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164 Evatt to Roosevelt

Letter WASHINGTON, 22 April 1943

1. Mr. Curtin expresses thanks for your message of April 6th
referring to certain increases in aeroplanes for United States
forces in the South-West Pacific Area, but also indicating that,
in accordance with a prior arrangement, you would be pleased to
consider what I had to urge on behalf of Australia in relation to
the area. [1]

2. The Prime Minister is very grateful for what had already been
decided. However, with full knowledge of that, he charged me with
the mission of securing your approval of one specific proposal of
the Australian Government, namely, the provision of sufficient
aircraft to permit of the expansion of the Royal Australian Air
Force to 71 squadrons. (The figure 71 is exclusive of 2 R.A.A.F.

squadrons now overseas and the programme of expansion is referred
to throughout as the 73 squadron plan.)
3. Consequent upon the entry of Japan into the war, the Australian
Government approved plans for the expansion of the Royal
Australian Air Force to 73 squadrons to be formed by the end of
last year. That programme was within the capacity of the Royal
Australian Air Force so far as personnel is concerned.

4. Up to the present, however, the complete plan could not be
adopted owing to aircraft production. The plan now endorsed is for
the development to 45 squadrons only by the end of the present
year. As already stated, this figure was not due to any lack of
capacity of the Royal Australian Air Force to cope with the
original 73 squadron plan.

5. As a result of the placing of the South-West Pacific Area under
the operational control of the United States Chiefs of Staff and
the acceptance by the United States of what you called
'responsibility' for the area, it was decided that the
requirements of aircraft produced overseas would be met from the
production of the United States. Under the 73 squadron programme
15 squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force will be maintained
from Australian production and 6 from that of the United Kingdom.

6. A year ago when the production of aeroplanes was comparatively
small, the requisition by General MacArthur for the air force
required to carry out his directive was 135 squadrons. Since that
time Japan has been reinforcing and consolidating its position in
the South-West Pacific, which area has become the main air and
land combat zone in the war against Japan. It can be accepted that
all air squadrons (United States and Australian) will be utilised
by General MacArthur for the defensive-offensive operations which
necessarily characterise a holding strategy which is also aimed at
preventing further enemy consolidation.

7. In a special message to yourself, Mr. Curtin emphasises a point
which I am sure you will accept-

'I would state (he says) that whilst we are, naturally, concerned
that our country shall be maintained free of any serious attack, I
would like it to be clear that this was not the primary objective
of our representations. Our aim was rather that aircraft should be
made available in such new strength to enable the holding strategy
in the Pacific to be prosecuted in a manner that would prevent the
consolidation of the Japanese in their present positions and
inflict on them the greatest possible losses preliminary to
ultimate assault for their final defeat.' [2]

8. I respectfully submit that this statement of our Prime Minister
is in accordance with the fair interpretation of the general
directive issued to the Supreme Commander in the South-West
Pacific Area about twelve months ago with the prior approval of
the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and
Australia. That general directive has not been altered.

9. The air training scheme which Australia has developed since the
outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 has reached great dimensions.

Every four weeks Australia's output of air crews basically trained
in Australia approximates to 780. Of these, 365 are retained in
Australia and no less than 415 are made available to the Royal Air
Force mainly for its operations against Germany and Italy. In
addition, air crew partially trained in Australia are sent to
Canada to complete their training at a rate of 224 every four

10. It has been expressly agreed between the United Kingdom and
Australia that the Royal Australian Air Force shall retain from
these monthly outputs sufficient air crews to meet Australian
requirements in accordance with the availability of operational
aircraft. So far as Australia's ground staff is concerned the
technical training capacity was stepped up last year in
anticipation of approval of the 73 squadron programme. This was
reduced temporarily but only because of the lack of aircraft to
develop the full programme as originally planned.

11. It is stated most emphatically that ground staff and other
maintenance personnel can be provided to meet all requirements for
the 73 squadron programme, the rate of development of which is
dependent only upon reasonable notice of planned availability of

12. So far as the operational use of aircraft made available to
the R.A.A.F. in Australia is concerned, these of course have been
assigned unreservedly for employment under the Commander-in-Chief
of the South-West Pacific Area.

13. In order to give some idea of the tremendous contribution
Australian air personnel has given in the war against Germany and
Italy, I point out that Australians, recruited and trained by the
R.A.A.F. since the outbreak of war, are now serving in the
following theatres:-United Kingdom, Middle East, India, Iraq,
Aden, Palestine, West Africa, Malta, Gibraltar and Iceland. The
total number of Australian air personnel now serving quite outside
the South-West Pacific Area, either with the Royal Australian Air
Force or R.A.F., totals approximately 11,000. Of this total no
less than 8,000 are members of air crews. Approximately 1500 have
been killed or are missing or prisoners of war. The Australians,
as you know, have gained great distinction as members of air crews
against Germany. Their continued employment in action against
Germany, especially since Pearl Harbor, is conclusive evidence of
Australia's desire to carry out global strategy to the utmost of
its power.

14. The other side of the picture is equally important. It is an
essential part of the agreed global strategy that, so far as is
reasonably practical, the Japanese enemy should be made insecure,
that his shipping and his installations should be destroyed and
that in every possible way he should be harried and prevented from
consolidating by our 'exerting continuous pressure'.

15. Mr. Curtin is convinced that in the circumstances it is just
and reasonable to ask you to direct the provision of aircraft to
carry out the 73 squadron programme of the R.A.A.F. He believes
that that force, together with what has recently been determined
upon in relation to the United States air force, would provide
little more than what General MacArthur himself estimated as his
minimum requirement when the production position was so serious
and the Japanese had not commenced to consolidate.

16. To meet the requested 73 squadron programme of the Royal
Australian Air Force the following units and unit equipment are
specified hereunder:

Type Squadron Aircraft
(Unit Equipment)
Heavy Bombers 9 162
M.S. [3] Fighters 5 120
S.S. [4] Fighters 1 24
Dive Bombers 4 96
GR/F [5] Boats 1 9
Transport (Land) 6 54
Transport (Sea) 1 9
27 474

17. As you yourself pointed out to me during our recent
discussion, the provision of shipping to Australia is unnecessary
so far as 17 of the 27 squadrons are concerned.

18. Today I received a telegram from Mr. Curtin in which he asks
me to try and complete this matter at the earliest possible
moment. [6] If it is finalised the main purpose of my Mission on
the service side will have been fulfilled. If the 73 squadron
programme is adopted-on the basis of deliveries over a period of
six months so as to harmonize with expanding production here and
the expanding organisation in Australia-I shall feel that
something of incalculable moral as well as physical material
assistance will have been rendered not to Australia but to our
common cause against the barbarians of the East.

19. Mr. Curtin as head of the self-governing nation most closely
in touch with the situation is convinced of the necessity of the
73 squadron plan from the point of view of success against Japan.

Tonight he advised me that General MacArthur has given unreserved
endorsement to it as being in accordance with his appreciation of
the grave responsibilities with which he is charged. [7]

20. Accordingly, I have the honour to submit to you as Commander-
in-Chief the adoption of the 73 squadron plan for the R.A.A.F.


1 See Document 152.

2 See Document 152, note 4.

3 Multi-seat.

4 Single-seat.

5 General reconnaissance flying.

6 This is apparently a reference to the cablegram published as
Document 160.

7 See Document 160, note 4.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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