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476 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 267 [1] CANBERRA, 28 April 1942


For the Prime Minister [2] from the Prime Minister.

1. As you are aware, General MacArthur formally assumed command in
the south-west Pacific area on 18th April, when all combat
sections of the Australian Defence Forces were assigned to his

2. The United States 41st Division has arrived in Australia and
there are now approximately 60,000 United States personnel here,
of whom 20,000 belong to the Air Corps. An additional division has
been assigned to Australia, but it is not known when it will be
possible to arrange shipping for its transportation to this

3. In regard to naval forces, no advice has been received of any
increase or any intention to increase American strength in the
south-west Pacific area.

4. Dr. Evatt has informed us of the aircraft allocated to United
States forces in Australia which provide for a first-line strength
of about 500. [3]

5. The Commander-in-Chief has submitted to the Chief of Staff,
Washington, a statement of the equipment required for the
Australian land and air forces that exist or can be raised and the
dates by which these supplies are required.

6. General MacArthur reports, however, that the forces allotted to
him are quite inadequate to carry out the objectives laid down in
his directive, and, far from enabling him to prepare for the
offensive, they are not sufficient to ensure the security of
Australia as a base for offensive operations.

7. To secure Australia as a base, General MacArthur considers that
adequate naval and air forces are the primary requirement. In
default of these, extensive land forces are necessary.

8. Because there is no immediate prospect of providing the naval
and air forces necessary, General MacArthur has represented to me
the paramount importance of providing at once additional land
forces for Australia. He has asked me to request you to divert to
Australia the second British infantry division that will be
rounding the Cape during the latter part of April and the
beginning of May, and also the armoured division which is to round
the Cape one month later. [4] The diversion would be of a
temporary nature and these forces would remain in Australia only
until such time as the 9th A.I.F. Division and the remainder of
the 6th Division are returned.

9. General MacArthur has also represented that the Naval Force in
the south-west Pacific is not a balanced one, as it does not
possess air striking power. Its value is thus greatly reduced. If
an aircraft carrier were provided the force would be able to
undertake offensive operations against the Japanese in this area.

Opportunities for this at present frequently arise by reason of
the enemy's long and exposed lines of communication. This state of
affairs, however, will not continue indefinitely, and it is
important that we should take full advantage of the situation
before the Japanese are able to consolidate their position.

General MacArthur points out that it is wasteful to operate such
an unbalanced force and he urges that an aircraft carrier, even of
the smallest type, be allocated to the south-west Pacific in order
that the naval force there may operate as a strong offensive unit.

You will recall that it was originally intended to provide an
aircraft carrier from the Royal Navy for the Anzac Naval Force.


10. General MacArthur also states that an additional allocation of
shipping on the Australian-American run should be made for a
sufficient period to transport immediately the forces and
equipment allotted and to build up the strength required. The
present amount of 250,000 tons is stated by him to be quite
inadequate to complete the requisite defence strength, apart from
building, up the strength required for offensive action.

11. I shall be glad if early consideration can be given to these
recommendations of the Commander-in-Chief which have the full
support of the Australian Government.


1 Repeated to the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom as no
3594 (AA:A3196, 1942, 0.11428).

2 Winston Churchill.

3 See Document 460, paragraph 2 and Document 469, paragraph 9.

4 See Document 447.

5 The aircraft carrier H.M.S. Hermes was originally allotted to
the Anzac Area but did not serve there, having been sunk on 9
April off Trincomalee.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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