Chifley to Attlee

Cablegram 286 CANBERRA, 10 September 1945


Your cablegram 349 of 1st September. [1]

1. We have carefully considered your further proposals for the organisation of a British Commonwealth Force to participate in the occupation of Japan.

2. At the outset we should like to make it clear that the Government fully recognises and, indeed, has consistently advocated the importance of the maintenance of the prestige of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific. We would refer to our cablegram No. 267 of 8th October, 1943 [2], relative to the Australian War Effort, in which we expressed the following opinions:-

‘(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.’ 3. The late Prime Minister, in the course of his discussions in London in May, 1944, emphasised the importance of re-establishing the prestige of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific which had been mainly upheld by the Australian War Effort. In co-operation in Imperial Defence, Australia has consistently played a positive part and, as you are doubtless aware, through the late Prime Minister, it sponsored proposals for improvement in the machinery of Empire Co-operation. [3] 4. Our war effort is the practical demonstration of our views and, we suggest, is convincing evidence of what we have done to further the cause of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific. We feel strongly that, in the military, as well as in the political tasks and responsibilities arising from the Japanese surrender, Australia is entitled to a degree of recognition and status that is fairly and justly commensurate with the contribution which we have made to the final victory over Japan. As stated in our cablegram 240 of 17th August [4], we have accepted the additional military commitments outlined therein as a separate belligerent of Japan, and as a primary, and not as a secondary Pacific power.

5. We consider that the Australian Force to serve in Japan should operate on the same basis as our Forces have operated in the South West Pacific Area in the past, that is with direct responsibility to General MacArthur.

6. It is noted that Canada and South Africa will not be associated with the proposed British Commonwealth Force and also that units of the British Pacific Fleet in Japanese waters are to remain under the operational control of the Commander-in-Chief, British Pacific Fleet. The Force will not therefore be fully representative of the British Commonwealth, nor will it be a unified force under one Commander-in-Chief.

7. We have informed General MacArthur of our desire to organise an independent Australian Force to serve in Japan [5] and, although no final arrangements have yet been made, we have no doubt that General MacArthur will co-operate fully with us in allotting to the Australian Force a role appropriate to our status and the contribution which we have made to the victory in the Pacific.

8. We regret therefore that we are unable to concur in your proposals, and wish to adhere to the arrangements for the organisation of an independent Australian Force communicated in our cablegram No. 240 of 17th August.


1 Document 230.

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

3 See ibid., vol. VII, in particular Documents 151-2.

4 Document 194.

5 Message CAB295, dispatched 24 August, in AA : A5954, box 1891.


[AA : A816, 52/301/222]