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105 Curtin to Dixon

Cablegram 10 CANBERRA, 19 January 1943


Please hand immediately to the President and Mr. Churchill the following messages from the Prime Minister [1]:-

Dear Mr. President:-

Dear Mr. Churchill:-

Having learnt that the President/Mr. Churchill and yourself are meeting in Washington [2], I presume that discussions of great strategical importance are proceeding and that decisions of far reaching effect on global strategy may be reached.

2. The following information was recently communicated to me by the Commander-in-Chief, South-West Pacific Area, on the outstanding lessons learnt from the New Guinea campaign, and I consider them to be of such transcending importance that I am forthwith communicating them for your urgent consideration, together with my observations and recommendations thereon:-

(General MacArthur's statement begins) The outstanding military lesson of this operation was the continuous calculated application of air power, inherent in the potentialities of every component of the Air Forces, employed in the most intimate tactical and logistical union with ground troops. The effect of this modern instrumentality was sharply accentuated by the geographical limitations of this theatre. For months on end, air transport with constant fighter coverage moved complete infantry regiments and artillery battalions across the almost impenetrable mountains and jungles of Papua, and the reaches of the sea, transported field hospitals and other base installations to the front, supplied the troops and evacuated casualties. For hundreds of miles bombers provided all-around reconnaissance, protected the coast from hostile naval intervention and blasted the way for the infantry as it drove forward. A new form of campaign was tested which points the way to the ultimate defeat of the enemy in the Pacific. The offensive and defensive power of the air and the adaptability, range and capacity of its transport in an effective combination with ground forces represent tactical and strategical elements of a broadened conception of warfare that will permit the application of offensive power in swift, massive strokes, rather than the dilatory and costly island-to-island advance that some have assumed to be necessary in a theatre where the enemy's far flung strong-holds are dispersed throughout a vast expanse of Archipelagoes. Air forces and ground forces were welded together in Papua and with proper naval support their indissoluble union points the way to victory through new and broadened strategic and tactical conceptions. (General MacArthur's statement ends) 3. I am convinced that this campaign has demonstrated the efficacy of certain principles of modern warfare, the results of which are so important and encouraging as to warrant a review of the present broad strategy of the United Nations and the allocation of additional operational and transport aircraft to the South-West Pacific Area to permit of the earliest possible extension of offensive action against the Japanese.

4. These operations have been an extraordinary demonstration of the manner in which air power, closely integrated with ground forces and under the central direction of one Commander, can enable effective blows to be struck at Japan's sprawling holds on the Archipelagoes in the Pacific. This technique is a substitute for difficult amphibious operations of an island-to-island nature under earlier conceptions of warfare, which would require vast resources in naval and merchant ships and entail opposed landings against strongly defended positions with costly losses in men.

This closely coordinated use of land forces and air power will therefore conserve both manpower and the shipping necessary to bring them and their equipment to this theatre of operations.

5. Whilst realising the needs of other theatres, I feel that if 1,500 additional operational and 500 additional transport aircraft can be made available to the South-West Pacific Area as soon as possible in 1943, and if naval dispositions can be made to give appropriate covering support, the blows that can be struck against Japan are such that she can be driven from her island gains in the Pacific and forced to contract her lines. It is not improbable that a mortal blow might be dealt her while she is still so extended and vulnerable. As you are aware, Japan, since her losses of Guadalcanal [3] and Buna [4], is concentrating her main strength on building up and holding an outer screen to her base at Rabaul, which extends from Ambon to the Northern Solomon Islands.

6. The enemy is weakest in the air. He has been decisively out- fought in this element in New Guinea and the Solomons. As the productive capacity of the United Nations now greatly exceeds that of the Axis Powers, Japan cannot hope to gain air superiority if adequate allocations are made to the Pacific areas. This request for aircraft does not make any extensive demands on shipping resources as most of the aircraft could be flown to the South-West Pacific.

7. The Naval support that the operations would call for does not entail any more risk than that which it is presumed the Naval forces of the United Nations are prepared to accept at the present time to meet the enemy under land-based air cover.

8. I am sure that great credit would redound to the President/Mr.

Churchill and yourself by demonstrating that we lack nothing in comparison with our enemies and Russian allies in devising methods of warfare appropriate to the circumstances which confront us and with weapons that have been developed for the hurt and discomfiture of the enemy. I am also confident that such a step will allay the growing anxiety that the Japanese are to be left indefinitely to their own devices with the consequence that the war in the Pacific, even after the defeat of Germany, will be of most prolonged duration.

9. (Additional paragraph for cablegram to Mr. Churchill only.) In view of your great knowledge of the history and methods of war, and recalling the outstanding contributions made by you in the pre-war years to the development of machinery for the unified direction of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the creation of a joint staff outlook on combined operations, I hope my proposal will make a special appeal to you and I would earnestly ask you to give it your support.

Yours sincerely,


1 For copies of the messages as delivered to Churchill and Roosevelt see Franklin D. Roosevelt Library: Map Room, Miscellaneous Presidential Dispatches, box 12.

2 This meeting in fact took place at Casablanca. See Document 108.

3 The initial landing on Guadalcanal by U.S. forces on 7 August 1942 was followed by six months of bitter fighting on land and sea. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and lost many ships, but the U.S. forces gradually gained the advantage and at the end of December the Japanese decided to abandon Guadalcanal and to concentrate on attempting to hold New Georgia. The last Japanese troops were evacuated from Guadalcanal on 7 February.

4 See Document 87, note 4.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History