33 Dixon to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram S123 WASHINGTON, 31 August 1942, 7.25 p.m.


I had a lengthy interview this morning with General Marshall at which the allocation of aircraft to the R.A.A.F. was discussed as well as the Pacific situation. I impressed upon him the concern of the Government at the relatively small number of squadrons for which aircraft are to be provided under the Chiefs of Staff programme. He said in answer that they found themselves simply unable to provide more aircraft. He referred to the disappointments in production, the needs of other fronts or theatres, gave me intelligence concerning Japanese air strength against which air force for the S.W.P.A. must be provided, compared that strength with the provision made and said that having regard to foregoing matters they felt they could not make a greater allocation. With respect to the inclusion in their plan of the three Spitfire squadrons I showed him a copy of the fourth paragraph of Ismay's letter to Dr. Evatt [1] and again gave the reasons why this U.K. contribution should be regarded as additional and extraneous to any programme laid down by the Combined Chiefs of Staff He replied that it would have been better if the Chiefs of Staff had not included the three Spitfire squadrons and so stated the number at 30 but the result would simply have been that the number would be stated as 27.

As to the suggestion that aircraft should be transferred from U.S.

units to R.A.A.F. units he said that he wished it to be understood that he was responsible. His reason for putting it forward was that he felt that a plan of organisation and development of the R.A.A.F. was a thing for the Australian Government to determine as a national matter; that the Chiefs of Staff did not want to interfere with any such plan but rather to help in carrying it out; it was the fact however that they could not provide more aircraft towards doing so than had been allocated except by transferring them as he had suggested; that he had regarded it as the only way open by which more aircraft might be made available for the fulfilment of the Australian plan of development for the R.A.A.F. As however the view of the Australian Government was against it he would not pursue the proposal.

I pointed out what, under the Chiefs of Staff allocation, U.S.

production would actually contribute and that it amounted to no more than Kittyhawks for three squadrons and Vengeances for five with eventually about twenty Venturas but his response was to emphasise the deficiency of aircraft of U.S. production.

He went over the events in the Pacific up to the report received this morning of the success of our troops at Milne Bay [2] and read me parts of communications from General MacArthur in order I think to give some confidence in their being alive to the situation including its dangers and in their being engaged in the most active measures to meet it, but he emphasised as he had done before the impossibility of making disclosures of plans and intentions and the extreme risk involved in communicating anything that would serve as an indication giving instances drawn from other places and expressing his concern at the great knowledge the enemy actually possessed on such matters.

I mentioned the failure to provide for the three land transport and one sea transport squadrons but he was not prepared to deal with it at the moment.

Please have this message brought to the Prime Minister's attention as early as possible.

1 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 502.

2 Earlier the same day Australian forces began a successful counter-attack against the Japanese force which had landed at Milne Bay on 25 August and by 6 September the Japanese were forced to withdraw from the area.

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