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222 Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram E157 WASHINGTON, 12 June 1943, 6.30 a.m.


(1) I cannot tell you how relieved and proud I am to inform you
that I have discharged the sole mission entrusted to me by you in
relation to aircraft as stated in your instructions dated 1st
April. [1]

(2) In the instructions the duty assigned to me by you was to
endeavour to see whether aircraft might be allocated for the
development of the R.A.A.F. programme to the full limit of 72
squadrons. (The plan for expansion is sometimes referred to as
'The 73 Squadron Plan' or 'The 71 Squadron Plan'. The figure 72 is
most accurate because the proposed expansion was from 45 to 72-an
increase of 27 squadrons.)
(3) I found upon arrival that the joint United States Chiefs of
Staff had regarded the question of allocation of planes to the
South-West Pacific Area as being finally and conclusively fixed by
their recent decision as conveyed to General MacArthur. [2]

(4) I also confirmed that allocation of large additional aircraft
to General MacArthur was additional to the aircraft to be supplied
to the R.A.A.F. under the 45 squadron plan.

(5) The view taken was that overall allocations were sufficient
for the requirements of South West Pacific.

(6) In spite of these facts, on 22nd April I commenced
negotiations on the highest level with the President, emphasising
your point that the primary object of our representations was not
merely defensive but was to prevent consolidation of the Japanese
and inflict on them the greatest possible losses. I applied for
equipment for an additional 27 squadrons for the R.A.A.F. in
addition to all other commitments. The total aircraft which I
specified as unit equipment for the equipment of an additional 27
squadrons amounted to 474 aeroplanes. [3]

(7) On 5th May the President replied to the effect that the
existing allocations to Australia provided for full support of the
45 squadron programme, that it was not possible to permit of any
revision of allocations and that the recent conference of higher
ranking United States Commanders of the Pacific had resulted in
decisions materially strengthening the combined air forces in the
Pacific theatre. [4]

(8) Discussing his reply with the President, I pointed out to him
that expansion of the Australian air squadrons from 45 to 72
called for recruits, training and organisation in accordance with
an extended programme; further that this would permit of future
deliveries to harmonise with the development of fully trained air
personnel in accordance with ordered squadron expansion. I also
pointed out that General MacArthur had endorsed the programme and
that the R.A.A.F. organisation could be geared to gradual
expansion involving the plan.

(9) The United States army authorities who had advised the
President to reject the first application had already prepared a
letter for the President which would have rejected the second
application. Then Mr. Churchill arrived. Discussing the position
with Mr. Churchill I said that I had been entrusted by you with
this one specific mission and I asked him to give support to the
plan of expansion.

(10) I do not propose to tell you by cable the ups and downs of
this difficult matter. I had always been hopeful that we would
obtain some support from Mr. Churchill. At the same time the
United Kingdom Government is extremely anxious to obtain a full
performance of commitments which the United States has already
made to the United Kingdom in relation to carrying on the air
offensive against Northern Europe from Britain and against
Southern Europe from Africa. It is sufficient to say that without
obtaining an absolute promise from Mr. Churchill I did obtain
substantial support from him.

(11) There was no occasion to report the very short proceeding at
the last Pacific War Council but on that occasion and on the
occasion of Mr. Churchill's attendance at the Council (which were
the only two meetings called during the course of my mission in
Washington) I introduced the subject with some measure of
confidence. I did so because I had been well briefed by Shedden,
Drakeford and Jones from your end as well as by Williams who on
professional level has been able to render very timely assistance.

(12) Difficulty was almost insuperable. What I was asked to do was
the practically impossible task of procuring a reversal of the
very recent allocation decision of the United States Chiefs of
Staff unanimously concurred in by the British Chiefs of Staff. As
in the case of the Spitfires of last year, Portal, who came here
with Churchill, was against the application, pointing out truly
enough that my application was an indirect way of increasing the
overall allocation to the theatre which had been decided upon
purely on military grounds.

