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44 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 420 [1] CANBERRA, 11 September 1942


Reference your No. 594 [2], it is learnt with considerable
surprise that there has been a change in the views notified in No.

362 of 6th April [3], which contemplated a strategic offensive
action in the Pacific by the transfer of forces from the Indian
Ocean to the Pacific when certain essential Conditions had been

2. It would now appear that instead of the Eastern Fleet being
built up to the strength necessary for this purpose, it is being
disposed in theatres other than the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

3. If a superior naval force is not to be concentrated to inflict
a decisive defeat on Japan and relieve Australia of the threat of
invasion, there is no alternative but to press for the land and
air strength necessary for the local defence of the Commonwealth,
the case being parallel to that referred to by you in paragraph 3
of No. 594, relative to the defence of India and other territories
in the Indian Ocean. I have addressed to the President [4] and
yourself [5] my representations on air requirements. In a separate
communication the need for additional land forces is dealt with.


4. The following will be recalled from the review of the United

Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on Australian Defence, which was
transmitted in Mr. Bruce's cablegram No. 55 of 3rd April [7]:-

'A movement of the United States main fleet into Eastern
Australian waters provides at present the only sure means of
protecting the Eastern Australia and New Zealand, but the United
States Fleet cannot undertake to remain in Australian waters
indefinitely. The Allied aim should therefore be to build up the
land, air and local Naval Forces in Australia and New Zealand to a
point where they can stand without the immediate support of the
United States Fleet, and can ensure that they will not be defeated
before the United States Fleet is able to return to sever the
enemy's communications with her invading forces.'

Whilst the security of the line of communication to the United
States is of vital importance, it is hoped that it is clear to
those responsible for grand strategy that the interruption of this
line is neither an essential preliminary nor even a necessarily
desirable condition to a Japanese assault on the mainland of
Australia, if the local land and air defence strength is to remain
at its present figure.

5. If Japan succeeds in capturing Port Moresby, the way is open to
a direct attack on the mainland under cover of land-based
aircraft, which may well defy all naval attempts to interrupt
their line of communication and dislodge them.

6. In view of the possibility that an attack may be launched
against Western Australia by Japanese forces from the Netherlands
East Indies, I would also be glad to know the views of the United
Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on the contemplated strength of the
Eastern Fleet as a deterrent to such an attack, and the
possibility of its use should such an attack eventuate, having
regard to its other commitments in the Indian Ocean. [8]


1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 Document 41.

3 See Document 27, notes 2 and 3.

4 See Document 31.

5 See Document 28.

6 See Document 43, note 1.

7 On file AA:A816, 14/301/233.

8 Curtin repeated this message to Dixon for delivery to Roosevelt.

See Cablegram 139 of 11 September on file AA:A3300, 232.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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