Today, 4 July, we send our warmest wishes to our American friends and allies on their Independence Day, the 242nd anniversary of the United States Declaration of Independence.
On 4 July Americans celebrate the birth of their nation and the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law so perfectly expressed in the Declaration’s second sentence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Self-evident these truths may be, but generation after generation has had to fight, as the American revolutionaries did, to win them and to hold them once won.
142 years after the Declaration of Independence and a hundred years ago, American and Australian soldiers fought side by side, for the first time.
It was in the Battle of Hamel, a great victory and a turning point in the First World War.
Early on 4 July 1918, a combined Australian, American and British force engaged enemy positions in the village of Hamel and surrounding areas. For the first time in the war, American troops took part in an offensive under the command of Australia’s General Sir John Monash.
John Monash is rightly honoured as our greatest General. Intelligent, hardworking and fair, he represented the best qualities of Australia. After success on the battlefield of the First World War, Monash was appointed Lieutenant General in May 1918 and given command of the Australian Corps. His first battle in this role, Hamel showed that he was an innovative leader and the battle earned him high praise from many leading political and military figures.
At the time, the Battle of Hamel was arguably the most sophisticated joint operation in history, involving the coordinated use of air drops, artillery and a line of British tanks. Monash's ability to realise the combined potential of these weapons is what is said to have distinguished him from other commanders in the battlefield. Monash remained in command through the victorious battles in the last months of the war.
The Battle of Hamel was a turning point that put the German army on the defensive right up until Armistice Day. For Australia and the United States it was the beginning of a hundred years of mateship. A hundred years in which we have fought together, in freedom’s cause, in every major conflict.
Over the years our alliance, reinforced by the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, has become stronger and stronger.
Our partnership is as broad as it is deep, extending to every area of national security co-operation from the conflicts of the Middle East and Central Asia to the realm of cyberspace.
As Australia marks 100 years of mateship, we look forward to the next 100 years, confident in the alliance and its contribution to the long peace that has enabled so much economic growth, so many millions lifted out of poverty here in the Indo-Pacific.