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

Cablegram S10 WASHINGTON, 15 March 1942, 7.06 p.m.


I received telegram from Churchill late last night [1] offering me
a seat in British War Cabinet and to become Minister of State in
the Middle East.

This was a complete surprise to me and I telephoned you this
morning and sought reactions confidentially from justice
Frankfurter [2], Lord Halifax [3], Harry Hopkins [4] and the
President, all [of] whom I have got to know quite well and whom I
believe would take a broad viewpoint rather than a personal one.

All four men expressed firm view that, with your concurrence, I
should accept Churchill's proposal.

The President, whilst being good enough to say that he and his
advisers would be sorry for me to leave here, said that he would
greatly welcome such an arrangement from the viewpoint that it
would create a direct personal link between himself and the Middle
East theatre that had not existed before and which he believed was
essential to the successful conduct of Middle East campaign. He
rated extremely high the holding of the Middle East but he had
most disturbing reports from there as to the muddle that exists
there. Half to two-thirds of military equipment flowing into the
Middle East is now from the United States, and at the same time he
had no clear picture in his mind of the situation there. If I were
to go there, he would send a personal representative of his own to
Cairo (probably Bullitt [5]) and he would hope this would bring
about a new era there. At the same time he could assure me that
his saying this did not detract at all from his previously
expressed views about the imperative necessity of holding
Australia. As soon as Churchill replied to a recent communication
of his (the President) the United States would take over the
responsibility for the whole of the Pacific and as far west as

Harry Hopkins took much the same view and said that he had no
doubt that on the broad view Churchill's proposal was in the
general interest. He said as he saw the future working out,
Marshall (Chief of the United States Army Staff) and King
(Commander-in-Chief United States Navy) would be the two big
figures here on whom (under the President) the responsibility for
south-west Pacific campaign (including Australia) as a whole would
fall, with Australian Government (on advice of their own chosen
war leader, whether an Australian or an American) making decisions
in respect of the mainland and vicinity of Australia itself. He
believed that there would be a south-west Pacific Council here
(comprised of political representatives of Australia, New Zealand
and China, with President or his nominee as a chairman) but he
believed that any questions of real political consequence that
arose would have to be telegraphed to Australia and New Zealand
for decision by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and
that for example the representative on such a council would
inevitably be only the mouthpiece of his Government. He did not
criticize this but said he believed it inevitable that it should
work out this way. This being the case, he believed that the task
that Churchill had suggested for me was of much greater importance
to the conduct of the war than the work that lay ahead of me here
in Washington. He believed that it would be greatly to Australia's
interest to have an Australian in British War Cabinet
(additionally [?to] Australian in War Cabinet nominated by
Australia) and in a position of great responsibility in Middle
East; next to holding of Australia itself, he believed that the
holding of Middle East was next most essential area to Australia.

Halifax and Frankfurter reacted in the same general sense as
above. Whilst views of above men are of great interest to me your
judgment, as an Australian, is of greater moment to me in what is
for me a decision of great importance. The cutting for the time
being of my direct and immediate connection with Australia, that
this would entail, has weighed strongly with my wife and myself.

As against this, I believe that any usefulness that I might be
supposed to have had on behalf of Australia here has already very
largely been accomplished, and it might even be better that
Australia be represented here in future by a direct nominee of
your Government who has had direct and recent contact and
experience of affairs in Australia.

After my talk to you this morning and my talk with the President
and others and with a profound realization of the task that lies
ahead, I believe on the net balance that I should accept
Churchill's proposal, subject to your concurrence.

If you agree, I would of course stay here long enough to make Dr.

Evatt [6] fully conversant with all he will want to know about the
situation and personalities here. I am flying to California
tomorrow to meet the visitors at San Francisco. Churchill has
asked me for earliest possible reply. I am replying tentatively
that I am consulting you and will telegraph formal reply at the

If you agree no doubt you would wish to make an announcement in
Australia at the same time as Churchill makes the announcement in
London although not necessarily in the same terms. I would hope in
any event that no announcement would be made in either place in
the immediate future.

My personal good wishes to you in your great task.


1 In PRO: DO 35/1009 i.

2 Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

3 U.K. Ambassador to the United States.

4 Adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 Adviser to Roosevelt and formerly U.S. Ambassador to France.

6 Minister for External Affairs.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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