Mr. Lauchlin Currie to President Roosevelt 17

Re: Airplanes for China under Lease-Lend.

Meeting China’s request for pursuit ships and bombers involves a major question of policy. This memorandum outlines briefly the case for the immediate diversion of some airplanes to China.

[Page 168]

1. Japan is an Axis partner committed to a policy of domination of the Far East. Despite assurances to the contrary, it will seize every opportunity to further this policy.

2. The Russo-Japanese Pact facilitates, to a degree, this policy. While it may be presumed that mutual trust is lacking, still a parallel step by step policy of withdrawing men and material from the Manchurian-Siberian frontier may very well prove feasible and in the interests of both Russia and Japan.

3. Should Suez and the Near East fall to Germany, this would unquestionably embolden the Japanese.

4. Singapore is the key to the Indian Ocean, Australasia and Oceania. It is as indispensable to the continuation of Britain’s war effort as it is to Japan’s dominance of the East. It may be assumed, therefore, that Japan will move against Singapore whenever conditions appear favorable.

5. Japan would be prepared to offer China peace on very favorable terms for the purpose of releasing large numbers of men and planes and quantities of material. She could do this readily as the possession of Singapore would put her in a position to dictate any terms to China.

6. Therefore, the defense of Singapore should be a cardinal feature of our strategy and the British strategy.

7. The best defense of Singapore is in China. Were China put in a position to assume the offensive, Japan would have to strengthen her forces in China, rather than weaken them. The assumption of a vigorous air offensive by the Chinese against the Japanese in China and in Japan and in Indo-China, would also effectively tie up the Japanese air force.

On the other hand, aerial defense of Singapore is difficult as it is open to attack from the sea without adequate warning.

The best defense of Singapore, therefore, would appear to consist in (a) keeping the Chinese fighting on a larger scale than before, (b) forcing Japan to maintain and increase its ground and air forces in China, (c) attacking Japanese shipping and airdromes in Indo-China from China.

8. In addition to these considerations, Chinese morale at this moment badly needs a shot in the arm.

9. For all these reasons, we should divert some pursuit ships, bombers, and advanced trainers to China as soon as possible.

10. Both our armed services and the British will be reluctant to give up any ships for this purpose. Purvis himself is sympathetic as is also Lovett. I am afraid, however, that the matter is one that requires your personal intervention if any substantial help is to be given.

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Unfortunately, I am not in a position to make any specific suggestions as I am not in possession of the facts regarding our current stocks and production and the British and American requirements. The Chinese have asked for the delivery in 1941 of 500 additional pursuit ships, 300 two-engined bombers, 12 four-engine bombers and 300 trainers.

Lauchlin Currie
  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.