254 Bruce to Curtin and Evatt

Cablegram S147 [1] LONDON, 6 August 1943, 8.20 p.m.


Meeting of the Pacific War Council on 4th August, first held in London for many months, was stage-managed to enable- (a) The Prime Minister to outline his views regarding the war in the Pacific.

(b) The Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs [2] and Admiral Helfrich [3] to state their cases.

Owing to an unfortunate blunder in the Cabinet Secretariat, for which a flood of apologies is now pouring out, the notices of the meeting were not sent to Dominions representatives and consequently none of us were present. While no official records are kept of meetings of the Pacific War Council you can take it that the following is an accurate summary of what took place.

The Prime Minister said it might be necessary to strike at Japan proper. He doubted very much whether the Japanese would invade Australia. It was still our policy, he went on, that Burma Road should be opened as soon as possible. Lines of communication from India were the baffling difficulty. There were ten times as many forces in India as could be deployed and maintained in Burma.

Developments of airfields in Bengal were proceeding with highest priority so that capacity of the air route to China might be developed to the maximum as soon as possible. Running of air route would be an American responsibility, guarding it a British. Even if there were no enemy in Burma, it would not be possible to open the Road for 15 months from now having regard to landslides.

The Prime Minister said that invasion of north-west Africa had transformed the situation in Europe and some similar strategy should be possible in the Far East. Seapower gave us great advantages. Rather than operations in Lower Burma, he was himself inclined to favour a stroke more adventurous and further flung.

Ever since the last Washington conference concluded, United States and British staffs had been at work on exhaustive study of the war against Japan. The result of their conclusions would be placed before the next United States-British conference. When Germany had been defeated not only would great naval and air forces be sent to the Pacific but also all troops for which transport was available.

Dr. Soong said that while China had never doubted British intentions, she was pre-occupied with the time factor and anxious for the opening of the Burma Road at the earliest possible moment.

A temporary bridge, he continued, could be erected quickly to repair the only break in the Road at the present time, i.e. at Salween River, and according to a United States estimate 100,000 tons per month could pass over the Road within a few months of re- opening. (This figure appears to me fantastic but apparently no- one challenged it.) Admiral Helfrich said when he was in Australia in April Japanese attack on Darwin had seemed likely. Though likelihood had now receded, possibility still existed and it was of great importance that Darwin should be developed as a naval base and its inland communications improved. It would be comparatively easy for the Japanese to isolate Darwin. Japanese sea communications were admittedly vulnerable but in view of the tenacity and fanatic fighting spirit of the Japanese he did not think it would be possible to defeat Japan merely by cutting their sea communications or by air attack. The Japanese had shown themselves hard fighters, fighting to the last man.

1 Sent through the External Affairs Office in London.

2 Dr T. V. Soong.

3 Commander-in-Chief of Netherlands forces in the Far East.

[AA:A981, WAR 41B]