18 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 562 (extract) WASHINGTON, 26 July 1941, 2 a.m.

MOST SECRET

Received 26 July 1941

My No. 559. [1] I saw Secretary of Navy. [2] He told me confidentially that naval arrangements under which the United States Navy take over the protection of merchant shipping in north-west Atlantic were well advanced and that this control would begin to come into operation possibly within a week and that this should provide appreciable relief to British Navy in Atlantic. He said, of course, the movements of British warships from the Atlantic to Singapore would be a matter for decision by the British Government. He said that the United States Government had no proposals in view for movements of any more American warships from the Pacific into the Atlantic. I understand from British sources that although the above-mentioned American control of north-west Atlantic may begin within a week it is unlikely to be fully established for two or even three weeks.

With reference to Prime Minister's telegram No. 80 [3] I can well understand your anxiety to get undertaking of armed support from United States Government in view of possibility of conflict in the Far East arising from the result of the joint economic action.

However, I believe that it will be impossible to get such undertaking. I believe that events and not logic[al] [4] arguments will drive the United States into belligerency. However, I believe that the present moment is appropriate to seek to get a speeding up of the naval plans arrived at in the staff conversations in Washington in March 1941 [5] which entail a redistribution of naval forces as between the Atlantic and Singapore. As you will remember, the abovementioned plan entailed the movement of three United States capital ships from the Pacific into the Atlantic.

This has already been done. The plan envisaged the movement of six British capital ships from the Atlantic to Singapore on the United States becoming belligerent and on the threat of war in the Far East.

[matter omitted]

CASEY

1 Document 17 2 Colonel Franklin Knox.

3 R. G. Menzies's cablegram is published as Document 16.

4 Corrected from the Washington copy on file AA : A3300, 98.

5 The report of the United States-British staff conversations at Washington, dated 27 March 1941, was attached as Annex C to a War Cabinet submission of 14 May 1941. See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 455.

[AA : A1608, A41/1/5, iii]