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253 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 17 WASHINGTON, 3 January 1942, 12.27 p.m.


I have just been told by Churchill that President has insisted on
following announcement being made at 2 p.m. today, i.e. equivalent
of 5 a.m. Jan 4th A.E.S. [1] time. I have represented to him
strongly that this is impossibly short notice for Australia and he
is seeking President's approval to a few hours delay.

Announcement is as follows:


As a result of proposals put forward by the American and British
Chiefs of Staff and of their recommendations to President
Roosevelt and to the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, it is
announced that with the concurrence of the Netherlands Government
and of the Dominion Governments concerned a system of unified
command will be established in the south-west Pacific area.

2. All the forces in this area, sea, land and air, will operate
under one supreme commander. At the suggestion of the President,
in which all concerned have agreed, General Sir A. Wavell [2] has
been appointed to this command.

3. Major General George H. Brett, Chief of the Air Corps of the
United States Army, will be appointed Deputy Supreme Commander. He
is now in the Far East. Under the direction of General Wavell,
Admiral Thomas C. Hart, United States Navy, will assume command of
all naval forces in the area. General Sir Henry Pownall will be
Chief of Staff to General Wavell.

4. General Wavell will assume his command in the near future.

5. At the same time His Excellency Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek
[3] has accepted the supreme command over all land and air forces
of the United Nations which are now or may in the future be
operating in the Chinese theatre including initially such portions
of Indo-China and Thailand as may become available to troops of
the United Nations. American and British representatives will
serve on his joint headquarters planning staff

I am afraid you cannot count on Churchill being able to secure
delay in above announcement and I would suggest Prime Minister [4]
making similar announcement at once on receipt of this telegram.


1 Australian Eastern Standard.

2 See Document 252, note 4.

3 Chinese Prime Minister.

4 John Curtin.

[AA:A981, WAR 54]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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