355 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 330 WASHINGTON, 21 February 1942, 12.12 a.m.


The President asks me in hand-written note to transmit message to the Prime Minister.

No. 72. Personal and secret for Prime Minister Curtin from the President.

I fully appreciate how grave are your responsibilities in reaching a decision in the present serious circumstances as to the disposition of the first Australian division returning from the Middle East.

I assume you know now of our determination to send, in addition to all troops and forces now en route, another force of over 27,000 men to Australia. This force will be fully equipped in every respect.

We must fight to the limit for our two flanks-one based on Australia and the other on Burma, India and China. Because of our geographical position we Americans can better handle the reinforcement of Australia and the right flank.

I say this to you so that you may have every confidence that we are going to reinforce your position with all possible speed.

Moreover, the operations which the United States Navy have begun and have in view will in a measure constitute a protection to the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. On the other hand the left flank simply must be held. If Burma goes it seems to me our whole position, including that of Australia, will be extremely strained.

Your Australian division is the only force that is available for immediate reinforcement. It could get into the fight at once and would, I believe, have strength to save what now seems a very dangerous situation.

While I realize the Japanese are moving rapidly I cannot believe that, in view of your geographical position and forces on their way to you or operating in your neighbourhood, your vital centres are in immediate danger.

While I realize that your men have been fighting all over the world, and are still, and while I know full well of great sacrifices which Australia has made, I nevertheless want to ask you in the interest of our whole war effort in the Far East if you will reconsider your decision and order the division now en route to Australia to move with all speed to support the British forces fighting in Burma.

You may be sure we will fight by your side with all our force until victory. Roosevelt.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, i]