Chifley to Attlee

Cablegram 305 CANBERRA, 21 September 1945


Dr. Evatt has informed us [1] that you are anxious that we should reconsider the decision communicated in our cablegram No. 240 of 17th August [2] and reaffirmed in cablegram No. 286 of 10th September [3], that the Australian Force to take part in the occupation of Japan will operate under an Australian Commander who will be subject only to the Supreme Allied Commander and that it should not form part of a British Commonwealth Force.

2. You will recall that, prior to the termination of hostilities, the United Kingdom Government had proposed, in cablegram No. 219 of 4th July [4], the formation of a British Commonwealth Force to participate in the operations against the Japanese main islands.

The Commonwealth Government agreed in cablegram No. 197 of 20th July 1945 [5], that the organisation of a British Commonwealth Force, with an Australian component, would be most desirable for the maintenance of the prestige of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific. The Government made it clear, however, in cablegram No.

197 and its subsequent cablegram No. 208 of 1st August [6], that its agreement was subject to the following conditions:

(a) That Australia, as a Pacific Dominion, should not fail to participate in the main offensive against Japan. The paramount consideration was whether the time required to organise and train a British Commonwealth Force would permit of this.

(b) That any arrangements made for a change in the command setup relating to the control of the Australian Forces should continue to provide for Australia having an effective voice in the policy governing the use of its Forces. This had hitherto been achieved by the link between the Australian Government and the Commander- in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, and by the following principles embodied in General MacArthur’s directive at the request of the Australian Government:

‘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.’

(c) Clarification was also sought on the principles to be followed in the appointment of British Commonwealth Commanders, and it was pointed out that there are, in the Australian Forces, officers who have distinguished themselves in the campaigns in the Middle East and the Pacific who have claims for consideration in the appointment of Commanders and Staffs.

3. No reply had been received to the questions of principle referred to in paragraph 2 above, when hostilities terminated, nor were they referred to when the new proposals for a British Commonwealth Force to take part in the occupation of Japan were submitted in your cablegram No. 290 of 13th August. [7] The previous decision of the Government that an independent Australian Force should be organised to participate in the occupation of Japan, safeguarded the principles mentioned, conformed with the view on Dominion status developed since the Statute of Westminster, and ensured appropriate recognition of Australia’s status as a separate belligerent of Japan and of her contribution to the victory in the Pacific.

4. In reviewing its previous decision, the Government has had regard to the following factors relating to the Organisation of a British Commonwealth Force of occupation with special reference to the Australian component:

(a) It had not been possible to achieve, in the initial forces of occupation, the position contemplated for the Australian Forces in the spearhead of the advance under the operational plans as mentioned in paragraph 2(a). This has been due to various causes and the time factor has, therefore, been largely discounted.

(b) In regard to the provision of maintenance requirements, such as shipping, base installations, repair facilities, common technical supplies and stores, fuel and lubricants, it is appreciated by the Government that these could be better and more economically arranged as part of a British Commonwealth Force than as an independent Force.

(c) The proposal that an Australian officer be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the unified British Commonwealth Force of Occupation and the procedure under which he would function, would safeguard the principles referred to in paragraph 2(b) and (c), in so far as he is concerned, subject, however, to certain observations in paragraph 6 below.

5. In view of the proposals made by the Australian Prime Minister in London in May 1944, for the improvement of the machinery of Empire Co-operation, the organisation of the British Commonwealth Force and the provision of machinery and procedure for its higher control along the lines mentioned in paragraph 6 would also afford an opportunity for experience in the joint higher direction of British Commonwealth Forces in the Pacific.

6. In the light of the foregoing and by the adoption of the following arrangement, the Government feels that its views on questions of principle and status will be satisfactorily met. It is therefore agreeable to participating in a British Commonwealth Force on the following basis:

(i) Commander-in-Chief. As proposed in your cablegram No. 349 [8], an Australian Officer to be appointed as the Inter-Service Commander-in-Chief of the Unified British Commonwealth Force of Occupation.

