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

Cablegram 180 WASHINGTON, 30 January 1942, 3.05 a.m.


I think I should tell you something of the background in which I am working here.

In the American Administration everything leads up to the President [1] who retains in his hands all major decisions, although he makes no decision without consideration and report by his Chiefs of Staff. Confidentially I may say that the Secretaries of War and Navy [2] have but little say in operational matters, large or small. In War and Navy Departments there is again a high degree of centralisation in the machinery of Chief of Army Staff (Marshall) and Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet (King).

General Arnold (Chief of United States Army Air Corps) is subordinate to Marshall. Admiral Stark (Chief of United States Naval Staff) has faded into the background as regards operational matters since the creation of appointment of Commander-in-Chief United States Navy, Admiral King, who now decides and controls all [operations] [3] of the United States Navy.

The above means that the only people worth my while to see are the President, General Marshall, Admiral King and General Arnold as regards influencing the minds of those who control the policy, operations and movements of United States forces.

I make a point of seeing Harry Hopkins [4] regularly as he is a close friend and confidant of President and lives in the White House. I know him well personally and can talk to him frankly without risk. However, he is a sick man and can only do a few hours' work per day.

In actual fact I see a wider range of people than above but it is necessary to use a good deal of discretion in what I say to them in order to avoid being quoted as having attempted to deal with subordinates and those not directly concerned. I normally confine myself to imparting information as to our situation.

As to seeing the President; he is strictly limited as to the number of people that he sees each day and it is not possible to see him very frequently [owing to the m]any calls on his time. He keeps himself generally very well informed and in particular has a good grasp of the position in the A-B-D-A area and in [the vicinity of] Australia generally.

Up to the present I have had no difficulty in seeing Marshall, King and Arnold when I want to and at short notice, although it is considered irregular for a diplomatic representative to see and do business with Chiefs of Staff. They realise the irregularity of it and have said although they believe in 'short cuts' in these urgent [times] it is a little embarrassing to them to see me regularly. They are under constant fear that they will be quoted in some indirect way and so get into trouble with their political chiefs as having gone beyond their province. Consequently I have to use a good deal of discretion in dealing with them, although I am obliged to see them as they represent the only regular means of my canalising your views and desires into quarters which can result in action. I believe it has been no less essential to seek personal contact with United States Chiefs of Staff in order to ensure that your views and representations get proper consideration by men who are in charge of operations in their respective services and on whose advice the President acts, and I believe that this approach has had its results over the last 6 weeks.

As you will realise the normal practice here (which in peace time they insist on quite strictly) is that diplomatic representatives deal with the State Department only. If I want to see the head or any senior member of any Department other than the State Department the normal practice is to seek appointment through the State Department or at the worst inform the State Department immediately afterwards and tell them in brief what has passed.

However since Dec. 7th this procedure has not been possible for me and I put myself right on this by seeing the Secretary of State and Sumner Welles [5] soon after Dec. 7th and got their approval to deal direct with Army and Navy at their request. However even now I take precaution of calling on Hull or Sumner Welles at fortnightly intervals to tell them generally what I have been doing. They appear quite sympathetic to this method and I anticipate no difficulty with them.

The Naval Attache [6] assists me where practicable on all service matters, naval, military and air. His rank however precludes him from access to American Chiefs of Staff whom he sees only on comparatively rare occasions. This is not peculiar to the Australian Naval Attache but is common to all Service Attaches here. He has of course access to all the officers with whom he has to do business on all matters except those on a strategical plane.

Even if military and air attaches are appointed to this Legation in due course this same situation will exist and whilst seniority of rank within reasonable limits is not disadvantageous it will not substantially increase their opportunities of contact with American Chiefs of Staff whom I believe it will still be necessary for me to see personally.

The representatives of British Chiefs of Staff here (Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Admiral Sir Charles Little and Air Marshal Harris) are in a different position. They see United States Chiefs of Staff regularly both individually and in joint conference as they of course, together with United States Chiefs of Staff, form combined Chiefs of Staff Committee which, so far as Washington is concerned, are charged with the conduct of the war. My contacts with them enable me to get them to reinforce the Australian view (on the strategy and reinforcement side) by [their] sponsoring of it with American Chiefs of Staff. They are well disposed and have been of considerable assistance in recent times.


1 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2 H. L. Stimson and Colonel Franklin Knox.

3 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 219.

4 Adviser to President Roosevelt.

5 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.

6 Commander D. H. Harries.

[AA:A981, WAR 49, i]