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

Cablegram ET30 [1] LONDON, 28 May 1942, 2.25 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET FOR CURTIN ALONE

It is now possible to summarize the work of our mission so far as the London end is concerned.

(A) Grand Strategy of the War (1) I have ascertained that during the visit of Churchill to Washington in December and January last the grand strategy of the war was agreed upon in accordance with Annexure A to this telegram. [2] As I have already suggested the substance of this agreement was that notwithstanding the entrance of Japan into the war Germany would still remain the primary enemy. The strategy contemplated Germany's defeat before that of Japan. In a phrase, it was 'beat Hitler first'.

(2) The existence of this written arrangement came as a great surprise to myself and, I have no doubt, to you. We were not consulted about the matter and neither Page [3] nor Casey [4] ever reported to us about it. Owing apparently to the U.S. Government's desire for secrecy it took some little insistence to get the document here.

(3) You will also remember that when Colonel Knox, Secretary of U.S. Navy, and Alexander [5] here spoke publicly in the strain 'beat Hitler first' and there were protests from Australia [6] both speakers rather repudiated the meaning put upon their words.

(4) However, in spite of the general strategy, clause 18 of Annexure A insisted that the security of Australia must be maintained.

(5) The next document on the grand strategy is an aide-memoire of recent origin which is Annexure B to this telegram. [7] You will note that clauses 14 and 15 directly affect Australia. In substance clause 15 repeats the strategy agreed upon between Churchill and Roosevelt. Clause 14, however, asserts for a number of reasons, some of them very unconvincing, that a full-scale invasion of Australia is unlikely.

(6) The phrase 'full-scale invasion' was, I have no doubt, used because, in telegram of August 11th 1940 from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs through the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom [8], Mr Churchill said, if Japan set about invading Australia or New Zealand on a large scale, Britain would cut her losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to our aid sacrificing every interest except only the defence position of the United Kingdom.

(7) I should add that the Prime Minister and Chiefs of Staff adhere to the view that a full-scale invasion of Australia is still highly improbable.

(8) The third document on grand strategy is Z.57 from the Dominions Office which you received from Bruce. [9] It contains the substance of the plan put forward by General Marshall [10] involving a concentration against Germany in Western Europe.

Clause 4(a) of the document also asserts that it is essential to safeguard amongst other things the defence of Australia and adequate forces must be allocated for such a task.

(9) I think that we can now appreciate the background in which General MacArthur's [11] directive was drafted. The strategy defined in it was primarily defensive in character. The offensive was to take place in the future.

(10) On all these matters I have emphasized three points, viz. (a) we were never consulted as to the agreed strategy; (b) a strong case can be made against the agreed strategy; (c) however, accepting the agreed strategy, there is a joint obligation upon United States and the United Kingdom to provide the South-West Pacific Commander with sufficient forces to carry out that portion of the grand strategy which is laid down in General MacArthur's directive.

(11) In the first instance, I have concentrated mainly upon the last point. If there is to be any modification of the grand strategy it is plain that we shall have to insist (a) upon prior consultation to a greater degree, (b) upon stronger representation both in Washington and London, (c) upon better organization of existing service representatives under Bruce [12] here and Dixon [13] in Washington. For instance I am satisfied that Wardell [14] knew the substance of the agreed grand strategy although apparently Bruce was not informed.

(12) In the United States the main protagonist of the present grand strategy is Marshall. On the other hand, Admiral King [15] is sceptic[al] of it and resolved to concentrate on the Pacific war against Japan.

(B) Probable Developments (1) It seems quite likely that either as a result of opportunity or necessity a second European front may be developed before this year ends. The factor of major importance governing the issue and the extent of such a development will be the movements on the Russian front. If Russia is able to hold the German attack and prevent the loss of anything really vital to her existence an opportunity to create a second front will it is believed be created. If the Russians do not hold the Germans the necessity for a second front will certainly be created. The same applies but with less emphasis to the Middle East where a big attack by the enemy is believed to be impending. You know Marshall is most anxious that the United States should take part in an offensive against Germany as early as possible. Molotov's [16] main purpose in visiting here and Washington is to hasten the establishment of a second European front.

(2) The fate of Malta is still in the balance for it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide supplies to enable the defence to be maintained and to prevent starvation. Recent air successes against the enemy were obtained by the loan of an American aircraft carrier from which fighters were flown in but operations such as this will be most difficult to repeat now that the element of surprise is eliminated.

(3) While unrest in occupied countries continues to grow there is as yet no authentic news of any slackening in the morale of the German army or the determination of the German people.

(4) Japan it is believed hopes not only to eliminate China but to attack Russia. Molotov contemplates an attack on Russia by Japan and the form of yesterday's treaty shows great anxiety not to offend Japan.

(5) There is a fear in some quarters in the United States that Japan will attack Alaska.

(6) Ceylon it is believed will be held with the naval forces now being concentrated in the Indian Ocean.

(7) India presents a much more difficult problem owing to the growing unrest and fear among the native population due to intensive Japanese propaganda.

