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

Cablegram 1162 WASHINGTON, 17 December 1941, 7.12 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

I saw the President [1] this morning and reminded him verbally of the principal points in the Prime Minister's telegrams 153 and 154 [2] which I had got to him on the night of Dec. 13th. He replied 'please tell your Government we have already started' but went on to say that he regarded the whole south-west Pacific as one area and that it was necessary to concentrate attention and support on the most important areas. The war had to be regarded from a geographical rather than a national point of view. He regarded the defence of the Philippines as one of the real key points in the Far Eastern situation and said that they were doing everything possible to get air reinforcements to the Philippines by all available methods. He regarded the defence of Australia and its outlying islands as just as important as the defence of Philippines although he believed, as Philippines were more immediately threatened, and as holding of Philippines would enable Japanese plans for further southward advance to be more readily impeded, all their immediate attention was directed towards the Philippines. He said that he regarded, and they hoped to use, Australia as a bridge-head and base. He told me in brief their plans in this connection and referred me to the head of the U.S.

Army Air Corps [3] for details which I subsequently got. (See my immediately [following] [4] telegram.) [5]

President said the purpose of his idea of suggesting regional conferences at Chungking, Russian capital and Singapore was to get considered views and ideas from these centres which could be considered here. Chiang Kai-shek [6] had suggested to him a full scale conference on Far Eastern war strategy to take place in Chungking which was of course impossible but he hoped something useful would come out of these three quickly held regional conferences. Amongst other things they might stop Chiang Kai-shek and Stalin from feeling that they were being left out in the cold, so far as conferences at Washington were concerned.

I emphasized and repeated that the Australian Government urgently desire to be represented at all conferences between Governments concerned here and elsewhere which President said he would do his best to bring about. He asked whether bad feeling would not be created if Australian Government participated and not Canada, South Africa, New Zealand. I said our interest and concern was based on our own close proximity to the scene of action which did not exist in cases of other Dominions except New Zealand who had Minister Langstone here if required.

I stressed the importance to all engaged in the Far Eastern campaign of active Russian collaboration which the President fully realized.

He said that he was rather disappointed at Stalin's reply regarding active Russian collaboration in Siberia, although he had a feeling Stalin was probably right on a global appreciation of the war in wanting to use all his forces against the principal enemy, Germany. It was possible that Stalin might be able to give Germany something approaching a disintegrating blow by prosecuting his winter attack on the Germans in Russia.

However, President said last word has not been said on Russian participation in Far East, though he did not want to say more than this.

CASEY

1 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2 John Curtin's cablegram 153 is published as Document 188. For cablegram 154 see Document 188, note 2.

3 Maj Gen Henry H. Arnold.

4 Corrected from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 101.

5 See cablegram 1163 of 17 December on file AA:A981, War 33, i. It contained details of U.S. aircraft and air personnel to be dispatched to Australia.

6 Chinese Prime Minister.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, i]