405 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States

Cablegram SW13 CANBERRA, 12 March 1942


The following message from the Prime Minister [1] is forwarded to you for personal transmission to the President. [2]

1. The gravity of the Japanese threat to Australia has led to prolonged and anxious consideration by the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council, in collaboration with our Service advisers, of measures that might be taken to meet the immediate situation.


2. We are greatly concerned with the aircraft position and we feel it of the greatest urgency and importance that steps be taken to ensure that every aircraft in Australia is disposed to the best possible advantage. It is our view and the view of our Service advisers that this can only effectively be done by setting up in Australia machinery for the unified control of air operations and a joint United States-Australian Air Staff and Planning Committee.

Our Chiefs of Staff are anxious that a meeting be arranged between themselves and the Chiefs of the American Naval and Air Forces in Australia to discuss and finalise the following matters:-

(i) The number of service aircraft by types available in Australia for immediate operations and the localities to which they should be allotted.

(ii) Number of types in transit and earmarked for this country in the near future; where they should be allotted and plans for their arrival.

(iii) The number and types of early warning sets available, where situated and the priority of allotment of sets not sighted and available in the near future.

(iv) The recording of all aircraft movements daily to enable both Air Services to know where aircraft are located and to warn all concerned-Air Stations, Anti-aircraft Stations, Observation positions.

(v) The setting up immediately of a Combined United States- Australian Air Staff and Planning Staff to co-ordinate air operations.

3. It is not intended that the arrangements suggested above should affect completion of future plans relating to the appointment and functions of the Supreme Commander of the Anzac Area. They are put forward as measures to secure immediate and necessary co- ordination of air operations and co-operation with the United States Services, with the object of ensuring that the best possible use is made of all available aircraft in Australia, in view of the imminence of the Japanese threat.

4. Australia is willing to place its air force under the control of General Brett [4] at once, for the purpose of achieving immediately the objectives outlined in paragraph 2.

5. I feel it of the utmost importance that these problems be resolved at the earliest possible moment and I should be very grateful if you would authorise the Chiefs of the American Naval and Air Forces in Australia to examine and finalise these matters in collaboration with the Australian Chiefs of Staff. The Northern parts of Australia and New Guinea are being subjected to almost daily bombing attacks. Our Chiefs of Staff consider that the Japanese will be in a position to make attacks in strength on New Guinea in the middle of this month, on Darwin and New Caledonia in April and upon the East coast of Australia in May. I cannot emphasise too strongly the urgency of taking measures to enable us to marshall the available air resources in Australia to meet the immediate threat.


1 John Curtin.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 See Advisory War Council minute 821 of 11 March in AA:A2682, vol. 4 and War Cabinet minute 1988 of 11 March in AA:A2673, vol.


4 Commander, U.S. Army Forces in Australia.

5 Although this cablegram was dispatched over Evatt's signature it is possible that he did not see it before he left for the United States the following evening. On 19 March Curtin cabled to Evatt advising him of the message and requesting him to see a copy in Washington. See cablegram 66 On file AA: MP1217, Box 474, Cablegrams, to and from Dr Evatt.

[AA:A981, WAR 56A]