America looks to Australia: new book examines Richard Casey’s role 1940-42

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America looks to Australia

The hidden role of Richard Casey in the creation of the Australia-America Alliance, 1940-1942

By James Prior

Published by Australian Scholarly Publishing
RRP $39.95 in paperback • ISBN 9781925588323

Australia’s war-time Prime Minister John Curtin has achieved heroic status in the annals of Australian political history for his wartime leadership. He stood up to British Prime Minister Churchill and American President Roosevelt, insisting that Australian troops be brought home to defend their nation against the expected Japanese invasion. 

In this new book, author James Prior, who spent years researching the diplomatic role of Richard Casey, believes the praise and adulation that is heaped upon Curtin for creating the American Alliance is overstated.

Prior argues that the credit is largely owed to Richard Casey, who, as Australia’s first diplomatic appointment to the United States, did more to secure America’s engagement in the Pacific than Curtin or anyone else.

It must be remembered that, prior to World War II, Australia’s foreign policy was largely directed from Britain. Australia was still in the throes of shrugging off the mantle of colonial outpost yet it was becoming increasingly apparent that British and Australian interests did not always align.

Richard Casey was well placed, as Australia’s first Minister to the United States during the two years prior to Pearl Harbor, to influence American thinking about how they might deploy to Australia in the event of war against Japan.

Richard Casey is a name little known now beyond diplomatic and political circles, except for those who daily walk through the doors of the R G Casey Building in Canberra to their work at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In the end it was most likely Casey’s success as a diplomat, working behind the scenes, using his own wealth and charisma to influence those he could that helped turn the sentiment in Washington. In the end, Prior makes a compelling case that Casey’s tireless networking and diplomatic efforts paid handsome dividends.

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