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Finally got notice from the National Archives that he letters from General S. J. Chamberlin that I asked to have declassified back on 1 October last have been declared open. By law, they have 90 days to do this. This is not 90 days.

Anyhow, it was disappointing. The letters turned out to be part of the Sheddin collection. Sir Frederick Sheddin was the Secretary of Defence during the war years and for many years after. He intended to write a history of politics and the high command. To this end he amassed a great deal of documents and material. According to Jeff, all he eventually produced was unprintable crap.

The papers eventually wound up in the Archives, where historians like David Horner at the ANU have started to make something of them. These can be found in A5954/69 71/10 if anyone wants to read them. The letters span over a decade. Sheddin send General Chamberlin copies of various books on the war in the Southwest Pacific, such a biography of General Blamey. General Chamberlin was also in close contact with General R. L. Eichelberger, who lived nearby. Chamberlin's wish to revisit Australia did come to pass a few years later when General Sir Edmund Herring, then Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, arranged for GHQ to hold its reunion in Melbourne. The letters contain personal details of interest to someone writing a biography of Chamberlin but nothing of value to the military historian. Chamberlin would not be drawn on any matter that might be controversial. (the original was hand written, not typed):

1 June 1964</p>

Sir Frederick Sheddin
c/- Dept of Defense
Melbourne SC1

Dear Sir Frederick:-

May I apologize for taking so much time to acknowledge the receipt of the "Final Campaigns" by Gavin Long which you so kindly sent one. Thanks very much. I have read the volume with great interest.

In way of explaining the delay - the book together with your letter came just as Mrs Chamberlin and I were leaving on February 3 for the Pacific coast, partly because of health because I had had a nasty recurring bronchial infection from late November 1963, which incidentally persisted throughout the 10 day motor trip to and for several weeks after arrival in California.

Mrs Chamberlin then got in trouble with an arthritic knee necessitating her taking to crutches for the last three weeks we were there, and until she was hospitalized at Fort Bragg, NC where we now are. It has been only since arriving at Fort Bragg on the 10th May that I have found time to read Mr Long's book.

You ask for my comments on the question of the mopping up operation assigned to the Australian forces in the final stages. Mr Long has been quite thorough in citing the many complex factors in various parts of his book which had to be considered in GHQ decisions affecting resources to be utilized and where and when to utilize them during the period covered by the "Final Campaigns". These are generally the same ones we covered and talked over in Washington several years ago. To these underlying factors just referred to I can add nothing more of an enlightening or conclusive nature.

Analysis now of the many factors existing and their interplay at the time the decisions were made at GHQ by or under the authority of the CinC, to determine the propriety or soundness of the decisions affectingthe use of joint resources would only set the scene for further contradiction. Such a field, in spite of an earnest desire to be helpful to you, I am sure you will agree will agree would be improper for me to enter.

I would say however that Mr Long's book, in deliberate reading has brought back to me in details the campaigns in Bougainville, New Guinea, New Britain and Borneo in great clarity. My reaction is that to the hitherto well established reputation of the Australian as superior fighting soldier in European type combat must be added his superiority as a jungle fighter as well - in environment perhaps the most grim and nasty of all battlefields.

Mrs Chamberlin and I remember so pleasantly our meeting with Lady Sheddin and yourself several years ago at the Shoreham in Washington - she joins me in sending our very best regards to you both.

I regret that l have been unable to be more helpful to you and again thanks for sending Mr Long's book to me.

Very sincerely yours

Steve Chamberlin

Lt Gen. U.S.Army (retired)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
21st Jan, 2004 12:49 (UTC)
How frustrating! And these letters were classified?!
22nd Jan, 2004 04:08 (UTC)
A5954 is "The Shedden Collection", which the Archives describes as: "Records collected by Sir Frederick Shedden during his career with the Department of Defence and in researching the history of Australian Defence Policy".

"The Shedden collection spans the period 1917 to 1971 and documents many of the major events that occurred within this era. It provides one of the most comprehensive insights into Australian defence policy and decision making during World War II. In addition there is material relating to events such as the Suez crisis, the Korean War, Australian elections (especially the contentious 1943 campaign), American presidential campaigns, the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the Petrov defection and the Royal Commission on Espionage, ANZUS and ANZAM treaties and all areas of defence and security administration. The collection has files on many world leaders, including Churchill, Stalin, Eisenhower and Truman. Shedden also gathered large numbers of clippings from newspapers, and sources such as journals and Hansard.

Shedden accompanied Prime Ministers Menzies and Curtin to the United Kingdom during World War II and later travelled extensively in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Defence. He represented the Commonwealth at conferences associated with the conclusions of both World Wars and at a number of Imperial Conferences.

After his retirement as Secretary of the Department in 1956 until his death in 1971, Shedden worked on the preparation of a comprehensive history of Australian defence policy. His manuscript, titled The History of Australian Defence Policy, which is included in the collection, remains unpublished."

The file in question was classified OPEN WITH EXCEPTION. This meant that some of it was OPEN (in this case one small page of note paper) and the rest was sealed in a brown envelope. On the envelope was the reason for this - the relevent section of the Archives Act. On lookup, this turned out to be "the 30 year period is not yet up". Now, such documents can be accessed under FOI but this costs money and the most recent of the documents was dated 1965. The determination was in 1972. Therefore, the easiest thing to do was request the file be reclassified. Upon checking, the Archives found the documents over 30 years old and reclassified the file as OPEN.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )