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Historical documents

105 Curtin to Dixon

Cablegram 10 CANBERRA, 19 January 1943


Please hand immediately to the President and Mr. Churchill the
following messages from the Prime Minister [1]:-

Dear Mr. President:-

Dear Mr. Churchill:-

Having learnt that the President/Mr. Churchill and yourself are
meeting in Washington [2], I presume that discussions of great
strategical importance are proceeding and that decisions of far
reaching effect on global strategy may be reached.

2. The following information was recently communicated to me by
the Commander-in-Chief, South-West Pacific Area, on the
outstanding lessons learnt from the New Guinea campaign, and I
consider them to be of such transcending importance that I am
forthwith communicating them for your urgent consideration,
together with my observations and recommendations thereon:-

(General MacArthur's statement begins)
The outstanding military lesson of this operation was the
continuous calculated application of air power, inherent in the
potentialities of every component of the Air Forces, employed in
the most intimate tactical and logistical union with ground
troops. The effect of this modern instrumentality was sharply
accentuated by the geographical limitations of this theatre. For
months on end, air transport with constant fighter coverage moved
complete infantry regiments and artillery battalions across the
almost impenetrable mountains and jungles of Papua, and the
reaches of the sea, transported field hospitals and other base
installations to the front, supplied the troops and evacuated
casualties. For hundreds of miles bombers provided all-around
reconnaissance, protected the coast from hostile naval
intervention and blasted the way for the infantry as it drove
forward. A new form of campaign was tested which points the way to
the ultimate defeat of the enemy in the Pacific. The offensive and
defensive power of the air and the adaptability, range and
capacity of its transport in an effective combination with ground
forces represent tactical and strategical elements of a broadened
conception of warfare that will permit the application of
offensive power in swift, massive strokes, rather than the
dilatory and costly island-to-island advance that some have
assumed to be necessary in a theatre where the enemy's far flung
strong-holds are dispersed throughout a vast expanse of
Archipelagoes. Air forces and ground forces were welded together
in Papua and with proper naval support their indissoluble union
points the way to victory through new and broadened strategic and
tactical conceptions. (General MacArthur's statement ends)
3. I am convinced that this campaign has demonstrated the efficacy
of certain principles of modern warfare, the results of which are
so important and encouraging as to warrant a review of the present
broad strategy of the United Nations and the allocation of
additional operational and transport aircraft to the South-West
Pacific Area to permit of the earliest possible extension of
offensive action against the Japanese.

4. These operations have been an extraordinary demonstration of
the manner in which air power, closely integrated with ground
forces and under the central direction of one Commander, can
enable effective blows to be struck at Japan's sprawling holds on
the Archipelagoes in the Pacific. This technique is a substitute
for difficult amphibious operations of an island-to-island nature
under earlier conceptions of warfare, which would require vast
resources in naval and merchant ships and entail opposed landings
against strongly defended positions with costly losses in men.

This closely coordinated use of land forces and air power will
therefore conserve both manpower and the shipping necessary to
bring them and their equipment to this theatre of operations.

5. Whilst realising the needs of other theatres, I feel that if
1,500 additional operational and 500 additional transport aircraft
can be made available to the South-West Pacific Area as soon as
possible in 1943, and if naval dispositions can be made to give
appropriate covering support, the blows that can be struck against
Japan are such that she can be driven from her island gains in the
Pacific and forced to contract her lines. It is not improbable
that a mortal blow might be dealt her while she is still so
extended and vulnerable. As you are aware, Japan, since her losses
of Guadalcanal [3] and Buna [4], is concentrating her main
strength on building up and holding an outer screen to her base at
Rabaul, which extends from Ambon to the Northern Solomon Islands.

6. The enemy is weakest in the air. He has been decisively out-
fought in this element in New Guinea and the Solomons. As the
productive capacity of the United Nations now greatly exceeds that
of the Axis Powers, Japan cannot hope to gain air superiority if
adequate allocations are made to the Pacific areas. This request
for aircraft does not make any extensive demands on shipping
resources as most of the aircraft could be flown to the South-West

7. The Naval support that the operations would call for does not
entail any more risk than that which it is presumed the Naval
forces of the United Nations are prepared to accept at the present
time to meet the enemy under land-based air cover.

8. I am sure that great credit would redound to the President/Mr.

Churchill and yourself by demonstrating that we lack nothing in
comparison with our enemies and Russian allies in devising methods
of warfare appropriate to the circumstances which confront us and
with weapons that have been developed for the hurt and
discomfiture of the enemy. I am also confident that such a step
will allay the growing anxiety that the Japanese are to be left
indefinitely to their own devices with the consequence that the
war in the Pacific, even after the defeat of Germany, will be of
most prolonged duration.

9. (Additional paragraph for cablegram to Mr. Churchill only.)
In view of your great knowledge of the history and methods of war,
and recalling the outstanding contributions made by you in the
pre-war years to the development of machinery for the unified
direction of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the creation of a
joint staff outlook on combined operations, I hope my proposal
will make a special appeal to you and I would earnestly ask you to
give it your support.

Yours sincerely,


1 For copies of the messages as delivered to Churchill and
Roosevelt see Franklin D. Roosevelt Library: Map Room,
Miscellaneous Presidential Dispatches, box 12.

2 This meeting in fact took place at Casablanca. See Document 108.

3 The initial landing on Guadalcanal by U.S. forces on 7 August
1942 was followed by six months of bitter fighting on land and
sea. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and lost many ships, but
the U.S. forces gradually gained the advantage and at the end of
December the Japanese decided to abandon Guadalcanal and to
concentrate on attempting to hold New Georgia. The last Japanese
troops were evacuated from Guadalcanal on 7 February.

4 See Document 87, note 4.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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