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A few days after General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Melbourne on 21 March 1942 he commandeered the Trustees Executive & Agency Co. Ltd. building at 401 - 403 Collins Street to establish his Headquarters for the US Army Forces In The Far East.


MacArthur Chambers 15 August 2004

On 18 April 1942, MacArthur was appointed Commander-In-Chief of the Allied Forces, and the Headquarters became known as General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, (GHQ, SWPA). 

GHQ, SWPA, moved to Brisbane on 21 July 1942 and set up their offices in the old 9 storey AMP Building in Queen Street, Brisbane. The building is now known as MacArthur Chambers, an exclusive apartment building.

General Douglas MacArthur and his senior staff were located on the 8th floor of the AMP Building. Initially MacArthur and his deputy, General Richard Sutherland had shared Room 809. General MacArthur then occupied Room 806 and Sutherland occupied the adjacent Room 807. Both these rooms have been restored as part of the MacArthur Museum Brisbane


A photograph of General Douglas MacArthur's Office in 1942


Visiting General MacArthur in his office in Brisbane at 6:05pm on Friday 30 July 1943 were
L to R:- Major William E. Dyess (Air Corps), Commander Melvyn H. McCoy (USN), General
Douglas  MacArthur and Major S.M. Mellnik (Coast Artillery Corps). These three men had recently escaped
a Japanese POW camp on Davao and returned to Australia by submarine with Commander "Chick"
Not in the photograph were Colonel Whitney, Commander Parsons and Captain Smith.


Close-up of General MacArthur's desk


General Douglas MacArthur and his most senior officers from his General Headquarters South West Pacific Area (GHQ, SWPA) lived on the top floor of Lennons Hotel in George Street. Mrs Jean MacArthur and their son Arthur were also accommodated at Lennons Hotel


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GHQ, SWPA on 25 April 2001

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Amp Building looking down Edward Street.
The Rowes Arcade building is on the left

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Development sign at front of AMP building
25 April 2001


Various commanders and top ranking staff officers from GHQ, the Air Force, Navy and the Australian Land Forces would attend daily briefings in the Brisbane Air Force War Room located in the AMP building. They were held each day at noon. The Brisbane Air Force War Room was run by the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence. The participants would sit on a raised platform overlooking a large map of the Pacific theatre of war from China to Hawaii which was positioned on the floor. The Air Force Directorate of Intelligence obtained the latest information from the combat areas on the strength, locations and movements of Japanese land, sea and air forces. In addition they received intelligence to indicate the enemy's possible intentions. RAAF Command was also located in the AMP Building.

Many famous people visited General MacArthur in his office on the 8th floor. Some of these were as follows:-

Many Generals including Blamey, Sutherland, Kenney, Eichelberger

Many Admirals including Carpender, Halsey, Barbey, Kincaid and Nimitz

John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia

On Monday, 25 May 1942 - Lt. Col. Stevens and Lieutenant Commander Johnson called at 1600 hrs. (LBJ!!)

On Tuesday 9 Nov 1943 - Gary Cooper, Una Merkel, Phyllis Brooks and Andy Arcari of the USO called at 1245 hrs to see General MacArthur.

On Friday 12 Nov 1943 - General Kenney presented Captain Ira Bong, Southwest Pacific Air Ace, to the General at 1720 hrs.

On Monday 10 Jul 44 - At 1700 hrs Sir Keith Murdoch visited

On Wednesday 12 Jul 44 - At 1715 hrs Charles A. Lindbergh called in

On Friday 11 Aug 44 - At 1700 hrs Jack Benny and party visited the General.

There were also some people who worked in GHQ SWPA in the AMP building, who became famous later in life. In May 1944, Lt. Casper Weinberger was the Duty Officer, Air Section, Combined Operational Intelligence Centre (COIC) located in Room 812, on the same floor as General Douglas MacArthur. This Duty Officer later went on to become Secretary of Defence under President Ronald Reagan. In the December 1942 and October 1943 Military Telephone Directories for Brisbane, Lt. Zelman Cowen (RAN) was listed in the Collation Section, in the same Combined Operational Intelligence Centre (COIC) in the AMP building in Room 812. Sir Zelman Cowen later went on to become the Governor General of Australia.

