Chifley to Churchill

Cablegram 197 CANBERRA, 20 July 1945


Your No. 219. [1]

Part I-Introduction 1. It is noted that your cablegram relates to two main proposals:-

(i) The formation of a British Commonwealth Force to participate in the operations against the Japanese main islands.

(ii) The creation of a British Commonwealth Command in the South West Pacific Area.

2. We would preface our remarks by referring to our cablegram No.

267 of 8th October, 1943 [2], dealing with the Australian War Effort, in which the following opinions were expressed:-

‘(i) The Government considers it to be a matter of vital importance to the future of Australia and her status at the peace table in regard to the settlement in the Pacific, that her military effort should be concentrated as far as possible in the Pacific and that it should be on a scale to guarantee her an effective voice in the peace settlement.

(ii) The interests at stake in this paramount question are not those of Australia alone. They also include those of the British Empire in the Pacific. The Commonwealth Government considers it to be very essential that the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand in particular should understand the vital importance of the extent of the military effort that should be maintained in the Pacific by Australia alone or in association with other parts of the Empire. If the defeat of Japan is to await the end of the war in Europe, the struggle in the Pacific will be more prolonged, and it is imperative that a certain minimum effort should be maintained by or on behalf of the British Empire in the Pacific.’ Part II-Formation of a British Commonwealth Force 3. Your proposal for a British Commonwealth Force with an Australian component for invading the main islands of Japan is an appropriate way of giving effect to the views expressed in sub- paragraph 1 (ii) above if such an arrangement is feasible, and would be most desirable for the maintenance of the prestige of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific. However, your cablegram anticipates the opening of the Malacca Straits by the end of the year, and the development of a British Commonwealth Force after that date. It would, therefore, not be possible for this Force to be organised, trained and deployed before somewhere about April 1946. In the meantime, it is understood that American Forces will begin the invasion of the main islands at a comparatively early date. There is also the aspect of Soviet participation which is the subject of your cablegram No. D.1170 of 5th July. [3] Time is therefore the essence of the contract and the essential consideration is actual participation in the main offensive against Japan. There would appear to be doubts as to the practicability of the formation of a British Commonwealth Force to achieve this under existing conditions.

4. In paragraph 18 of cablegram No. 117 of 1st June, 1945 [4], to the High Commissioner, the following were some of the reasons given for the desire of Australia to be associated with the forward movement against Japan:-

‘There have been criticisms that the liquidation of by-passed Japanese Forces is not by itself a worthy effort for our Forces.

With the American progress towards Japan, the operations against Borneo, the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya have assumed the nature of localised campaigns which have little immediate or direct influence on the final defeat of Japan. From the aspect of prestige and participation in the Pacific peace settlement and control machinery, it is of great importance to Australia to be associated with the drive to defeat Japan.’ 5. At the San Francisco Conference, Mr. Forde and Dr. Evatt both stressed that the war effort that Australia has made and intends to continue until Japan is defeated, entitles us to special consideration of our views on, and our part in the final Pacific settlement.

6. In view of the considerations mentioned in paragraphs 2(i), 4 and 5, it is a matter of vital importance that Australia, as a Pacific Dominion, should not fail to participate in the main offensive against Japan. It is therefore desired to ensure that an Australian force, comprising the R.A.N. Squadron, a division of the A.M.F. and a R.A.A.F. component, as indicated in our proposals in cablegram No. 117 should participate in these operations.

Public opinion was disappointed that the Australian Forces allotted for the Philippines campaign were not used, with the result that our military effort during the latter half of 1944 and the early part of 1945 was judged solely on the important, but nevertheless secondary roles allotted to the remainder of our Forces. This has also been the cause of some dissatisfaction among the Forces. These considerations are emphasised by the allocation of a Canadian Division to the American main force, as is at present understood to be the case. General MacArthur has been requested to arrange the relief of Australian Forces in Borneo at the earliest, in order that the organisation of the expeditionary division and the movement of the necessary R.A.A.F. component may be proceeded with.

Part III-British Commonwealth Command in the South West Pacific Area 7. As mentioned in paragraph 4, the operations against Borneo, the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya, whilst all ultimately necessary, have assumed the nature of localised campaigns which will have little immediate or direct influence on the final defeat of Japan. The soundest strategical course would be for the main effort to be concentrated against Japan, and, after her defeat, for the full Allied strength to be directed against the liquidation of the Japanese in these areas.

8. Apart from the current campaigns mentioned in paragraph 9, it is emphasised that approximately 70,000 Japanese remain in the Islands between Celebes and Australian New Guinea. If the strategy which we favour is adopted, the liquidation of these areas would be held over until Japan is defeated. Nevertheless, until this is accomplished, it is essential that the United States of America should continue to provide portion of the necessary forces and ancillary services to neutralise the enemy in these areas. If, on the other hand, the overall plan contemplates subduing these areas, the following factors should be taken into account and the forces increased correspondingly. All the areas are undeveloped.