(13) Portal agreed that the R.A.A.F. should be strengthened but
suggested that the United States air force in Australia should be
correspondingly reduced. This last suggestion I rejected out of
hand because of its obvious and immediate embarrassment to you and
the Supreme Command. Churchill said to me on the evening before he
left America 'if you can get this approved-and I cannot be sure
that you will-you will get it in spite of the military machination
[sic] and not because of it'.

(14) I have not cabled you frequently about the position because
of uncertainties and disappointments of the negotiations, the hope
of one day being often frustrated by adverse reports of the next.

I have never worked so hard or so untiringly on anything in my
life. Indeed it is the most difficult job I have ever had. General
MacArthur was certain on the day I left Brisbane that the thing
could not be done.

(15) Throughout the Churchill-Roosevelt conferences I did my
utmost here to obtain a more satisfactory definition of the
Pacific strategy. I have no doubt that your representations in
Australia on this score, particularly the public statements that
were made [5], did have a favourable effect on the authorities
here and helped to secure the final decision that henceforth
unremitting pressure would be exerted against the Japanese as well
as against Hitler and Mussolini. This decision in turn I used in
connection with the proposed expansion of the R.A.A.F. squadrons
from 45 to 72.

(16) After dozens of encouragements and setbacks, this afternoon
(Friday), practically on the eve of my departure for Britain, the
President finally approved of the allocation to Australia of
approximately 475 planes for the purpose of expanding the R.A.A.F.

during this year and the next. [6] He stated that the contribution
of planes was in addition to the previous commitments made by the
United States Government to us. The question of the type of plane
that will be delivered will be canvassed immediately, and while
the exact dates of delivery cannot now be stated delivery will
take place as early as strategic requirements permit. Some of the
planes, probably dive bombers and fighters, will be sent at once
and the whole of the detailed plan will be worked out in the near
future at service level. Williams will no doubt communicate with
the Minister for Air as to this.

(17) While spares for unit equipment of 475 planes will extend
well into 1944 I have every reason to say that deliveries will
probably be completed well before the middle of next year though
the heavy bomber portion of the programme may be delayed for some

(18) I would suggest that you might send a personal message of
thanks to the President for his contribution of equipment to
Australia with the addition of 475 planes for the purpose of
expanding the R.A.A.F. during this year and next, this
contribution being in addition to any previous commitment made by
the United States Government to the Australian Government.

(19) I think that it is essential and will be most anxious if you
make a public statement in Australia [7] that I have fully carried
out the mission entrusted to me, that as a result Australia will
obtain additional allocation of aeroplanes to permit of a large
and programmed expansion of the R.A.A.F. Numbers cannot be
mentioned but it could be stated that the expansion will
ultimately represent an increase of 60% in front line strength of
the R.A.A.F.

(20) I have wired to Hodgson my movements. [8] Coombs and Robinson
will accompany me. Burton will remain at Washington to deal with
follow up matters. Mary Alice has been slowly progressing despite
vile weather at Washington. I am sending her to convalesce in the
mountains until I return. [9] Despite her illness she has helped
me greatly and the President and others have been very kind to

(21) Dixon will arrive on Sunday [10] and I expect to see him
before I depart.

1 See Document 151.

2 See Document 147.

3 See Document 164.

4 See Document 173.

5 See Paul Hasluck, The Government and the People 1942-1945,
Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1970, pp. 216-19.

6 See Document 210, note 3. Curtin sent a message of thanks to
Roosevelt on 15 June, pointing out that the additional 475
aircraft would 'enable the R.A.A.F. to play a full part with their
American comrades in the fight against the common foe'. See
cablegram 684 on file AA:A3300, 258.

7 In a message of congratulation dispatched to Evatt on 15 June
Curtin advised that he thought it would be 'preferable to defer
any public announcement at the moment', but would 'arrange for
this to be done at the proper time'. See cablegram L1 on file
AA:MP1217, box 474, visit abroad of Dr H.V. Evatt ... 1943.

8 See Document 223.

9 Mrs Evatt had become ill in early May and underwent an

10 Dixon was returning to Washington from Australia.

[AA:A4764, 3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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