Andersen – New London, CT; Merchant Marines, WWII, ETO, / US Army, Korea

Mary Barraco – Renaix, BEL; Danish Resistance, WWII, Captain, USO, POW

Albert Bracy (104) – Durham, CAN; Queen’s Own Rifles, WWII, Hamilton Light Infantry

Leslie Edgerton – NZ; RAF/ RNZ Air Force, WWII, ETO, 75th Squadron

Lyle “Moose” Hardy – Belconnen, AUS; RA Air Force, Sgt., (Ret.)

Kenneth Johnson – Doncaster, ENG; RAF, WWII, Warrant Officer, 61st & 9th Squadrons

Alan Lepper – Taranaki, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 432823, WWII

Vera McLane – London, ENG; RAF, WWII, Photograph intelligence

James K. Thompson – Allentown, NY/Largo, FL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Esme Wirth – Leeton, AUS; Australian Womens Land Army, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 20, 2020, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 105 Comments.

  1. I don’t see how that applies here.

    Like

  2. New South Wales sent troops to Egypt in 1885, as did the Canadians. There is a great deal of history we are never taught in school. Great work digging out some of these unknown pieces of history. “History” tends to concentrate on the deeds of the country teaching the history and it takes work by bloggers like you to expose the full contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They started the War – killed millions – and we end up babysitting them at massive expense. It’s lose / lose all the way around. But of course, the average Japanese citizen had nothing to do with any of it. What a world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How interesting- I didn’t realize that the US wasn’t the only country occupying Japan (which is silly I suppose! Of course things wouldve been divvied up…) Thanks for another enlightening post, GP!

    Like

  5. I grew up thinking of Australia as the land of kangaroos and kookaburras (sitting in the old gum tree). We never considered the people there, and even as an adult, the movies that started coming out, like Crocodile Dundee, just didn’t give a true picture of the people. It’s so interesting to read about their contributions to various wars, and to this occupation.

    Your mention of their toughness is spot on. Anyone who didn’t realize that has seen it during their wildfire horror.

    Like

  6. Lost my father Jack Isaacs yesterday, 93 years old . He was a Paratrooper, served in the Pacific zone 1943-1945. Was a strong and wise man.

    Like

  7. I learned about the occupation of Japan after the war,

    Like

  8. One of the fellows who lives in our retirement complex was born in Japan while his father was stationed there with the BCOF.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another awesome historical piece

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Good article GP. My RSM in Singapore when I was in ANZUK Force had served in the occupation forces and had married a Japanese girl. ANZUK force was a short-lived brigade-strength Australian, New Zealand UK force stationed in Singapore in the early 70s — may have been established late 60s, I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Super post…it is never just a war, there is all the aftermath to deal with.
    My mother’s father was in the Australian forces in the first world war…which is how he met my grandmother who a nurse. He was a real tough nut and no respecter of persons!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can understand you grandfather’s feelings – humans don’t seem to be part of Nature (IMO). Being at top of the food chain, it appears war is how we “thin out the herd” – but we’re the only species that sacrifices the best and protects the worse and weakest.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I always learn so much from your posts, GP. Thank you for educationing me!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Fascinating information, GP. I was stationed at the MCAS Iwakuni for four years and never knew of the RAAF at that base. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure. I’ve tried to put in as much info about other nations, but so much is merely listed as “Commonwealth” it is difficult to credit where it’s due.

      Like

  14. Thank you GP! Nice piece of information. Never thought about a participation of the BCOF. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great to know this history. I have met a few men and women who were part of the BCOF. It serves to remind us that war is never just combat, there’s always a prelude and postlude.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post, GP! Very interesting and I learned much I did not know before.
    I am grateful for all who served then and it always makes me cry to think of those who died.
    Grateful, too, for all who serve around the world now.
    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 1 person

  17. That “just graduated basic training” cartoon” isn’t far-fetched when you consider that Trump knows more than the Generals — and he didn’t even get inducted, much less go through basic training.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Interesting post. I did not know the Australians were involved in the British occupation of Japan. Something new I learn today. Thanks GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A fascinating post. Interesting to see that the BCOF also played a part in the early part of Korean War of the early 50s.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It never ceases to amaze me at the involvement of Australia in the war. They certainly continued their formality of drills even though it was an occupation and not wartime. Very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The post-war occupation and reconstruction was definitely not covered in school. Always an education here, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. The Australians fought on the side of the British here in South Africa too. They were highly regarded because of the abilities as marksmen and horsemen, which was really useful in fighting the Boers. Interesting to learn about their involvement in Japan.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Another informative post, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. That was pretty interesting. Didn’t know this.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Nice write-up GP! Interesting to see how the Occupation was administered!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Appropriately enough for this interesting post you include ANZACs in the Farewell Salutes. I appreciate all the research you do to make your presentation of the war so well-rounded. 👏👍

    Liked by 1 person

  27. It takes a lot of dedicated souls to keep the peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Great cartoon. Where did you find it? I learned things I never even thought of in this post. Thanks for expanding my horizons.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Good to see the inclusion of Commonwealth forces. Britain relied on them so heavily during both world wars, it was only right that they should get to share some responsibility for the occupation.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thanks very much for that. It was really interesting. I hadn’t realised that quite so many Commonwealth countries were involved.
    I wasn’t surprised though, that the British and the Indians were working together. The two nationalities have always gone on very well.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. 45,000 people, that’s a lot of people. To be in a war, then assigned to an occupation force and then for some to be sent to Korea. That must have been quite a ride. I never knew anything about the occupation and transition to a stable government. These posts have been so interesting. Thanks GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Most interesting. I had no idea the Australians played such a large role in Japan after the end of the war. On my recent trip to Cairns, Australia, I enjoyed reading all the signage concerning the WW2 history of Trinity Beach. Many US service personnel would have known the area well. https://cairnsartsandculturemap.com.au/world-war-ii-training-at-trinity-beach

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Good to see this report on BCOF – especially the Australian contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Thank you very much for carrying this article on your website. Much appreciated.

    Like

  35. Thank you very much, Robbie.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: War service takes many forms….. – Test Patterns

  2. Pingback: British Commonwealth Occupation Forces – Japan — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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