203 Memorandum by Denfeld

June 1947



Note left by Admiral Denfeld [1]

The State Department is instructing Ambassador Butler to discuss the Manus situation with the Australian authorities along the following lines. The United States Government as a part of the common war effort against Japan was glad to build certain defense facilities at Manus. These facilities were, of course, constructed with the full approval and co-operation of the Australian Government. They were used with considerable effectiveness in the war against the common foe.

The Japanese have now been defeated. The Australian forces took their full part in this struggle and made notable contributions to the victory. The Japanese military menace which caused the construction of the facilities of Manus has now been removed.

During the latter part of 1943 the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff began to give consideration to the defense facilities constructed in the course of World War II in which the United States would wish to obtain post-war rights of use. Since that time this problem has been under constant review by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. On March 14, 1946 the Department of State sent a memorandum to the Australian Legation in Washington proposing the negotiation of an agreement between the United States and Australia under which the United States would have joint rights of use of such of the military facilities at Manus as the responsible military authorities of the two countries agreed should be maintained in the future by Australia. The Australian Government has indicated a willingness to consider such an agreement. In the meantime the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff have again considered this matter and they are now of the opinion that it would be preferable for the United States forces to withdraw completely from Manus and for no agreement according post-war military rights to the United States at Manus to be concluded.

The United States Government has decided to act on this advice of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and to withdraw its request that the two Governments conclude an agreement according post-war military rights to the United States at Manus for the following four reasons:

(1) Manus is of slight strategic interest to the United States in view of the base facilities available to the United States in the former Japanese mandated islands and in the Philippines.

(2) In view of the present international situation an agreement according the United States military rights at Manus might set an undesirable example to other countries which might offset many times over the small strategic value of such rights of the United States.

(3) The United States and Australia both loyally support the United Nations and may be depended upon to support action in that organisation against an aggressor.

(4) In view of the identity of interests between the United States and Australia and the excellent relations between the two countries, it would, of course, be possible to make a special arrangement in an emergency at any time in the future it became necessary.

In due course the Australian Government will make an agreement with the Security Council under Article 43 of the Charter setting forth the forces and facilities which Australia will make available to the Security Council on its call. The United States Government hopes that the Australian Government will give consideration to including the facilities at Manus in any such agreement which the Australian Government may conclude.

1 Admiral Louis Denfeld, Commander-in-Chief of the US Navy in the Pacific, visited Australia briefly at the beginning of June, spending a weekend at the US Embassy in Canberra. A press statement dated 11 June reported successful discussions 'on matters of mutual interest in the Pacific' with the Prime Minister and Ministers for External Affairs and the Navy. No record has been found of these discussions. Butler reported to his government, however, that Evatt had expressed great disappointment at the US decision, and had suggested that Australia and the United States should have a broad regional agreement under the UN Charter. US Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1947, vol. III, 1972, p.102. See also Document 206.

[AA : A6494 T1, SPTS/1/1]