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254 Bruce to Curtin and Evatt

Cablegram S147 [1] LONDON, 6 August 1943, 8.20 p.m.


Meeting of the Pacific War Council on 4th August, first held in
London for many months, was stage-managed to enable-
(a) The Prime Minister to outline his views regarding the war in
the Pacific.

(b) The Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs [2] and Admiral
Helfrich [3] to state their cases.

Owing to an unfortunate blunder in the Cabinet Secretariat, for
which a flood of apologies is now pouring out, the notices of the
meeting were not sent to Dominions representatives and
consequently none of us were present. While no official records
are kept of meetings of the Pacific War Council you can take it
that the following is an accurate summary of what took place.

The Prime Minister said it might be necessary to strike at Japan
proper. He doubted very much whether the Japanese would invade
Australia. It was still our policy, he went on, that Burma Road
should be opened as soon as possible. Lines of communication from
India were the baffling difficulty. There were ten times as many
forces in India as could be deployed and maintained in Burma.

Developments of airfields in Bengal were proceeding with highest
priority so that capacity of the air route to China might be
developed to the maximum as soon as possible. Running of air route
would be an American responsibility, guarding it a British. Even
if there were no enemy in Burma, it would not be possible to open
the Road for 15 months from now having regard to landslides.

The Prime Minister said that invasion of north-west Africa had
transformed the situation in Europe and some similar strategy
should be possible in the Far East. Seapower gave us great
advantages. Rather than operations in Lower Burma, he was himself
inclined to favour a stroke more adventurous and further flung.

Ever since the last Washington conference concluded, United States
and British staffs had been at work on exhaustive study of the war
against Japan. The result of their conclusions would be placed
before the next United States-British conference. When Germany had
been defeated not only would great naval and air forces be sent to
the Pacific but also all troops for which transport was available.

Dr. Soong said that while China had never doubted British
intentions, she was pre-occupied with the time factor and anxious
for the opening of the Burma Road at the earliest possible moment.

A temporary bridge, he continued, could be erected quickly to
repair the only break in the Road at the present time, i.e. at
Salween River, and according to a United States estimate 100,000
tons per month could pass over the Road within a few months of re-
opening. (This figure appears to me fantastic but apparently no-
one challenged it.)
Admiral Helfrich said when he was in Australia in April Japanese
attack on Darwin had seemed likely. Though likelihood had now
receded, possibility still existed and it was of great importance
that Darwin should be developed as a naval base and its inland
communications improved. It would be comparatively easy for the
Japanese to isolate Darwin. Japanese sea communications were
admittedly vulnerable but in view of the tenacity and fanatic
fighting spirit of the Japanese he did not think it would be
possible to defeat Japan merely by cutting their sea
communications or by air attack. The Japanese had shown themselves
hard fighters, fighting to the last man.

1 Sent through the External Affairs Office in London.

2 Dr T. V. Soong.

3 Commander-in-Chief of Netherlands forces in the Far East.

[AA:A981, WAR 41B]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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