446 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram PMS14 WASHINGTON, 29 March 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET

(1) I am now glad to be able to advise you that, following on extended discussions, it has been decided to establish in Washington a Council in special relation to Pacific Theatre of War. The President has intimated this to me orally and also that an announcement will be made to this effect on Monday next at ten thirty a.m. Washington war time. [1] You have been so closely associated with the proposal from its origin that I think you should have comments ready for release at the corresponding Australian time. The President advised that release will not be made earlier than ten thirty and it is possible that it may be later. Suggest that monitor service advise you immediately announcement is made, after which your statement could be released. [2]

(2) Terms of President's announcement have not yet been finally decided but will be short, because he takes view that Council must be permitted to develop and that in the meantime the Council in London should not be disturbed. It is his personal opinion that the centre of gravity in relation to direction of war generally is shifting to Washington but full recognition of the movement will be gradual and thus English susceptibility should not be upset.

(3) First meeting of the Council will probably be held here on Wednesday, and I think the representatives of New Zealand, Canada, China and the Netherlands East Indies will be invited to attend, in addition to myself The President rather avoided being precise in regard to details of either the functions or scope of representation and my feeling is that first meetings will be of an exploratory character at which matters generally will be discussed and decisions taken out of which will develop a permanent set-up of the Council. I shall attend the meetings and will advise you of my impressions afterwards.

(4) As regards the Ninth Division, the President said that, broadly speaking, all American Forces in Australia or to go to Australia in the future are being despatched unconditionally and without any question of Australia's right to decide the destination of the A.I.F. He says therefore that broadly the matter is one for the Australian Government to decide. The President desires to discuss this matter further with me on Tuesday but I doubt if his present view will be varied at all in essentials. Time, however, is going and movement of troops cannot be too long delayed. Frankly my own view is that by allowing two Brigades to remain at Ceylon, we went as far as we possibly could, having regard to the responsibility that is on us to defend our own country. I consider therefore that the Ninth Division should return to Australia subject to provision of safe escort, but I will wire you again after further discussions with the President on this matter. In the meantime, however, I think that you can proceed to consideration of it on the basis [of] the information outlined above, which is not likely to be varied by further discussions.

1 Franklin D. Roosevelt's announcement of the creation of the Pacific War Council is quoted in Evatt's cablegram PMS16 of 30 March on file AA:A981, War 41B.

2 For Curtin's statement see the Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 1942, P. 4.

[AA:A816, 52/302/142]