253 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 17 WASHINGTON, 3 January 1942, 12.27 p.m.


I have just been told by Churchill that President has insisted on following announcement being made at 2 p.m. today, i.e. equivalent of 5 a.m. Jan 4th A.E.S. [1] time. I have represented to him strongly that this is impossibly short notice for Australia and he is seeking President's approval to a few hours delay.

Announcement is as follows:


As a result of proposals put forward by the American and British Chiefs of Staff and of their recommendations to President Roosevelt and to the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, it is announced that with the concurrence of the Netherlands Government and of the Dominion Governments concerned a system of unified command will be established in the south-west Pacific area.

2. All the forces in this area, sea, land and air, will operate under one supreme commander. At the suggestion of the President, in which all concerned have agreed, General Sir A. Wavell [2] has been appointed to this command.

3. Major General George H. Brett, Chief of the Air Corps of the United States Army, will be appointed Deputy Supreme Commander. He is now in the Far East. Under the direction of General Wavell, Admiral Thomas C. Hart, United States Navy, will assume command of all naval forces in the area. General Sir Henry Pownall will be Chief of Staff to General Wavell.

4. General Wavell will assume his command in the near future.

5. At the same time His Excellency Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek [3] has accepted the supreme command over all land and air forces of the United Nations which are now or may in the future be operating in the Chinese theatre including initially such portions of Indo-China and Thailand as may become available to troops of the United Nations. American and British representatives will serve on his joint headquarters planning staff Ends.

I am afraid you cannot count on Churchill being able to secure delay in above announcement and I would suggest Prime Minister [4] making similar announcement at once on receipt of this telegram.


1 Australian Eastern Standard.

2 See Document 252, note 4.

3 Chinese Prime Minister.

4 John Curtin.

[AA:A981, WAR 54]