89 Message From Truman to Menzies[1]

Message, 28 May, 1951

TOP SECRET

I have received your message[2] of May 15th concerning the question of additional ground forces for Korea, in which you outlined the considerations which in the opinion of your Government, would make it difficult for you to double the Australian contribution to the United Nations ground forces without impairing your training program and your capacity to assist as planned in the defence of the Middle East. I can assure you that we are fully mindful and appreciative of the fine contribution which Australia has made in Korea from the very beginning of hostilities. Furthermore, I am aware of the energetic steps which you are taking recognizing world dangers, to build up the military strength of Australia through your national service training plan and other defence measures.

Nevertheless I would again stress the great importance which we attach to increasing the contributions of other United Nations members to the United Nations forces resisting aggression in Korea. It is important that we make a maximum effort to end the aggression while persisting in our effort to avoid the spread of hostilities beyond Korea. Needless to say, the latter development would seriously threaten the security of the Pacific.

I shall reply to you further on this matter as soon as there has been an opportunity for your message to be considered by the appropriate officials of the Government.

1 The message was handed by the State Department to the Embassy in Washington on 29 May. The Embassy conveyed it to Canberra in Cablegram 976 (29 May).

2 Transmitted to Washington in Cablegram 511 (14 May). The message enumerated Australia's force contributions in Korea. These included two destroyers which had been in operation since 29 June 1950; the 3rd Infantry Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment which had been brought to full establishment and had already suffered 500 casualties; and 77 Fighter Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, which had been in continuous action since 30 June 1950. The message referred to the Australian Government's decision to launch 'a national service training plan designed to ensure a mobilisation strength for the Army alone of 124,500 in 1953'. The message explained that the Australian Government was planning to 'make a substantial contribution' to British Commonwealth forces in the Middle East in the event of a global war and concluded that 'to us it would seem a serious mistake to impair, by sending additional ground forces to Korea, our prospects of full readiness to carry out our responsibilities in the event of a global war'.

[NAA : A11536, [3]]