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33 Dixon to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram S123 WASHINGTON, 31 August 1942, 7.25 p.m.


I had a lengthy interview this morning with General Marshall at
which the allocation of aircraft to the R.A.A.F. was discussed as
well as the Pacific situation. I impressed upon him the concern of
the Government at the relatively small number of squadrons for
which aircraft are to be provided under the Chiefs of Staff
programme. He said in answer that they found themselves simply
unable to provide more aircraft. He referred to the
disappointments in production, the needs of other fronts or
theatres, gave me intelligence concerning Japanese air strength
against which air force for the S.W.P.A. must be provided,
compared that strength with the provision made and said that
having regard to foregoing matters they felt they could not make a
greater allocation. With respect to the inclusion in their plan of
the three Spitfire squadrons I showed him a copy of the fourth
paragraph of Ismay's letter to Dr. Evatt [1] and again gave the
reasons why this U.K. contribution should be regarded as
additional and extraneous to any programme laid down by the
Combined Chiefs of Staff He replied that it would have been better
if the Chiefs of Staff had not included the three Spitfire
squadrons and so stated the number at 30 but the result would
simply have been that the number would be stated as 27.

As to the suggestion that aircraft should be transferred from U.S.

units to R.A.A.F. units he said that he wished it to be understood
that he was responsible. His reason for putting it forward was
that he felt that a plan of organisation and development of the
R.A.A.F. was a thing for the Australian Government to determine as
a national matter; that the Chiefs of Staff did not want to
interfere with any such plan but rather to help in carrying it
out; it was the fact however that they could not provide more
aircraft towards doing so than had been allocated except by
transferring them as he had suggested; that he had regarded it as
the only way open by which more aircraft might be made available
for the fulfilment of the Australian plan of development for the
R.A.A.F. As however the view of the Australian Government was
against it he would not pursue the proposal.

I pointed out what, under the Chiefs of Staff allocation, U.S.

production would actually contribute and that it amounted to no
more than Kittyhawks for three squadrons and Vengeances for five
with eventually about twenty Venturas but his response was to
emphasise the deficiency of aircraft of U.S. production.

He went over the events in the Pacific up to the report received
this morning of the success of our troops at Milne Bay [2] and
read me parts of communications from General MacArthur in order I
think to give some confidence in their being alive to the
situation including its dangers and in their being engaged in the
most active measures to meet it, but he emphasised as he had done
before the impossibility of making disclosures of plans and
intentions and the extreme risk involved in communicating anything
that would serve as an indication giving instances drawn from
other places and expressing his concern at the great knowledge the
enemy actually possessed on such matters.

I mentioned the failure to provide for the three land transport
and one sea transport squadrons but he was not prepared to deal
with it at the moment.

Please have this message brought to the Prime Minister's attention
as early as possible.

1 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V,
Document 502.

2 Earlier the same day Australian forces began a successful
counter-attack against the Japanese force which had landed at
Milne Bay on 25 August and by 6 September the Japanese were forced
to withdraw from the area.

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Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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