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361 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram.342 WASHINGTON, 22 February 1942, 1.54 p.m.

Received 22 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Reference Prime Minister's telegrams 40 [1] and 41. [2]

I delivered contents of the abovementioned telegrams to President
[3] at once. He made very little comment, confining himself to
saying 'well, if they have made their minds up, that is the way it
is. I still hope, however, that they will be willing to discuss
the matter in respect of last Australians to move from Middle
East.'
After saying that Prime Minister's message would have no effect on
movement from United States to Australia of 41st American
Division, he went on to speak of the way his military advisers
were now visualizing the whole problem. Generally, whereas they
had previously contemplated attempt to regain step by step the
islands of the Netherlands East Indies from Australia as a base,
they had swung round to idea that this would be an exceedingly
difficult task, involving shipping and naval forces, and that they
now favoured the plan of building up sufficient forces
(particularly air forces) in Australia to hold Australia, whilst
they made their main attempt to embarrass the Japanese by an
eastward movement from Burma or from area at north of Bay of
Bengal.

The President did not develop latter idea, but went on to say that
he realised that an appreciable proportion of American aircraft
production over next [4] would have to go into Australia and
India.

He stressed shipping difficulty and asked if we could make any
contribution to this aspect of the problem 'even to extent of say
1,000 tons on each ship taking goods from United States to
Australia over next couple of months'. I said that I would put
this question to you at once.

He mentioned contribution towards the security of the coastal
areas on cast of Australia that was being made by combined naval
operations in area just east of Solomon Islands. He said most
confidentially that they had made contact with Japanese air forces
(presumably based on New Britain) and that they had destroyed at
least twelve Japanese bombers at small aircraft loss to themselves
and without any naval loss. He stressed necessity of no public
reference at all to these naval operations.

CASEY

1 Document 358.

2 See Document 358, note 3.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4 The original was here annotated 'group omitted'.


[AA:A981, WAR 33, ATTACHMENT B]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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