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

Cablegram 16 WASHINGTON, 3 January 1942, 2.11 a.m.


1. Reference to Prime Minister's telegram No.2 and his similar telegram to Churchill [1] which I have seen.

2. I had long discussion with Churchill and British Chiefs of Staff today.

3. Prime Minister may expect early telegram from Churchill direct replying to his 166 to Churchill [2] through me.

4. Prime Minister will also hear direct from Churchill on his telegram No.2 to me and has asked me not to anticipate his (Churchill's) reply. However I think I should let you and the Prime Minister have my impressions privately as under.

5. I made my case with the aid of a map on which I had coloured south-western Pacific theatre' in green; area from 142 degrees east at equator (that is, at equator due north of the join between Dutch and Australian New Guinea) thence eastwards along the equator to the date line (180 degrees), thence south to below New Zealand, thence westerly to the south point of Tasmania and northerly up the east coast of Australia to Cape York, in blue;

and whole remainder of the Pacific Ocean north and east of this area, red.

6. Across this map of the Pacific I had drawn 'air ferry' in the belt from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Hawaiian Islands, thence southwest including Palmyra Island, Canton Island, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, to include Brisbane and Townsville, cutting broad swathe across the abovementioned 'blue' area.

7. Additionally I drew abroad 'sea transport' belt from San Francisco and southward to the Society Islands thence south and west to include New Zealand and through to include Sydney and Melbourne.

8. I emphasised that the United States Navy had consistently over the last year disclaimed any responsibility for the area south of the equator west of 180 degrees date line (my blue area), and that this was not inconsistent with their present attitude as reflected in Churchill's telegram to the Prime Minister [3] that the United States will remain responsible for the whole of the Pacific Ocean east Philippines and Australasia including United States approach to Australia.

9. 'Australasia' is Australia and New Zealand, and above quoted statement, taken by itself, does not commit United States Navy to doing more than escorting their convoys through my 'blue' area to the Australian coast.

10. The matter was thoroughly ventilated and I did not leave it until it had been appreciated by Churchill and his Chiefs of Staff. I left three copies of the abovementioned coloured map with them.

11. Churchill said that he would do his best with the Americans to get them to accept direct naval responsibility for the 'blue' area and if necessary British Navy would help too. Please do not quote this as he wants to telegraph you himself in his own words.

12. I notice that Prime Minister says in last paragraph of his telegram to Churchill 'our Chiefs of Staff are unable to see anything except the endangering of our safety by the proposal to exclude Australian mainland and territories from south-western Pacific area'. My strong personal belief is that it would be much more to our Australian advantage to have 'blue' area included in American Pacific fleet area, with additional British naval assistance, than to have 'blue' area included in south-western Pacific theatre. Such naval forces as are allotted to south- western Pacific theatre as now defined will be very fully occupied and will have no time to spare for 'blue' area, whereas the United States Pacific fleet now based on Honolulu should have the ships and incentive to police the 'blue' area, particularly if they can be got to accept formal responsibility.

13. Tentative 'letter of instructions' has been telegraphed in its present form to General Wavell [4] for his comments and when finally drafted will be telegraphed to you. I understand, however, that this is unlikely to be within 36 hours.

1 John Curtin's cablegram to Churchill (which was a repeat of his no. 2 to Casey) is published as Document 247.

2 Document 237 3 Document 240.

4 U.K. Commander-in-Chief, India. He arrived in Batavia on 10 January and assumed command of the A.B.D.A. Area on 15 January, establishing his headquarters near Bandung.

[AA:A981, WAR 56A]