212 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 78 CANBERRA, 4 July 1944

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL FOR MR CHURCHILL

1. On arrival in Brisbane on my return, I conferred [1] with General MacArthur regarding the Australian War Effort in the light of the conclusions reached with you in London [2] and with the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. [3] While I was in Washington, General MacArthur had been consulted by General Marshall about the proposed Australian naval, military and air strengths. General MacArthur had replied that the decisions on this aspect of the Australian War Effort were essentially a matter for the Commonwealth Government. Furthermore, the Government alone had a knowledge of the other aspects of its war effort and the manpower resources which could be allocated to them and to the maintenance of its fighting forces.

2. I am now making a submission [4] to War Cabinet for the review of the Australian War Effort and will later inform you and the Combined Chiefs of Staff of our conclusions. Probably by then, the report will be available from the Australian and British Staffs on the potentialities of Australia as a base for United Kingdom Forces. The progress of the war against Germany may also have reached a stage to enable you to see more clearly the prospective position in regard to the British contribution to the war against Japan.

3. After hearing General MacArthur's strategical plan and time- table for the conduct of his campaign in the Southwest Pacific Area, I would, without wishing to appear importunate in the matter, like to reiterate what I said in London about the time factor being the governing consideration in relation to the United Kingdom contribution. As British land and air forces will not become available for some time, I have reached the conclusion that the best manner of ensuring the earliest and most effective association of British Forces with those of the United States and Australia in the war against Japan would be to assign to the Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, the naval forces becoming available this year.

4. General MacArthur's operations are gaining pace, and it is well within the realm of possibility that his recapture of the major portion of those territories within the area comprising New Guinea, the Philippines, Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies may be effected before the end of 1945. Thus his campaign might well be far advanced toward accomplishment before the complete defeat of Germany releases appreciable outside forces for employment here.

5. General MacArthur's next major move is projected for early September which will lead to the opening of the Philippine Campaign in October. Following the partial occupation of the Philippines, he contemplates an attack upon Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies from north to south, thus effecting the recapture by envelopment rather than by frontal assault from the south. General MacArthur believes his air and ground forces are adequate, his weakness lying only in his naval strength.

6. This presents an ideal opportunity for the employment of the British Naval Task Force. It not only would contribute in great measure to the acceleration of the operations, but would be the naval spearhead in a large portion of this campaign. It is the only effective means for placing the Union Jack in the Pacific alongside the Australian and American flags. It would evoke great public enthusiasm in Australia and would contribute greatly to the restoration of Empire prestige in the Far East. The opportunity that presents itself is very real, but the pace of events here demands immediate action. It is understood there would be no difficulty in basing this force on Australia and, if this suggestion is approved, the forces should be made available at the earliest possible date.

7. I realise the alternative strategical views to that of basing United Kingdom Forces on Australia have to be considered. However, Britain's war record in relation to her resources is so magnificent that it will bear favourable comparison with any other Nation, even if circumstances and the speed of the American programme preclude her making an early contribution of land and air forces to the war against Japan. For that reason, I feel that the importance of a timely naval contribution is worthy of your earnest consideration.

CURTIN

MASTER SHEETS. JOHCU AND ARDEN, O.18038/42/43]

1 Curtin spoke with MacArthur on 26 and 27 June. See Document 206.

2 See Document 170.

3 See Document 179.

4 See War Cabinet agendum 342/1944 of 4 July on file AA:A2671, 342/1944.

[AA:A3196, 1941-45, FOLDER, OUTWARDS MOST SECRET AND TOP SECRET