Monday, January 07, 2019

High-level developments regarding Australia March to June 1942

General MacArthur arrived in Darwin, Australia from the Philippines on 17 March 1942. MacArthur, his family and his staff were evacuated from Corregidor by American motor torpedo boats (PT boats). The Australian prime minister, Mr. Curtin, appointed General MacArthur as "Supreme Commander in the Southwest Pacific Area". By 26 March, they appointed General Blamey as the "Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Army", which had long been one of Blamey's goals. Mr. Curtin took the opportunity to speak with General MacArthur about the 9th Australian Division. General MacArthur suggested that they might allow the 9th Australian Division to stay in the Middle East for now if Australia were strengthened by additional air and naval strength. General Blamey still insisted that the 9th Australian Division be returned to Australia as soon as possible. He understood that shipping resources were a constraint. Mr. Curtin sent a message to Winston Churchill presenting the Government's desire to have all Australian soldiers back in Australia, but that they understood that there were shipping and replacement issues that kept that from being immediately possible.
A message from Churchill on 1 April 1942 almost sounds like an "April Fool trick", but Churchill promised that if Australia were invaded on a large scale, the British would send first an infantry division and then an armored division. If such an invasion happened, they would also send more air and naval forces to the Southwest Pacific. General MacArthur wanted to have the two divisions Churchill had mentioned be sent to Australia immediately. The British would not agree to that, however. General MacArthur reacted to that news by saying that he would "press" for the early shipment of the 9th Australian Division back to Australia.  This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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