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

Cablegram 148 WASHINGTON, 24 January 1942, 8.36 p.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. I saw President [1] today and gave him copy of telegram to Churchill contain[ed in] [2] P.M.'s Dept: Telegram 15. [3]

2. As information regarding American naval operation detail[ed] in your numbered paragraph 8 is being treated as of highest order of secrecy and is not supposed to be known to us here, I altered early part of your paragraph 8 to read 'any projected American naval operations in vicinity of [Gilbert] Islands if carried on towards Japanese bases etc'.

3. President read your telegram carefully and said he could give no immediate reply to specific matter[s] concerning United States action (notably paragraphs 9, 11, 12, 13) but that he would have whole telegram and particularly abovementioned paragraphs examined by his Chiefs of Staff.

4. President's personal comments were as under.

5. He said that he had no knowledge of any proposed evacuation of Malaya and Singapore but he assumed that in ordinary prudence such plans would be prepared so as to be in a position to carry out such an operation with least confusion should unfortunate necessity arise. The drawing up of plans for evacuation did not imply intention to evacuate.

6. He said that off-hand he could not agree that in [the] general [interest] reinforcements should automatically go to N.E.I. and not to Burma. Without detracting from importance of N.E.I. it was essential to hold Burma as only link with China. He said confidentially that China (with some American help and possibly leadership) would very soon be in a position to attack Japanese bases in Northern Indo-China.

7. President recognised the reference in your para. (8) (as amended by me) and saw point and said that he would have it considered at once.

8. He went on to speak of convoy carrying American forces for New Caledonia and said during next fortnight while they were on water if it were thought that any other area was in greater need of reinforcements than New Caledonia it would be perfectly possible to divert them to where they could be most usefully employed even to Port Moresby, necessity to hold which he fully recognised.

9. In general he said they were doing all they could as quickly as they could. The point was that at present there were not enough aircraft or anything else to reinforce all threatened points.

United States was straining every nerve particularly to produce aircraft, but for a couple of months there would be substantial shortages in many theatres. He pointed out opening sentence of your para. 11 and said 'urgent necessity for fighter aircraft immediately' was cry from every quarter. So far as Australia and A-B-D-A was concerned he thought they had done pretty well and gave figures for American aircraft there and what was on the way.

President said he appreciated your concern but that looking at war picture as a whole, as he was obliged to, and with knowledge of what was in preparation, he had very little anxiety for security of Australia itself. 10. American Chiefs of Staff will undoubtedly discuss your proposals with British Chiefs of Staff representatives here and as latter will get copy from London of your telegram Johcu 21 [4], I have given copies to British Chiefs of Staff here.

CASEY

1 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 219.

3 See Document 294, note 10.

4 Document 294.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, ATTACHMENT B]