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41 Churchill to Curtin

Cablegram 594 [1] LONDON, 8 September 1942, 6.43 p.m.


Your telegram of 26th August, No. 407. [2]

I have consulted the Chiefs of Staff and the following are their views:-

2. Since the despatch of the Dominions Office cablegram No. 362 of the 6th April to which you refer [3] the situation has altered considerably. There is no doubt that the offensive recently undertaken by the Americans in the Solomon Islands area will do much to contain the Japanese naval forces in the Pacific and will therefore reduce the likelihood of an enemy sortie in strength into the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless until operations in south-west Pacific have developed further a Japanese incursion into the Indian Ocean, even if only as a diversion, cannot be ruled out of court.

3. Our present views on the conditions in the Indian Ocean area are as follows:-

(a) The land strength in India has steadily increased but you will note that we have recently had to move one division and one armoured brigade from India to the Persia-Iraq command.

(b) The flow of shore based aircraft into the Indian Ocean area had to be held up in the Middle East when a critical situation developed there in July and it is still not possible to release more than a small proportion of them. We are therefore still short of what we consider should be the minimum shore based air force strength in the Indian Ocean theatre.

(c) Our plans for naval reinforcements of the Eastern Fleet have had to be withheld, firstly on account of the need for replenishing Malta and again for operations contemplated in the near future. The present strength of the Eastern Fleet is two modernised battleships, one aircraft carrier and a bare minimum of cruisers and destroyers. In addition there are two of the 'R' class [4], unmodernised and short of destroyer screen.

4. It is for the above reasons that in our view the possible transfer of British naval forces from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific is not yet opportune.

5. With the recent heavy losses sustained by the Royal Australian Navy we fully realise your anxiety in this matter but for the reasons given above no concentration of combined British and American naval forces in the South-West Pacific Area is under contemplation at present.

6. Administrative plans and preparations for an emergency move of a portion of the Eastern Fleet capital ship and carrier strength to the SouthWest Pacific Area or, in certain circumstances, temporarily to the Atlantic and Mediterranean are, however, in train, and the A.C.N.B. [5] is being kept informed. [6]

1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 Document 27.

3 See Document 27, notes 2 and 3.

4 Battleships.

5 Australian Commonwealth Naval Board.

6 Commenting on this cablegram, Bruce said: 'This matter has now been the subject of exhaustive examination and discussion and I see no prospect of altering the views set out in the Chiefs of Staff Appreciation.' See cablegram 150A of 8 September on file AA:M100, September 1942.


Memorandum by McDougall


The purpose of the United Nations is first to win the war and then to win the peace.

To win the war we must pass from the defensive to the offensive and utterly destroy the German and Japanese military despotisms.

To win the peace, we must, during the war, reach agreements which will determine the pattern of the post war world.

The simultaneous prosecution of these two purposes is necessary since the factor of political warfare can be of tremendous importance.

President Wilson's Fourteen Points undermined the will of the German people to continue the war and did so during a period of German victories.

In January 1918 the German High Command, having fought the Anglo- French offensives to a standstill and having been relieved by the Russian revolution of all anxiety about the Eastern Front, were preparing to attack in the West.

In March, April and June 1918 the British and French armies suffered heavy defeats but the German people were surfeited by barren victories; civilian morale had become affected by the length of the war, and by the food and clothing shortages; the nation was war weary. The effect of the Fourteen Points was to convince the German people that there was hope for them even in an Allied victory. The way was thus prepared for the final Allied offensives and for the German revolution.

If, in 1918, we had relied upon military means alone and neglected political warfare the war might well have lasted another year and cost another million lives.

After the frustrations of 1919-1939 our political warfare must be based upon more concrete plans than the Wilsonian Fourteen Points or the Atlantic Charter.

We must throw energy into the winning of the war and this requires that we simultaneously prepare to win the peace.

The vigorous prosecution of the War of Ideas is essential because:

Our own peoples need the stimulus of positive ideas if they are to give full support for an all-out offensive effort. If we are to save the world by democracy we must frame concrete measures to secure [sic] that political freedom is matched by economic freedom and legal justice by social justice. We must demonstrate how we propose to translate the President's Four Freedoms into concrete terms.

Further, the current fears of some business men, trade unionists and farmers that the war production programme will be followed by surplus capacity and unemployment is proving a psychological obstacle to an all-out war effort. We must convince them that an expanding world economy will bring them freedom from these fears.

Our political warfare directed towards enemy and enemy occupied countries lacks ammunition. Those engaged upon political warfare feel that, unless they are given more concrete information about United Nations' intentions after victory, they are fighting with their right arms tied behind their backs. We need a munitions factory for the War of Ideas. The occupied countries, neutrals and even many people in enemy countries long to know what use the United Nations propose to make of their victory.

To win peace we must secure agreement now regarding methods of international co-operation. If we delay until the end of the war, we are almost certain to fail. Once the war is over, the problems of demobilisation and of renewed competition for markets will arouse all the nationalistic element in Parliaments and in Congress. Shortsighted policies will be enacted. If we thus fail to win the coming peace we shall be heading straight for World War No. 3.

We must lighten the task of our armed forces by so waging the War of Ideas as to inspire our own people, gain every possible ally in every country, and weaken the will to resist of the enemy countries.

The Time Factor It will be for our political leaders to decide upon the favourable moment for launching our psychological offensive. Many considerations will have to be weighed and these must include the fact that the process of getting ideas over to the German people is more difficult in 1942 than it was in 1918.

