445 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs (in Washington)

Cablegram [PM]10 [1] CANBERRA, 29 March 1942

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Your cablegram P.M. 5 of 25th March. [2] New Zealand have repeated to us their comments to Nash [3] on the proposal of the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee for the division of the Pacific theatre into a south-west Pacific area under General MacArthur and a southern Pacific area directly under Washington. Our Chiefs of Staff have considered this proposal in the light of the New Zealand Government's observations and have submitted the following report:-

'The Chiefs of Staff are strongly opposed to the proposed subdivision of the Pacific area. We agree with the comments of the Prime Minister of New Zealand and would urge the following additional considerations against the proposal. It is essential to Australia that New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia should be in the same area as Australia, because they are all interdependent and from every point of view must be considered together.

Australia's line of communications with the United States is through New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia, and the most effective and economic use of the forces available to defend the whole area depends upon there being unity of command so that the speedy reinforcement of any points threatened can be effected as necessary.' 2. For the reasons set out in the above report, we are opposed to the proposed division of the Pacific theatre, involving the separation of Australia from New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia.

It is desired that you co-operate with Nash on this question. [4]

3. The Chiefs of Staff have also furnished the following additional observations, which are communicated for your information and for discussion with the Combined Chiefs of Staff or Admiral King [5] [as] appropriate:-

'While adhering to the proposals already made by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for the creation of an Anzac Area rather than what is now proposed from Washington, we would prefer that all the naval forces in the Pacific should be put directly under the command of the United States Chiefs of Staff with a view to ensuring the greatest concentration of naval forces at the right place and time. This, of course, would involve Admiral Glassford's [6] force (comprising United States units from ABDA Area now based on Fremantle) being placed under the command of Admiral Leary.' [7]

CURTIN

1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister (Peter Fraser) as No. 105.

2 Document 440.

3 N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Washington. See Fraser's cablegram 96 of 26 March (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.12299), which outlined New Zealand's objections to the separation of the Australian and New Zealand strategical area.

4 Evatt replied on 30 March (cablegram PMS15 on file AA:A816, 14/30/223A) that he entirely agreed with the Chiefs of Staff appraisal and would take up the matter with Nash and the appropriate authorities. He added: 'The real trouble seems to lie in the fact that the American Army and Navy are somewhat jealous of each other's authority. The question however would be rendered more susceptible of solution once the Pacific Council is constituted.' 5 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.

6 Commander, U.S. naval forces, South-West Pacific.

7 Commander, Anzac Naval Force. Evatt replied on 31 March (cablegram PMS20 on the file cited in note 4) that 'an order has been given to Admiral Glassford placing his forces under the command of Admiral Leary, and Admiral Leary has been directed to co-ordinate all of his activities under the Supreme Command of General MacArthur'.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, ATTACHMENT C]