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139 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 60 [1] CANBERRA, 18 March 1943


On 19th January I addressed to Washington, for transmission to
President Roosevelt and yourself, a cablegram urging, in view of
the lessons of the use of airpower in the New Guinea campaign,
that 1,500 additional operational and Soo additional transport
aircraft be made available to the South-West Pacific Area as soon
as possible in 1943. [2] 2. Mr. Sumner Welles undertook to
transmit these messages to both of you immediately, but I have had
no reply from either the President or yourself I referred to it
again on 17th February in my Johcu No. 56. [3] 3. Since I first
approached you, there has occurred the Battle of the Bismarck Sea
which resulted in the virtual annihilation of a Japanese convoy
attempting to reinforce Lae and Salamaua. [4] This victory was a
further practical demonstration of the case urged by me on 19th

4. The Intelligence Reports have recently indicated that the
Japanese are intensively consolidating an are of air bases
extending through the Netherlands East Indies, Portuguese Timor,
New Guinea, Rabaul and the Northern Solomons, to the Marshall

5. It would appear from their air superiority in the operations in
Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies that they under-rated the
strength that could be brought against them. Since their bitter
experiences in the Solomons, New Guinea and the Bismarck Sea, they
are apparently determined to secure air superiority in the arc I
have described and concentrations of land forces are taking place.

There is no evidence of air concentrations so far, but the air
bases will be sufficient to enable a strength of 1,500 to 2,000
planes to be operated in these regions.

6. I shall be glad to be informed of the air strength that it is
proposed to provide in the South-West Pacific Area to ensure that
the initiative in the air is retained by the United Nations and
that the Commander-in-Chief, South-West Pacific Area, is in a
position to deter and, if necessary, severely repulse any attempts
by the Japanese to raid heavily by air and naval forces
territories in our possession.

7. It is noteworthy, and also a tribute to the effectiveness of
the forces engaged, that, in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, it
was possible to concentrate only 136 aircraft for this attack. The
renewal of attacks on Darwin and reconnaissance of the Northwest
Coast indicate the paramount importance of sufficient strength
being able to ensure air superiority along the whole line of
contact with the enemy and at other vulnerable points on our
coastline, especially in the West. Of particular importance is the
vital base of Fremantle where, owing to the depletion of the
Eastern Fleet, a heavy attack of the tip and run variety might be
carried out by Naval bombardment and carrier-borne aircraft.


1 This cablegram was repeated to Dixon for Roosevelt as no. 49
(see file AA:A2679, 9/1943). A copy was also sent to Bruce with a
request that he 'give all possible support to the case for
increased aircraft for the South-West Pacific Area and urge that
United Kingdom representatives of the Chiefs of Staff in
Washington be instructed to do the utmost possible' (see
cablegrams 38-9 of 18 March on file AA:M100, March 1943).

2 See Document 105.

3 See Document 120 and note 1 thereto.

4 The convoy was attacked by Allied aircraft between 1 and 3

[AA:A2679, 9/1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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