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Misunderstandings and illness hampered Curtin – Roosevelt relations

Media release

C131/08

A visiting international historian has revealed that misunderstandings and illness were among the reasons why war-time Prime Minister John Curtin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to develop a strong and robust relationship during World War Two.

Dr Steven Casey revealed his findings during the 2008 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (JCPML) Visiting Scholar Public Lecture at Curtin University of Technology last night.

At the lecture titled A missed opportunity: the Curtin-Roosevelt meeting and Australian-American relations, the 2008 JCPML Visiting Scholar Dr Casey described the reasons behind the often brittle relationship between the two leaders and their countries.

“In 1942, Curtin and Roosevelt clashed over strategic priorities and military resources, and in 1943 and early 1944 they were at odds over the shape of the post-war world in Asia and the Pacific,” he said.

“The acrimony between their two governments was exacerbated by their abrasive senior foreign policy advisers but the two great war leaders were actually gravitating towards a meeting of minds on crucial post-war issues like international and regional security and the fate of Pacific islands.

“However, Curtin’s one and only visit to the United States in 1944 turned out to be a missed opportunity to develop better relations because both Curtin and Roosevelt were suffering from illness and stress that would strike them down just months before the war’s end.

“Therefore they had little chance to discuss any crucial issues in detail or build up a personal rapport so the opportunity was not exploited.”

Dr Casey is a Senior Lecturer in International History at the London School of Economics and Political
Science and has a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Philosophy in International Relations from Oxford University.

He has authored two books, Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and the Press in the US, 1950-1953 and Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion and Nazi Germany, 1941-45 and many journal articles.

The JCPML Visiting Scholar Public Lecture is an annual event. Previous visiting scholars have included foreign policy commentator and former adviser to Prime Minister Paul Keating, Dr Michael Fullilove, Dr John Edwards, Chief Economist HSBC, and historian Professor Marilyn Lake.

Attention Editor/COS: The lecture will be soon be available at http://john.curtin.edu.au/ and photographs are available on request.