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164 Evatt to Roosevelt

Letter WASHINGTON, 22 April 1943

1. Mr. Curtin expresses thanks for your message of April 6th referring to certain increases in aeroplanes for United States forces in the South-West Pacific Area, but also indicating that, in accordance with a prior arrangement, you would be pleased to consider what I had to urge on behalf of Australia in relation to the area. [1]

2. The Prime Minister is very grateful for what had already been decided. However, with full knowledge of that, he charged me with the mission of securing your approval of one specific proposal of the Australian Government, namely, the provision of sufficient aircraft to permit of the expansion of the Royal Australian Air Force to 71 squadrons. (The figure 71 is exclusive of 2 R.A.A.F.

squadrons now overseas and the programme of expansion is referred to throughout as the 73 squadron plan.) 3. Consequent upon the entry of Japan into the war, the Australian Government approved plans for the expansion of the Royal Australian Air Force to 73 squadrons to be formed by the end of last year. That programme was within the capacity of the Royal Australian Air Force so far as personnel is concerned.

4. Up to the present, however, the complete plan could not be adopted owing to aircraft production. The plan now endorsed is for the development to 45 squadrons only by the end of the present year. As already stated, this figure was not due to any lack of capacity of the Royal Australian Air Force to cope with the original 73 squadron plan.

5. As a result of the placing of the South-West Pacific Area under the operational control of the United States Chiefs of Staff and the acceptance by the United States of what you called 'responsibility' for the area, it was decided that the requirements of aircraft produced overseas would be met from the production of the United States. Under the 73 squadron programme 15 squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force will be maintained from Australian production and 6 from that of the United Kingdom.

6. A year ago when the production of aeroplanes was comparatively small, the requisition by General MacArthur for the air force required to carry out his directive was 135 squadrons. Since that time Japan has been reinforcing and consolidating its position in the South-West Pacific, which area has become the main air and land combat zone in the war against Japan. It can be accepted that all air squadrons (United States and Australian) will be utilised by General MacArthur for the defensive-offensive operations which necessarily characterise a holding strategy which is also aimed at preventing further enemy consolidation.

7. In a special message to yourself, Mr. Curtin emphasises a point which I am sure you will accept-

'I would state (he says) that whilst we are, naturally, concerned that our country shall be maintained free of any serious attack, I would like it to be clear that this was not the primary objective of our representations. Our aim was rather that aircraft should be made available in such new strength to enable the holding strategy in the Pacific to be prosecuted in a manner that would prevent the consolidation of the Japanese in their present positions and inflict on them the greatest possible losses preliminary to ultimate assault for their final defeat.' [2]

8. I respectfully submit that this statement of our Prime Minister is in accordance with the fair interpretation of the general directive issued to the Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area about twelve months ago with the prior approval of the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. That general directive has not been altered.

9. The air training scheme which Australia has developed since the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 has reached great dimensions.

Every four weeks Australia's output of air crews basically trained in Australia approximates to 780. Of these, 365 are retained in Australia and no less than 415 are made available to the Royal Air Force mainly for its operations against Germany and Italy. In addition, air crew partially trained in Australia are sent to Canada to complete their training at a rate of 224 every four weeks.

10. It has been expressly agreed between the United Kingdom and Australia that the Royal Australian Air Force shall retain from these monthly outputs sufficient air crews to meet Australian requirements in accordance with the availability of operational aircraft. So far as Australia's ground staff is concerned the technical training capacity was stepped up last year in anticipation of approval of the 73 squadron programme. This was reduced temporarily but only because of the lack of aircraft to develop the full programme as originally planned.

11. It is stated most emphatically that ground staff and other maintenance personnel can be provided to meet all requirements for the 73 squadron programme, the rate of development of which is dependent only upon reasonable notice of planned availability of aircraft.

12. So far as the operational use of aircraft made available to the R.A.A.F. in Australia is concerned, these of course have been assigned unreservedly for employment under the Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Area.

13. In order to give some idea of the tremendous contribution Australian air personnel has given in the war against Germany and Italy, I point out that Australians, recruited and trained by the R.A.A.F. since the outbreak of war, are now serving in the following theatres:-United Kingdom, Middle East, India, Iraq, Aden, Palestine, West Africa, Malta, Gibraltar and Iceland. The total number of Australian air personnel now serving quite outside the South-West Pacific Area, either with the Royal Australian Air Force or R.A.F., totals approximately 11,000. Of this total no less than 8,000 are members of air crews. Approximately 1500 have been killed or are missing or prisoners of war. The Australians, as you know, have gained great distinction as members of air crews against Germany. Their continued employment in action against Germany, especially since Pearl Harbor, is conclusive evidence of Australia's desire to carry out global strategy to the utmost of its power.

14. The other side of the picture is equally important. It is an essential part of the agreed global strategy that, so far as is reasonably practical, the Japanese enemy should be made insecure, that his shipping and his installations should be destroyed and that in every possible way he should be harried and prevented from consolidating by our 'exerting continuous pressure'.

15. Mr. Curtin is convinced that in the circumstances it is just and reasonable to ask you to direct the provision of aircraft to carry out the 73 squadron programme of the R.A.A.F. He believes that that force, together with what has recently been determined upon in relation to the United States air force, would provide little more than what General MacArthur himself estimated as his minimum requirement when the production position was so serious and the Japanese had not commenced to consolidate.

16. To meet the requested 73 squadron programme of the Royal Australian Air Force the following units and unit equipment are specified hereunder:

Type Squadron Aircraft (Unit Equipment) Heavy Bombers 9 162 M.S. [3] Fighters 5 120 S.S. [4] Fighters 1 24 Dive Bombers 4 96 GR/F [5] Boats 1 9 Transport (Land) 6 54 Transport (Sea) 1 9 27 474

17. As you yourself pointed out to me during our recent discussion, the provision of shipping to Australia is unnecessary so far as 17 of the 27 squadrons are concerned.

18. Today I received a telegram from Mr. Curtin in which he asks me to try and complete this matter at the earliest possible moment. [6] If it is finalised the main purpose of my Mission on the service side will have been fulfilled. If the 73 squadron programme is adopted-on the basis of deliveries over a period of six months so as to harmonize with expanding production here and the expanding organisation in Australia-I shall feel that something of incalculable moral as well as physical material assistance will have been rendered not to Australia but to our common cause against the barbarians of the East.

19. Mr. Curtin as head of the self-governing nation most closely in touch with the situation is convinced of the necessity of the 73 squadron plan from the point of view of success against Japan.

Tonight he advised me that General MacArthur has given unreserved endorsement to it as being in accordance with his appreciation of the grave responsibilities with which he is charged. [7]

20. Accordingly, I have the honour to submit to you as Commander- in-Chief the adoption of the 73 squadron plan for the R.A.A.F.


1 See Document 152.

2 See Document 152, note 4.

3 Multi-seat.

4 Single-seat.

5 General reconnaissance flying.

6 This is apparently a reference to the cablegram published as Document 160.

7 See Document 160, note 4.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History