53 MacArthur to Curtin

Letter GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA [MANILA], 5 March 1945

TOP SECRET

Careful consideration has been given to your letter of 15th February 1945 [1] with regard to the Australian War Effort and relation of the strength of the forces to the manpower conditions.

Original plans for the Philippine Campaign contemplated the employment of one Australian division in the initial assault on Leyte and one in the Lingayen landing. General Blamey, however, objected to the plan, stating that he could under no circumstances concur in the use of Australian troops unless they operated as a corps under their own corps commander. It was impossible to utilise the entire corps in, the initial landing force and it was therefore necessary to amend the plan, constituting the entire force from American divisions. Plans were then prepared with a view to the employment of the Australian Corps for an operation against Aparri on the northern coast of Luzon, immediately preceding our landing at Lingayen Gulf. The developments of the campaign, however, made it possible to move directly against Lingayen, omitting the Aparri operation with consequent material and vital saving in time. It was then planned to use the Corps as the final reserve in the drive across the Central Plains north of Manila, but the enemy weakness which developed in the tactical situation obviated this necessity.

Current plans contemplate the elimination of the Japanese through a series of comparatively small operations in the Central and Southern parts of the Philippine Archipelago, employing the United States Army troops that are now deployed in forward areas.

Concurrently with the later phase of these operations it is proposed to attack Borneo and seize Java by over-water movement under the protection of the bases thus established. For this operation I have planned to use the Australian Corps under its own commander, operating according to the practice that has consistently been followed in the Southwest Pacific Area, under its own task force commander reporting direct to the Commander-in- Chief. It is estimated that the last phase of this operation, the assault upon Java, can be launched by the end of June.

Due to recent stringent reductions in the amount of shipping that is available to me, there has been some question with regard to the execution of this plan. If I am permitted to use the shipping that is available without diversion to other projects, I shall be able to carry it out. I have made strong representations to Washington and I am hopeful that I shall not be required to divert means before the Netherlands East Indies campaign can be consummated. Pending the decision which is expected momentarily, the necessary concentrations of troops are being effected.

My purpose in projecting this campaign is to restore the Netherlands East Indies authorities to their seat of government as has been done within Australian and United States territory. I consider that this is an obligation that is inherent in the agreement of the five nations as expressed in the directive that established the Southwest Pacific Area. Immediately upon the re- establishment of the Netherlands East Indies government I propose to report to the joint Chiefs of Staff that the mission of the Southwest Pacific Area has been accomplished and recommend its dissolution. It is contemplated thereafter that there will be a complete reorientation and that the British Empire and the Dutch authorities will collaborate in the complete restoration of their respective territories.

The execution of the plan as above outlined will require not only the full effort of available Australian ground forces but that of American forces as well. It is proposed to support the Australian ground forces with the R.A.A.F. Command, lending such assistance from the United States Army Air Forces as may be required. It is also hoped that the Seventh Fleet, including the Australian Squadron, will be augmented for this operation by the British Pacific Fleet.

In categorical reply to your basic question, I would state that my plans contemplate the use of all of the Australian Forces now assigned to the Southwest Pacific Area, but that upon the completion of the proposed campaign and dissolution of the Southwest Pacific Area, the question of the strength of forces to be retained, if my recommendation be followed, will be a matter for determination by the British Empire and the highest Dutch authorities.

The decision conveyed to me in your letter of 27th February 1945 [2] to limit the Australian component of our assault forces to the 7th and 9th Divisions has been noted. I hope you will not eliminate entirely the possibility of using the 6th Division in the operation outlined above if it becomes a reality.

With reference to the command organisation, we have followed a fixed pattern since the Lae operation. The Commander-in-Chief exercises personal and direct command of Assault forces coordinating the action of three principal subordinates:-

(a) Naval forces under the Commander, Allied Naval Forces.

(b) Air Forces under the Commander, Allied Air Forces.

(c) Ground forces under a Task Force Commander whose organisation is specifically prescribed according to the operation to be undertaken. These forces may vary from a Regimental Combat Team or Brigade Group to an Army and are commanded by an officer of appropriate rank. In the forthcoming operation in which assault forces will include Australian troops, it is contemplated that the Commander would be an Australian officer. While General Morshead [3] has been proposed and is entirely acceptable, I am prepared to accept another officer if designated by the Australian authorities. I consider that the assignment of the Australian Commander should be a matter for determination by the Australians.

It is considered to be impossible, however, from an operational viewpoint, for the officer so designated to be concerned with command of Australian troops in New Guinea and Australia. It is essential that the Task Force Commander remain in the field with his troops and that he have no other duties of any kind. Any other course of action would unquestionably jeopardize the success of the operation and impose a risk that could not be accepted.

With reference to the R.A.A.F. Command, it is desired to have that headquarters move forward to the operational area, but the fact that the major portion of the administrative personnel in the headquarters is composed of W.A.A.A.F's who under current policy are forbidden to leave Australia has up to the present precluded the forward movement of the headquarters. It is hoped that the necessary administrative arrangements can be made in order to permit Air Vice Marshal Bostock [4] to move his headquarters to a location from which he can effectively command the R.A.A.F. in combat.

I shall comment later upon the subject of transferring to R.A.A.F.

Headquarters of operational control of those elements of the R.A.A.F. Command that are stationed in Australia as soon as I can discuss the matter with General Kenney.

DOUGLAS MACARTHUR

1 Document 37.

2 Document 49.

3 General Officer Commanding 1st Australian Corps.

4 Air Officer Commanding RAAF Command, Allied Air Forces, South- West Pacific Area.

[AA:A5954, BOX 570]