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

Cablegram 180 WASHINGTON, 30 January 1942, 3.05 a.m.


I think I should tell you something of the background in which I
am working here.

In the American Administration everything leads up to the
President [1] who retains in his hands all major decisions,
although he makes no decision without consideration and report by
his Chiefs of Staff. Confidentially I may say that the Secretaries
of War and Navy [2] have but little say in operational matters,
large or small. In War and Navy Departments there is again a high
degree of centralisation in the machinery of Chief of Army Staff
(Marshall) and Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet (King).

General Arnold (Chief of United States Army Air Corps) is
subordinate to Marshall. Admiral Stark (Chief of United States
Naval Staff) has faded into the background as regards operational
matters since the creation of appointment of Commander-in-Chief
United States Navy, Admiral King, who now decides and controls all
[operations] [3] of the United States Navy.

The above means that the only people worth my while to see are the
President, General Marshall, Admiral King and General Arnold as
regards influencing the minds of those who control the policy,
operations and movements of United States forces.

I make a point of seeing Harry Hopkins [4] regularly as he is a
close friend and confidant of President and lives in the White
House. I know him well personally and can talk to him frankly
without risk. However, he is a sick man and can only do a few
hours' work per day.

In actual fact I see a wider range of people than above but it is
necessary to use a good deal of discretion in what I say to them
in order to avoid being quoted as having attempted to deal with
subordinates and those not directly concerned. I normally confine
myself to imparting information as to our situation.

As to seeing the President; he is strictly limited as to the
number of people that he sees each day and it is not possible to
see him very frequently [owing to the m]any calls on his time. He
keeps himself generally very well informed and in particular has a
good grasp of the position in the A-B-D-A area and in [the
vicinity of] Australia generally.

Up to the present I have had no difficulty in seeing Marshall,
King and Arnold when I want to and at short notice, although it is
considered irregular for a diplomatic representative to see and do
business with Chiefs of Staff. They realise the irregularity of it
and have said although they believe in 'short cuts' in these
urgent [times] it is a little embarrassing to them to see me
regularly. They are under constant fear that they will be quoted
in some indirect way and so get into trouble with their political
chiefs as having gone beyond their province. Consequently I have
to use a good deal of discretion in dealing with them, although I
am obliged to see them as they represent the only regular means of
my canalising your views and desires into quarters which can
result in action. I believe it has been no less essential to seek
personal contact with United States Chiefs of Staff in order to
ensure that your views and representations get proper
consideration by men who are in charge of operations in their
respective services and on whose advice the President acts, and I
believe that this approach has had its results over the last 6

As you will realise the normal practice here (which in peace time
they insist on quite strictly) is that diplomatic representatives
deal with the State Department only. If I want to see the head or
any senior member of any Department other than the State
Department the normal practice is to seek appointment through the
State Department or at the worst inform the State Department
immediately afterwards and tell them in brief what has passed.

However since Dec. 7th this procedure has not been possible for me
and I put myself right on this by seeing the Secretary of State
and Sumner Welles [5] soon after Dec. 7th and got their approval
to deal direct with Army and Navy at their request. However even
now I take precaution of calling on Hull or Sumner Welles at
fortnightly intervals to tell them generally what I have been
doing. They appear quite sympathetic to this method and I
anticipate no difficulty with them.

The Naval Attache [6] assists me where practicable on all service
matters, naval, military and air. His rank however precludes him
from access to American Chiefs of Staff whom he sees only on
comparatively rare occasions. This is not peculiar to the
Australian Naval Attache but is common to all Service Attaches
here. He has of course access to all the officers with whom he has
to do business on all matters except those on a strategical plane.

Even if military and air attaches are appointed to this Legation
in due course this same situation will exist and whilst seniority
of rank within reasonable limits is not disadvantageous it will
not substantially increase their opportunities of contact with
American Chiefs of Staff whom I believe it will still be necessary
for me to see personally.

The representatives of British Chiefs of Staff here (Field Marshal
Sir John Dill, Admiral Sir Charles Little and Air Marshal Harris)
are in a different position. They see United States Chiefs of
Staff regularly both individually and in joint conference as they
of course, together with United States Chiefs of Staff, form
combined Chiefs of Staff Committee which, so far as Washington is
concerned, are charged with the conduct of the war. My contacts
with them enable me to get them to reinforce the Australian view
(on the strategy and reinforcement side) by [their] sponsoring of
it with American Chiefs of Staff. They are well disposed and have
been of considerable assistance in recent times.


1 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2 H. L. Stimson and Colonel Franklin Knox.

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

4 Adviser to President Roosevelt.

5 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.

6 Commander D. H. Harries.

[AA:A981, WAR 49, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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