(C) Difficulties Confronting Australia (1) With Russia fighting for its life it is difficult for the United States or this country to resist the strong and insistently repeated complaints of shortage of aircraft and munitions. In the case of Russia there is a protocol entitling them to a flow of supplies. One of the purposes of Molotov's visit here was to demand great increases in supply. There are also urgent and sometimes piteous appeals from China and from Wavell who is in charge of India and Ceylon. It is also alleged that the United States production of aircraft is below expectations.

(2) The most recent development is that the President [17] has advised the British Government that the United States has now decided that its aircraft must be manned and operated wherever possible by American personnel. It is in fulfilment of this ruling that allocations from American aircraft production to the United Kingdom have been suspended for the time being. The policy of Arnold, United States Air Chief, has been to oppose the allocations of American aircraft unless American personnel is in charge. Arnold has just arrived here and unless the matter is adjusted Churchill will probably make a special trip to see the President. It was evident in Washington that Arnold was very little interested in the equipping of the R.A.A.F. but was keen on developing the United States Air Forces in Australia and elsewhere.

(3) Prior to our arrival the arrangement as to operational responsibility for areas had made the British Government and Service Chiefs less directly interested in the provision of forces for Australia. On the other hand under the Munitions Assignment machinery the United States authorities are still inclined to regard the United Kingdom requisitions as covering not only the United Kingdom but all the Dominions.

(4) I believe that by continuous pressure we can overcome many difficulties caused by competition of other theatres and the other factors. However we must appreciate them.

(D) General Results (1) The Prime Minister and Service Chiefs take the view that it is very unwise to divert large land forces to Australia until it is reasonably clear that the enemy will strike heavily against Australia. If the event occurs he will immediately divert forces now en route to India or the Middle East. One division, an armoured one, left here a few days ago and will be at the Cape in about two weeks' time. From there it can be diverted if the necessity arises.

(2) Instructions have been given that the two brigades now at Ceylon are to be returned to Australia at the very earliest possible moment. A brigade engaged at Madagascar will go to Ceylon and two brigades will then be sent to Australia.

(3) With regard to the return to Australia of the 9th Division, feeling that this is a matter of highest Government policy, I think any request should be made from Australia. At the same time I have emphasized that the division is only being retained temporarily and that it would certainly have to be recalled in the event of attempted invasion. My personal opinion on the matter corresponds with that of Blamey [18], but I would like to discuss the proposal with you in Australia in the light of the latest information.

(4) So far as the naval position is concerned, no firm undertaking to allocate an aircraft carrier can yet be made. But this matter will be kept continuously under review. The Prime Minister emphasizes that the U.S. Navy has accepted primary naval responsibility for the area and although he complains about Admiral King's secrecy he is satisfied that the U.S. Navy will strike again and again as the occasion requires. He is confident that the rapid building up of strong British fleet in the Indian Ocean will be a strong deterrent against Japanese southward move against Eastern Australia and that it is now strong enough to prevent attacks against Western Australia. Above all there is a growing opinion amongst Service Chiefs as to the correctness of Sir [Guy] Royle's [19] thesis as to the necessity for concentration of British and United States fleets. Pound [20] does not accept the thesis but Portal [21] and Brooke [22] are strongly inclined to do so. I advise continuous pressure on this point by Royle to the Admiralty and Leary. [23]

(5) With regard to the equipment of land forces I submitted to Churchill a list of additional land equipment prepared after consultation with Robinson [24] and Coffey [25] and urgently sought his support for immediate allocation. Churchill instructed the Minister for Production (Lyttelton) to do the utmost to meet our requirements.

[A detailed list of munitions allocations has been omitted.]

(7) While allotments fall short of the full request I am satisfied that every effort has been and will be made to get them for us, and these allotments with the substantial increases already obtained in March, April and May should prove most helpful.

Ordnance expert, General Macready [26], asserts that the Australian Army will very shortly be the best equipped in the world.

(8) With regard to my suggestion that the Government should adopt an emergency plan for air reinforcement, the Prime Minister has decided to send a special detachment of three fully equipped Spitfire squadrons from the United Kingdom to Australia in the near future. Two will be R.A.A.F. squadrons (No. 452 and 457) and one an R.A.F. squadron No. 54.

(9) The despatch of the two crack R.A.A.F. squadrons is not in any sense a recall of squadrons by us, but a special contribution of front-line fighting squadrons to help us in our need. These are the only Australian Spitfire squadrons in this country and they have gained a tremendous reputation. Truscott [27] who is now in Australia was attached to one. The Prime Minister himself initiated the scheme of sending three squadrons as a wing and insisted that a first-class R.A.F. squadron should be instructed to keep the flag flying'.

(10) This contribution amounts to a small air expeditionary force.

Each squadron will be sent out completely on the basis of U.K.

establishment, with the addition of a maintenance echelon and specialist personnel. The R.A.A.F. squadrons will be manned as far as possible by Australians and the R.A.F. squadron will be manned entirely by R.A.F. personnel.

