133 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, and to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Cablegram 1045 WASHINGTON, 27 November 1941, 9.54 p.m.


Reference my telegram No. 1040. [2]

I saw the Secretary of State. He was depressed and upset by the turn of events. He blamed the Chinese principally for torpedoing of the modus vivendi. We said that he would have liked stronger support from British and Dutch Governments but did not stress. He said that it would have been completely impossible to have implemented the modus vivendi in face of strong Chinese opposition and that he had now dropped it entirely. I suggested that further discussion between himself or others with Chinese might salvage the position, but he said that it would be no use now. [3] Secretary of State showed me several telegrams of yesterday and today from Consular Officers in Indo-China indicating considerable Japanese troop reinforcements in Indo-China in recent days. These reports appeared to me to vary widely but they indicated considerable military activity. Secretary of State said that they believed that the Japanese probably intended to invade Thailand from Indo-China and to attempt to cut the Burma Road from there.

Some of their reports mentioned possibility of the Japanese 'going for' Kra Isthmus.

In short Secretary of State expects Japanese to initiate further aggression at an early date, possibly within three or four days although he has little or nothing of a positive nature to indicate where it will be, other than above-mentioned indication that it will be based on Indo-China.

I saw Sumner Welles [4] immediately afterwards. He repeated the substance of what the Secretary of State had said. He held the same views and added that it was apparent that the Japanese had started their military preparations 'at least some days ago'.

The President [5] saw the Japanese Ambassador [6] and Kurusu [7] with the Secretary of State this afternoon. The Secretary of State told me nothing of consequence [happened] other than the restatement of the position by each side. Kurusu had no instructions from his Government to return.

I tried to draw both the Secretary of State and Sumner Welles as to what action the United States would take if the Japanese invaded Thailand but they would not make any commitments.

Please see also my telegram No. 1044 regarding Japanese naval activity. [8]


1 Words in square brackets have been inserted from the Washington copy on file AA : A3300,99.

2 Dispatched 27 November. On file cited in note 1. It reported that the U.S. Secretary of State (Cordell Hull) was not now inclined to proceed with the modus vivendi owing to the 'sharp Chinese reaction and evident reserve of British Government'.

3 Casey had already attempted to persuade T. V, Soong (Chiang Kai- shek's personal representative in the United States) that the modus vivendi would not be detrimental to China's interests. Soong had called on Casey 'in great distress at China "being sold down the river" by the possibility of an "appeasing" agreement with Japan' and Casey had 'endeavoured to put proposal in better perspective'. See cablegram 1027 of 25 November on the file cited in note 1. Casey later recorded the sequence of events surrounding the dropping of the modus vivendi in a diary note dated 2 December (On file AA : A3300, 100) 'by reason of the possibility of the legend growing up here that we were in some way or other responsible for the killing of the modus vivendi'.

4 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Admiral Kichisaburo, Nomura.

7 Japanese special envoy to the United States.

8 Dispatched 28 November. On file AA : A981, Pacific 8, ii.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 178]