218 Commonwealth Government to High Commissioner's Office in London

Cablegram 6724 CANBERRA, 10 July 1944

SECRET

Your telegram 7908. [1]

In as much as on the facts stated the Americans have not actually in their power the Japanese whom they propose to exchange, this proposal can only be put into effect if the Japanese Government admit the hopeless position of their troops concerned, which is not likely in view of their general attitude to surrender and admission of defeat.

There are bodies of Japanese, for example, at Rabaul, Solomons, Wewak and elsewhere in the South-West Pacific theatre which are equally cut off and in point of time before the Japanese in the areas mentioned in 7908 and to whose encirclement Australian forces made a very substantial contribution. Moreover, there are Australian Prisoners of War in the Netherlands East Indies, Singapore and Siam, who have been in captivity longer than the American troops whom it is proposed to recover and whose conditions of captivity according to various reports official and otherwise have been as bad as or worse than the United States troops, most of whom remained in the Philippines.

Therefore, if any proposal is made to the Japanese Government we feel strongly it should be an Allied approach covering Australian Prisoners of War on a pro rata basis to the number of Allied prisoners in captivity.

Further if an exclusively American exchange were negotiated, undesirable reactions here and large scale public agitation for similar action on our part would be inevitable.

We are of opinion that the proposal should only be proceeded with if Australians are included and if it is considered that there is a reasonable chance of the negotiations being successful: of this latter, however, we ourselves are very doubtful. If they are proceeded with merely as a form of psychological warfare and if the fact that they were proceeding became known without the reason for them, the effect on the public here would be equally bad.

1 Document 215.

[AA:A5954, BOX 672]