r Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister




"Seventeenth March, 1944, will be the second anniversary of the arrival in Australia of General Douglas MacArthur, following which he was designated Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Area. The Government feels that the forthcoming anniversary is an appropriate occasion on which to honour General MacArthur for the victorious results of the campaigns under his command and, through him, to pay tribute to the United States naval, land and air forces which, by their valorous exploits, have done so much to achieve the victories which have been won in the South-West, and other regions of the Pacific. Accordingly, General MacArthur has been invited to have dinner with the members of the Commonwealth Parliament, who are the representatives of the people of Australia. General MacArthur has accepted the invitation for the dinner which will take place at Parliament House, Canberra, on 17th March, 1944"


On 17th March, 1944, General MacArthur was the guest at dinner tendered by the Commonwealth Parliament at Parliament House, Canberra.

Mr. Curtin said -

"It is my great privilege to-night to propose the health of General Douglas MacArthur. It is two years to-day since he arrived in our country, having come by arrangement to assume the responsible position of Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in this part of the world - a responsibility which makes him rank with the commanders of Allied Forces in all other parts of the world.

"Here, as elsewhere, we are engaged in a war which is not divisible, and which cannot be ended until all our enemies, in all parts of the world, have been defeated, and until it is established beyond all possibility of doubt that the forces which brought the world to war, and nearly to ruin, will no longer be able to molest the peace of the world.

"In war, it is, of course, inescapable that certain countries, earlier than others, will experience the enemy's blows. It was probably inevitable, having regard to the general lack of preparedness among the peace-loving countries, that many of them should be overrun. It was, however, vital to the preservation of civilization that as many as possible of the freedom-loving countries should be held - though, of course, all peoples have a primary interest in their own preservation and in the maintenance of the inviolability of their soil. We Australians, no less than any other people, felt that the holding of our country was vital to ourselves, but we also felt that, on an objective analysis, the holding of our country was of vital importance to all peoples of good intent. We recognized that it was a stake which the enemy would strive to gain. For this, as well as for other reasons, Australians believed that it devolved upon them to exert every effort to hold this country so that it at least would be denied to the enemy. By holding it, we should be preserving our own freedom, but we would also be making an invaluable contribution to the cause of peace all over the world.

“It is a matter of history that, a good time after the Germans had gone to war, the Japanese joined with them as active belligerents in this part of the world, and invaded various places which they regarded as strategically desirable. We have to admit that, owing to our inability to prepare ourselves in the time available, many places held by Powers friendly to ourselves were overrun by the enemy. The speed with which he moved was indeed great, and this lessened the time available to prepare ourselves to meet him. Two years ago, when you arrived in this country to take command of all the Allied Forces which were using Australia as a base, there were good reasons for the Japanese to assume their plans to take this country had probabilities of success. Thanks to your skilled leadership amounting to genius, and the valorous devotion of the heroic forces under your command we are able to-night, two years from that time, to say to the world that this Australia stands a free nation able to play its part in the preservation of freedom throughout the whole world.

“It was a new experience for Australians, and for the Australian Government, to entrust the force, of this country to an officer of another nation in this country. I am glad to say that, in all your relationships with the Australian Government, you have exhibited a regard for the rights of the Government and of the Australian people which could have not been exceeded if you had been an officer of our own Army; and I know that you have not felt that there was, in the maintenance of such relationships, anything incompatible with the duty that you owe to your own Government.

"Much has happened in the two years that have elapsed since you first came to Australia. It is no longer a military secret that, upon your arrival, your head-quarters were established in one of our southern capitals. Neither is it any longer a military secret that your present head-quarters are thousands of miles to the north of that capital. And it is no secret any longer that the enemy forces which were threatening our shores at that time are now held so securely that we are confident that the enemy can no longer entertain the illusion that he can bring Australia under his domination. In that we are fortunate, because peoples as proud as ourselves, as liberty-loving as ourselves, as heroic as ourselves, have been overwhelmed by the sheer might and ferocity of the enemy's momentum. Many of the small countries of Europe, with populations about the same as our own, but with traditions going a great deal farther back into history, find themselves to-day beneath the conqueror's heel.

