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305 Note of Discussion between Curtin, MacArthur and Wilson

CANBERRA, 30 September 1944


General MacArthur reviewed the war situation in the Pacific, with
special reference to the Southwest Pacific Area.

2. The review embraced the following aspects raised by the Prime
Minister, namely:-

Global Strategy-Decisions of the Quebec Conference. [1] Base
Requirements in Australia for British Naval Forces.

Operations for Neutralisation and Ultimate Liquidation of Japanese
Forces in Australian and British Mandated Territory.

The main points of his review are indicated hereunder.

3. General MacArthur said that recent operations had been
exceedingly successful, in fact, far more successful than could
ever have been anticipated. He referred to the policy that he had
pursued of isolating the Japanese Forces, and rendering them
innocuous. To have adopted the policy of reducing the enemy
occupied islands one by one would have cost many thousands of
lives which he could not possibly afford, and which, in any case,
would have represented so much waste. He intimated that such
policy would be continued until the stage when it was necessary to
endure sacrifices in the capture of the Philippines.

4. In regard to future operations, in so far as they affected the
Australian Forces, they would be, firstly, the garrisoning role
for neutralisation of Japanese pockets on the various islands and,
secondly, the operational activities of the two A.I.F. Divisions
which were to accompany the United States Forces in the advance
against the Japanese. Details of the postings of the First
Australian Army for garrison duties were given. He stressed the
policy that British possessions and Australian mandates should be
garrisoned by British and Australian troops, and that, in the
capture of British Borneo, British and Australian troops should be
used. He considered it essential to British prestige that this
course should be followed. The Admiralty Islands would continue to
be garrisoned by the United States Forces, as they were one of the
main forward bases.

5. When asked whether the policy of neutralising Japanese pockets
contemplated an effort to liquidate them, General MacArthur said
that such was not his idea, and that his directive to the
Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, would be confined
to neutralisation. He appreciated that Australian Local Commanders
would possibly find the garrison duties irksome and might desire
to undertake some active operations, but this would be a matter
for direction by the Australian Authorities. Japanese pockets were
of no value whatever to Japan in the war and were depreciating at
the rate of ten per cent per month. They did not present any
problem. It would be sufficient for the present to garrison the
islands and leave the Japanese gradually to waste away.

6. General MacArthur said that he considered that the clearing of
the islands of enemy forces should be related to the strategic
value of the clearance. When the time came to effect this, it
would be proper for Allied Forces to be used as Allied Forces were
used in the general attack upon the enemy.

7. The arrangements for the attack against the Philippines were
traversed, and the operational dates given. The Australian
divisions would take part in the capture of Mindanao. They would
later be employed in the capture of British Borneo, and later
again in the attack on Java.

8. General MacArthur said he had been informed of the decisions of
the Quebec Conference. The proposal that a British Task Force
should operate in the Pacific had been strongly opposed in certain
quarters, but this had been overruled. His view had been that
every offer that would assist in the final defeat of Japan should
be accepted. He now understood that this Fleet would operate
directly under the command of Admiral Nimitz. He had personally
pressed very hard in the past for the British Eastern Fleet to be
placed at his disposal, but without success. The Eastern Fleet had
done very little. It had taken part in two nuisance raids, but had
been far less active operationally than the Australian squadron.

He hoped that British Naval Forces would be available to be
employed in support of Australian Troops in their operations
against the Philippines and British Borneo. It has been his
objective for some time gradually to withdraw the American Forces
North from Australia. Within a very short period, very few would
remain. 9. He had fully realised the strain that had been placed
on Australia, clue to the demands being made on its production,
and it was his view that it should be relieved of this strain and,
apart from its own military effort, returned to normal conditions
as early as possible.

10. Regarding the basing of the British Fleet on Eastern
Australia, General MacArthur commented that Australia had been
unable to keep in repair the ships of its own squadron. He
mentioned that increased capacity was now available with the newly
completed Cairncross Dock, Brisbane, and this would be added to
when the Sydney Graving Dock was completed. The residue of
capacity, after meeting the requirements of the Australian
squadron, would be, however, an infinitesimal contribution to the
needs for repair and maintenance of the Fleet which it was
proposed would be based on Eastern Australia. He referred also to
the fact that if such a Fleet were based on Australia, it would be
operating some 4,000-5,000 miles from its base, and drew analogies
which pointed to the doubts which he felt as to the efficacy of
the proposal. It could not use the Torres Strait, as no Naval
Commander would take the risk of taking a 10,000 ton cruiser
through the Strait, quite apart from a battleship. It was to be
expected that the Fleet would arrive too late to take part in
pending operations. He anticipated that, before the Fleet arrived,
the aspects to which he had drawn attention would be recognised by
the United Kingdom authorities.

11. General MacArthur said that prior to the attack on Morotai,
there was evidence that, for some reason, the Japanese Air Force
was not capable of putting up any material opposition. On the
capture of the air field, some hundreds of Japanese planes were
found grounded. He then formed the view that some very important
factors had occurred which had led to the failure of the Japanese
to offer resistance from the air. These might be, loss of
experienced pilots, inadequate training of replacements, inability
to form balanced squadrons, insufficiency of maintenance and
inadequate ground organisation, or shortage of aviation spirit. It
was not possible to decide which factors were the primary cause,
but one or more of them had led to the Japanese failure. He
further considered that this was not confined to the Japanese Air
Force on Morotai, but probably extended to other places.

12. Recent carrier-borne air attacks on the Philippines had
supported his view. An outstanding fact was that the United States
Naval Force, which formed an excellent target, had stood off the
Philippines at a distance of only about 70 miles for approximately
2 days, without being attacked. This, with the recent successes,
is one of the considerations which has led to the decision to
advance the dates of the attack on the Philippines.

