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

Cablegram 149 WASHINGTON, 25 January 1942, 10.37 p.m.


I had discussion with General Marshall (Chief of United States
General Staff) today on Prime Minister's tel. 15. [1] He is
[completely] [2] sound on the vital importance of the south-west
Pacific war and not only acknowledges but emphasises its
importance and points out the lengths they have go[ne] to in
conjunction with the British to deflect forces and equipment to
South West Pacific that had been destined for other theatres. He
instances fighter aircraft that have gone to Australia that were
about to be loaded [for] Russia; the heavy bombing aircraft (now
en route to A-B-D-A area via Africa and Pacific) that were bought
and paid for by Britain and which were about to go to Britain and
the Middle East; the troops that are en route to Australia that
had been embarked (and which were disembarked, re-equipped and
despatched in other ships) for Iceland and Northern Ireland. He
points out that Russians are furious, North African campaign is
jeopardised and British plans for use of their troops who would
have been relieved by American troops in Iceland and Northern
Ireland have had to be cancelled. Marshall says that all this was
planned and set in motion while Churchill was here by
collaborating with the British and with their ready agreement and

Marshall has heard nothing of the proposed evacuation of Singapore
but says that it would be 'criminally negligent' if they did not
make adequate plans in advance. He hoped that evacuation of women
and children and as many civilians as possible is actively

As to plans and any rearrangement of forces available for defence
of A-B-D-A area and adjacent Australia[n] and New Guinea and
island areas, he says this must be left to General Wavell [3] who
has (see para. 2 of Annex 1 of directive to Wavell [4]) authority
to concern himself with adjacent areas, no doubt in concert with
Australian authorities. He says 'Wavell is the only man who can
balance forces available, and becoming available, in the general

In above connection he told me of addition of Northern Australian
area to A-B-D-A area.

He told me of very considerable pressure from Dutch in N.E.I. for
additional fighter and other aircraft, for which Dutch have
trained pilots and crews available.

Marshall warned me in most serious manner about extreme danger of
transmitting by telegram information about movements of forces and
particularly of impending plans and operations. He said that this
was a constant anxiety with him. All of our efforts might well be
frustrated if such information was not confined to absolute
minimum number of people actually concerned, and when it was
essential, to telegraph it by use of tightest and most secure
cypher possible. He believes that there is danger of our plans
becoming known to the enemy if utmost caution is not observed. His
own cypher-cracking people were constantly giving him most
frightening examples of this. Although I do not think he knew of
para. 8 of P.M.'s tel. 15 in the form in which it reached me, he
stressed this operation as one necessitating complete secrecy if
it were to have chance of success.

I discussed Admiral Hart [5] with him and found that his view was
same as that of van Mook. [6] My impression is that something is
going to be done about it. I described my recent interview with
Admiral [King] [7] and sought his (Marshall's) assistance at
Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting tomorrow at which convoying
through Anzac area will again be discussed. There is still a good
deal of rivalry and feeling between United States army and navy. I
asked if he would enlarge on Hurley's mission (my tel. 105 [8]).

He said that sole purpose was to ensure that everything possible
was done to get food to MacArthur [9] of which he was very short.

Marshall said finally that they can be relied on to do all that is
humanly possible with the full realization that the task is one of
stemming Japanese southward movement with forces that are
available [and that can be made available]. Japanese now have
[naval] and air superiority which we must do our utmost to whittle
down whilst building up our own forces, more particularly air.

Heavy bombers were worth their weight in gold. There might be two
months more of anxiety.

He (Marshall) believed in Wavell and so far as he was concerned he
was going to give Wavell a free hand.


1 See Document 294, note 10.

2 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the
Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 219.

3 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

4 See Document 261, note 7.

5 Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.

6 Lieutenant Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies.

7 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.

8 AA:A3830, 1942, 291. Hurley, who was Marshall's personal
representative, was in Australia attempting to organise the
shipment of food supplies to the Philippines through the Japanese
blockade of Luzon.

9 Commander, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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