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16 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 477 [1] CANBERRA, 25 July 1941


Your M.179. [2] His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of
Australia appreciates that it would be difficult for
constitutional reasons to secure guarantee of armed support from
United States Government. We also agree that to attempt to gain
acceptance from United States Government of an assumption on part
of British Commonwealth of United States armed support in
contingencies mentioned might cause embarrassment.

We cannot, however, accept apparent conclusion drawn in your
telegram that question of United States action in event of violent
Japanese reaction should therefore not be raised at all in
Washington at this stage. Having regard to our consistent attitude
on this matter over the past year, and from point of view of
highest interests of our national security, we would frankly find
it impossible to justify embarking at this critical point on a
course of action which might lead us into war with Japan unless
some satisfactory understanding had first been reached with United
States. We could not regard expectation set out in paragraph 4 of
your telegram under reference, however well-founded, as
sufficiently meeting this condition.

His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia
earnestly hopes that you will realise its standpoint on this
matter. In para. 4 (3) of your telegram M.172 [3] you implied that
every effort should be made to obtain from United States
Government clearest possible indication that we could count
without reservation on their active armed support. With this in
mind we emphasized in our reply telegram No. 467 [4] necessity for
utmost frankness in exchanges with United States Government. We
are still firmly convinced of this necessity. It seems to us
entirely feasible that in notifying readiness of British
Commonwealth to concert with United States in proposed economic
action, British Ambassador should intimate that we clearly realize
possible consequences of action, both for ourselves and for
Netherlands, and that we assume that United States Government also
realizes them. In discussion which will arise on this basis,
indication of United States attitude will certainly appear. The
nature of this in all probability will constitute satisfactory
understanding which we feel to be essential. We consider it vital,
however, that question should be raised in one form or another.


1 Repeated to the Canadian and South African Prime Ministers and
to the N.Z. [Acting] Prime Minister as nos 5, 57 and 279; and to
the Ministers to the United States and Japan as nos 80 and 8.

2 Document 15.

3 See Document 14, notes 2 and 4.

4 Document 14

[AA : A981, JAPAN 185B, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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