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

Cablegram PM76 CANBERRA, 29 May 1942


1. Reference your ET.30, 31, 32 and 33. [1] I am furnishing you with certain immediate observations in the hope that they will reach you before you leave London. [2] I am proceeding to Melbourne on Sunday for discussions with MacArthur [3], Blamey [4] and the Chiefs of Staff and will cable you next week additional observations arising from these conferences.

2. In the first place please accept my warmest congratulations on your achievement and especially the fact that you have secured three Spitfire squadrons for Australia and much equipment for our Land Forces.

3. Reference ET.30. (A) Grand Strategy of the War.

Paragraphs two and three.

It is indeed surprising in view of Page's [5] membership of the War Cabinet and the Pacific War Council, and Casey's [6] status in Washington, that neither of them had been acquainted with the decision to treat Germany as the primary enemy.

Apart from any special notification to the Commonwealth Government through the usual channel or from the Prime Minister [7] through the Winch Series, there were opportunities for revealing this information to the Australian Government in the following cablegrams:

(i) Appreciation of situation in the Far East [8] received through the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom [9] on March 4.

(ii) Comments of United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on appreciation by Australian Chiefs of Staff forwarded by Australian High Commissioner [10] in cablegram No. 55 of April 3. [11]

(iii) Comments of United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on the observations of the Australian Chiefs of Staff on (i) forwarded in Dominions Office cablegram No. 362 of April 6. [12] In addition to the public utterances of Colonel Knox [13] and A. V. Alexander [14] mentioned by you there have been inklings of such a decision, as in the concluding words of Dominions Office cablegram No. 382 of April 27 [15] that action against Malay barrier is beyond our resources until Germany has been defeated.

Paragraphs four to eight.

Though Clause 18 of Annexure 'A' [16] says that the security of Australia and other named centres must be maintained, it is interesting to note that of the latter, Singapore, the East Indies, the Philippines, Burma and the Burma Road have been lost.

As advised by MacArthur in PM.62 [17], there is a certain strength necessary for the security of Australia as a base which exceeds our maximum potential. This strength is the minimum that should be provided as a defence against invasion.

Paragraphs nine to twelve.

In view of the background you have outlined, it is apparent that MacArthur was right in stating that he lacked the forces necessary to carry out a single part of his directive, and that it should have been drafted in two sections showing immediate and ultimate objectives. The former would have covered the defence of Australia as a base. In view of this background and your statement of Marshall's [18] strategical outlook, we must strive most strenuously to help MacArthur get the forces, as you say, to carry out that portion of the grand strategy embodied in his directive.

In regard to prior consultation on any future modification of the grand strategy, it is noted that you propose to discuss the matter frankly with Churchill and Bruce.

(C) Difficulties Confronting Australia.

Paragraph two.

Your statement on the attitude of the United States Air Chief [19] towards allocations of American aircraft is disturbing as it is of vital importance to obtain the aircraft for our expansion programme of seventy-one squadrons, for which we are training personnel and providing the ground facilities and ancillary organisation. You will recall that item one on the agendum for the Ottawa Conference [20] is the necessity for relating the training capacity of the United Nations to the output of operational type aircraft by those nations.

(D) General Results.

Paragraphs eight to sixteen.

The information regarding two Australian and one R.A.F. Spitfire squadrons is very gratifying and these units with their excellent equipment should have a demoralising effect on the Japanese, particularly if the secret is well preserved. I presume censorship will be rigid at the London end.

You will recall that in February War Cabinet considered modifications of the Empire Training Scheme to meet the changed strategical position and to provide for the allotment of R.A.A.F.

squadrons to the Pacific Theatre. [21]

When War Cabinet was recently considering the question of the extension of the scheme beyond March 1943 it was decided that I should raise this aspect with you in its relation to the strategical needs of the South West Pacific [Area, particularly in respect of air defence] requirements. [22] My message to Churchill [23] will, as you suggest, accept this contribution in the spirit in which it is made, for the gesture embodied in the despatch of an R.A.F. squadron will have a splendid effect. I shall be glad however if you will note War Cabinet's views on R.A.A.F. squadrons and make the supply of personnel for other theatres a strong factor in the provision of aircraft for the Australian Air Force.

Paragraph seventeen.

The instruction issued to Field Marshal Dill [24] to support General MacArthur in Australia is very satisfactory and it is hoped it will produce the desired results.

4. I am repeating to you separately my JOHCU message to Churchill.



1 Cablegrams ET30 and 32-3 are published as Documents 500-2.

Cablegram ET31 of 28 May (which formed Annexure 'A') is on file AA: A4764, 2.

2 Evatt acknowledged receipt of this cablegram in his own cablegram 4935 of 31 May (in Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Correspondence-Evatt's 1942 trip). He left London on 1 June and arrived in Washington on 3 June.

3 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

4 Commander, Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

5 Special Representative in the United Kingdom until 30 March.

6 Minister to the United States until 31 March.

7 Winston Churchill.

8 Document 386.

9 Sir Ronald Cross.

10 S. M. Bruce.

11 On file AA:A816, 14/301/233.

12 See Document 461, note 8.

13 U.S. Secretary of the Navy.

14 U.K. First Lord of the Admiralty.

15 See Document 467, note 5.

16 See note 1.

17 Document 487.

18 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

19 General Henry H. Arnold.

20 Representatives of Allied govts met in Ottawa between 18 May and 5 June to co-ordinate the training of air crews. At the conclusion of the conference a new Empire Air Training agreement was concluded between the U.K. and Dominion Govts. See file AA:A816, 44/301/84.

21 See AA:A2673, vol. 10, minutes 1854 (5 February) and 1919 (24 February).

22 See AA:A2673, vol. 11, minute 2141 (15 May). The words in square brackets have been inserted from this minute to replace a section of the cablegram lost in transmission.

23 Document 505.

24 Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

25 See Document 505, note 1.

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