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37 Churchill to Curtin

Cablegram 588 [1] LONDON, 2 September 1942, 12.45 a.m.


Your No. 408 of 26th August. [3]

I fully share your view of importance of providing sufficient air
forces for the defence of Australia and, as I assured you in my
message of 6th August [4], our representatives in Washington are
doing everything possible to ensure that the interests of
Australia are adequately safeguarded. The ideal arrangement would
be to provide sufficient aircraft to enable the R.A.A.F. to build
up strength adequate for the defence of Australia without any
dependence on United States of America assistance. Unfortunately
the resources of the United Nations are inadequate for this to be
possible and it will clearly be necessary to continue the present
arrangements whereby the defence of Australia is conducted by
R.A.A.F. and United States air forces in collaboration.

We understand that the plans of the United States Chiefs of Staff
provide for a combined strength of over 1,100 aircraft in
Australia by 1st April, 1943. This corresponds closely to the 71
squadrons referred to in your telegram. We consider that this
should be adequate for the defence of Australia especially when
account is taken of another 1,000 aircraft which are to be
provided in New Zealand and the South Pacific islands. The
proportion which will be R.A.A.F. is for the United States Chiefs
of Staff to decide but as you know our representatives have been
maintaining maximum pressure to ensure that the R.A.A.F. get a
fair share and the proposal to turn over equipment from 10 United
States squadrons to the R.A.A.F. is presumably the result of our
joint efforts. In the circumstances I am reluctant to intervene
with the President in this matter but I can assure you that our
representatives in Washington will continue to maintain pressure
to see that the R.A.A.F. secure largest possible share of
resources in south-west Pacific.

The three Spitfire squadrons were, as you say, a special measure
of assistance from the United Kingdom to Australia and so they
have always been regarded here. They will enable the R.A.A.F. to
be built up more quickly than would otherwise have been possible
and will provide you with resources which are independent of
American control. In view, however, of the general shortage of air
forces throughout the world it is understandable that the American
Chiefs of Staff should take account of these squadrons in planning
for the provision of air forces in your theatre. I do not think
that it is a matter on which we can question their decision.

You mention the scale on which the Americans plan to provide
aircraft to replace wastage. I understand that 20 per cent per
month is the provisioning rate which they use for their own air
forces throughout the world. It is certainly too low for a period
of intensive operations but taken as an average over a long period
it does not seem unreasonable. We are having to make do with this
rate of replacement for our units in Middle East on American types
as well as for the United States units in that theatre.

Finally I assure you of my entire sympathy and anxiety to help in
any way I can to strengthen Australia's defences. I do not think
that the United States Chiefs of Staff are neglecting their
responsibilities and I think that we should be justified in
relying on the action they are taking to provide air forces in
south-west Pacific as being adequate to ensure Australia's defence
though admittedly not enough for a strategic offensive.

1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 Corrected from the Prime Minister's Dept inward cablegram
register (AA:A3642, 7).

3 Document 28.

4 Document 18.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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