188 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States

CANBERRA, 13 December 1941 Cablegram 153


Please convey the following personal message to the President [1]:Begins.

'On the entry of the United States of America into the war against Germany and Italy as well as Japan I desire, on behalf of the people of Australia, to express to you as the representative of the people of America how greatly we have been heartened and strengthened by the knowledge that the English-speaking world and the majority of mankind are now arrayed against the common foe.

2. We in Australia are firmly resolved, come what may, to do our utmost to defend to the limit of our capacity the Commonwealth and adjacent territories in the South-Western Pacific and to co- operate in the general plan for the defeat of the enemy. As you are no doubt aware, we have land, sea and air forces in the Malaya-East Indies area.

3. When the risks to Australia were not as great as at the present time, we sent some of our Naval and Air forces as far afield as Britain and we have three Army divisions and Air forces in the Middle East. We have also contributed several thousand men to the Empire Air Training scheme and hope to be able to continue our part in it.

4. As a nation bordering the Pacific Ocean, the entry of Japan into the war has brought a new threat near to our country. We deeply deplore the losses sustained by your Naval and Air forces at Hawaii and by the British Navy at Malaya. For some time, these events will no doubt minimise the otherwise deterrent effect of American and British seapower on Japanese operations.

5. The Commonwealth Government has warmly welcomed the opportunity to co-operate with the United States forces in the provision of a naval base at Rabaul and aerodrome facilities in territories under the control of the Commonwealth and at New Caledonia. However, the changed naval situation has had such repercussions on our local defence position and co-operation in overseas theatres that our Military resources are insufficient to meet the commitments for the defence of the Pacific Islands in which you and we are vitally interested. I am forwarding separately to the Australian Minister a review of the position as it has been put to us by our Service Advisers [2] and it would deeply be appreciated if you and your Service Authorities could consider what help you may be able to give in providing forces to deny these bases to the enemy. [3]

John Curtin Prime Minister.' Ends.


1 Franklin D. Roosevelt. Evatt had previously dispatched to Casey a message for the U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, conveying the Commonwealth Govt's 'profound appreciation of the initiative, courage and patience displayed by the President and Secretary of State in their endeavours to prevent war in the Pacific'. See cablegram 1060, of 9 December on file AA:A981, War 53A and Casey's letter 269/41 to Hull of 11 December on file AA:A3300, 100.

On 11 December Roosevelt sent a short message of good wishes to the Govt and people of Australia, apparently on Casey's suggestion. See Casey's cablegrams 1127 and 1129 of 11 December and 1137 of 12 December on file AA:A981, War 49, i.

2 See cablegram 154 of 13 December on file AA:A1608, L41/1/5.

3 Casey reported on 15 December (cablegram 1149) that he had immediately conveyed the contents of cablegrams 153-4 to Roosevelt. On 18 December (cablegram 1170) he transmitted the following reply from the President:

I want to thank you most deeply for your message of courage and inspiration and of firm resolution to stand fast against the enemy.

The question of the defence of Rabaul and New Caledonia is now being studied by our War and Navy Departments to determine in what way we may be of assistance. In the meantime I am sure that your forces are taking all possible steps to protect these areas against enemy attack.

Both cablegrams are on file AA:A3300, 218A. See also Document 203, paragraph 1.

[AA:A981, WAR 53A]