259 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister (in the United States)

Cablegram Johcu 15 [1] CANBERRA, 6 January 1942, 9.35 P.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

I am in receipt of Winch Nos. 1 [2], 2 and 3 [3] and desire to submit the following observations which have the unanimous endorsement of the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council:

(1) Machinery for joint direction In Winch No. 13 [4] you sought approval to an agreement reached with the President [5] in which the following was mentioned in Winch No. 14 [6] in clause (E) of the agreement:

(E) Commander-in-Chief would receive his orders from an appropriate joint body who would be responsible to you and to the President.

In Johcu No. 13 [7], I notified the Commonwealth Government's assent to the agreement and stated that we expected that Australia would be included in the composition of the appropriate joint body to which reference was made. In our view machinery of this nature was an essential part of the plan and our assent was promptly given because (E) involved the setting up of such a body and our representation on it.

No further advice has been received from you regarding the joint body agreement. Winch No. 1 paragraph 12, Commander-in-Chief is authorised to despatch recommendations to A.B.D.A. Governments through channels specified in paragraph 18 Latter states that Commander-in-Chief will be responsible to A.B.D.A. Governments through agency defined in annex 2. Annex 2 provides that United States Chiefs of Staff and Representatives in Washington of the British Chiefs of Staff will constitute the agency for submitting recommendations for decisions by the President and yourself.

Paragraph 3 of the annex says: 'Since London has machinery for consulting with the Dominion Governments and since the Dutch Government is in London, British Government will be responsible for obtaining their views and agreement, and for including these in the final telegraph to Washington.' Though a powerful enemy has brought conflict closer to our shores and Australian people are quite prepared to meet the dangers with the same resolution displayed by their kinsfolk in the British isles, we hold strongly in view of the large forces we will have in the South Western Pacific theatre, the use that will be made of the Commonwealth as a base and our responsibilities for its local defence, that our voice be heard in the Councils on Pacific strategy. We fully realize that we are not one of the predominant partners in this struggle since British and American forces in the South Western theatre are defending the strategic centres and sources of supplies, but the same military operations represent to us a vital struggle for the security of our homeland and all that we have built up in this part of the world.

My predecessor [8] in telegram No. 585 outlined to you at length opinions which, as the leader of another party, I can state are the overwhelming views of the Australian people on their right to be heard when vital decisions affecting their interests are being taken.

It was understood that the purpose of Mr. Duff Cooper's [9] mission was to provide for local Ministerial representation in the Far East for dealing with urgent matters and to set up a Council which would be representative of the main parties concerned, to provide the Governments with responsible persons with power to act for them in many respects, and with authority to report to them direct.

In so far as London is concerned I stated in Johcu No. 5 [10] that I was grateful for the facilities afforded to Page and suggested the following principles to govern consultations on common policy:

1. It should have full knowledge of all essential facts, developments and trends of policy.

2. It should obtain this knowledge in time to express its view before decisions are taken.

3. It should have the opportunity through its accredited representatives of presenting to and discussing with the War Cabinet, the important committees such as the Defence Committee and the Prime Minister or other senior ministers any suggestions as to new policy or views on policy under consideration that Australia might from time to time desire to submit.

Failure to set up any joint body for operations in the Pacific or to provide for more direct consultation with the Commonwealth than that contemplated in Winch No. 14 is a situation we are quite unable to accept.

(2) Strategic considerations In Winch No. 14 the following were mentioned:

(a) It was presumed boundaries of South Western Pacific area would include Port Darwin and supply line in Northern Australia.

(b) United States Navy would remain responsible for the whole Pacific Ocean east of the Philippine Islands and Australia including United States approaches to Australasia.

In Winch No. 1 the following occurs in paragraph 6(b) of directive to Commander-in-Chief:

'General strategical policy will be therefore: ... (b) to hold Burma and Australia as essential support positions for the area and Burma as essential support of China and to the defence of India.'

It is noted however from annex No. 1 that Australia is excluded from the South Western Pacific theatre.

The Commonwealth Government as the result of recommendation by its Chiefs of Staff and General Brett [11] I who is in Australia has approved of a joint American-Australian organization to direct measures necessary for the use of Australia as a base for American operations along the Malay barrier and to maintain contact with the Philippine Islands.

It will be evident that with United States of America naval ships and convoys using our ports and air forces establishing assembly and maintenance depots and air stations in the Commonwealth, our vital centres will become the obvious targets for Japanese attacks. It is observed that the definition of the S.W. Pacific theatre now excludes the whole of Australia and important bases such as Port Darwin and other centres being used by the Americans.

Presumably however this added scale of attack is to be borne by our local defence forces which have long lacked essential supplies promised from overseas. In our opinion strategic and supply aspects are intermingled. We alone can present not only our particular viewpoint but needs of our capacity to ensure that the support flowing through Australia can be maintained.

Same principle applies to the exclusion of Australian waters from the American naval zone in the Pacific. Without adequate naval protection the line of communication to Australia for American supply ships cannot be maintained. As already pointed out the Japanese have only to walk into New Caledonia where they would be astride this line and in a position to launch air attacks on the most northern ports being used by the Americans for unloading aircraft and other supplies for transit via Darwin and the Netherlands East Indies.

Quite frankly we feel that the strategical approach is not well conceived and that presentation of the Australian viewpoint must be made personally by an accredited authority of the Australian Government.

In all the foregoing, I have put, as you would wish me to put, what are the undoubted views at this end. For myself I can only add that I share them entirely, with the addition that I know your burdens and difficulties and appreciate completely all you have done to help us.

1 Repeated to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom, as no. 3A on 8 January. See file AA:M100, January 1942.

2 Dispatched 4 January. On file AA:A981, War 54.

3 Documents 254-5.

4 Document 239.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Document 240.

7 See Document 240, note 10.

8 A. W. Fadden. See Document 60.

9 U.K. Minister of State for Far Eastern Affairs resident in Singapore.

10 Document 149.

11 Commander, U.S. Army Forces in Australia.

[AA:A2937, A.B.D.A. STRATEGIC AREA, 1941-1942]