526 War Cabinet Submission by MrJohn Curtin, Prime Minister and Acting Minister for External Affairs

Agendum 270/42 CANBERRA, 16 June 1942



The British Foreign Office recently established, in agreement with the British Ministry of Information, a Political Warfare (Japan) Committee to give guidance in the conduct of political warfare against Japan. A plan of campaign drawn up by this Committee has been communicated to the Governments of the United States, Australia, India and China. The United States authorities have independently prepared a scheme of their own which is reported to correspond very closely to the United Kingdom plan (Dominions Office telegrams 211 and 212 of 21st April [1]).

2. Because of Australia's special interests in the Far East and its geographical situation, it is desirable and practicable for the Commonwealth Government to co-operate actively in this campaign. It is recommended that approval be given to the following draft telegram to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [2] setting out the Australian viewpoint and the measures which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to take:-


Reference D.211 and D.212.

(1) We have previously given some consideration to this question and had reached the conclusion that (a) inter-Allied consultation was desirable to formulate and co-ordinate plans of political warfare in Far East, and (b) national organisations should implement policy as regards particular regions.

(2) As we see it, the main factors are the following:

(i) Japanese territory for purposes of propaganda and subversive activities can be regarded as a most difficult field, owing to physical obstacles in way of contact. It is practically a closed area, and this applies also to occupied territory. (There remain open few channels of even indirect communication; use of radio is most limited owing to low standard of living in Eastern countries and prohibition of short wave sets, while the population to be reached are mostly illiterate.) (ii) The Foreign Powers affected (United States, British Commonwealth and Netherlands) stand in a different relation to the Asiatic territories in Japanese possession to that in which the exiled Governments in London stand in relation to their former territories.

(iii) Our propaganda must be positive as well as negative. We can in this respect only counteract effectively Japanese propaganda, of which the most powerful weapon is and will be, 'Asia for the Asiatics', by giving these subject peoples a better alternative.

This inevitably raises the whole question of post-war economic and political relationships, not only between Allies and Asiatic peoples, but as between Allies themselves. Whether or not a joint declaration of our objectives for this region is possible at this stage, some understanding on common principles must be reached by the Allies to ensure that political warfare does not conflict with policy.

(3) In the light of the above, it appears essential that there should be consultation immediately to define reasonable and practicable objectives, and to work out machinery to put them into effect.

(4) In our view, your D.212 is not a plan of campaign but rather an enumeration of aims, many of which seem more suited to European psychology and conditions than to East Asia. We think they should be very much limited and simplified to constitute a programme for action.

(5) In view of the geographical position of Australia, the intention to use it as a base for offensive operations, and its special interest in Pacific questions, it seems essential that the Commonwealth Government should be closely associated with the conduct of political warfare against Japan. To this end:-

(a) We are setting up a local organisation for political warfare against Japan to work in close association with the organisations of our Allies.

(b) We would wish this organisation to be of like character to those to be set up in the United Kingdom and the United States of America and request the fullest information about the organisations proposed.

(c) We urge the closest co-operation between the national organisations and, if it is found desirable, the setting up of an inter-Allied body in Australia for political warfare.

(d) We would wish that matters of policy connected with political warfare against Japan should be the subject of consultation between the Governments concerned. Ends.

Australian Organisation 3. In order to give immediate effect to the first of these proposals, it is recommended:

That the conduct of political warfare against Japan should be under the control of the Minister for External Affairs and that a Political Warfare Committee, for the time being representative of the Departments of Defence, Navy, Army, Air, External Affairs and Information, should be constituted to assist the Minister.

4. This agendum has been considered and approved by a meeting of the Defence Committee [3] at which representatives of the Commander-in-Chief in the South-West Pacific [4] and the Department of External Affairs [5] and Information [6] were present.


1 Both cablegrams are on file AA:A816, 19/304/327.

2 Clement Attlee. The draft was approved by Curtin on 19 June and dispatched as on. 338 the same day (see teleprinter message M2739 of 19 June on file AA:A2671, 270/42). Curtin's approval was confirmed by War Cabinet on 30 June (See AA:A2673, vol. II, minute 2216).

3 See Defence Committee minute 80/1942 of 11 June on file AA:A816, 19/304/327.

4 General MacArthur was represented at the meeting by Colonel Van S. Merle-Smith.

5 P. M. C. Hasluck.

6 L. G. Wigmore.

[AA:A2671, 270/42]