18 Attlee to Curtin

Cablegram 548 LONDON, 6 August 1942, 9 p.m.

MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

Your Johcu No. 38. [1]

The Prime Minister has asked me to send you the following message:-

I much appreciate your decision to provide additional drafts for your 9th Division. I am informing the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East.

2. I can assure you that the importance of the Pacific, both as regards the defence of Australia and future offensive operations against Japan, is fully realised both by myself and the Chiefs of Staff, and I hoped that this was made clear to Dr. Evatt at the War Cabinet meeting in May at which strategic considerations affecting the defence of Australia were discussed. I then stated that, though Australia was placed in an American sphere of strategic responsibility, we did not regard our obligations to do what we could to help Australia as being lessened in any way.

Practical proof of this was our agreement to despatch, at real sacrifice to ourselves, the three Spitfire squadrons from the United Kingdom as a special contribution to Australia, despite numerous and pressing commitments elsewhere.

3. The review of the Chiefs of Staff contained in my No. 532 [2] dwelt mainly on the strategic position in the Middle East because it was considered that when you sent your Johcu 37 [3] you might

not be aware of the very critical situation existing in the Middle East and the importance of safeguarding the oil supplies at Abadan, on which depend the security of India and the Indian Ocean, the loss of which would seriously affect Australia. It did not therefore set out to be an appreciation of the position in the Pacific, which, however, I can assure you is very much in our minds in every stage of planning.

4. We share your concern about developing the necessary air strength in Australia and are in constant communication with our representatives in Washington on the subject. Both during the negotiation of the new air agreement and since its conclusion, the United States of America Chiefs of Staff have been pressed to give, and have given, assurances that adequate measures would be taken to ensure the safety of Australia and the provision of the necessary equipment. As an essential first step United States of America Chiefs of Staff have been urged to define, and present for the agreement of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the minimum strategic requirements for the defence of the South-West Pacific Area which is a sphere of United States of America strategic responsibility. We know this problem is now under consideration by the United States of America Chiefs of Staff who, no doubt, give due weight to the opinions of General MacArthur, but as you are aware there has not been up to the present any decision as to the specific number of squadrons to be allocated to the R.A.A.F. in Australia.

As soon as the strategic requirements are defined, they will be presented to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on which body our representatives have instructions to ensure that the interests of the Dominions are adequately safeguarded.

1 Document 12.

2 Document 10.

3 Document 7.

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