142 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 762 [1] CANBERRA, 30 November 1941


Your telegram 30th November, M.4062, most secret and personal.

Australian Government's position is that we have been awaiting your advice regarding the four operations presumably open to Japan. We pointed out that attack on Thailand and a further attack on China were regarded by us as imminent, and that the N.E.I. and Russia also are potential theatres of Japanese action, but that no understanding of what should be done or not done in any one of these four contingencies had been reached. Our High Commissioner was requested to consult Page with view to urgent consideration by British War Cabinet of these four possibilities.

He was advised that we considered understanding should be reached either with U.S.A. participation or without U.S.A. participation.

[3] We still consider this imperative.

Regarding your M.406, our view is that the Commander-in-Chief, Far East [4], is advising on the presumption:

(1) the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S.A. Asiatic Fleets does undertake your reconnaissance on the line Manila-Camranh, and (2) that the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S.A. Asiatic Fleet establishes the fact that escorted Japanese ships are approaching Kra Isthmus.

It is urgent to impress U.S.A. with obligation arising from its certification of Japanese aggression. We feel U.S.A. evidence warranting our taking precautions at least requires acceptance by U.S.A. of her responsibility for the course we thereby think inevitable. But if this is not practicable because of constitutional reasons, we hope preliminary understanding at least will be attained.

We further point out:-

1. Available evidence Japanese Expeditionary Force seems to be based on U.S. Intelligence Report which also suggests:-

(a) Commander proposed expedition still in Japan;

(b) any attack by Japanese will not come until after breakdown of Hull-Kurusu [6] talks.

2. Our latest advices from Washington are that in the event of Japanese attack on Thailand no definite understandings armed support from United States can be anticipated. [7]

3. This may result in position which you regarded as worst possible from Empire point of view, namely war with Japan, United States neutral.

4. Crosby reported on 21st November [8] that Prime Minister of Thailand [9] regarded with suspicion the suggestion of British- Thailand co-operation in the region of Kra Isthmus. Crosby further stated if we occupy Isthmus before actual attack by Japan, Thailand would oppose us by force and the 'fat would be in the fire'. Perhaps this dangerous possibility can be definitely excluded on the assumption of the event contemplated by you, namely Japanese ships with escort actually approaching the Isthmus.

5. Suggest Crosby obtain definite statement of the attitude of Thailand in the event of such an attack by Japan.

6. Am calling special War Cabinet tomorrow afternoon. We would be glad of your Cabinet's consideration subject matter of our telegram of 29th November to Bruce. [10] Please see that Bruce and Page receive a copy of this telegram.


1 Repeated to the Minister to the United States as no. 133 and to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 501. Curtin also instructed the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom (S. M. Bruce) to see the Dominions Office copy of this cablegram and to show it to the Special Representative in the United Kingdom (Sir Earle Page). See cablegram 7511 of 30 November on file AA : A1608, A41/1/5, iv.

2 Document 139.

3 See Document 135.

4 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

5 Admiral Thomas C. Hart.

6 U.S. Secretary of State and Japanese special envoy to the United States.

7 See Documents 133 and 140.

8 The U.K. Minister to Thailand's cablegram is on file AA : A981, Thailand 2.

9 Maj Gen Luang P. Pibulsonggram.

10 Document 135.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 178]