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206 Note by Shedden of Discussions with MacArthur

BRISBANE, 27 June 1944



General MacArthur referred to the discussion which the Prime
Minister and I had had with him yesterday and today on the above
subject. He said that he had been very disturbed when General
Blamey came to him two days ago on his arrival in Brisbane and
informed him of the substance of the British ideas for the
alteration of the boundaries of the Southwest Pacific Area, for
the appointment of a separate Commander of the forces in that
area, to whom the Australian Forces would be assigned, and for
making the Southwest Pacific Area a theatre of joint
responsibility subordinate to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I
mentioned to General MacArthur that Mr. Churchill, in a letter to
Mr. Curtin [1], had expressly asked that the United Kingdom's
views on the subjects mentioned should not be referred to in his
discussions in Washington, and that General Blamey had no
authority to mention them to General MacArthur.

2. General MacArthur said that General Blamey appeared to be under
the impression that he General MacArthur was aware of the matter,
whereas the only advice he had received from Washington was a
message from General Marshall about the proposed strengths of the
Australian Forces. Upon detecting General MacArthur's unawareness
of the proposals, General Blamey had apparently sensed his
indiscretion and closed down on the further discussion of them.

Before doing so, General Blamey had revealed an attitude which
General MacArthur described as most unsatisfactory. General Blamey
had expressed an unawareness of General MacArthur's programme
which General MacArthur said he did not believe, because he had
furnished it to General Blamey before he left Australia. (It will
be recollected that, during the visit abroad, General Blamey used
to produce from his wallet a slip of paper on which he had notes
of the American timetable). General Blamey had also criticised
General MacArthur's plans and had thrown doubts on the
availability of the Australian Forces by stating that the
divisions would require a long time to bring up to strength,
notwithstanding that some of them had been out of action for a
prolonged period. General Blamey had stated that he had instructed
Lieut-General Berryman [2] to take over the command of the British
Forces which might be sent to Australia, and from this, General
MacArthur assumed that General Blamey was taking the adoption of
the new proposals for granted.

3. General MacArthur said that, after General Blamey had left, he
had said to Lieut-General Sutherland, his Chief of Staff, that it
was evident that General Blamey, in his discussions in London, had
been disloyal to General MacArthur and to the set-up in the
Southwest Pacific Area. Since General MacArthur had heard the
views expressed by the Prime Minister earlier in the day on the
maintenance of the setup in the Southwest Pacific Area and on the
use of the A.I.F. in the operations against the Philippines, he
would add that General Blamey had also been disloyal to Mr.


4. General MacArthur said that he was convinced that General
Blamey supported the proposals for the new area and command
because of his personal ambition to become the Commander. (It is
interesting to recall my remarks to the Prime Minister abroad that
I suspected a similar ambition, because, in the first phase of
operations proposed by the United Kingdom Government, the land and
air forces were to be all Dominion Forces, and the naval forces
would be predominantly British. Furthermore, General Blamey's
personal assistant [3] had flown a kite with my assistant [4]
regarding the deserving case of General Blamey for promotion to
Field Marshal.)
5. General MacArthur also added that it was General Blamey's
ambition to become Commander of the whole of the Australian
Defence Forces in the same manner that General MacArthur is
Commander of all the Naval, Military and Air Forces in the
Southwest Pacific Area. General Blamey had sought General
MacArthur's support for the proposal that, to overcome the
difficulties between the Chief of the Air Staff (Air Vice-Marshal
Jones) and the Officer Commanding, R.A.A.F. (Air Vice-Marshal
Bostock), he should be given the command of the R.A.A.F. as well
as the Australian Army.

6. General MacArthur said that he was further convinced of General
Blamey's disloyalty to the Prime Minister by the derogatory
inference to be drawn from a remark by him that 'he could not
possibly bear the journey back with the Prime Minister's crowd,
and had trumped up reasons to return by air'. I mentioned to
General MacArthur that General Blamey had approached the Prime
Minister in Washington for permission to return by air, because of
his desire to visit Honolulu and New Caledonia for military
purposes. I also mentioned the incident on the journey to America,
when the Naval Commander of the transport 'Lurline' had to enter a
protest against a boisterous party in the ship's doctor's cabin,
the liquor for which had been supplied by General Blamey from
stocks brought on board contrary to the ship's regulations.

7. General MacArthur, referring to a query raised by me on the
previous day as to whether his plan of operations entailed any
change in the system of command, said that the position of
Commander of the Allied Land Forces had now become a fiction.

