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81 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 42[A] LONDON, 14 March 1944, 10.15 p.m.


Pacific Strategy.

In my telegrams particularly 18[A] of February 1st [1], I have
given you an indication of the reasons which have led to the delay
in your being more fully informed as to the agreement with regard
to Pacific strategy reached at Sextant. [2]

In my telegrams I have refrained from going into the details of
the Sextant decisions in the hope that the short official advice
you have received with regard to them would be amplified. I now
feel, however, that I should be more explicit as, in my view, the
Prime Minister's reply to you (D.O.66 of March 11th [3]) is
somewhat disingenuous. The Prime Minister's telegram suggests that
no more than preliminary study was given at Sextant to the 'over-
all plan for the defeat of Japan' but the conclusion reached was
that the plan provided a basis for further investigation and
preparation and in paragraph 3 he outlines two plans for the
British contribution.

These two alternative plans contemplate the main British effort
being based either on India or Australia and of the two
alternative plans, he places the one based on India first. This,
on the information available to me is not a fair presentation of
the position.

As I understand it, a firm decision was reached at Sextant in
favour of the broad strategic plan referred to in paragraph 1 of
your telegram [4] of which the following is a more detailed

(a) The main effort against Japan to be made in the Pacific by a
combined advance through the Central Pacific and along the north
coast of New Guinea towards the Formosa-Philippines area, priority
being given initially to the Central Pacific.

(b) Operations in the South East Asia area to be subsidiary to the
Pacific and designed to improve the air route to China and open a
land route when possible.

Care to be taken not to get involved in a campaign for the
recapture of the whole of Burma until the full needs of the
Pacific are met.

(c) Preparations to be made for operations in the North Pacific
after the defeat of Germany on the assumption that Russia will
probably enter the war shortly after the defeat of Germany.

The steps contemplated to give effect to this broad strategic
conception were-
(1) The initial British contribution to be the despatch of a fleet
to the South West Pacific.

(Note. Most of the war ships allotted for this task have now
arrived in the Indian Ocean.)
(2) Two infantry divisions to be moved from India to Australia
this year.

(3) A further 4 divisions to be sent from the United Kingdom to
Australia to arrive about eight months after Germany's defeat.

(Note. Other divisions would probably follow.)
(4) 65 R.A.F. squadrons to be available in the South-West Pacific
some 7 to 12 months after Germany's defeat.

(Note. This force would be additional to our own and New Zealand
squadrons for which modern equipment would be supplied as
This strategic conception and these plans were approved by the
Chiefs of Staff and my information is that they have remained firm
in their adherence to them. The Prime Minister, however, on his
return from North Africa urged their reconsideration, as indicated
in my telegram 18[A].

Many conferences have been held between the Prime Minister and the
Chiefs of Staff in which my information is the Chiefs of Staff
have maintained their view that the Sextant strategic plan is the
right one and no decision has yet been reached.

I understand the attitude of the Chiefs of Staff is that British
resources are only adequate for one major effort against Japan,
i.e., either with India or Australia as the main base. They admit
that there are no doubt many political reasons why early
independent British operations in the South East area are
desirable. They maintain, however, that British forces are not
adequate to undertake a major operation in this area without
American assistance and that the Americans have consistently
refused to contribute to that area the help which would make
amphibious operations possible since to afford such help would
reduce their Pacific effort.

They also argue that since British action against the Malay
barrier cannot be taken until after Germany's defeat, it is likely
to be too late to assist the main thrust across the Pacific.

They argue that if we are to defeat Japan at the earliest possible
moment, the maximum effort the United Kingdom can afford to divert
before Germany's defeat for operations against Japan should be
used to support directly the American Pacific operations.

They also contend that a united effort in the Pacific is likely to
enable assistance to be given to China through South East China
sooner [5] than by operations designed to reconquer Burma and open
the Burma road.

The one point of doubt with regard to Australia as the main base
is the one raised in paragraph 5 of the Prime Minister's telegram,
namely our base potentialities.

This point is now under urgent consideration and a party from the
Admiralty under Rear-Admiral Daniel has already left the United
Kingdom via America.

The main points upon which doubts have been expressed are-
(a) Shortage of manpower.

(b) Shortage of storage accommodation partly because of United
States of America occupancy.

(c) Shortage of shore naval facilities particularly if the
Americans remove what they need for bases when they move North
from the Australian mainland.

(d) The capacity of Australian ports and railway communications to
meet the requirements of the incoming forces after allowing for
Australian export programmes and vital internal requirements.

In view of the statement in the Prime Minister's telegram that the
alternative of a strategy based on India or Australia is now under
examination I suggest you should consider the desirability of
sending a telegram setting out the Australian view as to the broad
strategy which should be followed in an over-all plan for the
defeat of Japan. in such telegram it would be desirable that you
should deal with the doubts I have indicated above as to the
suitability of Australia as a main base.

I have sent you the above as I feel it is urgently necessary you
should be advised as to the background of telegram 66. The
situation here is very delicate and may even cause serious
difficulties between the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff
which would be catastrophic at the present stage of operations in

My own view is that the arguments in favour of the broader
strategy agreed at Cairo are so strong that it will eventually be

I know you will realise the necessity for the utmost secrecy being
observed with regard to this telegram.


1 Document 38.

2 Code name for the Cairo Conference of November-December 1943.

3 Document 75.

4 Document 64.

5 Bruce's copy (on file AA:M100, March 1944) reads 'route' instead
of 'sooner'.

[AA:A5954, BOX 576]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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