419 Mr A. S. Watt, First Secretary of the Legation in Washington, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 470 WASHINGTON, 18 March 1942, 4.40 p.m.


Further to my telegram 469. [1]

The following letter from Mr. Sumner Welles [2] to Mr. Casey [3] dated 17th March reached the Legation at noon 18th March. In the circumstances, I feel that I should quote it in full:-

'Mr. Watt was good enough to hand to me this morning with his letter of 17th March a message addressed to the President [4] by the Prime Minister of Australia [5] which contained the very gratifying suggestion that the Australian Government desired to nominate General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Australian theatre.

I was glad to submit this message immediately to the President who asked me to convey to the Prime Minister of Australia through you his very sincere appreciation of this message. The President asked me likewise to state that the suggestion made had his complete approval and that steps would be immediately taken in accordance with the suggestion of your Prime Minister.

The President ascertained, however, while I was with him, that the Secretary of War [6] had just made an announcement of the appointment of General MacArthur in the capacity, making it clear that this step had been taken "at the suggestion of the Australian Government".

For that reason it has been impossible for me to inform you beforehand of the text and time of the announcement as requested by Mr. Curtin.'


1 Dispatched at 11.17 p.m. (Washington time) on 17 March. On file AA:A981, War 5A. It advised that MacArthur's appointment had been announced in Washington. Following the receipt of this cablegram in Canberra on 18 March Curtin also issued a statement, the text of which is on file AA:A981, External Affairs Dept 192, iv.

2 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.

3 Minister to the United States.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 John Curtin. See Document 415.

6 H. L. Stimson.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.11267]