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117 Curtin to MacArthur

Letter CANBERRA, 8 February 1943



1. I have received a message from the Prime Minister of the United
Kingdom summarising the conclusions of the Casablanca Conference
[2] and I am quoting for your most secret and personal information
the substance of the advice communicated to me with respect to the
decisions relating to the Pacific Theatre and South-West Pacific
Area [3]:-

'After Germany is defeated Great Britain will pursue the war
against Japan with her maximum available resources by sea, land
and air.

2. In the Pacific Theatre operations will continue with the object
of maintenance of pressure against Japan, retention of the
initiative and attainment of a state of readiness for full scale
offensive by the United Nations immediately Germany is defeated.

In the meantime, these operations will be kept within such limits
as not to prejudice the capacity of the United Nations to take
advantage of any favourable opportunity for an endeavour to defeat
Germany in 1943. Subject to this condition, they will include
limited offensives in Burma which will be preparatory to the
reconquest of that country, building up of United States Forces in
China and continuation of United States operations in the South-
West Pacific Area.

3. The following are the stated objectives of United States
operations in the South-West Pacific Area:-

(a) To keep Japan from further expansion and from consolidating
and strengthening her present positions.

(b) To maintain the security of the Midway-Hawaii line and
communications to Australia and New Zealand.

(c) To block Japanese approaches to Australia either via Rabaul or
from the North West via Malaya.

(d) To secure positions from which to threaten Japanese
communications with the Dutch East Indies, to the Philippines and
the South China Sea.

The forces available for the operations referred to above will be
limited by the necessity for concentrating maximum United States
and British Forces against Germany, the primary enemy, but there
will be sufficient to ensure that we retain the initiative against
the Japanese.'
You will note the limitations that are placed on the strength
which is to be made available for operations in the South-West
Pacific Area.

2. The decisions of the Casablanca Conference, by providing for
the defeat of Germany first, re-affirm the policy with respect to
global strategy, which was agreed upon in 1942. I shall be glad if
you will let me have your observations generally on these
decisions, and, in particular, I would ask for your comments on
the following:-

(i) (a) Are the forces in the South-West Pacific Area of
sufficient strength to achieve the objectives referred to earlier?
(b) If not, what additional forces are required?
(c) In regard to the objective to block Japanese approaches to
Australia from the North West via Malaya, Mr. Shedden recently
discussed with you, at my request, the increased enemy activity in
Timor. Your advice that it was purely defensive has been noted
with interest.

The Government and Advisory War Council have recently discussed
reports of large scale Japanese troop movements to the Netherlands
East Indies and the threat to North Western Australia which the
enemy concentrations in this area involved. [4] Reference was made
to the question of our ability to hold North Western Australia in
the event of a major Japanese attack, and the strength and
availability of the forces that would be required to meet such an

I shall be grateful if you will furnish me with your comments on
the aspects that have been raised.

(ii) Part I of Allied Land Forces Weekly Intelligence Summary No.

26 indicates increased Japanese activity in the construction of
aerodromes and landing grounds in both the North Western and North
Eastern sectors.

Mr. Shedden gave me the following report of a discussion of
Japanese intentions which he was instructed to raise with you:-

'General MacArthur said the Japanese were concentrating on
strengthening their line extending from Ambon; Timor; Wewak,
Madang, Finschhaven, Lae, Salamaua (Northern New Guinea); Gasmata
(New Britain); Buin and Faisi (Solomon Islands). These are the
outer screen which protect the main base at Rabaul. The Japanese
had transferred forces from the Netherlands Indies and the
Philippines and the reason why they had not prepared certain of
these bases earlier was because they had expected to capture Milne
Bay and Port Moresby and establish bases there in the same manner
as they had done at Buna. Now that their advance had been stopped
and they had lost the landing strips at Buna and their forces in
this region, they were determined to hold the remainder of the
outer line of their defences, as was indicated by their recent
anxiety to reinforce Lae and Salamaua. If they are thrown back
from this outer line, Rabaul will become vulnerable to a heavy
scale of attack and untenable as a base.'

I shall be glad to know whether any special significance as to
offensive intentions is to be drawn from the Intelligence Report.

(iii) Is it a correct statement to say, as stated in the
Casablanca decisions on the retention of the initiative against
the Japanese, that we do actually possess it, either in the
Pacific generally or in the South-West Pacific Area in particular?
3. As you know, I conveyed to the President and Mr. Churchill on
19th January your report on the outstanding military lessons to be
learnt from the campaign in Papua and asked for the allocation to
the South-West Pacific Area of 1500 additional operational and 500
additional transport aircraft, and also mentioned the need for
naval dispositions to give appropriate covering support. [5] I
have not yet received a reply to these messages.


1 See Document 108.

2 See cablegrams Z9, Z10 and 154 of 29 January on file AA:MP1217,
box 575, Global Strategy, decisions of Casablanca Conference
January, 1943.

3 On 2 February the Advisory War Council discussed the conclusions
reached at the Casablanca Conference and agreed that: 'It would
not be profitable to send cablegrams to President Roosevelt and
Mr. Churchill challenging the decisions of the Casablanca
Conference. The decisions should be viewed as laying down a
programme for 1943 and accepted as a pro tem policy.' It was
decided, however, to convey the decisions on the Pacific theatre
to MacArthur, and to make representations to Roosevelt and
Churchill in the light of MacArthur's reply. See Advisory War
Council minute 1129 in AA:A2682, vol. 6.

4 See Advisory War Council minute 1132 of 2 February 1943 in
AA:A2682, vol. 6.

5 See Document 105.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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