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259 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister (in the United States)

Cablegram Johcu 15 [1] CANBERRA, 6 January 1942, 9.35 P.m.


I am in receipt of Winch Nos. 1 [2], 2 and 3 [3] and desire to
submit the following observations which have the unanimous
endorsement of the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council:

(1) Machinery for joint direction
In Winch No. 13 [4] you sought approval to an agreement reached
with the President [5] in which the following was mentioned in
Winch No. 14 [6] in clause (E) of the agreement:

(E) Commander-in-Chief would receive his orders from an
appropriate joint body who would be responsible to you and to the

In Johcu No. 13 [7], I notified the Commonwealth Government's
assent to the agreement and stated that we expected that Australia
would be included in the composition of the appropriate joint body
to which reference was made. In our view machinery of this nature
was an essential part of the plan and our assent was promptly
given because (E) involved the setting up of such a body and our
representation on it.

No further advice has been received from you regarding the joint
body agreement. Winch No. 1 paragraph 12, Commander-in-Chief is
authorised to despatch recommendations to A.B.D.A. Governments
through channels specified in paragraph 18 Latter states that
Commander-in-Chief will be responsible to A.B.D.A. Governments
through agency defined in annex 2. Annex 2 provides that United
States Chiefs of Staff and Representatives in Washington of the
British Chiefs of Staff will constitute the agency for submitting
recommendations for decisions by the President and yourself.

Paragraph 3 of the annex says: 'Since London has machinery for
consulting with the Dominion Governments and since the Dutch
Government is in London, British Government will be responsible
for obtaining their views and agreement, and for including these
in the final telegraph to Washington.'
Though a powerful enemy has brought conflict closer to our shores
and Australian people are quite prepared to meet the dangers with
the same resolution displayed by their kinsfolk in the British
isles, we hold strongly in view of the large forces we will have
in the South Western Pacific theatre, the use that will be made of
the Commonwealth as a base and our responsibilities for its local
defence, that our voice be heard in the Councils on Pacific
strategy. We fully realize that we are not one of the predominant
partners in this struggle since British and American forces in the
South Western theatre are defending the strategic centres and
sources of supplies, but the same military operations represent to
us a vital struggle for the security of our homeland and all that
we have built up in this part of the world.

My predecessor [8] in telegram No. 585 outlined to you at length
opinions which, as the leader of another party, I can state are
the overwhelming views of the Australian people on their right to
be heard when vital decisions affecting their interests are being

It was understood that the purpose of Mr. Duff Cooper's [9]
mission was to provide for local Ministerial representation in the
Far East for dealing with urgent matters and to set up a Council
which would be representative of the main parties concerned, to
provide the Governments with responsible persons with power to act
for them in many respects, and with authority to report to them

In so far as London is concerned I stated in Johcu No. 5 [10] that
I was grateful for the facilities afforded to Page and suggested
the following principles to govern consultations on common policy:

1. It should have full knowledge of all essential facts,
developments and trends of policy.

2. It should obtain this knowledge in time to express its view
before decisions are taken.

3. It should have the opportunity through its accredited
representatives of presenting to and discussing with the War
Cabinet, the important committees such as the Defence Committee
and the Prime Minister or other senior ministers any suggestions
as to new policy or views on policy under consideration that
Australia might from time to time desire to submit.

Failure to set up any joint body for operations in the Pacific or
to provide for more direct consultation with the Commonwealth than
that contemplated in Winch No. 14 is a situation we are quite
unable to accept.

(2) Strategic considerations
In Winch No. 14 the following were mentioned:

(a) It was presumed boundaries of South Western Pacific area would
include Port Darwin and supply line in Northern Australia.

(b) United States Navy would remain responsible for the whole
Pacific Ocean east of the Philippine Islands and Australia
including United States approaches to Australasia.

In Winch No. 1 the following occurs in paragraph 6(b) of directive
to Commander-in-Chief:

'General strategical policy will be therefore: ... (b) to hold
Burma and Australia as essential support positions for the area
and Burma as essential support of China and to the defence of

It is noted however from annex No. 1 that Australia is excluded
from the South Western Pacific theatre.

The Commonwealth Government as the result of recommendation by its
Chiefs of Staff and General Brett [11] I who is in Australia has
approved of a joint American-Australian organization to direct
measures necessary for the use of Australia as a base for American
operations along the Malay barrier and to maintain contact with
the Philippine Islands.

It will be evident that with United States of America naval ships
and convoys using our ports and air forces establishing assembly
and maintenance depots and air stations in the Commonwealth, our
vital centres will become the obvious targets for Japanese
attacks. It is observed that the definition of the S.W. Pacific
theatre now excludes the whole of Australia and important bases
such as Port Darwin and other centres being used by the Americans.

Presumably however this added scale of attack is to be borne by
our local defence forces which have long lacked essential supplies
promised from overseas. In our opinion strategic and supply
aspects are intermingled. We alone can present not only our
particular viewpoint but needs of our capacity to ensure that the
support flowing through Australia can be maintained.

Same principle applies to the exclusion of Australian waters from
the American naval zone in the Pacific. Without adequate naval
protection the line of communication to Australia for American
supply ships cannot be maintained. As already pointed out the
Japanese have only to walk into New Caledonia where they would be
astride this line and in a position to launch air attacks on the
most northern ports being used by the Americans for unloading
aircraft and other supplies for transit via Darwin and the
Netherlands East Indies.

Quite frankly we feel that the strategical approach is not well
conceived and that presentation of the Australian viewpoint must
be made personally by an accredited authority of the Australian

In all the foregoing, I have put, as you would wish me to put,
what are the undoubted views at this end. For myself I can only
add that I share them entirely, with the addition that I know your
burdens and difficulties and appreciate completely all you have
done to help us.

1 Repeated to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United
Kingdom, as no. 3A on 8 January. See file AA:M100, January 1942.

2 Dispatched 4 January. On file AA:A981, War 54.

3 Documents 254-5.

4 Document 239.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Document 240.

7 See Document 240, note 10.

8 A. W. Fadden. See Document 60.

9 U.K. Minister of State for Far Eastern Affairs resident in

10 Document 149.

11 Commander, U.S. Army Forces in Australia.

[AA:A2937, A.B.D.A. STRATEGIC AREA, 1941-1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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