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526 War Cabinet Submission by MrJohn Curtin, Prime Minister and Acting Minister for External Affairs

Agendum 270/42 CANBERRA, 16 June 1942



The British Foreign Office recently established, in agreement with
the British Ministry of Information, a Political Warfare (Japan)
Committee to give guidance in the conduct of political warfare
against Japan. A plan of campaign drawn up by this Committee has
been communicated to the Governments of the United States,
Australia, India and China. The United States authorities have
independently prepared a scheme of their own which is reported to
correspond very closely to the United Kingdom plan (Dominions
Office telegrams 211 and 212 of 21st April [1]).

2. Because of Australia's special interests in the Far East and
its geographical situation, it is desirable and practicable for
the Commonwealth Government to co-operate actively in this
campaign. It is recommended that approval be given to the
following draft telegram to the Secretary of State for Dominion
Affairs [2] setting out the Australian viewpoint and the measures
which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to take:-


Reference D.211 and D.212.

(1) We have previously given some consideration to this question
and had reached the conclusion that (a) inter-Allied consultation
was desirable to formulate and co-ordinate plans of political
warfare in Far East, and (b) national organisations should
implement policy as regards particular regions.

(2) As we see it, the main factors are the following:

(i) Japanese territory for purposes of propaganda and subversive
activities can be regarded as a most difficult field, owing to
physical obstacles in way of contact. It is practically a closed
area, and this applies also to occupied territory. (There remain
open few channels of even indirect communication; use of radio is
most limited owing to low standard of living in Eastern countries
and prohibition of short wave sets, while the population to be
reached are mostly illiterate.)
(ii) The Foreign Powers affected (United States, British
Commonwealth and Netherlands) stand in a different relation to the
Asiatic territories in Japanese possession to that in which the
exiled Governments in London stand in relation to their former

(iii) Our propaganda must be positive as well as negative. We can
in this respect only counteract effectively Japanese propaganda,
of which the most powerful weapon is and will be, 'Asia for the
Asiatics', by giving these subject peoples a better alternative.

This inevitably raises the whole question of post-war economic and
political relationships, not only between Allies and Asiatic
peoples, but as between Allies themselves. Whether or not a joint
declaration of our objectives for this region is possible at this
stage, some understanding on common principles must be reached by
the Allies to ensure that political warfare does not conflict with

(3) In the light of the above, it appears essential that there
should be consultation immediately to define reasonable and
practicable objectives, and to work out machinery to put them into

(4) In our view, your D.212 is not a plan of campaign but rather
an enumeration of aims, many of which seem more suited to European
psychology and conditions than to East Asia. We think they should
be very much limited and simplified to constitute a programme for

(5) In view of the geographical position of Australia, the
intention to use it as a base for offensive operations, and its
special interest in Pacific questions, it seems essential that the
Commonwealth Government should be closely associated with the
conduct of political warfare against Japan. To this end:-

(a) We are setting up a local organisation for political warfare
against Japan to work in close association with the organisations
of our Allies.

(b) We would wish this organisation to be of like character to
those to be set up in the United Kingdom and the United States of
America and request the fullest information about the
organisations proposed.

(c) We urge the closest co-operation between the national
organisations and, if it is found desirable, the setting up of an
inter-Allied body in Australia for political warfare.

(d) We would wish that matters of policy connected with political
warfare against Japan should be the subject of consultation
between the Governments concerned. Ends.

Australian Organisation
3. In order to give immediate effect to the first of these
proposals, it is recommended:

That the conduct of political warfare against Japan should be
under the control of the Minister for External Affairs and that a
Political Warfare Committee, for the time being representative of
the Departments of Defence, Navy, Army, Air, External Affairs and
Information, should be constituted to assist the Minister.

4. This agendum has been considered and approved by a meeting of
the Defence Committee [3] at which representatives of the
Commander-in-Chief in the South-West Pacific [4] and the
Department of External Affairs [5] and Information [6] were


1 Both cablegrams are on file AA:A816, 19/304/327.

2 Clement Attlee. The draft was approved by Curtin on 19 June and
dispatched as on. 338 the same day (see teleprinter message M2739
of 19 June on file AA:A2671, 270/42). Curtin's approval was
confirmed by War Cabinet on 30 June (See AA:A2673, vol. II, minute

3 See Defence Committee minute 80/1942 of 11 June on file AA:A816,

4 General MacArthur was represented at the meeting by Colonel Van
S. Merle-Smith.

5 P. M. C. Hasluck.

6 L. G. Wigmore.

[AA:A2671, 270/42]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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