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210 Evatt to Roosevelt

Letter WASHINGTON, 3 June 1943

On behalf of the Australian Government I thank you most sincerely for your continued assistance in connection with Mr. Curtin's proposal for equipping and developing the Royal Australian Air Force. Australia will be most grateful. Mr. Churchill's signal from abroad too was most satisfactory indeed. [1]

As I explained to Mr. Hopkins yesterday, I have felt it my special duty to yourself to revise the programme so as to make compliance with it far more easy to the military authorities. I have, therefore, planned for deliveries of aircraft not within the period of six months originally suggested, but over a far longer period, viz. 18 months, i.e. July 1st 1943 to December 31st 1944.

This appears clearly from the revised programme which I now enclose.

I would prefer a far more rapid development and have authorised the revision with reluctance. Naturally the value of the special contribution to Australia is directly related to the speed of deliveries.

As revised, the programme calls for the delivery of only 135 unit equipment in 1943 and 339 unit equipment during the whole of 1944.

I think you will agree that this is moderate and reasonable.

Having regard to all the circumstances and the special endeavours I have made to satisfy the military authorities, I now respectfully request agreement to the revised programme as now submitted.


1 Evatt had written to Roosevelt on 20 May: 'Following upon Mr.

Churchill's endorsement at the Pacific War Council of Mr. Curtin's proposal for equipping the additional squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force and your most helpful observations, I beg to request your own endorsement of the plan before the present conference terminates.' See letter in Franklin D. Roosevelt Library: Roosevelt Papers, Map Room files, box 170, A16-3 Warfare- Southwest Pacific Area.


Revised Programme for the Equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force

1943 1944 Total

Squad- Unit Squad- Unit Squad- Unit rons Equip- rons Equip rons Equip- ment ment ment Heavy Bombers 2 (36) 7 (126) 9 (162) M.S. [1] Fighters - - 5 (120) 5 (120) S.S. Fighters 1 (24) - - 1 (24) Dive Bombers 2 (48) 2 (48) 4 (96) Transport (Landplanes) 1 (9) 5 (45) 6 (54) GR/F Boats 1 (9) - - 1 (9) Transport (Seaplane) 1 (9) - - 1 (9) TOTAL: 8 (135) 19 (339) 27 (474)


1. Heavy Bombers: The Royal Australian Air Force now includes no unit armed with aircraft heavier than a 'Hudson' and as a Force is quite unbalanced, its striking power, especially at long range, being almost negligible.

The 71 Squadron Programme calls for 9 such squadrons and for this development two Squadrons should be supplied this year.

Experienced Heavy Bomber crews are now available, having completed an operational tour with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom or Middle East.

2. Single-seater Fighters: Only one of the total number of squadrons of this type remains to be provided. It is suggested that it would be preferable to form this squadron this year, with aircraft similar to that with which other Single-seater Fighter Squadrons in the area are now armed, rather than leaving it until next year when it may have to be armed with an odd type of aircraft.

3. Dive Bombers: Dive bomber squadrons in the R.A.A.F. are now armed with A-35 (Vengeance) aircraft. The main disadvantage of this aircraft is its comparatively short range, poor performance and light armament.

Conditions of operations in the Australian theatres call primarily for multi-engined aircraft, but whilst this is not a characteristic of the A-35, an aircraft with a poorer performance would be no practical contribution to the operational requirements of the area.

4. Transport (Landplanes): Because of the undeveloped nature of the country in which operations are being conducted, as well as the long stretches of sea and jungle to be covered, the Transport Squadrons are the most urgently needed. Six of these squadrons have yet to be provided, and it is considered that one should be supplied this year.

5. GR/F Boats: General Reconnaissance squadrons armed with Catalina Aircraft are the only units in the R.A.A.F. possessing more than medium, range. They are called upon to cover a large area and they are doing excellent work. Only one of this type of squadron remains to be provided to complete the programme. It is understood that production of the type is good and the provision of this squadron this year would be valuable contribution to the operational demands of the immediate future.

6. Transport (Seaplanes): The R.A.A.F. contains one Transport Squadron equipped with Flying Boats. This squadron was formed originally by taking Empire Boats from Qantas Empire Airways. The squadron is composed of personnel of long experience, who have done excellent work. Their equipment, however, has now been reduced to one boat only. This unit should be re-equipped as early as possible. The conditions of the area offer exceptional possibilities for the use of this type, especially during operations. [2]

1 Multi-seater.

2 Roosevelt replied on 11 June that the U.S. Govt was prepared to give Australia approximately 475 planes prior to the end of 1944, in addition to any previous commitments. Some planes, probably dive bombers and fighters, would be sent at once, but no definite commitments could be made at that time as to the types and delivery dates of the remainder. See letter in Franklin D.

Roosevelt Library: Roosevelt Papers, Map Room files, box 170, A16- 3 Warfare-Southwest Pacific Area.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History