Skip to main content

Historical documents

285 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K Prime Minister

Cablegram Johcu 18 [1] CANBERRA, 21 January 1942


Reference Winch 9. [2]

1. The War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council have examined the
naval arrangements proposed for the Anzac area in order to bring
it more closely into the sphere of operational activity of the
United States Pacific Fleet. [3]

2. They agree to the appointment of a United States Flag Officer
in command of the forces employed and to be employed in this area,
in view of the fact that strategical control of the whole Pacific
area is vested in Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, who is not
only responsible for the security of the air ferry route and
convoys and supplies between the United States and Australia, but
whose forces can alone provide the potential reinforcements for
this area.

3. They assume that the United States Government will have no
objection to the retention afloat of a British Flag Officer who
will work under and in the closest co-operation with the United
States Flag Officer in command, and be charged with the
Administration of British units and advising on British
commitments and base facilities, thus following the principles now
established for naval control in the A.B.D.A. area.

4. They agree to the tasks assigned but would stress the fact that
the protection of Australian vital oversea and coastal shipping in
the area will become the responsibility of the United States Flag
Officer, and occasions may arise when these vital interests may
necessitate their making some special call on him for provision of
protection from the forces assigned to the area. They assume,
therefore, he will be directed to co-operate closely with A.C.N.B.

[4] in matters affecting the local naval defence of Australia and
the protection of convoys and shipping to and from Australia.

5. They would also point out that under present arrangements, the
provision of adequate escorts for convoys to the A.B.D.A. area can
only be provided by the force assigned to the Anzac area, and it
will be essential to ask for the necessary detachments of cruisers
when troop or supply convoys are despatched unless they are
furnished by Commander in Chief Eastern Fleet. We also desire to
know what is contemplated in regard to the naval protection of the
area to the West of the Anzac area and the coast of Western

6. The reinforcement of Samoa and Fiji by the United States and
the recent recommendation that the United States will now
undertake the defence of New Caledonia emphasise the necessity for
close co-operation between the Pacific Fleet and the naval forces
in Anzac area, and for extending the strategic control of the
Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet. The denial of these island bases
to the Japanese and their use by the Allies will reduce the
possibility of attack on the Australian coast and in the Tasman
area, as the whole of the Australian naval forces, except local
defence forces, will be allocated either to the Anzac or the
A.B.D.A. area.

7. The situation developing at Rabaul at the present moment, where
an attack of 100 (one hundred) aircraft from carriers has just
taken place and a possible landing by heavy ships may be
impending, points to much stronger forces being required in the
Anzac area than those allocated. The continuance of this southern
advance will produce a threat on the flanks of both the line of
communication across the Pacific and the land and air route to
Darwin from the East coast of Australia.

8. The importance of Australia as a base for American operations
has been indicated by the conclusions reached by the President [5]
and yourself, and it is also apparent from information of their
plans conveyed to us by General Brett [6] and his staff. We hope,
however, that the Americans have a full realisation of the fact
that their capacity to launch a counter-offensive with land and
air forces might be frustrated by inadequate naval strength in
this region.


1 Repeated as an unnumbered cablegram to the N.Z. Prime Minister.

2 Document 273.

3 See Advisory War Council minute 679 of 20 January in AA:A2682,
vol. 4, and War Cabinet minute 1714 of 20 January in AA:A2673,
vol. 10.

4 Australian Commonwealth Naval Board.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.2009]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top