13. In regard to China, General MacArthur said that the American
air fields, from which it was expected Japan would have been
bombed, had been lost. The collapse of China would prove a serious
blow to the Allied cause and would greatly detract from the
prestige gained by the great successes in Europe. He felt,
however, that China would not collapse, as it was a nation of
compartments, the loss of which individually would not affect the

14. In respect to Russia, it could be taken as almost certain that
when Germany was defeated, Russia would declare war against Japan.

It was a question for very serious consideration as to whether
Russia should not be permitted to bear the initial brunt of the
defeat of Japan, rather than British and American Forces. Britain
and America did not stand to gain one inch of ground by the defeat
of Japan, whereas it was to be expected that Russia would form an
independent State of Manchuria and possibly of Mongolia, and
integrate those States as part of the U.S.S.R.


The question of the manning of ships of the Royal Navy by Royal
Australian Navy personnel was discussed. It was explained to
General MacArthur that the Chief of the Naval Staff had advised
that the British Admiralty was unable to man all the ships at its
disposal and that, in consequence, a proposal was under
consideration for the R.A.N. to obtain, on loan, and man, the
following craft:-

One light fleet carrier available in December, 1944; and
Two cruisers available in September and October, 1945,

It was explained that this would involve approximately 3,000
additional men spread over a period of 10 months, and General
MacArthur's reactions were sought as to:-

(a) The value of this addition to the present Australian naval
strength for operations in the Southwest Pacific Area.

(b) Its value to Australia from the point of view of prestige.

(c) Post war value if the vessels were retained by Australia.

2. General MacArthur was informed that the personnel could only be
provided by reducing the present monthly allotments to Army and
Air, and that both Navy and Army considered that the allotment to
Air should be reduced in their favour.

3. General MacArthur said that Mr. Churchill's cable announcing
the decision to provide a strong British Naval Force for the
operations against Japan answered the question. He said that the
proposal for the R.A.N. to man United Kingdom ships was too late
to be of value in the present war. The Royal Navy ships, if
remaining in Australia after the war, would be out of date.

4. General MacArthur went on to refer to the tremendous advance in
aircraft and the destructive force of explosives. He was convinced
that science would so develop aircraft and explosives that
posterity would view our present equipments as completely
antiquated. He said that every nation had its particular Defence
problems. Australia, like the Philippines, could not hope to
provide and maintain sufficient naval forces for their security.

They must look to the greater nations to provide the naval
strength to guard them. An examination of conditions peculiar to
Australia led to one conclusion-that Air was the first necessity
for Australian defence. He concluded by saying, 'Australia must
watch the air'.

5. The Prime Minister said he would not agree to the proposals for
the manning of the Royal Navy ships by the Royal Australian Navy.


The Prime Minister referred to an interview on the 14th September
with the Air Officer Commanding, R.A.A.F. Command. The major
aspects considered related to the allocation of R.A.A.F. resources
as between participation with American Air Forces in forward
offensive operations in the Southwest Pacific Area, and
commitments involving mopping-up operations and air garrison
duties in re-occupied territories.

2. General MacArthur read the statement of principles embodied in
War Cabinet Minute No. (3804) [2] and expressed his complete
approval of them.

3. Regarding the Spitfires, he said that they had a very short
range and could not use bombs. They were valuable as interceptor
aircraft, but, being a fragile type with short range and inability
to carry bombs, were not to be compared with the P.40. He had
arranged for the squadrons to be moved North to the New Britain
area where they would operate with P.40's in providing air cover
for Australian garrison forces.


General MacArthur said that he agreed with the decision [3] that
had been taken by War Cabinet to approve in principle the request
[4] of the Netherlands authorities for the provision of facilities
for the force of 30,000 men proposed to be based on Australia, and
with the view that it must operate under his Command as Commander-
in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area.

2. He considered, however, that the force should be trained and
fully equipped before embarkation from Holland, and that it should
arrive as a complete fighting force available to be handed over to
the Commander-in-Chief for operations in Dutch territory.


The Prime Minister referred to his previous discussions in
Brisbane with General MacArthur in regard to this subject, and
informed him of the aspects that had been raised in Mr. Bruce's
cablegram 116 of 28th September [5] as to the responsibilities in
relation to operations of the proposed appointee-Air Marshal Park.


2. General MacArthur referred to difficulties that had existed in
the past in relation to the Chief of the Air Staff and the Air
Officer Commanding, R.A.A.F. Command, and the concern that the
Minister for Air had felt in this regard. Nothing serious had,
however, resulted, and he felt that any differences that had
existed in the past were now quiet. The strategical scope of the
war has gone so far forward that an entirely different situation
has developed. He considered it no longer necessary to bring a
senior R.A.F. officer to Australia. General MacArthur felt that,
questions having been raised, an opportunity presented itself for
review, and he felt that in replying, advice should be furnished
that the tempo of the campaign had gone so fast and conditions had
changed to such an extent that it was no longer necessary to
proceed with the proposal.

3. General MacArthur added that had this change taken place when
it was first mooted [7], advantages would have accrued, but he now
considered it too late to make such a change.

1 See Documents 288 and 296.

2 Dated 18 September. In AA:A2673, vol. 15. It recorded War
Cabinet's approval of guidelines given by Curtin to Bostock on the
future employment of the R.A.A.F. in the South-West Pacific.

3 Document 295.

4 See Document 289.

5 On file AA:A5954, box 653.

6 U.K. A.O.C.-in-C., Middle East.

7 For the origins of the proposed appointment of an R.A.F. officer
to the R.A.A.F. command see Documents on Australian Foreign Policy
1937-49, vol. VI, Document 237, note 8.

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