"Amid the wreck and misery of nations it is our joint exaltation that we have not only continued to be superior in this part of the world to what despotism and ambition would attempt, but we have a greater exaltation, which is that we can hold out a prospect to those nations now reeling under the domination of the enemy that they, like us, will emerge again into freedom. You, an officer of another country, sit here to-night with the Ministers of State of a Government, sovereign in its own right, but yet a constituent member of a great family of nations, and together we say to those other countries that have been overwhelmed that our struggle will not cease until they, like ourselves, can keep the flags of their countries aloft and in freedom.

“We recognize that we could not have alone defended ourselves against the forces that sought to ravage us. We have given to you, having regard to the claims of other nations, and the requirements of other theatres of war, everything that we could spare, and it has been at least adequate to enable you to hold the enemy. Just as the efforts of the Allies are moving from defence to offence, so the efforts of the Axis Powers, once directed towards conquest and aggression, have now become an endeavour - and I believe a futile endeavour, however long they may struggle - to defend themselves against those forces which are inspired by a love of liberty.

“You, sir, a distinguished Commander-in-Chief, recall to us to-night other Commanders-in-Chief in other theatres of war. I feel certain that the Governments to which they are immediately answerable feel towards them the same as the Government of Australia feels towards you, and that they recognize the debt of gratitude which they owe to the men who have led their forces. I take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the Australian people to you for the inspiring example you have given us. You will, I know, accept that tribute for yourself, personally, and also for the men who serve under you and with you. It is our prayer that the sacrifices that have been made, the devotion which has been lavished, the agony that has been endured, the determination which has been evinced - all those priceless gifts which flow from the soul of man - will constitute an offering which will earn for us an early termination to this dreadful struggle so that we, who stand free here to-day, will be able all the sooner to bring freedom to the stricken peoples in other parts of the world, so that, being saved ourselves, we may honour the obligation which rests upon its to bring salvation to others.

"To you, sir, as a gallant soldier who also has under your command gallant airmen and gallant sailors, may I express the hope for myself, and on behalf of my countrymen, that the gallantly and devotion of all those men which have enabled you to carry through the campaigns upon which you have embarked, will never be forgotten by a world for which they have made such sacrifices. I hope that the world, having received so much from them, will never forget the price that has been paid for it. I hope that, for countless generations to come people will honour the deeds of these men and remember that freedom is a condition which has to be bought and paid for; that out of blood, and tears, and sacrifice, comes a full realization of the dignity of man. Although we are waging a bloody war, we detest all that war means, and all the horror it engenders.

“We thank you for all you have done, and we pay a tribute to the genius which has marked your leadership. We offer our homage to the men who have served under you. It is our prayer that victory will come to them soon, and that when it does, a world refreshed will be able to look forward to a long succession of decades in which would-be aggressors will realize the futility of aggression."

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said -

“It is a great pleasure to me to support this toast upon what I believe to be a remarkable and historic occasion. Our distinguished guest, will, no doubt, remember as vividly as I do when he came into this room two years ago. He received our welcome and applause, and was initiated into the full brotherhood of Australian citizenship by my friend, Mr. R. James, M.P., who said to him, in words which I trust all will remember, `Good on you, Doug!'. On that occasion you received a welcome both formal and informal, official and unofficial.

"I also recall other things. Two years ago the Prime Minister was able to tell us that General MacArthur had been awarded the greatest of all military distinctions in his own country, the Congressional Medal of Honour. To-night he comes to us after just having been invested with the Distinguished Order of the Bath conferred on him by the King.

I draw attention to another striking feature. We began proceedings to-night, as it has been our pleasure and our honour for a long time to begin such proceedings, with the toast of the King and the President of the United States. We are not, as a Parliament, very musically inclined, and so we did not attempt to sing, but if we had done so we should have sung the National Anthem, and we should also have sung the Star Spangled Banner. As I thought of those two great songs, my mind ran back, and I reflected upon the paradox they now represented. God Save the King was first heard as a tribute to a Hanovian king, George II., whose grandson it was who cast away the American colonies; and the Star Spangled Banner was written by a young American who was moved to do so by the sight of the American flag still flying over an American fort although it had been bombarded by a British ship of war for a whole night during the 1812-1814 war. What a paradox that those two anthems of a powerful people, having originated in that way, should now have come together to celebrate the confluence of what I regard as the two greatest human streams in history. When we think of those things we are reminded that the spirit of history has always been of infinitely more importance than its events. The spirit of history is to be found in all those days of friendship and of conflict between these two great people, and that spirit is on trial today in this war which is being fought for the security of the world. It is a spirit which can be seen at this moment working in the men who serve under our gallant and distinguished guest. It is the same spirit which animates the American soldiers in New Britain and the Australian soldiers in New Guinea. It is our greatest satisfaction to-night that we are able to toast the man who, in the minds of all the people of this country, is the living embodiment of that spirit."

