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85 Legation in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram S186 WASHINGTON, 3 December 1942, 1.55 a.m.


Prime Minister's 159 [1] and our S.183. [2]

Following message for Prime Minister has been received from President Roosevelt:


From the President to Mr. John Curtin.

Careful consideration has been given to your despatch with reference to the returning of the 9th Australian Imperial Division from the Middle East to Australia. [3] Before proceeding further, I wish to extend my heartiest congratulations to you and to the officers and men of the 9th Division on the heroic part it has played in the recent victory in the Middle East.

In view of the strenuous period of combat service which it has endured and its long absence from home, it is my belief that the 9th Division should be returned to Australia at the earliest date practicable. This date should depend however on two factors.

Firstly, the 9th Division should remain in the Middle East until the pursuit of Rommel's [4] forces has resulted in final and decisive victory; and secondly, it should not be returned until its movement can be accomp[lished] [5] without a too serious drain on available shipping.

Under existing conditions I am of the opinion that the present engagement in the Middle East will be concluded satisfactorily early in the year. Once this has been accomplished, I shall urge that the 9th Division be returned to Australia as soon as shipping becomes available. In this connection I feel that the movement home should be accomplished on one of the larger liners returning from the Middle East to the United States, via Australia. To conserve shipping, the movement should include only personnel. The Division should, I hope, leave its equipment in the Middle East and be re-equipped upon its arrival home.

Our operations in the South West Pacific are affected more seriously by the scarcity of shipping than by a lack of available troops. The campaign now being undertaken in North Africa, including the action in which the 9th Division is engaged in the Middle East, will have the result, we hope, of opening the sea lanes of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. You can appreciate how this will alleviate the critical shortage in shipping. The benefits thus derived will be felt in the South West Pacific just as they will be in all other theatres in which troops of United Nations are engaged. I feel that by contributing to our success in the Mediterranean the 9th Division has added to the security of Australia more than it would have, had it remained at home Present plans contemplate sending 25th United States Division from Hawaii to the Australian area on the following schedule:

One regimental combat team sailed Nov. 23rd.

One and one half combat teams to sail immediately.

Remainder of the Division to sail during the month of December.

With this Division arriving prior to the 1st of the year, and the 9th Australian Division arriving home as soon as possible after the 1st of the year, I feel that you can be reassured as to the adequacy of troops available, to drive the Japanese away from Australia to such a distance as to make an invasion impossible.

I greatly hope you will co-operate in seeing this plan through.


1 Document 76.

2 Dispatched 19 November. On file AA:A3300, 232. It contained a message from Roosevelt advising that he was taking up the matter of the 9th Division with the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

3 See the document cited in note 1.

4 Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in North Africa.

5 Corrected from the Washington copy on the file cited in note 2.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History