The US Military established a Telephone Exchange on the 6th Floor of the AMP building known as AMP Exchange.

A brass plaque near the entrance of the former GHQ reads as follows:-

Second World War 1939-1945
In this building, General Douglas MacArthur
Supreme Commander Allied Forces South-West Pacific
established his Headquarters on 21st July 1942
and here he formulated the initial plans
which led to final victory
over the Japanese forces on 15th August 1945.
The forces under his command comprised
Navy, Army and Air Force personnel of
Great Britain, United States of America,
Australia, New Zealand and Netherlands East Indies.


On 2 December 2000 an article in Brisbane's "The Courier Mail" newspaper reported that General Douglas MacArthur's former GHQ was to be converted into an 80-Unit residential complex with three levels of retail outlets by property developer Forrester Kurts Properties. About half of level 8 of the AMP building was set aside to become the MacArthur Museum Brisbane displaying General MacArthur's original office. Work on the units is due to start in early 2001 with renovations due to be finished in early 2002. An interim display of memorabilia from MacArthur's GHQ was in place for the Brisbane's 2001 Goodwill Games.

The sandstone building was originally built between 1931 and 1934 and was the Queensland Headquarters for the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP). The Brisbane City Council bought the building in 1990.

MacArthur's regular driver while he was in Brisbane was Sgt. John J. Ulrich ("Blackie"). (Is he still alive?). Technical Sgt. Clarence E. Hensley (Red) was the driver for MacArthur's Chief of Staff, General Richard Sutherland. They went by their nick names of "Red" and "Blackie".

The military always used the Edward Street entrance to GHQ SWPA in the AMP building. They never used the Queen Street entrance to the building. Note the registration No. U.S.A. 1 for MacArthur's staff car. Mrs. MacArthur's car registration was U.S.A. 2.

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General Douglas MacArthur's staff car outside the Edward St. entrance to GHQ, SWPA in the AMP building in 1942. This was the normal entrance to GHQ

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Technical Sgt. Clarence E.  "Red" Hensley and Sgt. John J. "Blackie" Ulrick

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 The four stars on MacArthur's car indicates the grade of General. Later on, he was promoted to a five star General of the Army

Bill Bentson told me that the US Military also occupied the Commercial Bank building next door to the AMP building and rather than have to go down the lift and out on to the street and then back into the Bank building the Americans knocked at least one door between the two buildings. Click on the photo below to see at least one of these doors which appears to be at about the 8th Floor level.


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The northern side of the AMP building


Catherine Dorothy O'Toole's pass to GHQ, SWPA in the AMP Building for 1945/46.
Catherine worked in the Staff Judge Advocate Section.


A high security voice communication system known as "Sigsaly", was located in the basement of the AMP building. It allowed secure voice communication to Washington, London, Algiers and other locations in Australia for MacArthur's staff.

Detachment 3 of the 832nd Signal Service Company used a Sigaba Machine in the Signal Center on the 7th floor of the AMP Building between MacArthur's HQ on the 8th Floor and the Navy HQ on the 6th Floor.


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This message announced the signing of the formal surrender by the Japanese on that day on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay

This message came into the Signal Center used by the 832nd Signal Service Company on the 7th Floor of GHQ, SWPA in the AMP building in Queen Street, Brisbane. It was received at the overseas radio station (probably the one at Capalaba) and was transmitted to the Signal Center via teletype. It was received in "Clear" Classification.

It was the first message to pass between Japan and the United States over an Army Circuit since Pearl Harbor. It was sent from Radio Station WVLX on USS Teton in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. It was a message from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur.


