Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
359 — The New Zealand Minister (Washington) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Canberra)
The New Zealand Minister (Washington) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Canberra)
I have today discussed with the President at the White House the question of manpower as instructed in your telegram of 12 January. I gave him full details of the manpower position in the Dominion, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean, particularly in its relation to the forces in the Pacific and Mediterranean. He appeared generally to think that the balance of the case lay with our continuing to operate a division in the Pacific on account of our proximity and particular interest, stating that he felt it would be better for us to be at the entry to Tokyo rather than at the entry to Berlin.
The decision as originally communicated to you to keep two divisions in the field was made with Mr. Churchill after full consideration of the psychological effect of withdrawal from Europe and also the need of New Zealand being represented in the Pacific area.1 I pointed out to the President that from my discussions with Admiral Halsey it did not appear that our force in the Pacific could be fully used on its present strength. My interview with Halsey is the subject of a separate cable.2
The President said that whilst at the moment it did not appear to be an affair upon which he could express his personal opinion, he felt positively that we ought to be in the Pacific, although he thought the withdrawal of our division from the European area would interfere with the operational programme preliminary to the next three months. It might be possible in his opinion, however, to assign a British division to take the place of ours in Europe, although it appeared to me that transportation and readjustment would be difficult at the present time. However, I have promised to put our manpower position and its relation to the two forces in the field in writing, and then the President will communicate personally with Mr. Churchill.
2 Not published. In this telegram, dated 15 Jan, Mr. Nash stated that he had advised Admiral Halsey that New Zealand could not provide any further reinforcements for land operations but would maintain its Navy and Air Force commitments. Admiral Halsey had told him that his understanding of New Zealand's undertaking was that it would provide a full division and that his use of the present New Zealand force was continually limited by its size. In another telegram on the same day, Mr. Nash forwarded for the Prime Minister's information a confidential personal opinion from Sir John Dill to the effect that the New Zealand Government should notify Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt that it desired to withdraw the 2nd New Zealand Division from Europe by August next, and that the United Kingdom Government be requested to make arrangements accordingly.
One difficulty that I forsee at the moment is Mr. Churchill's absence from London1 and it may be difficult to obtain access to him, although under necessitous circumstances I could, of course, on your request probably make the necessary arrangements for an interview.
The President is leaving Washington for some days at Hyde Park to enable him to recover from influenza, from which he has been suffering for some time. He will probably be back towards the end of next week. In the meantime, he said that if I would give him the case he would examine it at once. I propose to talk the whole matter over with Sir John Dill and then to present the case to the President.
Meanwhile, I think it would be helpful if you would immediately communicate with London to find out if arrangements can be made for me to see Mr. Churchill. With this information I will take the necessary steps to get to London, but it would not be wise for me to leave until I have the President's reply to the representations which are being made in writing.
I am planning to go to New York on Monday and Tuesday and to spend some time with Fisher2 discussing other questions, after which I will communicate with you as to the best means of getting over to London, which I suggest might be in the first week in February.
One point of interest from the conversation with the President is the fact that he said that immediately this conflict is over he thought there would be four or five years of sound prosperity. I qualified this personally by saying, ‘if we can get some agreement which can enable us to make the change from war to peace without conflicts which look to be growing in various countries.’
If you are able to give me your personal views as between the Pacific and European zones, I would much appreciate the policy at your earliest convenience.