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197 Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram E104 (extracts) WASHINGTON, 22 May 1943, 8.45 a.m.


Reference to your PW.109. [1] Your telegram PW.106 [2] asking for some account of discussions crossed my E.101 promising further telegram this week-end.

1. What follows is derived from statements made by the President and the Prime Minister either in private conference or at the meeting of the Pacific War Council, or at the meeting of the British Commonwealth Representatives.

2. Compared with 12 months ago, public opinion in the United States favours the maximum possible concentration against Japan.

This is reflected in Congress and in administrative circles where the presidential election of 1944 is already important. Mrs.

Roosevelt proposes to visit Australia and New Zealand about September next. Willkie [3] and a number of prominent editors have a similar desire. General Marshall and Admiral King speak of visiting Australia in the near future.

3. Yesterday, by way of illustration, the President's son, Colonel Roosevelt, returned from the South Pacific. He said that the United States Forces were fretting under tedious delays, that Japan's policy might well be to refrain from expanding her conquests further, to hold what she had and wait until European battles had tired out the contestants. He said this would be disastrous because Japan was a deadly foe of the United States.

4. A similar tendency is evident even in quarters which up until recently were repeating the 'Beat Hitler First' slogan as though that in itself was an infallible guide. Those quarters include columnists like Walter Lippmann who are in close touch with Army Headquarters. Yesterday he was critical of Senator Chandler [4] who advocated a complete reversal of the present 'Beat Hitler First' strategy. But Lippmann himself adds the following significant passage-

'The trouble with the kind of argument that Chandler has started is that to expose its fallacies may in itself lead to a false conclusion. It would be a very false conclusion, for example, to suppose that the alternative to the Chandler argument is to do nothing. Quite the contrary. Our power is growing so rapidly on the sea and in the air that there is no good reason why the important Pacific theatres cannot be heavily reinforced, and certainly no reason why plans cannot be drawn and the preparations advanced and the directing Commanders chosen for the great converging offensives which will be undertaken.'

5. The Senate debate which preceded Churchill's speech showed the same trend. In his speech, Churchill's primary object was to make it clear that at the proper time Japan would be opposed by all the resources of Britain. It is certain that he made this emphasis by arrangement with the President.

6. The point to remember is that some Senators, including Chandler, were asking that the effort which had been concentrated in Africa should be at once switched over against Japan. This was, of course, going much further than Australia, under your leadership, was even prepared to advocate. All this has been useful because it has made more reasonable our main contention, viz. for ever-increasing pressure against Japan to prevent consolidation and to pursuing limited Pacific offensives wherever possible.

7. Both the President and Churchill have indicated that the general directive in relation to the war against Japan will now be to apply such increased pressure in all quarters of the Pacific.

The attack on Attu in the Aleutians is only one instalment.

8. I have been given to understand that at a later period it is proposed to assign to General MacArthur's command all the forces now under Admiral Halsey, including very large Naval forces for the purpose of important operations of immediate concern in the South Pacific and the South-West Pacific.

9. More than this I cannot say for I have adopted your advice not to probe too deeply into operational matters. Admiral King is most secretive and the President himself tells me he hears of King's operational plans only when it is impossible to alter them. Last year Churchill complained to me that although Admiral King made commitments in relation to the Atlantic, his invariable practice was to concentrate his attention on the Pacific. Churchill has said the same on this occasion, not so much as a complaint, but as a fact which had to be accepted. I should add that Admiral Leahy, who is very close to the President, and is Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, is an outspoken admirer of General MacArthur and a strong advocate for greatly increased activity against Japan.

10. It has been agreed that a full scale offensive in Burma against the Japanese will commence at the end of the monsoon period, i.e. about October next. The extent to which this will be actually supported by the Eastern fleet has not yet been determined-Wavell and Admiral Somerville are here to discuss such operations. General Stilwell is also present.

[matter omitted]

14. The President and Mr. Churchill are agreed that Russia should not, as yet, be asked to permit its Far Eastern bases to be used at a later stage in the war in order to attack Japan. They are both certain that if the request were now made, Stalin would reject it-but they both seemed equally satisfied that, at a later stage, and probably as part of a territorial bargain, it will be possible to secure the Russian armies in Siberia and suitable air bases for the war against Japan.

15. On the whole, Churchill is far keener on Pacific activities than during last year, when our position was much worse. This is partly because he is radiating confidence. Although he undoubtedly sticks to his plan of primary concentration against Germany, he does not talk in the old slogans and he is really anxious to join with Roosevelt and push against Japan whenever it is practicable to do so. He and the President are much concerned at the apparent worsening in the internal position in China as a result of which the pressure for immediate air aid to China is irresistible. But the Chinese representative says that air support of itself will be inadequate. Chiang Kai-shek [5] seems to have little confidence in Wavell's leadership.

16. Churchill has spoken to me several times of General MacArthur always in the highest terms.

17. I should add that nothing could possibly exceed the cordiality and friendliness both of the President and the Prime Minister. For the time being I would strongly counsel your striking a note of restrained optimism in relation to the Pacific war. That, I believe, would fit in not only with their own plans, but also with the spirit in which the Australian people can do its utmost. These personal friendships are, as you know, an asset to us. I have never intervened gratuitously, though whenever the opportunity was offered me, I stated our case to the very utmost of my strength.

Please tell Shedden that I shall have, for personal report upon my return, much of the detailed matter in which he is specially interested.

[matter omitted]

1 Dispatched 22 May (FA:A3196/A3831, 1942-43, folder, personal outwards cables file copies, spares and master sheets, 0.13935).

This cablegram acknowledged Evatt's cablegram E101 of 21 May, which had advised Curtin that a comprehensive report of the Churchill-Roosevelt discussions taking place in Washington was being prepared and commented: 'although no reversal of major strategy is in contemplation, the Pacific war will obtain greatly increased attention from now on. In my view the fight which under your leadership the Government has put up during the last twelve months and more will have greatly contributed to this result.' Cablegram E101 is on file AA:A4764, 4.

2 This is presumably an incorrect reference to cablegram PW105, which requested Evatt to send an account of the progress of his discussions and of current trends in Washington affecting Australia. Cablegram PW106 dealt with personal and domestic political matters. Both cablegrams were dispatched on 21 May (see 0.13780 and 0.13807 in the folder cited in note 1).

3 Republican candidate at the 1940 U.S. presidential election.

4 U.S. Democrat Senator for Kentucky.

5 Chinese Prime Minister.

[AA:A4764, 3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History