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Historical documents

138 MacArthur to Curtin

Teleprinter message BXC270 [1] BRISBANE, 17 March 1943


The failure of the Prime Minister to receive any reply to his
message of January 19th [2] is an astonishing development if it
can be assumed that his cablegram was duly received. I have heard
nothing yet from the military group sent to Washington. [3] They
have been directed to present the needs of this area in the most
positive terms. Any reinforcement to their plea cannot fail to be
beneficial especially if it does not lay itself open to the
suspicion of definite collusion. A possible avenue of approach
would be to secure the help of Churchill applied to Roosevelt. It
is from the latter that the actual forces must come not only for
geographical reasons but because the Pacific theatre has been
designated as a primary American responsibility. If Churchill
could be persuaded that America could do much more here than at
present without in any way jeopardizing direct assistance to the
British islands, which is a fact, he might be willing to add his
pressure to our appeal. I believe that much benefit might result
through independent action on the part of the Prime Minister and
at the worst no harm could be done. [4]


1 This message was transmitted through the Defence Dept
secretariat in Brisbane to the Secretary of the Defence Dept, who
was then in Canberra.

2 Document 105.

3 MacArthur had dispatched a delegation of his senior officers
(including Lt Gen Kenney and Maj Gen Sutherland) to Washington to
attend the Pacific Military Conference, which opened on 12 March.

They took with them a plan (code named Elkton) for a simultaneous
advance on Rabaul through New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but
they were unable to obtain the forces necessary to carry it out in
full. MacArthur was issued instead, on 29 March, with a new
directive, setting out his objectives as (1) the establishment of
airfields on Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands; (2) the seizure of
Lae, Salamaua, Finschhafen, Madang and western New Britain; (3)
the seizure of the remainder of the Solomon Islands, including the
southern portion of Bougainville. See Louis Morton, The War in the
Pacific. Strategy and Command: The First Two Years, Department of
the Army, Washington, 1962, ch. XIX.

4 On 18 March the Secretary of the Defence Dept advised MacArthur
that Curtin, in accordance with the views expressed in MacArthur's
message, had dispatched to Churchill the cablegram published as
Document 139 (see letter on file Defence: Special Collection II,
bundle 5, Strategical Policy-S.W.P.A., file no. 4, 9/1943). See
also Curtin's report to the Advisory War Council of his discussion
with MacArthur on 16 March (in AA:A2682, vol. 6, minute 1153).

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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