27 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 407 [1] CANBERRA, 25 August 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

It will be evident from the Coral Sea, Midway and Solomon Islands naval engagements that operations in the Pacific Ocean are leading to a naval clash which may well decide the course of the conflict in this theatre.

2. I would refer to the views of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff in Dominions Office cablegram No. 362 of 6th April [2] that, when the moment is opportune, the naval forces of the United Nations should take the strategic offensive in the Pacific. It would be appreciated if a statement could be furnished giving the present views of the Chiefs of Staff on the conditions outlined by them in paragraph 4 as necessary for fulfilment before the concentration of superior naval forces in the Pacific Ocean can be undertaken. [3]

3. It would appear to be inevitable from the operations in the Solomon Islands and the increased activity in New Guinea [4] that the Japanese will offer substantial resistance to any efforts to push them back to their bases in the mandated islands. We must therefore be in a position to bring to bear at the point of contact forces superior in strength to those of the enemy, otherwise we shall be laying ourselves open to grave risks.

4. It is therefore desired to know what are the present prospects and plans for the concentration of a superior naval force in the Pacific, which presumably could only be done by the transfer of part of the Eastern fleet to that region. [5]

CURTIN

1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 On file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

3 These conditions were that: (a) minimum defensive strength had been achieved in the Indian Ocean; (b) Australia, New Zealand, New

Caledonia, Fiji and Hawaii were held by sufficient land and air forces to enable them to stand without immediate naval support;

(c) the U.S. Pacific Fleet had regained a strength comparable to that of the Japanese fleet, so that with the addition of British reinforcements the Allies would have a decisive advantage; (d) sufficient land and air forces were available to secure territories recaptured with the aid of the superior Allied fleet.

4 The Japanese landed at Milne Bay at the south-eastern tip of New Guinea on 25 August, while other Japanese forces advancing south from Buna over the Kokoda Trail continued to push Australian forces back towards Port Moresby.

5 On 31 August Curtin asked Bruce to see this cablegram and follow up the questions raised in it in his 'most persistent and energetic manner'. See cablegram 7957 on file AA:M100, August 1942.

[DEFENCE: SPECIAL COLLECTION II, BUNDLE 5, STRATEGICAL POLICY-SWPA, FILE No. 3, 48/1942]