410 Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram P66 LONDON, 13 March 1942, 1.23 a.m.


In my following telegram [1] is contained text of telegram received by Churchill from Roosevelt, setting out completely new proposals for general conduct of whole World War. In the absence of any other reply to your telegram 166 [2] which was despatched to Roosevelt by Churchill as advised in my P. 61 [3], this seems to me, though not expressly stated, to be meant to cover the substance of telegram 166.

2. To remove complexity and simplify responsibility the President suggests that the World War theatre should be divided into three areas:

(a) the Atlantic under joint British and American responsibility;

(b) the Indian, Middle East and Mediterranean areas under British responsibility;

(c) the Pacific, including China, under United States operational responsibility.

The Pacific area includes Australia and New Zealand. Its western boundary, though not stated by the President, would be the boundary indicated in your telegram 41 [4] [for] [5] the Anzac Area and agreed by the Pacific War Council.

3. This proposal places the whole responsibility for all operational decisions in the Pacific area in the hands of the United States Chiefs of Staff, subject to the overriding proviso that the grand strategy of actual operations in the three areas would remain, as they are to-day, the subject of study and decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff both in Washington and London. The joint committees on raw materials, shipping and munitions would continue to function as they do now, all subject to joint approval of Churchill and Roosevelt.

[4. Churchill, who will send full telegram containing his views tomorrow [6], favours in principle the American proposals. He thinks that there should be in London an active Pacific War Council following the whole course of the war, and especially making certain that the problems of every constituent country are seen in proper perspective and making recommendations to both the United States and British Chiefs of Staff with regard to operations which deal with zones adjoining the boundary line. It is felt that decisions for many activities along this region may have to be made by either body or jointly.] Churchill is replying to the President saying that his proposals are being considered by the Pacific War Council and are being forwarded to the respective Governments immediately.

5. The Dutch Government feels that the proposals have the merit of greatly simplifying procedure, but are very keen on the Pacific War Council functioning vigorously in London. They point out that the idea of the original agreement between the Prime Minister and President envisaged twin control, in which balance was held between Washington and London, and that, to keep the centre of gravity right, the Pacific War Council must continue to function in London especially in view of the possibility that the course of recovery of the territory ravished by Japan maybe from the western, just as well as from the eastern side, and [control] of both offensives will need to be closely coordinated.

6. The initial offensive through China must be through territory under British responsibility and China also feels that there should be a live representative body in London. Both countries would welcome as well the suggested advisory representation in Washington.

that the operational simplification will be a great advantage if it can be obtained without undue disadvantage in regard to lessened control by constituent Governments and if the best use can be made immediately of the experienced staffs available. If Australia became an American responsibility and garrisoned by large forces of American troops, it [undoubtedly would get high priority in supplies from U.S.A. Unfortunately the most critical period for Australia is during the next two or three months while the British and American naval strengths are being restored.

During that period it might be a grave disadvantage to be changing actual operational control in such a radical way, and efforts should be made to ensure that the British Chiefs of Staff, who have the problem of Australia's direct defence immediately under their consideration as well as the Combined Chiefs of Staff, should continue to exercise control till the new organisation, if agreed to, is actually functioning satisfactorily.]

[8.] Another disadvantage of American control which must be overcome is the fact that Washington will not be as responsive or as subject to pressure by Australia and New Zealand as London is in respect of reinforcements and supplies. Australia is an integral part of the British Empire. In Great Britain the Empire tradition is very strong. Migration to Australia and New Zealand has been principally from Britain and innumerable relatives still live there, and Australia and its outlook are as well-known as their own. Britain has also been our great market for our primary products which creates a common interest, and Australia has been one of the greatest countries for the investment of British capital as well as a great consumer of British manufactured goods.

9. On the other hand, Australia has been a great competitor on British markets with American primary products. It would be many years, if ever, before there was the same mutual sympathy, knowledge, understanding and common interest between the great mass of the people of Australia and America as between those of Britain and Australia.

10. Therefore, it is essential that we should mobilise the support of the whole British Empire to bring maximum pressure on United States to assure the fullest consideration and quickest attention to our military problems and needs by the American Chiefs of Staff 11. The full functioning of the Empire clearing houses of the various supply organisations for munitions, raw materials and shipping brought into being by Roosevelt's and Churchill's agreement and the establishment of an Empire Production Council, as suggested in my telegram 2079 [7], would assist in doing this.

12. The continuance in London of the Pacific War Council, which contains Britain and New Zealand as members as well as ourselves, would help more in this direction than a Washington body which did not include Britain.

13. Therefore, without committing myself to details, I generally endorse the President's proposal as varied by the additional safeguards I have set out. His proposal has the great merit of setting out the whole picture in proper perspective.


[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.10485]

1 Document 411.

2 Document 388.

3 Document 393.

4 Dispatched 9 March. On file AA:A816, 14/301/223A.

5 Material in square brackets has been inserted from the London copy on file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

6 See Document 417 7 Dispatched 6 March (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.9681).

[7.] My own immediate reactions to the President's proposals are