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

Cablegram ET32 [1] LONDON, 28 May 1942, 1.55 a.m.


My telegrams Nos. E.T. 30 [2] and 31. [3]

Annexure B

Aide-memoire on strategy.

(1) The broad strategic policy of the United Nations was agreed when the Prime Minister [4] and Chiefs of Staff visited America.

(2) This is contained in W.W.(1) and remains fundamentally unchanged. (Note: W.W.(1) is code reference to Annex A. [5]) General Strategy (3) Security of the United States and the United Kingdom as chief armament producers of the Allied Nations.

(4) Security of sea communications essential as highways for raw materials to producers and for moving armaments and forces to fighting areas.

(5) Defeat of Germany whilst holding Japan. Only after Germany's defeat can the United Nations assemble superior force against Japan.

(6) Keep Russia fighting effectively as the greatest single contribution to the rapid defeat of Germany. This involves high priority in provision and despatch of arms and equipment to the Russians for the Eastern front, combined with raids and intensive air operations on the Western front, with the object of containing German land and air forces.

Middle East and India (7) Strategically one theatre. Major enemy success in either endangers the other since it would prejudice vital oil supplies and communications on which both theatres depend. The loss of either would lead eventually to the Germans and the Japanese joining hands and thus to the indefinite postponement of the final victory.

The Middle East (8) The Axis threat now present in the Western Desert up to 14 divisions. Potential threat to the northern flank following the defeat of Russia and the failure of Turkey to preserve neutrality.

(9) The strength of forces now in the Middle East seriously reduced by reinforcements sent to the Far East and India and is now quite insufficient to secure the Middle East both in the West and in the North where we are compelled to rely on the Russians holding in the Caucasus.

Malta-keypoint for both defence and offence-now seriously threatened by shortage of supplies.

India (10) If Japan adopts a bold policy, India and consequently Middle East are in grave danger. Japanese now on threshold of North East India-forces available to us inadequate in training and equipment and particularly weak in the air. We are building up our forces as fast as we can to meet this immediate threat.

Indian Ocean (11) Upon secur[e] [6] sea [communications] in the Indian Ocean depend[s] our ability to maintain forces in both India and Middle East, supply these theatres with oil from Persia and keep open the Western supply routes to Australia.

(12) Despite all our efforts naval forces which can be concentrated in Indian Ocean for some time to come will be inadequate to meet the possible scale of Japanese attack as evidenced by recent penetration into the Bay of Bengal.

Policy for the time being is to retain the fleet in being as a deterrent whilst the Americans [contain] as much of the Japanese Naval Force in the Pacific as the[ir] mean[s] allow.

(13) Capture of Diego Suarez was a[n] essential insurance against Japanese aggression or Vichy collaboration providing the Axis with a base from which to cut our Indian Ocean communications.

Australia (14) Full scale invasion of Australia unlikely because:-

(a) It involves an enormous additional commitment.

(b) Lack of communications rules out land invasion from Northern Australia.

(c) It would involve great risks to the invader of eastern or southern Australia by sea in the face of the United States Fleet, with the probable addition of strong British Naval Forces.

(d) Japan can probably accomplish her main object, the consolidation of her Asiatic co-prosperity sphere, more easily and cheaply by placing herself astride the American-Australian lines of communication.

(e) Japanese must be prepared for conflict with Russia.

(f) Operations against India and China from [Burma] would bring greater profit to the Japanese than would the control of Australia and with infinitely less risk to their naval forces, on which they must count to retain their ill-gotten gains.

(15) Apart from our intention of giving Australia all practicable help, we depend on her as a base for the final offensive against Japan. Nevertheless vitally essential that the utmost care is taken in relating her defence requirements to our general war strategy and to our forecast of enemy intentions.

1 Repeated to the Legation in Washington (see copy on file AA:A3300, 228).

2 Document 500.

3 See Document 497, note 2.

4 Winston Churchill.

5 i.e. cablegram ET31 (cited in note 3).

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

[AA:A4764, 2]