Skip to main content

Historical documents

442 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram EP2 WASHINGTON, 25 March 1942


For the Prime Minister.

(1) Your telegram P.M.7 [1] received. As a result of the work of
the Mission there is a distinct possibility that the President [2]
will soon establish a Council on governmental plane at Washington
and that in addition Australia and New Zealand will each be
invited to nominate one service representative to be associated
with the Chiefs of Staff at Washington. It is essential that a
first class man of high rank should be selected when the time

(2) On the Council if constituted the Australian representative
should be a Minister of the Crown rather than a diplomatic
appointee. New Zealand takes this view and Nash [3] is remaining
until finality is reached. There would be danger of divided
authority if we have both a diplomatic agent and a Minister of the
Crown speaking for Australia at one and the same time. Nash has
already experienced this with another Minister here.

(3) I illustrate the matter by reference to our own Mission. The
President and his departments now look to us in relation to our
common war activities. The Australian Governmental staff here is
weak and I am disturbed at the position. It is apparent that their
activities must be supervised and coordinated with single regard
to supporting Australia. There is a lack of vitality and cohesion.

As much of our time as can be spared is spent in infusing vitality
into them and stirring them up generally. One result is that which
I particularised in my cable of last night. [4]

(4) All of this shows that whatever may be the position in three
or four weeks time, our particular and special work here must be
driven through to finality and the authority of the Mission should
be exclusive. In the critical period ahead there should be no
question of divided authority. During this period the Council will
probably be established and I will be able to obtain a fair
appreciation of the benefits Australia can expect to obtain at
once and the manner in which the new organisation is likely to
function. Not until this period is finishing will it be possible
to decide representation which will achieve best results from
Australia's point of view.

(5) If we finally decide that another Minister of the Crown should
come from Australia (and I agree of course that a Minister should
ultimately be appointed) then I would naturally consult him either
prior to my departure to London or on my return here en route to
Australia. Selection of the person to be appointed is of vital
importance and the name of any proposed appointee should be
discussed between us long before any approach is made to him.

(6) I have undertaken this great task solely for the sake of
Australia and my desire is to prevent any possibility of our
efforts here being discounted either by a decision to fill Casey's
position too soon or by the choice of a person whose appointment
would not be the best possible for Australia. In view of the
difficulties and intricacies of the situation here I am firmly
convinced that until the situation clarifies no appointment is
required and I can perform the duties, which are almost nominal
while a Minister is here. A practical advantage from such a course
is that the Mission will be located at the Legation instead of at
a large hotel where interruptions are frequent and working
conditions bad.

(7) The question of the 9th Division is still with the President
and I will cable after hearing from him tomorrow.

(8) This cable was in the course of despatch when the telephone
call to you came through.


1 Dispatched 24 March. On file AA:A981, Australia 205, i. It
advised Evatt that War Cabinet believed it desirable that a
successor to R. G. Casey as Minister to the United States should
take up duty in Washington while Evatt was still there.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Washington.

4 This reference may be to cablegram PMS4 of 24 March (in Defence:

Special Collection II, Bundle 5, Reinforcement and equipment from
U.S.A. and U.K.), which dealt with the reallocation to Australia
of aircraft intended for the Netherlands East Indies.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.12142]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top