General Blamey had refused to associate himself closely with
General MacArthur in the same manner as the Commanders of the
Allied Naval and Air Forces, and, because of his duties as
Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, he was
rarely available when required. Accordingly, General MacArthur had
resorted to the system of task force commanders, and intended to
take personal charge of the operations against the Philippines. If
the position of Commander, Allied Land Forces, fell vacant,
General MacArthur said that he would not continue the appointment.

He was willing to make any change which might be desired to
accommodate the wishes of the Australian Government in regard to
General Blamey and his position.

8. General MacArthur said that he received a larger fan-mail about
General Blamey than about anything else. It came from members of
the Australian Forces with whom he could not be considered a
popular Commander, and he was intensely disliked by most of the
senior Staff Corps Officers, except the few who had benefited by
promotions and awards. General MacArthur urged that a very close
watch be kept of General Blamey's recommendations for promotions
and awards, as it was evident that he was surrounding himself with
his own special selections, and even when General Blamey might
ultimately retire, the Government would find itself saddled with a
dynasty of the same type of officer. As an illustration of his
view on promotions, General MacArthur said that the promotion of
Lieut-General Savige [5] over Major-General Vasey [6] was
outrageous. (I have also heard the same opinion [from] a senior
Staff Corps General.) I said that a query had been raised in this
particular case by the Prime Minister, but as the Minister for the
Army had concurred in General Blamey's recommendation, the matter
had not been pursued further.

9. In conclusion, General MacArthur said that, following General
Blamey's interview with him, he had instructed Lieut-General
Sutherland, his Chief of Staff, to prepare a plan for the conduct
of operations in the Southwest Pacific Area, by the use of
American Forces only, in view of the possibility that the
assignment of the Australian Forces to him would be withdrawn. He
said that this action was necessary to prevent the occurrence of a
disaster and the disruption of his whole programme. An A.I.F.

division was to have been available in September, but he had now
been informed that it would not be ready in time. General
MacArthur said that, as Commander-in-Chief, he had to be certain
of his forces to carry out his plans. He referred to an
instruction [7] sent by General Blamey from London to General
Northcott, to hold up the advance of Australian troops in the
northern coast of New Guinea. General Northcott had protested to
General MacArthur that General Blamey did not understand the
position. General MacArthur said that this instruction had a new
significance for him since his interview with General Blamey, who
was apparently intent on holding back the Australian troops for
the new command. (It is interesting to recall General Blamey's
remarks in London, when referring to General MacArthur's plans and
the use of the A.I.F., that we should not be too eager to use our
own forces.)
10. Finally, General MacArthur said that he could not see Admiral
King and General Marshall agreeing to the proposed change in the
Southwest Pacific Area. Admiral King at present had a free hand as
a member of the joint Chiefs of Staff, and he would be unlikely to
agree to adding to his masters by placing his participation in
operations in the Southwest Pacific Area under the Combined Chiefs
of Staff. The same view applied to General Marshall. General
MacArthur said that any such change would evoke a strong protest
by him, and he was certain that there would be a similar reaction
on the part of the American and Australian people.

(Special Note: The above observations have special significance
when considered in relation to the attached extracts from United
Kingdom document C.O.S.(44)(449)(0) [8], and the following points
in particular:-

(i) The reference to the anxiety that Australia is ready and
anxious to use her forces in offensive action as soon as possible.

(Note: This view could not be based on any statement by the Prime
Minister, but was presumably related to an opinion expressed by
General Blamey.

The reference to readiness lends colour to General MacArthur's
complaint that the use of the forces is being held back from him.)
(ii) The British and Dominion Forces will operate together under
one command under General MacArthur's supreme direction in the
first phase, but this arrangement would be reconsidered at a later

(Note: This bears on General MacArthur's opinion that the
assignment of the Australian Forces to him and the maintenance of
the set-up in the Southwest Pacific Area was not supported in
London by General Blamey.) (iii) The use of the Dominion Forces
and a British Naval Force for the capture of Amboina and

(Note: This is an intrusion into General MacArthur's line of
advance, as Halmahera is his next objective. It would disrupt his
plans and postpone his programme.)

1 Document 170.

2 G.O.C. 1 Corps.

3 Major D. W. Dwyer.

4 S. Landau.

5 G.O.C. New Guinea Force.

6 G.0.C. 7 Division until June 1944.

7 Not located.

8 Not located.

[AA:A5954, BOX 3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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