Blamey to Curtin



Your letter of 23rd March 1945 [1] reached me on 31st March prior to my return to Melbourne. I had therefore no earlier opportunity of carrying out your request for observations on General MacArthur’s letter of 5th March. [2]

2. (i) With reference to paragraph 2 of General MacArthur’s letter, commencing ‘Original plans for the Philippine Campaign’, the statement made in the first part of the paragraph is true but, I think, not complete. The operation was to have been mounted under an American Commander subordinate to General MacArthur and, as the bulk of the troops at that stage were to be Australian, I pointed out that the Australian Corps command and staff were highly trained and were long and well experienced, and I saw no reason why it should not be entrusted with this task.

The plan as revealed to me required Australians to work in two separate bodies, each under American subordinate commanders.

General MacArthur has always insisted that the difficulties of two different systems of supply made it necessary to ensure that the American and Australian commands should, as far as possible, work independently in the minor field. There was no adequate reason why the Australian Corps should not have been employed as a corps under its own commander, since several American Corps were employed under American Corps Commanders during the operations, and this presumably was planned in advance.

I regret that I cannot accept this as a sincere and complete statement of the matter, inasmuch as a whole American Corps was brought in ships from the Pacific Ocean Area for these operations and later returned to the Pacific Ocean Area, while the reason given to me why Australian troops could not be moved forward was a lack of shipping.

(ii) If it was actually planned to use the Australian Corps as a final reserve in the drive across the central plains of northern Manila, this was nowhere revealed to me. However, prior to the campaign, General MacArthur stated to me that he would not go into Manila without the Australian Corps whom he regarded as essential to deal with the Japanese in that area. I understood that he had informed you in somewhat similar terms.

In spite of the fact that he now claims the enemy weakness obviated the necessity for this, nevertheless very large American forces have been and are being utilised still in this campaign. I would like, however, to bring definitely before your notice that, at Hollandia on my first visit when I proceeded there with the Quartermaster-General [3] on the understanding that we were to plan for movement of the Australian Corps from Australia, the American Chief of Staff, General Sutherland, said to me in the presence of General Berryman, Chief of Staff, Advanced Australian Headquarters, that it was impossible to use the Australian troops in the Philippines for political reasons. General Berryman immediately made a diary note of this statement.

It will therefore be seen that the paragraph of General MacArthur’s letter under notice does not seem to be a full statement of the reasons for the non-use of 1st Australian Corps in the Philippine campaign.

3. With regard to paragraph 3 of General MacArthur’s letter, dealing with current plans, this is in accordance with the instructions I received from General MacArthur. While in Manila recently, I discussed the matter with him and he has requested me to be present for these operations, in view of the complicated nature of the command that has developed by reason of its widespread, amphibious and international nature. I have therefore planned to be present for reference and to ensure that the Australian point of view is properly considered.

4. There is one feature of the forthcoming operations, however, which it is pertinent to consider. There can be no question about the strategical correctness of the seizure of the Philippines, since this aimed straight at the heart of the Japanese ocean area.

The whole of the islands comprising the Philippine group have now been seized, giving us direct command of the South China Sea from the northern point of Luzon to the southern point of Palawan.

It would be the logical and strategically correct sequence in the following operations to move down the western coast of Borneo.

This would isolate all Japanese forces in Borneo, give a complete control of the South China Sea and facilitate the approach to Malaya.

Current operations do not, however, contemplate such a move. The proposal is to seize two or three points on the east coast of Borneo and to advance from there into Java.

5. (i) The present proposals envisage the complete destruction of the Japanese in the Philippines, and it is proposed in the operations against Borneo and Java, to use, in addition to 1st Australian Corps (7 and 9 Divisions), the 6th Australian Division, which is now engaged in operations on the north-east coast of New Guinea. I pointed out what I considered to be an inconsistency in this policy. It did not appear to me to be logical that the plans should contemplate the complete elimination of the Japanese in the Philippines and the withdrawal of Australian Forces from New Guinea before a similar stage had been reached there.

I raised the question with General MacArthur, who said his conception was that the Philippines would be the base for further movement against the Japanese and it was essential that no Japanese should remain in these islands. I pointed out the fact that the withdrawal of Australians from New Guinea before completion of their task in such clearing up would mean they would have to return to complete it. General MacArthur’s staff have since informed me that he will make sufficient landing craft available to allow the 6th Division to seize Wewak.

In view of the intention of the American forces to destroy completely the Japanese in the Philippine Islands, it is my considered opinion that further Australian forces should not be withdrawn from New Guinea until such time as Japanese forces on Australian territory are destroyed also. It will be difficult to explain the inconsistency of policy otherwise.

(ii) I except from this Rabaul. The Japanese forces in this region have been pressed into a comparatively small area. They are well supplied and apparently strong, and I consider any attempt to capture this stronghold should be deferred for the present and we should be satisfied to contain it, since we can do so with lesser strength than the enemy force there.

6. In view of the present commitment of all six Australian Divisions in operations, it will be difficult to release additional men from the Army until the present operations are much further advanced.

The operations in Bougainville and Aitape areas are progressing, and it is hoped that by the end of June they will have arrived at a stage when the position can be reviewed further.

7. With reference to paragraph 10, I am in the same difficulty as the R.A.A.F. in moving forward certain elements of the Australian command set-up, particularly intelligence (Allied Intelligence Bureau) and other sections where women have become specialists in their task.



1 In AA : A5954, box 2313.

2 Document 53.

3 Major General J. H. Cannan.


[AA : A5954, BOX 570]