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

Cablegram S31 WASHINGTON, 7 April 1942, 1.45 a.m.


1. There are several matters to which I desire to draw your attention:

(a) Press accounts from Australia of air fighting are still in very optimistic terms as though air reserves were very great and we were in a position to commence an offensive. I know this is not the true position and extravagant colour such as this handicaps us at this end. On the other hand I realize equally the danger of gloomy comment. Care will need to be exercised and a balanced view struck and presented. [1]

(b) Two newspaper representatives saw me on Saturday and asked if there were any truth in statements which had been made to them from Australia that there was trouble between MacArthur [2] and some Australian generals. I firmly denied this and cannot believe that there is any substance in it. MacArthur is our pivot and it would be disastrous if he did not receive the fullest measure of support from all. He is a national hero here and from all accounts he seems the type to have the courage to declare publicly if necessary that he was not receiving adequate support from Australia or that dissension existed. Any such action on his part would of course react disadvantageously against us. I said that there was no truth in the suggestion. In view of the personal interrogation by these pressmen I feel it is necessary that you should be fully aware of the rumours so that all concerned can be on their guard and strong action taken should there be the slightest suggestion of non-cooperation. [3]

(c) Van Mook's [4] last comments much publicised here and are most disturbing. He over-emphasizes Australia's safety and stresses the parlous position of Burma. Hodgson [5] knows there is a certain Dutch official [6] in Australia from whom Australia can expect nothing but opposition and I imagine Van Mook still has contact with that person. We have had a great deal of trouble here over the Dutch aircraft and I regret to say that there is little evidence of substantial support from Van Mook.

2. With reference to paragraph (7) my telegram P.M.S. 23 [7] I have been informed by Nash [8] that he actually did approach Marshall [9] and press that the first division should go to New Zealand rather than to Australia. I thought it expedient not to raise an open dispute with New Zealand before the army authorities or council here and I at once told Nash that both countries would be prejudiced if this kind of lobbying continued. I take it that, as suggested in my telegram referred to above, General MacArthur has taken such action as he deems necessary.

3. I shall probably see the President [10] today regarding MacArthur-Brett appreciation. [11]

4. War Council meets on Tuesday morning and I am leaving for Canada in the afternoon at Mackenzie King's [12] express invitation. I will meet his War Cabinet on Wednesday and Thursday, returning here at the week-end. My main object of the visit to Canada is to endeavour to get some contribution to Australia on the lines suggested by Odlum [13] and to review the system of munitions allocations. Canada's Minister of Munitions has written to me stating that the Canadian Government greatly desires to send us munitions but that they are prevented from doing so by binding commitments to the United Kingdom. [14]

5. Mackenzie King will probably attend Pacific Council here on Monday week. After that meeting I propose to prepare to leave for England together with my wife, Smith [15] and Robinson. [1]6 While I am in England meetings of the War Council could temporarily be attended by Glasgow[17] with Smart [18] who because of their long experience will be of assistance. I shall instruct them closely as to the position.

6. I have carefully considered question of a permanent successor to Casey' 9 and think you should seriously consider Gorman. [20] He is a good advocate with practical experience of war. He has also a thorough Australian outlook which is absolutely essential here. You know his qualities. We made a contract with him for the Netherlands East Indies and I believe his appointment here would be very popular with Americans. The matter need not be settled finally for a little time.

1 Evatt had previously cabled Curtin on 31 March to warn him that over-optimistic statements on the war situation made it more difficult to obtain supplies in the United States. Evatt added:

'Immediately any success is reported here, it is seized upon by other contenders for supplies as a reason for cutting down ours and increasing theirs'. See cablegram PMS18 (AA: A3195, 1942, 1.13090).

2 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

3 Curtin replied on 11 April that there was no truth in these suggestions and that: 'On the contrary statements have been published regarding the cordial manner in which they are cooperating.' See cablegram [PM]39 on file AA:A981, War 33, attachment C.

4 Former Lieutenant Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies.

5 Secretary of the External Affairs Dept.

6 Probably Tom Elink Schuurman, Netherlands Consul-General in Australia. Evatt had earlier opposed a suggestion that Elink Schuurman should be appointed Netherlands Minister to Australia (see Evatt's cablegram 353 to S. M. Bruce of 15 November 1941 on file AA:M100, November 1941) 7 Document 451.

8 N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Washington.

9 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

10 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

11 See Document 456.

12 Canadian Prime Minister.

13 Canadian High Commissioner in Australia.

14 C. D. Howe's letter has not been found.

15 A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept.

16 Australian businessman and adviser to Evatt on his overseas mission.

17 High Commissioner in Canada.

18 Head of Australian Military Mission to Combined Chiefs of Staff, Washington.

19 As Minister to the United States.

20 See Document 279, note 2.