Skip to main content

Historical documents

212 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 78 CANBERRA, 4 July 1944


1. On arrival in Brisbane on my return, I conferred [1] with
General MacArthur regarding the Australian War Effort in the light
of the conclusions reached with you in London [2] and with the
Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. [3] While I was in
Washington, General MacArthur had been consulted by General
Marshall about the proposed Australian naval, military and air
strengths. General MacArthur had replied that the decisions on
this aspect of the Australian War Effort were essentially a matter
for the Commonwealth Government. Furthermore, the Government alone
had a knowledge of the other aspects of its war effort and the
manpower resources which could be allocated to them and to the
maintenance of its fighting forces.

2. I am now making a submission [4] to War Cabinet for the review
of the Australian War Effort and will later inform you and the
Combined Chiefs of Staff of our conclusions. Probably by then, the
report will be available from the Australian and British Staffs on
the potentialities of Australia as a base for United Kingdom
Forces. The progress of the war against Germany may also have
reached a stage to enable you to see more clearly the prospective
position in regard to the British contribution to the war against

3. After hearing General MacArthur's strategical plan and time-
table for the conduct of his campaign in the Southwest Pacific
Area, I would, without wishing to appear importunate in the
matter, like to reiterate what I said in London about the time
factor being the governing consideration in relation to the United
Kingdom contribution. As British land and air forces will not
become available for some time, I have reached the conclusion that
the best manner of ensuring the earliest and most effective
association of British Forces with those of the United States and
Australia in the war against Japan would be to assign to the
Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, the naval forces
becoming available this year.

4. General MacArthur's operations are gaining pace, and it is well
within the realm of possibility that his recapture of the major
portion of those territories within the area comprising New
Guinea, the Philippines, Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies
may be effected before the end of 1945. Thus his campaign might
well be far advanced toward accomplishment before the complete
defeat of Germany releases appreciable outside forces for
employment here.

5. General MacArthur's next major move is projected for early
September which will lead to the opening of the Philippine
Campaign in October. Following the partial occupation of the
Philippines, he contemplates an attack upon Borneo and the
Netherlands East Indies from north to south, thus effecting the
recapture by envelopment rather than by frontal assault from the
south. General MacArthur believes his air and ground forces are
adequate, his weakness lying only in his naval strength.

6. This presents an ideal opportunity for the employment of the
British Naval Task Force. It not only would contribute in great
measure to the acceleration of the operations, but would be the
naval spearhead in a large portion of this campaign. It is the
only effective means for placing the Union Jack in the Pacific
alongside the Australian and American flags. It would evoke great
public enthusiasm in Australia and would contribute greatly to the
restoration of Empire prestige in the Far East. The opportunity
that presents itself is very real, but the pace of events here
demands immediate action. It is understood there would be no
difficulty in basing this force on Australia and, if this
suggestion is approved, the forces should be made available at the
earliest possible date.

7. I realise the alternative strategical views to that of basing
United Kingdom Forces on Australia have to be considered. However,
Britain's war record in relation to her resources is so
magnificent that it will bear favourable comparison with any other
Nation, even if circumstances and the speed of the American
programme preclude her making an early contribution of land and
air forces to the war against Japan. For that reason, I feel that
the importance of a timely naval contribution is worthy of your
earnest consideration.



1 Curtin spoke with MacArthur on 26 and 27 June. See Document 206.

2 See Document 170.

3 See Document 179.

4 See War Cabinet agendum 342/1944 of 4 July on file AA:A2671,

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top