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

Cablegram E4 LONDON, 8 May 1942


In reply to your telegram No. 57 [1] I now state my first-hand
impressions and conclusions in relation to second front and other
matters mentioned in your telegram.

(1) I fully appreciate MacArthur's [2] attitude in relation to the
supply of forces sufficient to carry out his objective, but the
expression 'minimum forces' to which you refer in paragraph 2
means only that MacArthur is entitled to be supplied at the very
least with such forces as are required to carry out the
strategical objectives and orders contained in his directive.

(2) In reply to paragraph 3 I have always regarded the directive
as being a compromise between an immediate offensive and a purely
defensive strategy. You yourself have so explained it and General
Brett [3] also has referred to it as 'positive defence'. Danger is
that Marshall [4] may resent being pinned down in relation to a
future offensive especially in relation to its precise time extent
and scope. There should be no objection to MacArthur having a
'show-down' with Washington, but the following has to be

(a) MacArthur accepted the directive and the office defined in it.

(b) So did the Australian, United States and British Governments.

(3) Therefore the showdown should be concentrated upon an
insistent demand for such forces as in MacArthur's opinion are
required to carry out the strategy in the directive.

(4) In regard to the other matters mentioned in your telegram,
paragraph 5 (Dominions Office telegram No. 390 [5]) the Prime
Minister's [6] promise to divert British divisions has been
reported to you. [7] His attitude is against sending the divisions
until it is reasonably clear that Japan intends a full-scale
invasion. The answer is that prevention is far better than cure.

I am meeting the Prime Minister and Chiefs of Staff on Monday [8]
to discuss their views on
(1) General strategy of war including any relevant written

(2) Security of Australia against invasion.

The latter topic is to cover such questions as
(a) Emergency plan for additional air strength.

(b) Directions to Field Marshal Dill [9] as to United Kingdom
Chiefs of Staff attitude towards South-West Pacific requisitions.

(c) Canada's possible release from certain commitments.

(d) Naval position.

(e) Return of 9th Division from Middle East.

(5) With regard to the 9th Division my cabled advice was that we
should press for the return of this Division [10] but one
difficulty is that MacArthur's claims may be adversely affected
because his representations as to the 9th Division have been made
in London. Your paragraph 7 shows the danger of MacArthur making
any representation except through Marshall who is the executive
officer under his directive.

(6) On the whole I do not think that it is right to regard the
decision to attack Germany in the Spring of next year on the
western front as militating against adequate supplies being sent
for Australia (see paragraph 4 (a) of Dominions Office Z. 57

(7) The great fear both here and in the United States was that,
unless Russia's demand for an offensive was satisfied to some
extent, she might either be defeated this summer or make a
separate peace. It is certain that in such matters Russia will act
exclusively in her own interests. Stalin and Litvinov [12] made
public statements to which some sort of favourable answer had to
be given.

(8) I realise that MacArthur's analysis of the American position
in paragraph 10 is substantially correct. As you point out he
agrees with the proposals the Curtin Government made twice before
Japan entered the war. At the same time we must keep fighting for
as large a concentration of forces in the South-West Pacific Area
as is required for MacArthur's directive to be carried out. The
strategy in the directive is more favourable than a purely
defensive strategy and we should therefore insist upon its being
made good.

(9) For that reason I doubt whether MacArthur should at present be
required to state the forces needed purely for defending
Australia. He is certain to receive greater strength if the wider
purpose of his directive is adhered to rather than the more
limited purpose of defence only. The decisions on the
recommendations of MacArthur should soon be available.

The trouble here is that continual propaganda and persuasion are
needed to keep the Pacific front from being regarded as a side
show. So far as I know few if any public speeches have been made
in London to emphasise the vital importance of the Pacific. The
authorities both here and in the United States grossly under-
estimated Japan's strength and the people who blundered in such a
matter find it difficult to face up to the true position.

You will remember I cabled you from Washington pointing out that
the western offensive propaganda and decisions might possibly
react against us. [13] However providing Macarthur fights hard and
he receives strong support from the Government-if necessary by
carefully considered public statements-the flow of supplies to
Australia could be made reasonably satisfactory.

The position is much better than it was but I think we should be
able to improve it further providing MacArthur argues strongly
with Marshall and refuses to be satisfied with anything short of
those forces which will not only
(a) successfully defend Australia but also
(b) be able to operate offensively within a reasonable time.

This is his present mandate and it is binding upon all the
Governments concerned.


1 Document 483.

2 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

3 Commander, Allied Air Forces in the South-West Pacific Area.

4 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

5 Document 477.

6 Winston Churchill.

7 See Document 484.

8 For a report of this meeting see cablegram E5 of 13 May in
Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, cables to and from Dr
Evatt, March-May 1942. Evatt took the opportunity to urge that the
U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington give more active support to
MacArthur's requests for additional aircraft.

9 Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

10 See Document 446.

11 See Document 483, note 10.

12 U.S.S.R. Ambassador to the United States. 13 See Document 451,
paragraph 5.

[AA:M100, MAY 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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