120 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 3 [1] CANBERRA, 17 February 1943

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

I am very grateful for your renewed invitation to visit the United Kingdom. [2] The position at the moment is that Parliament is faced with a rather lengthy session on an important list of bills.

2. In the immediate future the Government has also to make a review of our war effort in regard to our resources in man and womanpower and material means, in relation to the objectives we have set before ourselves and our capacity to fulfil them. A new feature of the maintenance of our land forces is the high rate of wastage in tropical warfare. The casualties from tropical diseases in the recent campaign were 23,000 as against 5,500 battle casualties. This has an important bearing on our resources for coping with a holding strategy in the Pacific with limited offensives.

3. I shall treat your invitation as an open one and keep it in mind in the light of the circumstances here.

4. We greatly admire the energy displayed by you in maintaining contact with the President, the Commanders in the African theatre, and your enterprise in visiting our friends in Russia and Turkey.

[3] We were very heartened by your recent review [4], and I hope that early and speedy success will come to you in Europe in 1943.

The Japanese have proved a tough nut to crack in New Guinea. They are stubborn defenders and fight to the last. They have practically to be rooted out and killed, and in jungle warfare this is a difficult and costly business. The Japanese are now concentrating on strengthening their line extending from Ambon, Timor, Wewak, Madang, Finschhafen, Lae, Salamaua, Gasmata, Buin and Faisi. These are the outer screen which protect the main base at Rabaul. I hope our resources allotted to the South-West Pacific Area will be sufficient to prevent them becoming too consolidated.

This consideration explains our recent submission regarding additional operational and transport planes. [5]

5. With every good wish for sustained energy and strength in your great responsibilities.

JOHN CURTIN

1 This cablegram was subsequently renumbered Johcu 56. See Prime Minister's Dept outward cablegram register (AA:A3643, 8).

2 See Document 119.

3 After the Casablanca Conference Churchill went on to Turkey, where he met President Inonu at Adana on 30 January. Churchill returned to London on 7 February.

4 See the cablegrams cited in Document 117, note 2.

5 See Document 105.

[FA:A3196, 1943, 0.4751]