(11) The equipment will be of the most modern character. [481] [28] tropicalised Spitfire V.C.s (with universal wing) will be sent, together with erection equipment, unit equipment, specialized M-T and three months requirements of maintenance spares. Any deficiencies which are made necessary by a shortage of particular items of equipment will be made good as soon as possible. The equipment of jigs and drawings to enable major overhauls to be taken in Australia will also be sent. Further to the above, 15 Spitfire V.C.s with addition [all maintenance spares will be despatched in each month thereafter to replace wastage.

(12) The personnel will be despatched in a convoy leaving about the middle of June and equipment will be split up between about three ships and should leave before the end of June. This wing is being despatched with the utmost secrecy and the Prime Minister is extremely keen on Australia regarding it as a special gesture in the present emergency. As you see, it will involve the immediate provision of 48 of the best fighters in the world and a flow of 180 machines per annum. McNamara [29] is [aware of] the movement and is co-operating with Air Chief Marshal Portal who is determined to make a big success of the scheme. I know you will accept this contribution in the spirit in which it is made. I suggest that you send an appropriate message.

(13) With regard to the general question of additional aircraft it has been especially laid down that the despatch of the Spitfire wing is not in any way to prejudice our applications for allocations either here or in Washington.

(14) While insisting upon absolute secrecy of announcing details of movement of Spitfire squadrons no doubt you might make some public statement in general terms indicating your appreciation of how the Prime Minister is helping.

(15) It seems probable that the whole question of aircraft allocation will be reviewed in Washington in the very near future following upon Arnold's visit here and I shall of course give Dixon the fullest information and help.

(16) Many difficulties arise because of the fact that control is divided between London and Washington. One result has been that the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Washington has not yet approved of the 73 squadron plan [30] and their support is required before MacArthur can get the necessary equipment either for the approved number of squadrons or for some smaller number.

(17) This crisscross between Washington and London is most irritating and I am now endeavouring to get an instruction from the Chiefs of Staff here to their representatives on the Chiefs of Staff Committee at Washington, requiring all possible support to MacArthur and Australia.

(18) Considering the difficulties created by the agreed grand strategy on which we were never consulted, the dramatic improvement in air fighting over the last three months in the Australian area, the fact that the United States accepted a primary responsibility for the Pacific and that [a] certain soreness had to be healed, I feel that the work of the mission here has been successful. We have greatly increased the personal concern of the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff in our area, we certainly have made the British public and press more alive to our dangers and difficulties and I think we are now assured of far greater support in Washington from the British representatives there. The key is to retain the active interest and support of Churchill. He is supreme in the Cabinet and in the country and I suggest your making the fullest use of your right of confidential communication with him.

(19) As you know, I am far from satisfied that Page has been sufficiently consulted in relation to the higher direction of war and the war policy generally. Before leaving I am to discuss with Bruce the existing machinery of consultation so far as concerns Australia's accredited representative. But the point is not so much that the Prime Minister has taken important decisions without prior reference to Page but without reference to the War Cabinet.

As you know this may well be justified on special occasions.

Furthermore, the United States Chiefs are extremely secretive about their grand strategy. I propose to discuss the matter frankly here with Bruce and Churchill and to avoid any formal complaint or protest. For the time being good results will flow by your greater use of the instrument of confidential communication with Churchill. Page's recovery has been delayed and obviously Bruce will have to carry on after I leave at the week-end. When I return to Australia shortly the position of the machinery can be reviewed.

(20) Robinson's assistance here and Smith's from Washington have been invaluable. May I add that your personal prestige here could not possibly be higher.

(21) I am expecting a letter from Churchill's Chief of Staff [31] which I will send you in full and which should show that instructions are being sent to British representatives in Washington along the lines suggested by me.

EVATT

1 Repeated to A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept (in Washington). This and subsequent cablegrams in this group (Documents 501-2) were dispatched by the External Affairs Officer in London, A. T. Stirling.

2 See Document 497, note 2.

3 Special Representative in the United Kingdom until 30 March.

4 Minister to the United States until 31 March.

5 U.K. First Lord of the Admiralty.

6 See Documents 291 and 295.

7 Document 501.

8 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937 49, vol. IV, Document 64.

9 See Document 483, note in The cablegram was in fact received through the U.K. High Commissioner in Australia, Sir Ronald Cross.

10 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

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

12 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

13 Minister to the United States from 10 June.

14 Military Liaison Officer and Adviser to Bruce.

15 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.

16 U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister.

17 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

18 Commander, Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

19 Chief of the Naval Staff.

20 Chief of the U.K. Naval Staff.

21 Chief of the U.K. Air Staff.

22 Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

23 Commander, Allied Naval Forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

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

25 Assistant Military Liaison Officer at the High Commission in London.

26 Member of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

27 Commander Officer of 452 Squadron.

28 Material in square brackets has been corrected/inserted from the copy in Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Cables to and from Dr Evatt, March-May 1942.

29 Deputy Air Officer Commanding, RAAF Overseas Headquarters.

McNamara advised the Air Board of the dispatch of the Spitfire squadrons in signal AL.120 of 30 May (in Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Correspondence-Evatt's 1942 trip). See also Documents 529-32.

30 For details of the plan to strengthen the RAAF to 73 squadrons see Douglas Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962, pp. 485-6.

31 Maj Gen Sir Hastings Ismay. See Document 502.

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