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48 Dixon to Curtin

Cablegram S140 WASHINGTON, 16 September 1942, 2.49 p.m.


I have received this morning the following reply dated yesterday to your communications to the President. [1] Begins.

My dear Mr. Curtin. I have given very careful consideration to the situation in the South-West Pacific Area as presented in your two messages of Sept. 11th and fully appreciate the anxiety which you must naturally feel with regard to the security of Australia.

It would appear from your messages that Mr. Churchill has already communicated to you the decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in regard to the immediate employment of the British Eastern Fleet. [2] This employment precludes reinforcement by British forces of the United States Pacific Fleet at the present time.

Since it is clear that the United States Pacific Fleet is unable to provide a superior naval force solely concerned with the defence of Australia and New Zealand, the Combined Chiefs of Staff have carefully considered the necessity for and possibility of increasing the ground and air forces required for the territorial defence of Australia.

On December 7th, 1941, Japan's gross shipping tonnage amounted to 6,350,000. By Sept. 1st, 1942, she had lost through sinkings about 990,000 tons, she had acquired through new construction 250,000 tons, capture and seizure 550,000 tons, resulting in a net loss of 190,000 tons. Present plans contemplate ever-increasing attacks by United States Naval Forces against the Japanese lines of communication, merchant shipping as well as naval units. If air forces available in the South-West Pacific Area are similarly concentrated on Japanese shipping, I anticipate the extent to which the Japanese can assume and support operations in the South- West Pacific Area will be continually decreasing.

It is estimated that the Japanese have at this time a maximum of 700,000 tons of shipping available for employment in large-scale military operations, and that this shipping could support about 200,000 troops.

After considering all of the factors involved, I agree with the conclusions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff that your present armed forces, assuming that they are fully equipped and

effectively trained, are sufficient to defeat the present Japanese force in New Guinea and to provide for the security of Australia against an invasion on the scale that the Japanese are capable of launching at this time or in the immediate future.

The present operations in the Solomons area are designed to strengthen our position in lines of communications leading to Australia and therefore, if successful, should contribute to its security. Projected reinforcements for these operations will

further strengthen the Allied position in the South-West Pacific and will create favourable conditions for more extensive operations against the enemy as appropriate means become available.

Present commitments of shipping are such that it is not possible to move additional troops to Australia now or in the immediate future. Every effort is being made to ensure uninterrupted flow of supplies, equipment and forces committed to your area, and I can assure you that it will be my personal obligation that these commitments will be fulfilled to alleviate the present position. I regret that my reply cannot be more favourable. However, I am confident that you appreciate fully the necessity of rigidly pursuing our over-all strategy that envisages the early and decisive defeat of Germany in order that we can quickly undertake an 'all-out' effort in the Pacific.

Very sincerely, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ends.


1 See Document 43 and Document 44, note 8.

2 See Document 41.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History