521 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington

Letter WASHINGTON, 8 June 1942

It seems to me that the following points now arise from paragraphs 1 and 2 of General Ismay's letter detailing the arrangements made in London between Mr. Churchill and the War Cabinet and myself as representing His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia. [1]

1. Paragraph 1 of the letter declares the firm intention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to protect Australia's safety to the maximum extent and you as the senior British representative on the Chiefs of Staff Committee are instructed to press the United States Chiefs of Staff for assurances that measures would be taken to ensure that safety.

2. It seems essential that these general instructions should be taken into particular account in relation to the air allocations at present under review.

3. In the opinion of General MacArthur as Commander-in-Chief of the South West Pacific Area, the existing allocation in respect of aircraft is inadequate. This opinion is not decisive but it is at least highly significant. Very little naval strength is under General MacArthur's command so that the position turns largely upon air, as you yourself pointed out to Sir Owen Dixon [2] and myself when we paid our call upon you recently. Before the recommendations of the Supreme Commander are rejected, or even modified, it would seem desirable that you should be affirmatively and independently satisfied that the forces proposed for the area will enable the Commander to carry out his assigned mission.

4. All the existing arrangements in relation to the grand strategy made between the Governments of Britain and the United States postulate that the security of Australia and New Zealand shall be maintained and adequate forces allocated to such tasks. The ultimate defeat of Japan depends on the retention of areas from which forces can be brought to bear against the enemy.

5. General MacArthur's directive was apparently drafted in accordance with this grand strategy. The strategy defined in the directive requires that the South West Pacific Area shall be secured and that, in addition, preparation is to be made for the ultimate offensive against Japan.

6. His Majesty's Government in Australia has not been consulted as to the grand strategy. Moreover, a case can be made, in our opinion, to show that in the changed position of the Pacific, there should be a revision of such strategy so that the defeat of Japan shall be regarded as a primary and not as a secondary objective of the United Nations, particularly as the new economic empire now controlled by Japan enables her to blockade the United Nations rather than the reverse.

7. However, at present, we are bound to accept the grand strategy.

But this strategy itself imposes an obligation to provide the South West Pacific Commander with sufficient forces at least to carry out the defence of that area.

8. For instance, General Ismay's letter, expressing the views of Mr. Churchill and the War Cabinet, states that General Marshall's [3] plan for an offensive in Europe was accepted on the undertaking that adequate forces must be allocated to safeguard the defence of Australia and the island bases connecting that country with the United States.

9. The relevant question, therefore, is-are sufficient forces, land, sea and air, being provided to carry out this undertaking? It is clear from General MacArthur's demands that, in the opinion of those on the spot, sufficient forces are not yet being provided.

10. One crucial aspect of the matter is this. Mr. Churchill and the War Cabinet have explicitly reaffirmed their undertaking that, in the event of a large scale invasion of Australia by Japan, Britain would cut its losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to the aid of Australia, sacrificing every interest except only the defence and feeding of the United Kingdom itself. This obligation must be taken into account now, for it is of vital concern to the common cause that the occasion for putting into effect the obligation should never be permitted to arise.

11. Diversion of great forces to Australia from the Middle East and India would alter the entire strategy of the world war, yet Britain is obliged to do all this in the event of large scale invasion of Australia.

12. Therefore, it is essential that forces sufficient to prevent full scale invasion should be made available now when the forces and equipment involved are only a fraction of what would have to be provided later in the contingency contemplated by Mr. Churchill and the War Cabinet.

13. Moreover, it must be apparent that, with a concentration of forces against Germany in Western Europe, Japan will assist her ally by striking hard in the Pacific theatres of war.

14. For the above reasons and having regard to the War Cabinet instructions that you should co-operate with the United States Chiefs of Staff for assurances that measures will be taken to ensure the safety of Australia-I request that, in the proposed agreement as to allocation of forces, including air equipment, allocations to the South West Pacific and New Zealand should be specially safeguarded. For the reasons I have given, Australia and New Zealand are placed in an entirely different position from the Middle East and India, which would both have to be sacrificed to repel full scale invasion of Australia.

15. I understand that a new agreement between Britain and the United States in relation to aircraft allocations is approaching finality, and I suggest that express and detailed provisions should be included in the agreement specifying such allocations as will obviate the necessity of subsequent diversions of great forces to Australia and New Zealand. Broadly speaking, allocations which are necessary to secure vital Pacific bases against Japan should be charged against the pool of combined resources before they are devoted to the carrying out of large scale offensive projects against Germany. Having regard to the comparatively small demands for the Pacific, these latter projects will not be seriously prejudiced if the suggestion is adopted.

16. In order to consider the subject of this memorandum, would you be good enough to arrange that you and Air Marshal Slessor [4] should confer with Sir Owen Dixon and myself 17. The relevant portion of General Ismay's letter is as follows:-

[Evatt here reproduced the letter, up to the end of paragraph (2).]

18. I would be glad if you would regard this matter as particularly urgent as my time in Washington is drawing to a close.


1 Document 502.

2 Minister to the United States from 10 June.

3 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

4 Assistant Chief of the U.K. Air Staff.

[AA:A3300, 228]