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

Cablegram 149 WASHINGTON, 25 January 1942, 10.37 p.m.


I had discussion with General Marshall (Chief of United States General Staff) today on Prime Minister's tel. 15. [1] He is [completely] [2] sound on the vital importance of the south-west Pacific war and not only acknowledges but emphasises its importance and points out the lengths they have go[ne] to in conjunction with the British to deflect forces and equipment to South West Pacific that had been destined for other theatres. He instances fighter aircraft that have gone to Australia that were about to be loaded [for] Russia; the heavy bombing aircraft (now en route to A-B-D-A area via Africa and Pacific) that were bought and paid for by Britain and which were about to go to Britain and the Middle East; the troops that are en route to Australia that had been embarked (and which were disembarked, re-equipped and despatched in other ships) for Iceland and Northern Ireland. He points out that Russians are furious, North African campaign is jeopardised and British plans for use of their troops who would have been relieved by American troops in Iceland and Northern Ireland have had to be cancelled. Marshall says that all this was planned and set in motion while Churchill was here by collaborating with the British and with their ready agreement and help.

Marshall has heard nothing of the proposed evacuation of Singapore but says that it would be 'criminally negligent' if they did not make adequate plans in advance. He hoped that evacuation of women and children and as many civilians as possible is actively proceeding.

As to plans and any rearrangement of forces available for defence of A-B-D-A area and adjacent Australia[n] and New Guinea and island areas, he says this must be left to General Wavell [3] who has (see para. 2 of Annex 1 of directive to Wavell [4]) authority to concern himself with adjacent areas, no doubt in concert with Australian authorities. He says 'Wavell is the only man who can balance forces available, and becoming available, in the general interest'.

In above connection he told me of addition of Northern Australian area to A-B-D-A area.

He told me of very considerable pressure from Dutch in N.E.I. for additional fighter and other aircraft, for which Dutch have trained pilots and crews available.

Marshall warned me in most serious manner about extreme danger of transmitting by telegram information about movements of forces and particularly of impending plans and operations. He said that this was a constant anxiety with him. All of our efforts might well be frustrated if such information was not confined to absolute minimum number of people actually concerned, and when it was essential, to telegraph it by use of tightest and most secure cypher possible. He believes that there is danger of our plans becoming known to the enemy if utmost caution is not observed. His own cypher-cracking people were constantly giving him most frightening examples of this. Although I do not think he knew of para. 8 of P.M.'s tel. 15 in the form in which it reached me, he stressed this operation as one necessitating complete secrecy if it were to have chance of success.

I discussed Admiral Hart [5] with him and found that his view was same as that of van Mook. [6] My impression is that something is going to be done about it. I described my recent interview with Admiral [King] [7] and sought his (Marshall's) assistance at Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting tomorrow at which convoying through Anzac area will again be discussed. There is still a good deal of rivalry and feeling between United States army and navy. I asked if he would enlarge on Hurley's mission (my tel. 105 [8]).

He said that sole purpose was to ensure that everything possible was done to get food to MacArthur [9] of which he was very short.

Marshall said finally that they can be relied on to do all that is humanly possible with the full realization that the task is one of stemming Japanese southward movement with forces that are available [and that can be made available]. Japanese now have [naval] and air superiority which we must do our utmost to whittle down whilst building up our own forces, more particularly air.

Heavy bombers were worth their weight in gold. There might be two months more of anxiety.

He (Marshall) believed in Wavell and so far as he was concerned he was going to give Wavell a free hand.


1 See Document 294, note 10.

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

3 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

4 See Document 261, note 7.

5 Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.

6 Lieutenant Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies.

7 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.

8 AA:A3830, 1942, 291. Hurley, who was Marshall's personal representative, was in Australia attempting to organise the shipment of food supplies to the Philippines through the Japanese blockade of Luzon.

9 Commander, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East.