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

Cablegram PMS14 WASHINGTON, 29 March 1942


(1) I am now glad to be able to advise you that, following on
extended discussions, it has been decided to establish in
Washington a Council in special relation to Pacific Theatre of
War. The President has intimated this to me orally and also that
an announcement will be made to this effect on Monday next at ten
thirty a.m. Washington war time. [1] You have been so closely
associated with the proposal from its origin that I think you
should have comments ready for release at the corresponding
Australian time. The President advised that release will not be
made earlier than ten thirty and it is possible that it may be
later. Suggest that monitor service advise you immediately
announcement is made, after which your statement could be
released. [2]

(2) Terms of President's announcement have not yet been finally
decided but will be short, because he takes view that Council must
be permitted to develop and that in the meantime the Council in
London should not be disturbed. It is his personal opinion that
the centre of gravity in relation to direction of war generally is
shifting to Washington but full recognition of the movement will
be gradual and thus English susceptibility should not be upset.

(3) First meeting of the Council will probably be held here on
Wednesday, and I think the representatives of New Zealand, Canada,
China and the Netherlands East Indies will be invited to attend,
in addition to myself The President rather avoided being precise
in regard to details of either the functions or scope of
representation and my feeling is that first meetings will be of an
exploratory character at which matters generally will be discussed
and decisions taken out of which will develop a permanent set-up
of the Council. I shall attend the meetings and will advise you of
my impressions afterwards.

(4) As regards the Ninth Division, the President said that,
broadly speaking, all American Forces in Australia or to go to
Australia in the future are being despatched unconditionally and
without any question of Australia's right to decide the
destination of the A.I.F. He says therefore that broadly the
matter is one for the Australian Government to decide. The
President desires to discuss this matter further with me on
Tuesday but I doubt if his present view will be varied at all in
essentials. Time, however, is going and movement of troops cannot
be too long delayed. Frankly my own view is that by allowing two
Brigades to remain at Ceylon, we went as far as we possibly could,
having regard to the responsibility that is on us to defend our
own country. I consider therefore that the Ninth Division should
return to Australia subject to provision of safe escort, but I
will wire you again after further discussions with the President
on this matter. In the meantime, however, I think that you can
proceed to consideration of it on the basis [of] the information
outlined above, which is not likely to be varied by further

1 Franklin D. Roosevelt's announcement of the creation of the
Pacific War Council is quoted in Evatt's cablegram PMS16 of 30
March on file AA:A981, War 41B.

2 For Curtin's statement see the Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March
1942, P. 4.

[AA:A816, 52/302/142]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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