The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) said -

“When I look back over your achievements, sir, and recall your unbroken record of success, I wonder what it feels like to be a victorious leader. I remember that two years ago we, as representatives of the Australian people, had the honour of meeting you for the first time. You then inspired us with great confidence; since when you have fully justified that confidence. You have gone from success to success, and all Australians appreciate to the full what we owe to you and your brave fighting men. I am sure that I speak for every one here when I express the hope that the day is not far distant when you will be able to rest from your labours, and look back with satisfaction and in honour upon what you have achieved for your country, for Australia, and, indeed, for the whole world.

“We all appreciate this opportunity to meet you again. I have a happy recollection of your helpfulness to me personally, and of your keen interest in the matters which I brought before you. I am glad to be associated with you at this gathering as a fellow Queenslander, but I express the profound hope that, when peace comes you will not settle in the Darling Downs. My task is hard enough now to hold that seat, and I want as little competition as possible! I sincerely hope that you will be long spared to enjoy the health and happiness which you have so richly earned, and that you will receive, as you deserve, the unstinted gratitude of a country which you have served so well."


“Mr. Prime Minister, I cannot tell you the sense of distinction I feel in being Australia's guest to-night. It adds another link to the long chain of friendship which binds together our peoples and our countries. It is a symbol of that unity of effort that recognises but one indomitable purpose - victory.

“The last two years have been momentous ones for Australia. You have faced the gravest peril in your history. With your very life at stake, you have met and overcome the challenge. It was here the tide of war turned in the Pacific and the mighty wave of invasion broke and rolled back. Two years ago when I landed on your soil I said to the people of the Philippines when I came: `I shall return'. To-night I repeat those words, I shall return. Nothing is more certain than our ultimate reconquest and liberation from the enemy of those and adjacent lands. One of the great offensives of the war will, at the appropriate time, be launched for that purpose. With God's help it should be decisive not only of redemption but of Japanese isolation from southern conquests and of Chinese restoration of Pacific Ocean communication.

“On such an occasion as this my thoughts go back to those men who went on their last crusade in the jungle thicknesses to the north where they fought the fight that saved this continent. With faith in their hearts and hope on their lips they passed beyond the mists that bind us here. Their yesterday makes possible our tomorrow. They came from the four quarters of the world, but whatever the land that gave them birth - under their stark white crosses - they belong now to Australia, forever. I thank you, sir, for the high honour and hospitality of to-night in their and their comrades' name. I shall always recall it as joined with their immortal memory."

On 17th March, 1944, Mr. Curtin broadcast on a network arranged by the United States Office of War Information. Mr. Curtin said -

“On behalf of the Government and people of Australia, I gladly join in celebrating the arrival in this country, two years ago, of General Douglas MacArthur.

"Let us recall that period of two years ago. On 12th March, 1942, Tojo had this to say to the Japanese Diet -

"Unless Australia submits to the Japanese, she will suffer the same fate as the Netherlands East Indies.

“Five days later, General MacArthur arrived in Australia from the Philippines. In the two years that have followed, Australia has not submitted and we have not suffered the same unhappy fate as the Netherlands East Indies.

“The forces which were placed under General MacArthur's command by the Australian Government, and by the United States Government have performed deeds of gallantry and ingenious efficiency which reflect the highest credit on themselves, on the respective countries, and on their very distinguished Commander-in-Chief.

“The name of General MacArthur stands even higher to-day in Australia than it did on that day, two years ago, when his arrival provided such a tonic to a people who, while unafraid of what might be in store for them, were nevertheless greatly encouraged by it and by what it meant for Australia in the way of fighting men and supplies from America.

“It has been my very great pleasure to have had the closest association with General MacArthur and I can record the untiring manner in which he has applied himself to working out and carrying through the campaigns which have removed the greater part of the threat to Australia and are now causing the enemy to feel the weight of Allied blows on the fringe of his outer empire. No man has given more in whole-souled devotion to duty than General MacArthur. I trust that he will live for many years to look back on the day he first arrived in a country for which he has done so much."