503 Mr A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs (in London)

Cablegram 145 WASHINGTON, 28 May 1942, 12.15 a.m.


Your telegram No-44. [1]

Had long discussion with Hopkins [2] this evening and now furnish the following comments:

Your paragraph 2-extreme difficulty here in obtaining true picture of aircraft position but American policy of placing American personnel in American aircraft, if followed to its logical conclusion and on the well-founded assumption that there will not be enough aircraft for all purposes, could mean that ultimately there could be no aircraft for the R.A.A.F. as such unless supplies are forthcoming from the United Kingdom. It could also mean that aircraft could be retained in this country for training purposes, whilst trained personnel in Australia, where the battle is raging, would be without machines. Hopkins agreed that this is so but states that in practice such a position would not develop and in any case the new American policy is based on definite promises that no less number of American aircraft will be in any theatre owing to the implementation of the policy, if it is finally approved. I pointed out to him the numerous dangers which could and probably would result from such a policy and he said that the scheme has not yet been approved, although Marshall [3] and Arnold [4] are in favour of it and it is now being argued in Britain. If the British put up a case which would seem to indicate lesser number of aircraft in the war theatres generally, then the scheme will not be approved by the President.

Hopkins said that a similar policy was also being considered in relation to army ground equipment. With the large army America is raising, this would also mean that, as the personnel is drafted, larger quantities of material would be retained in this country and there would be less for the other countries including Australia. This also is admitted, but Hopkins said it would not occur in the case of Australia. I have just spoken to him again and he assures, in general terms, that the Australian requirements will be looked after. I feel that possibly the only hope of clarifying matters would be for Churchill and the President to make some special arrangement regarding Australia from both United States and United Kingdom and such would have to be in specific terms, both in regard to quantities and times of supply. In the meantime, however, I am informed that regular supplies of aircraft are going to the United States forces in Australia, whilst the last ship that sailed from here carried a first-class collection of munitions and they were in considerable quantities, especially in the items which were really important. A Staff Officer from Brett [5] also arrived here during the last two or three days and I understand he is making special representations for additional aircraft for Australia. Sir Charles Burnett [6] is here and will be proceeding to England shortly. If he arrives before your departure, I strongly urge that you have a discussion with him.

From what I hear he has made very good points in Australia's favour in the right quarters here. Please do not use this information. I propose to endeavour to see Stimson [7] tomorrow to put our point of view to him as this might be helpful.

Your paragraph 3 -neither Smart [8] nor Henry [9] have had any discussions with Marshall regarding the allocation of aircraft and neither has joined in nor agreed with the present allocation.

Your paragraph 4-from my previous conversation with King [10], I am certain that he is particularly anxious to see many more aircraft in the Pacific area and I think that Admiral Towers, who is his representative in London, will make a strong point of this.

I will, however, see King tomorrow if possible. [11] I had given him your previous message.

Your paragraphs 5, 6 and 7-I discussed these matters with Hopkins, who said that they had a full appreciation of the position and were doing their best. He developed the discussion on the lines of previous ones that they had a large number of men in Australia and realised the responsibilities which they accepted and which they were determined to carry out. I re-stated all the facts and the dangers of not taking positive action and forwarding further munitions, particularly aircraft, and he said that from their own sources and from the previous advices from Mr Curtin [12] and yourself, they were fully aware of the position. Nothing more definite was forthcoming, although I had nearly two hours with him.

Your paragraphs 8 and 9-I have sent you a separate message regarding this matter. [13]

Your paragraph 10-this telegram [14] not yet received but in view of urgency of foregoing matters have passed them to you without waiting to see your report.

All very well. Best wishes.

1 Dispatched 26 May. On file AA:A3300, 234.

2 Adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

4 Chief of U.S. Army Air Corps.

5 Commander, Allied Air Forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

6 Chief of the Air Staff.

7 U.S. Secretary of War.

8 Head of Australian Military Mission to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

9 Air Attache at the Legation in Washington.

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

11 Smith reported on 28 May that King had told him that morning 'that we need have no apprehensions' about the supply of aircraft and that it would be inconceivable that non-American personnel 'should be left without equipment merely for the purpose of Americans using American equipment exclusively'. See cablegram 150 on the file cited in note 1.

12 Prime Minister.

13 See cablegram 147 of 28 May in Flinders University Library:

Evatt Papers, Cables to and from Dr Evatt, March-May 1942. it dealt with a proposal that a special representative of Roosevelt (possibly Hopkins) should visit Australia.

14 Documents 500-2.

[AA:A3300, 234]