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494 Mr A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram [ES] [1] 42 WASHINGTON, 20 May 1942, 9.59 p.m.


With reference to yesterday's telegram 762 forwarding President's
reply [2] to your telegram 97 [3] I had interviews with General
Marshall [4] and Admiral King [5] on morning of 19th and cabled
result of those interviews to Dr. Evatt [6] in London. As
information supplied is of interest in connection with and
supplementary to President's reply to you I am repeating it

(Extract Begins.)
In general terms Marshall stated supplies were continuing to go
forward to Australia without cessation and that he fully
appreciated position, as do other service people in the United
States, and they are doing their utmost to meet it and also other
demands which are being made on them.

He made the point that one of the most important factors for our
area is the strength and safety of Hawaii, New Caledonia and Fiji.

He pointed out these not only control main supply lines to
Australia but provide land bases from which aircraft can be
operated to attack Japanese naval and other forces in the Pacific.

He stated that it would be a major disaster for Australia if this
line and these bases were not strengthened and kept open.

He again emphasized [the calculated] [7] risks that are being
taken by United States, particularly on the West Coast where some
of the large [st] aircraft [plants] are situated.

King said both he and Marshall realised the responsibility of U.S.

in the Pacific and South-West Pacific areas and there was no
question regarding the seriousness with which they regarded that
responsibility. He said that the Coral Sea battle was but the
first round and that other rounds will inevitably follow but at
the moment the Japanese naval forces are still proceeding
northwards away from Australia. He would like to see more land-
based aircraft on islands which could support any U.S. naval
action and made a point of the fact that allocations of aircraft
as between U.K. and U.S. which were agreed upon prior to America
and Japan entering war were still being adhered to. He thought
there should be an adjustment by which U.S. would obtain more of
their own production which in turn would enable them to strengthen
the Pacific. He and other senior officers hope to discuss this
matter with the President immediately. I mentioned the question of
aircraft carriers. He said that under the existing conditions it
was impossible to supply MacArthur [8] with carriers. King's
strategy is to keep the carriers which they have (he did not
mention the number) mobile in order to strike at the Japanese when
and wherever this could be done. He went on to say that the U.S.

strength in the Pacific is being built up and position should be
much better in about two months. In the meantime it is steadily
improving. He said also that they were developing amphibious
forces and not only would they strike at islands with a view to
expelling the Japanese but will work westward towards New Guinea
to clean up islands with these amphibious forces by which they
would be held. These are his immediate objectives but when and to
what extent he will be able to implement them he was unable to

He was quite as emphatic as Marshall in respect of the importance
of the Pacific and South-West Pacific areas and said that both he
and Marshall were actuated by the desire to defend these areas to
the utmost and that they were working in closest collaboration and
harmony towards this end.

(Extract Ends.)

In connection with the statement that the Japanese naval forces
were still proceeding northwards away from Australia, the
President stated this morning that a considerable force was now
concentrated in the vicinity of Truk. Matter is referred to in
more detail in my separate report regarding meeting Pacific War
Council today. [9]

1 The original was incorrectly marked SE.

2 On file AA:A981, War 33, attachment C. It conveyed a personal
message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Curtin, which
pointed out that while the U.S. Govt shared Curtin's concern that
Japan would attack Australia by way of New Guinea and recognised
also the serious threat involved by enemy action against the lines
of communication to Australia now covered in part by the strong
points of New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa, there were still
insufficient forces to securely hold New Guinea, the islands and
Hawaii simultaneously.

3 See Document 487, note 6.

4 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

5 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy.

6 Minister for External Affairs. See cablegram 131 of 20 May On
file AA:A3300, 234.

7 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the
cablegram cited in note 6.

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

9 See cablegram ES43 on the file cited in note 6.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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