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Historical documents

27 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 407 [1] CANBERRA, 25 August 1942


It will be evident from the Coral Sea, Midway and Solomon Islands
naval engagements that operations in the Pacific Ocean are leading
to a naval clash which may well decide the course of the conflict
in this theatre.

2. I would refer to the views of the United Kingdom Chiefs of
Staff in Dominions Office cablegram No. 362 of 6th April [2] that,
when the moment is opportune, the naval forces of the United
Nations should take the strategic offensive in the Pacific. It
would be appreciated if a statement could be furnished giving the
present views of the Chiefs of Staff on the conditions outlined by
them in paragraph 4 as necessary for fulfilment before the
concentration of superior naval forces in the Pacific Ocean can be
undertaken. [3]

3. It would appear to be inevitable from the operations in the
Solomon Islands and the increased activity in New Guinea [4] that
the Japanese will offer substantial resistance to any efforts to
push them back to their bases in the mandated islands. We must
therefore be in a position to bring to bear at the point of
contact forces superior in strength to those of the enemy,
otherwise we shall be laying ourselves open to grave risks.

4. It is therefore desired to know what are the present prospects
and plans for the concentration of a superior naval force in the
Pacific, which presumably could only be done by the transfer of
part of the Eastern fleet to that region. [5]


1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 On file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

3 These conditions were that: (a) minimum defensive strength had
been achieved in the Indian Ocean; (b) Australia, New Zealand, New

Caledonia, Fiji and Hawaii were held by sufficient land and air
forces to enable them to stand without immediate naval support;

(c) the U.S. Pacific Fleet had regained a strength comparable to
that of the Japanese fleet, so that with the addition of British
reinforcements the Allies would have a decisive advantage; (d)
sufficient land and air forces were available to secure
territories recaptured with the aid of the superior Allied fleet.

4 The Japanese landed at Milne Bay at the south-eastern tip of New
Guinea on 25 August, while other Japanese forces advancing south
from Buna over the Kokoda Trail continued to push Australian
forces back towards Port Moresby.

5 On 31 August Curtin asked Bruce to see this cablegram and follow
up the questions raised in it in his 'most persistent and
energetic manner'. See cablegram 7957 on file AA:M100, August

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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