138 MacArthur to Curtin

Teleprinter message BXC270 [1] BRISBANE, 17 March 1943

SECRET

The failure of the Prime Minister to receive any reply to his message of January 19th [2] is an astonishing development if it can be assumed that his cablegram was duly received. I have heard nothing yet from the military group sent to Washington. [3] They have been directed to present the needs of this area in the most positive terms. Any reinforcement to their plea cannot fail to be beneficial especially if it does not lay itself open to the suspicion of definite collusion. A possible avenue of approach would be to secure the help of Churchill applied to Roosevelt. It is from the latter that the actual forces must come not only for geographical reasons but because the Pacific theatre has been designated as a primary American responsibility. If Churchill could be persuaded that America could do much more here than at present without in any way jeopardizing direct assistance to the British islands, which is a fact, he might be willing to add his pressure to our appeal. I believe that much benefit might result through independent action on the part of the Prime Minister and at the worst no harm could be done. [4]

MACARTHUR

1 This message was transmitted through the Defence Dept secretariat in Brisbane to the Secretary of the Defence Dept, who was then in Canberra.

2 Document 105.

3 MacArthur had dispatched a delegation of his senior officers (including Lt Gen Kenney and Maj Gen Sutherland) to Washington to attend the Pacific Military Conference, which opened on 12 March.

They took with them a plan (code named Elkton) for a simultaneous advance on Rabaul through New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but they were unable to obtain the forces necessary to carry it out in full. MacArthur was issued instead, on 29 March, with a new directive, setting out his objectives as (1) the establishment of airfields on Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands; (2) the seizure of Lae, Salamaua, Finschhafen, Madang and western New Britain; (3) the seizure of the remainder of the Solomon Islands, including the southern portion of Bougainville. See Louis Morton, The War in the Pacific. Strategy and Command: The First Two Years, Department of the Army, Washington, 1962, ch. XIX.

4 On 18 March the Secretary of the Defence Dept advised MacArthur that Curtin, in accordance with the views expressed in MacArthur's message, had dispatched to Churchill the cablegram published as Document 139 (see letter on file Defence: Special Collection II, bundle 5, Strategical Policy-S.W.P.A., file no. 4, 9/1943). See also Curtin's report to the Advisory War Council of his discussion with MacArthur on 16 March (in AA:A2682, vol. 6, minute 1153).

[DEFENCE: SPECIAL COLLECTION II, BUNDLE 5, STRATEGICAL POLICY-SWPA, FILE No. 4, 9/1943]