391 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram Johcu 23 CANBERRA, 6 March 1942


My cablegram No. 166 to you through the Dominions Office [1] was drafted by a Committee comprising two representatives of the New Zealand Government [2], two representatives of the Australian Government [3] and the Right Hon. R. G. Menzies. [4]

With Mr. Menzies' permission I am cabling to you the following observations which were submitted by him at the time on the vital reasons which support the adoption of the machinery and principles outlined in the cablegram:-

'(1) The achievement of these objectives (the maintenance of lines of communication from the United States of America and the prevention of the further southward movement of the Japanese) seems to us to require unity of command, the maximum attraction of American interest and supply, and improved machinery for both political and military collaboration at Washington.

Our view of what is necessary to achieve these things appears in the following paragraphs.

(2) Australia and New Zealand should be represented on the Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington, the two Governments to appoint or change their representatives after consultation with the Supreme Commander hereunder referred to, and such representatives to be given the fullest access to and consultation with the British and American Chiefs of Staff.

(3) As matters will undoubtedly arise involving high political considerations, and as these will not be appropriate to be dealt with by Service representatives alone, there should be adequate provision at Washington for consultation on the Governmental plane. To achieve this, each of the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand should have a representative on an Intergovernmental Council at Washington, with direct access to the President, and of course with power to add to their numbers should it be found desirable at an appropriate stage to include China and the Netherlands East Indies.

(4) The Supreme Commander would be subject to the strategic direction of the combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington, and to any Governmental direction which might result from the deliberations of the proposed Inter-governmental Council at Washington.

We recognise fully that in purely operational matters political intervention would be mischievous and therefore dangerous; but whenever questions arise as to where the Nationals of any country are to fight and under what conditions they are to fight, questions inevitably arise which possess a political character and such questions would require political judgment.

The presence in Washington of both the political body and the combined Chiefs of Staff would ensure the closest liaison between the political and military directors, would avoid circumlocution and save time, and would help each body to achieve a prompt and realistic approach to the problems coming before it.

(5) In putting these proposals before you we emphasize as strongly as possible the following considerations, in addition to those already indicated:-

(a) Army reinforcements to the Anzac Area must for a long time to come be drawn almost entirely from the United States.

(b) The strengthening of naval power East and North East of Australia must for some time to come largely depend upon the United States.

(c) Aircraft supply to the Area can be achieved more urgently and in greater quantity from the United States.

(d) In setting out these factors we are not forgetting British naval power in the Indian ocean or the intimate association which exists between the whole of the warlike activities of Great Britain, the security of Australia and New Zealand, and ultimate victory.

But it will be at once seen that early and ample United States supply is of tremendous importance.

(e) We feel strongly that if the United States officer has the responsibility of Supreme Command in the proposed Anzac Area, and problems of supply and reinforcement are being effectively and quickly dealt with at Washington, the prospect of making Australia and New Zealand strong bases for attack will be vastly improved, the interest and interests of the United States will be attracted to this part of the world, the United States conception of naval strategy will become less defensive, and the war will come to be more clearly seen both in America and here, not so much as a defensive war to preserve our own territories as an offensive war against Japan, in which the battle has to be carried to her in the Western Pacific.'


1 Document 388.

2 See Document 388, note 4.

3 Curtin and Dr H. V. Evatt.

4 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong, member of the Advisory War Council and Prime Minister 1939-41.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.6694]