187 War Cabinet Minute 2813

Extract MELBOURNE, 12 May 1943

DISCUSSION WITH SIR OWEN DIXON

The Prime Minister invited Sir Owen Dixon to make a statement to War Cabinet on his activities and impressions in the light of his service as Australian Minister to the United States and Accredited Representative of the Government on the Pacific War Council. [1]

2. The following is an outline of the main points of Sir Owen Dixon's statement:-

(a) Relations with Service Authorities. The United States Naval and Army authorities preferred to deal with military representatives of foreign countries rather than with civil representatives. Sir Owen Dixon had overcome initial difficulties which arose out of this, and he had established good relations with Admiral King and General Marshall.

(b) Information from Australia. He felt that he was not completely briefed on matters raised by the Commonwealth Government, and he thought that the Government might be able to make more use of him if he were given instructions or suggestions as to the directions in which he might further representations made by the Government.

He received very little information regarding operations and the trend of events in the South-West Pacific Area, and it would be helpful if arrangements could be made for such information to be made available to him regularly.

(c) Australian Service Representatives. General Sturdee was in day to day touch with the Planning Staff and his officers had close liaison with the Munitions Assignment Board. Air Marshal Williams had comparable contacts in relation to R.A.A.F. requirements. Sir Owen had considerable faith in Lieutenant-General Sturdee and Air Marshal Williams, who kept him informed, but he regarded them as being directly responsible to their own Chiefs of Staff (d) Pacific War Council. The Pacific War Council was not a very effective body. It was the practice of the President to make a general statement to the Council at each meeting, but he always avoided critical issues. Discussion afterwards was in relation to any matters that members themselves wished to raise. No agenda were submitted and no minutes were kept. [2]

The disadvantage of making special requests at meetings was that they would be considered by a body where all competitors were present. The advantage of the Council was that it enabled the views of the nations represented to be kept prominently before the President.

It might assist if Service representatives were present at meetings, but there was a strong tendency in the United States to confine discussions on strategical questions to the Chiefs of Staff organisation. The Pacific War Council was regarded as a civilian body. [3]

Sir Owen considered that an approach to General Marshall and Admiral King would have better prospects of success than if it were placed before the Pacific War Council. This should be on the basis of a detailed and closely reasoned appreciation of Australia's case, which he felt they would be prepared to study.

[matter omitted]

1 Dixon arrived in Australia for consultations on 22 April. He resumed duty in Washington on 17 June. A. S. Watt acted as Charge d'Affaires in the United States during Dixon's absence.

2 Dixon sent a report of each meeting to Canberra in his S series cablegrams, most of which bear out his view that the Pacific War Council was not a very well-informed or effective body. The reports for 1942 and 1943 are on files AA:A981, War, 41B, AA:A3300, 229 and AA:A3300, 264.

3 In a similar address made to the Advisory War Council on 13 May, Dixon attributed Roosevelt's reluctance to inform the Council of current strategy 'to a suspicion that information sent to China by the Chinese representatives might find its way to Tokyo'. Dixon believed that the Council was too large and that China and the Philippines should not be represented. See AA:A2682, vol. 6, minute 1187.

[AA:A2673, VOL. 13]