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419 Mr A. S. Watt, First Secretary of the Legation in Washington, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 470 WASHINGTON, 18 March 1942, 4.40 p.m.


Further to my telegram 469. [1]

The following letter from Mr. Sumner Welles [2] to Mr. Casey [3]
dated 17th March reached the Legation at noon 18th March. In the
circumstances, I feel that I should quote it in full:-

'Mr. Watt was good enough to hand to me this morning with his
letter of 17th March a message addressed to the President [4] by
the Prime Minister of Australia [5] which contained the very
gratifying suggestion that the Australian Government desired to
nominate General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of the
Allied Forces in the Australian theatre.

I was glad to submit this message immediately to the President who
asked me to convey to the Prime Minister of Australia through you
his very sincere appreciation of this message. The President asked
me likewise to state that the suggestion made had his complete
approval and that steps would be immediately taken in accordance
with the suggestion of your Prime Minister.

The President ascertained, however, while I was with him, that the
Secretary of War [6] had just made an announcement of the
appointment of General MacArthur in the capacity, making it clear
that this step had been taken "at the suggestion of the Australian

For that reason it has been impossible for me to inform you
beforehand of the text and time of the announcement as requested
by Mr. Curtin.'


1 Dispatched at 11.17 p.m. (Washington time) on 17 March. On file
AA:A981, War 5A. It advised that MacArthur's appointment had been
announced in Washington. Following the receipt of this cablegram
in Canberra on 18 March Curtin also issued a statement, the text
of which is on file AA:A981, External Affairs Dept 192, iv.

2 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.

3 Minister to the United States.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 John Curtin. See Document 415.

6 H. L. Stimson.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.11267]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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