Dymocks Bookstore (no longer there) is now located on the ground floor on the Queens Street entrance 


Inside Dymocks Bookstore


In the basement of Dymocks bookstore looking up at Queen Street


I spoke to someone on 18 February who has been inside a tunnel under the Brisbane General Post Office (GPO) in Queens Street, Brisbane. The entrance to the tunnel is via a trap door which was under some carpet on the floor inside the building behind the mail boxes on the northern side of the central lane between the two buildings of the GPO. The tunnel headed towards the AMP Building. Was it used as an escape tunnel during WW2 for the top brass in GHQ? Probably not.

There was no parking available in the basement of the old AMP building. Now that it is being converted into luxury apartments, the developers obtained some space in the car park of an adjoining building. In late 2002, Brisbane company Canstruct Pty. Ltd constructed sunk a 16.5 metre shaft and dug a 20 metre tunnel underneath MacArthur Chambers to allow residents to catch a lift down to to the basement where they would access the car park in the adjoining building via the new tunnel running roughly parallel to Edward Street. Approximately 400 cubic metres of rock was removed over a 9 month period using only hand tools. They were unable to use explosives. 


amp06.jpg (37121 bytes) Some of the solid rock that the 20 metre tunnel was dug through
amp07.jpg (38671 bytes) The 20 metre tunnel looking towards the new lift shaft.
amp08.jpg (38070 bytes) Looking up the new 16.5 meter shaft dug out by Canstruct Pty. Ltd.
amp31.jpg (34953 bytes) Looking down the 16.8 metre shaft


Cameron Bartlett of Canstruct Pty. Ltd. showed me something that I found very interesting. In the basement, below the doorway in Edward Street there is a large steel door mounted on slides with steel wire ropes and pulleys etc. It is hidden behind a false wall, which made it difficult to get any decent photographs. It would appear that this large steel door was capable of being raised to street level to seal off the main doorway in Edward Street. General Douglas MacArthur used this Edward Street doorway as his main entrance to the AMP building. Presumably this was installed to protect the occupants of the building in the event of an emergency. (Does anyone know any more about the raiseable steel door?).


Close-up of the right hand side of the large sliding
steel door showing the slide arrangement


A better view of the large sliding steel door


I spoke to Kim Walker in February 2003. He told me that back in the 1970's he had been doing some wiring in the basement of the AMP Building. Behind a false wall, he found a a number of safes in alcoves in the wall. I visited the basement of MacArthur Chambers on 22 February 2003 to have a look at these safes.


One of the two larger walk-in safes


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Close-up of the above safe


A small safe in the wall and a larger walk-in safe on the right. Both have steel barred doors on them


A large steel door which was lying to the far right of the
above photo of the small safe and the walk-in safe


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Front view of the above walk-in safe.
Note the very old fire extinguisher


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Close-up of the above walk-in safe


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Close-up of the above fire extinguisher


The above small Chubb safe in the wall


Nameplate on the small Chubb safe


Another small safe high up on a wall just to the right and above a doorway.
This one is in an unusually high position. It can not be reached from ground level.


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Close-up of the above safe


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Close-up of the combination dials on the safe


Bill Bentson told me that General Richard Sutherland had a safe in his office on the 8th floor. 


I also inspected an old generator in the same basement. The radiator has
the name Dorman on a nameplate. Does it date back to WW2? Or was it installed by AMP?


The large generator in the basement


Nameplate on the radiator of the generator with the name Dorman displayed


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Radiator of the above generator


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Switchboard associated with the above generator


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A small electrical box associated with the above generator


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Entrance to an old lift located opposite the large generator.
This lift must have serviced the Edward Street entrance


A stairway sheeted off with timber, presumably to protect it
during the refurbishment of the building rather than to conceal it.
The Canstruct site office is below this staircase in a small room.



I'd like to thank Bill Bentson for his assistance with this home page, in particular for providing the above photographs of MacArthur's staff car, etc. I'd also like to thank Dan Murphy and Cameron Bartlett from Canstruct Pty. Ltd., Kim Walker, Mark Walker and Gary Oschadlin.



"Sigsaly - The Green Hornet"
by Donald Mehl


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This page first produced 3 December 2000

This page last updated 21 April 2015