The coming winter may provide the proper moment. The economy of occupied Europe has been severely strained in order to enable the Axis to throw all its resources into the present campaigns.

Transport systems have been overtaxed, the armies have made excessive demands upon man power to the detriment of production, machinery has not been replaced, there is an acute shortage of consumer goods. Europe must face the cold with inadequate clothing; the reserves of warm clothes were depleted by the demands of last winter's campaigns in Russia. The oil situation will probably demand a period of military inactivity to build up reserves. The European harvest of 1942 is not likely to be more than 85% of the normal and this is at a time when the war stocks of bread grains and fats are disappearing. This winter the German people will, for the first time, have to experience real food shortages, along with the rest of the urban population of occupied Europe. It is known that the Italians are heartily sick of the war. The Germans may this winter be asking, as in 1918, what is the use of victories that do not bring them nearer a victorious peace.

Such conditions would create the right atmosphere for our psychological offensive and we may need to launch this late in November or in December.

Ammunition for the War of Ideas If we are to be in a position to make the most of this opportunity, we must, within the next three months, determine how we are to give concrete meaning to some, at least, of the general phrases of the Atlantic Charter.

Between now and the oncoming of winter we cannot hope to obtain a United Nations front on all aspects of political and economic reconstruction. Fortunately it is not necessary to attempt to do so. What must be done is to obtain general agreement on our approach to certain questions which will be of the greatest popular interest to our own peoples, to Europe and to the world.

The common peoples of all countries are vitally concerned to know about the provision of post war relief, the maintenance of full employment, the assurement of adequate diets, the progressive improvement of standards of living and the prevention of future wars.

The peoples of backward areas, such as Southeast Europe, the Near East, India and China, are also vitally concerned to know how the United Nations can assist them towards better levels of economic activity.

If, therefore, the United Nations are to place themselves in a position to wage effective psychological warfare in the coming winter, immediate steps must be taken to reach agreement on our method of approach to a sufficient number of these issues to provide the ammunition for the psychological campaigns.

Our intentions should be put forward not as American ideas and not even as Anglo-American proposals but rather as the joint intentions of the United Nations. This is necessary if the danger of suggestions about American imperialism or of an Anglo-American hegemony are to be avoided.

The Immediate Programme There is general agreement that we must secure an expanding world economy. This means full employment in industry and agriculture and rising standards of living. Once it is more generally realised.

that these things can be secured, the problems of balances of payments, export markets, international competition, and the like will appear far less formidable than if world economy is envisaged as being in a strait-jacket.

Among the things we ought therefore to do now are:

To assess the requirements of all countries for food, if diets adequate for health are to be attained.

To assess the requirements for housing, sanitation, etc. if minimum standards of decency are to become possible.

To consider, in the light of this assessment, how far the agriculture, or the industry of each country can efficiently meet these requirements, what technical and capital assistance may be needed, and the contribution of international trade.

To consider the special problems of the backward areas of the world and the steps necessary to make such areas effective contributors to the welfare of their own peoples and to general world economy. To consider methods for dealing with such commodities as grain, oil seeds, fats, rubber, and other raw materials, so as to safeguard the world consumers by ensuring the efficiency of production. We should also consider whether the methods adopted can be made to contribute both to economic stability and to political security. One subject which most urgently requires our immediate joint attention is that of Food and Agriculture.

This winter, men's minds everywhere will be concerned with food.

This will be the time for the United Nations to present to the world the picture of how they propose, on the food front, to secure 'Freedom from want, everywhere in the world'.

We are about to constitute a United Nations organisation for Relief. This will deal with the most urgent needs of the immediate post war period but we must carry straight on through rehabilitation to reconstruction; from hunger and malnutrition through the bare provision of relief necessities, to enabling countries to achieve from their own agriculture or through international trade the food requirements of abundant health.

In this way, we can also show our own farmers how their war time efforts can be correlated with the health requirements of our own peoples and of the rest of the world.

For countries such as the U.S.A., the U.K., and most other lands of Western Civilisation, the goal of diets fully adequate for health can be achieved within a few years; for other densely populated Asiatic countries, or for backward areas, we can only aim at a progressive approach to this practical ideal.

Food is only one of the many needs to be met if Freedom from Want is to become real. It is, however, the most essential. It is also a measurable factor. There are many advantages in starting the United Nations' campaign against poverty with a realisable objective.

Method of Progress A method of securing immediate progress would be the establishment of technical expert commissions for the United Nations to study and report on some of the factors mentioned in the preceding section. Immediate action along such lines would demonstrate to the world that we are not thinking in terms of Relief alone but are determined to give real meaning to the Atlantic Charter, and to the terms of the Mutual Aid Agreements.

These technical commissions should report to an Economic Council of the United Nations, which would take decisions based upon their reports and decide when publicity should be given to their findings.

Given these initial steps, the American O.W.I. [1] and the British Ministry of Information should arrange for the widest discussion of these issues in the press, on the radio, etc. The interest of voluntary organisations in America, the United Kingdom and the Dominions should be enlisted and it should be the task of those engaged in political warfare to see that the vigorous discussion of our aims is reflected to enemy and enemy occupied countries.

It is essential to draw the peoples of the world into the process of discussion and this because out hope of actually achieving the Four Freedoms [2] will depend upon the peoples wanting them enough.

[AA:M104, 10]

1 Office of War Information.

2 In his message to Congress on 6 January 1941 Roosevelt mooted the Lend-Lease idea and also set out his ideal of 'Four Freedoms'.

These were 'freedom of speech and expression; freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-everywhere in the world;

freedom from want and freedom from fear'.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History