Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

Draft Telegram by Prime Minister Churchill at Washington to the British Lord Privy Seal (Attlee), December 28, 19411
10 Downing Street,



I have agreed provisionally with the president, subject to Cabinet approval, that we should accept his proposal, most strongly endorsed by General Marshall,

That unity of command shall be established in the South Western Pacific. Boundaries are not yet finally settled but presume they would include Malay Peninsula, including the Burmese frosty to the Philippines and Southward to the necessary supply bases, principally Fort Darwin, and supply lines in Northern Australia.
That General Wavell should be appointed Commander in Chief, or if preferred Supreme Commander, of all British, United States and Butch forces of the land, see and air who may be assigned by the Governments concerned to that theatre.
General Wavell, whose Headquarters should in the first instance be established at Surabayu, would have an [Page 278] American officer as Deputy Commander-in-Chief.
It seems probable that General Brett would be chosen.
That the american British and Dutch and australian naval forces in the theatre should be placed under the command of an American Admiral, who would, in accordance with the general principles set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b), be directed to conform to the plans and policies of the Supreme Commander.
It is intended that General Wavell should have a staff in the sort of proportion as Foch’s High Control staff was to the great staffs of British and French Armies in France. He would receive his orders from an appropriate joint body, who will be responsible to me as Minister of Defence and to the President of the United States, who is also Commander-in-Chief of all United States Forces.
The principal Commanders comprised in General Havell’s sphere will be C. in C. Borma, C. in C. Singapore and Malaya. C. in C. Netherlands Seat Indies, C. in C. Philippines and C. in C. of the Southern Communications via the South Pacific and North Australia.
India, for which an Acting Commander-in-chief will have to be appointed, and Australia who will have their own Commander-in-Chief, will be outside General [Page 279] Wavell’s sphere except as above mentioned, and are the two great, bases through which men and material Great Britain and the Middle East on the one hand and the United States on the oilier can be fed into the fighting zone.
United States Navy will remain responsible for the whole of the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippine and Australasia including the United States approaches to Australasia. The British will assume responsibility for the security of the Atlantic Ocean in the existing close collaboration with United States naval forces there assigned.
A letter of instructions is being drafted for the Supreme Commander safeguarding the necessary residuary interests of the various Governments involved and prescribing is in major outline his task. This draft will reach you shortly.

2. I have not attempted to argue the ease for and against cur accepting this broadminded and selfless American proposal, of the merits of which as a war winner I have become convinced. Action is urgent and may perhaps have to be takes even before my return from Canada on January 1. Australia and New Zealand must of course be consulted. Meanwhile the staffs hare will be working upon details on the assumption that all consents will be obtained. 28.12.41.

  1. A memorandum by Hopkins of December 30 attached to this file reads:

    “This is the draft of a telegram which the Prime Minister handed me December 28th. “I showed it to the President, who agreed there were certain things in it that shouldn’t be there. General Marshall and Admiral King and I stepped in the next room and made the eliminations noted here.

    “The Prime Minister’s final draft represents these additions and deletions.”

    See the minutes of the meeting at 11:45 a.m., December 28, ante, p. 128. The telegram as sent on December 29 contained a few additional changes not shown on this draft; see Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 675.