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

Cablegram 326 WASHINGTON, 20 February 1942, 9.14 p.m.


I have personally conveyed (and expanded verbally on) contents of Prime Minister's Department's tel. No. 35 [1] to British and American Chiefs of Staff here and to Harry Hopkins. [2] Harry Hopkins was clearly disturbed by your decision and said that he would have to see President at once. He said that the President was ill, otherwise he would have taken me to see him personally.

Harry Hopkins said that the President was determined to do everything in his power to maintain what he called the right flank (Australia) of India-Australia line and to this end he (Hopkins) believed that there were no limitations in the President's mind as to what he would send to Australia for this purpose. The President had already ordered Marshall [3] and Arnold [4] to send sufficient forces to Australia to do the job, not half of what was sufficient but more than were sufficient [sic]. Hence, in the first place the 30,000 American troops (for Australia and New Caledonia) that were due to arrive in Australia in the coming week and the American division that is to leave the United States for Australia in early March (see my tel. No. 323 [5]). And these forces would not by all [sic] means be the last.

At the same time Hopkins said that the President placed very great importance on Burma and India. The difficulty was to get troops to Burma and India without undue loss of time, such as would be involved in sending American troops round the south of Australia to that area. It was for this reason that the President was very keen that at least one of the Australian divisions from the Middle East should go direct to Burma or thereabouts and that at least its equivalent in American troops should reach Australia from the United States.

He said that he hoped that the President would send a personal message to the Prime Minister of Australia to amplify what he had said.

1 Dispatched 19 February to the Special Representative in the United Kingdom as no. 29 and repeated to Casey as no. 35 (on file AA:A816, 52/302/142). It emphasised the Commonwealth Govt's view that the A.I.F. should return to Australia as quickly as possible.

2 Adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

4 Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

5 Dispatched 20 February, and incorrectly numbered 322. On file AA:A981, War 33, attachment B.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, i]