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

Cablegram Johcu 23 CANBERRA, 6 March 1942


My cablegram No. 166 to you through the Dominions Office [1] was
drafted by a Committee comprising two representatives of the New
Zealand Government [2], two representatives of the Australian
Government [3] and the Right Hon. R. G. Menzies. [4]

With Mr. Menzies' permission I am cabling to you the following
observations which were submitted by him at the time on the vital
reasons which support the adoption of the machinery and principles
outlined in the cablegram:-

'(1) The achievement of these objectives (the maintenance of lines
of communication from the United States of America and the
prevention of the further southward movement of the Japanese)
seems to us to require unity of command, the maximum attraction of
American interest and supply, and improved machinery for both
political and military collaboration at Washington.

Our view of what is necessary to achieve these things appears in
the following paragraphs.

(2) Australia and New Zealand should be represented on the Chiefs
of Staff Committee in Washington, the two Governments to appoint
or change their representatives after consultation with the
Supreme Commander hereunder referred to, and such representatives
to be given the fullest access to and consultation with the
British and American Chiefs of Staff.

(3) As matters will undoubtedly arise involving high political
considerations, and as these will not be appropriate to be dealt
with by Service representatives alone, there should be adequate
provision at Washington for consultation on the Governmental
plane. To achieve this, each of the Governments of the United
Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand should have
a representative on an Intergovernmental Council at Washington,
with direct access to the President, and of course with power to
add to their numbers should it be found desirable at an
appropriate stage to include China and the Netherlands East

(4) The Supreme Commander would be subject to the strategic
direction of the combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington, and to
any Governmental direction which might result from the
deliberations of the proposed Inter-governmental Council at

We recognise fully that in purely operational matters political
intervention would be mischievous and therefore dangerous; but
whenever questions arise as to where the Nationals of any country
are to fight and under what conditions they are to fight,
questions inevitably arise which possess a political character and
such questions would require political judgment.

The presence in Washington of both the political body and the
combined Chiefs of Staff would ensure the closest liaison between
the political and military directors, would avoid circumlocution
and save time, and would help each body to achieve a prompt and
realistic approach to the problems coming before it.

(5) In putting these proposals before you we emphasize as strongly
as possible the following considerations, in addition to those
already indicated:-

(a) Army reinforcements to the Anzac Area must for a long time to
come be drawn almost entirely from the United States.

(b) The strengthening of naval power East and North East of
Australia must for some time to come largely depend upon the
United States.

(c) Aircraft supply to the Area can be achieved more urgently and
in greater quantity from the United States.

(d) In setting out these factors we are not forgetting British
naval power in the Indian ocean or the intimate association which
exists between the whole of the warlike activities of Great
Britain, the security of Australia and New Zealand, and ultimate

But it will be at once seen that early and ample United States
supply is of tremendous importance.

(e) We feel strongly that if the United States officer has the
responsibility of Supreme Command in the proposed Anzac Area, and
problems of supply and reinforcement are being effectively and
quickly dealt with at Washington, the prospect of making Australia
and New Zealand strong bases for attack will be vastly improved,
the interest and interests of the United States will be attracted
to this part of the world, the United States conception of naval
strategy will become less defensive, and the war will come to be
more clearly seen both in America and here, not so much as a
defensive war to preserve our own territories as an offensive war
against Japan, in which the battle has to be carried to her in the
Western Pacific.'


1 Document 388.

2 See Document 388, note 4.

3 Curtin and Dr H. V. Evatt.

4 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong, member of the
Advisory War Council and Prime Minister 1939-41.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.6694]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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