Separate campaigns are necessary to subdue each area. Our experience teaches us that after the Japanese military organisations are disrupted, every individual must be exterminated. In these circumstances, a series of arduous and unspectacular jungle campaigns is unavoidable. Experience also has led to the development of campaigns on the following pattern:-

(a) Destruction of enemy organisation by white organised forces;

followed up by (b) Trained native battalions; and (c) Destruction of individuals completed by trained natives and organised partisans.

These developments require time. As the United States of America assumed original responsibility for the whole of the present South West Pacific Area, and in view of the present limitations and difficulties of assumption by the British Commonwealth of further responsibility in this area, it is considered that the United States of America should continue to provide portion of the necessary forces to hold or subdue these Dutch territories.

9. All Australian divisions are employed in active operations, and no Australian troops are available either for relief or replacement. The operations of the Australian Forces in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands, in accordance with the tasks being carried out by them under General MacArthur’s directive seek the realisation of the following objectives:-

(a) The reconquest of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

(b) Containing the enemy in New Britain, where the reduction of Rabaul, which will require consideration when circumstances permit, would necessitate the use of major forces.

Except as provided in paragraph 6, Australia is therefore unable to accept any further military commitments from her own resources.

10. It is considered that the area East of the Celebes and West of the Australian Mandated Territory should not be separated from the remainder of the East Indies now forming part of the South West Pacific Area, and created into an independent Command. If it is desired to set up a British Commonwealth Command whose Eastern Area would embrace the region East of the Celebes and west of the Australian Mandated Territory, we will be glad to facilitate the assembly, training and staging of any troops that can be made available, provided that they are located in certain island areas now in use, and not on the Australian mainland. In this connection, we would refer to the serious limitations of Australian manpower capacity referred to in cablegram No. 133 of 23rd May, 1945 [5], and 174 of 3rd July, 1945 [6], regarding the basing of the British Pacific Fleet on Australia. Further, to stage such troops on the Australian mainland would lead to inordinate delay, and acclimatisation would be much slower, whereas island areas are already well developed for the purpose.

It is essential, however, that such forces should be available in the area before the American Forces are released, if they insist on withdrawing their Forces as mentioned in paragraph 8 of your cablegram.

11. If it is decided to set up such a British Commonwealth Command, our contribution in the region of the present South West Pacific Area would be the reconquest of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and New Britain, less Rabaul, as indicated in our cablegram No. 117. If sufficient shipping, supplies, and forces are made available, we would be prepared to discuss what co- operation may be possible, in view of the wide experience of the Australian Command and Staff in these operations. As stated earlier, we are unable to accept any further military commitments additional to the component of the Force for main operations against Japan and the operations in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon islands. We have also mentioned the serious limitations of Australian manpower capacity and material resources to meet the needs of the British Pacific Fleet.

12. The Australian Naval, Army and Air Forces, are all, at present, dependent upon a measure of United States’ logistical support, and it will be necessary to maintain such arrangements in the future, or to make corresponding provision in the event of any re-assignment.

Part IV-General 13. You will recall that the set-up for the South West Pacific Area and the directive of the Commander-in-Chief was approved by the Governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and that a voice in the policy relating to the use of the Australian Forces was sought through:-

(a) The Accredited Representative to the United Kingdom War Cabinet.

(b) The Pacific Councils in London and Washington.

(c) The link between the Australian Government and the Commander- in-Chief, South West Pacific Area.

Circumstances resulted in reliance having to be placed mainly on (c). This arrangement worked satisfactorily and presumably would continue for any Forces assigned to General MacArthur.

14. The Government would wish to be assured that any arrangements made for a change in the command set-up relating to the control of its Forces provide for this principle before expressing its agreement and assigning Forces under any new set-up.

15. For example, if, as desired by the Government, the operational control of the Australian Forces on the mainland of the Commonwealth and in Papua and Australian Mandated Areas should revert to the Australian Service Authorities, this principle would be achieved by the direct responsibility of the Service Authorities to their Ministers and the Government. If Australian Forces were to be assigned to a British Commonwealth Command either in the South West Pacific Area or in the main operations against Japan, the Government would desire to know how this principle would be provided for. While the linking of the Australian Chiefs of Staff with the Combined Chiefs of Staff through the British Chiefs of Staff might be satisfactory on purely technical military matters, it is recalled that, in addition to the direct Governmental link referred to in paragraph 13, the directive for the South West Pacific Area provides for:-

‘The right of the Government to refuse the use of its Forces for any project which it considers inadvisable.

The right of the Commanders of the Australian Forces to communicate direct with the Australian Government.’ 16. Finally, in regard to any set-up to which it is a party, the Government reserves the right to determine the nature and extent of the Australian War Effort and the allocation of manpower and material resources for such purposes, including the extent of the commitments which can be undertaken. The limitations of our manpower capacity and material resources have already been emphasised.

17. This reply expresses the views not only of the Government but also of the Advisory War Council which comprises both Government and non-Government members.



1 Document 126.

2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 293.

3 Document 127.

4 Document 97 was repeated to Bruce as cablegram no. 117.

5 Document 92.

6 In AA : A5954, box 588.


[AA : A5954, BOX 570]