(ii) Staff. The bulk of the Headquarters to be provided by Australia, but provision should be made for adequate representation by other Forces included in the British Commonwealth Force.

(iii) Strength of Australian Component: The Australian component of the British Commonwealth Force of Occupation is to comprise:

Navy: Two cruisers and two destroyers. This is an interim strength which is subject to review later.

Army: The initial organisation to be one brigade group, and consideration to be given later to the raising of a second brigade.

Air Force: Three Mustang Fighter Squadrons.

(iv) Commander-in-Chiefs Responsibility to General MacArthur: It is agreed that on operational matters, the Force Commander should be under the control of and have direct access to General MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander. It is noted, however, that units of the British Pacific Fleet in Japanese waters will remain under the operational control of the Commander-inChief, British Pacific Fleet.

(v) Commander-in-Chief’s Responsibility to United Kingdom and Australian Governments: On policy and administrative matters, the Commancler-in-Chief will be jointly responsible to the United Kingdom and Australian Governments through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comprising the Australian Chiefs of Staff and a representative or representatives of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff acting for them and exercising authority on their behalf.

All instructions to the Commander-in-Chief will be issued by the Australian Chiefs of Staff as the agents of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A directive to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Force will be drawn up by consultation between the Governments concerned.

(vi) Communications between Governments and between Governments and the Supreme Allied Commander: The established procedure of inter-Governmental communication on all matters of policy or import-ant questions of principle will not be affected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrangement. Governments will also retain their right to communicate direct with the Supreme Allied Commander as at present established. These channels must, in fact, be observed on all matters of policy and important questions of principle originated by the Commander-in-Chief through the Joint Chiefs, or by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or by the Chiefs of Staff directly with their respective Governments. Technical matters may be dealt with by Chiefs of Staff through Service channels.

(vii) Relation of Joint Chiefs of Staff Machinery to Australian Government Machinery: For general administrative purposes and for submission of matters requiring an inter-governmental exchange of views, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be viewed as an extension of the Australian Chiefs of Staff Committee which is part of the machinery of the Defence Department of which the Minister for Defence is the Ministerial Head.

The same principle will apply to special committees created by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or where the extension of membership of existing committees to provide for representation of the Forces of other parts of the Empire is necessary. Postings of officers to the joint Service machinery of the Defence Department may be made by arrangement.

7. The Government would be glad to have your early concurrence in the arrangements proposed above. [9]

8. It is considered to be of vital importance for the maintenance of the prestige of the British Commonwealth in the Pacific that the Force should be organised and despatched to Japan as soon as possible. The Government is most anxious that the Australian component should proceed there with the least avoidable delay.

Three Royal Australian Navy ships are already in Tokyo Bay, and the organisation of the R.A.A.F. component has reached an advanced stage. The initial Army component is being organised immediately.

The Government has informed General MacArthur of the action which is being taken, and it is arranging for the immediate despatch of a small mission, representative of the three Australian Services, to Tokyo to make necessary preliminary arrangements on a Service level for the despatch of the Australian Force to Japan. The Government will be glad to arrange for the Mission to co-operate with United Kingdom and Dominion representatives concerned in regard to any preliminary action that may be taken in relation to other components of the British Commonwealth Force.

9. It is proposed that arrangements be made for the simultaneous announcement of the organisation of the British Commonwealth Forces by the Governments concerned as soon as possible, and urgent advice would be appreciated as to the action proposed in this respect.



1 Document 246.

2 Document 194.

3 Document 240.

4 Document 126.

5 Document 138.

6 In AA : A5954, box 570.

7 Document 186.

8 Document 230.

9 Attlee replied in cablegram 390, dispatched 25 September, promising an urgent review of the matters raised. In AA : A3195, 1945, Folder, Top Secret, Inwards From Secretary of State, D1157- 3/7/45 to D2033-2/11/45, 1.30939.


[AA : A5954, BOX 1797]