Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
220 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the New Zealand Minister, Washington1
The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the New Zealand Minister, Washington1
1. The War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff have had under consideration a telegram from the New Zealand Liaison Officer, London,2 summarising a report by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on the New Zealand Defence Plan, dated 18 March 1942, in which the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff regard the defence of New Zealand ‘as primarily a naval problem entailing the provision of adequate naval and air forces in the area, and dependent on denying bases to Japan on the eastern and southern coasts of Australia’.
2. The Army forces which the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff recommend as sufficient for the defence of New Zealand are practically identical with the forces summarised in the Dominions Office telegram [No. 213], sent to Washington as COS (W) 122, and were agreed upon by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff before they had read the statement of our requirements in the light of the new situation represented in our telegram of 14  March [No. 209]. We have already commented upon the scale of defence forces for New Zealand proposed by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff in our telegram of 24 March [No. 216], in which it was observed that the United Kingdom appreciation did not take full account of the likely scale of attack which might be delivered by the Japanese against New Zealand. The report by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff now under consideration represents that the Japanese might employ ‘ten to eleven divisions, accompanied by a very large naval force including five aircraft carriers (240 aircraft)’ for the conquest of New Zealand, and might employ one or two divisions for the initial purpose of seizing a base in New Zealand. But no corresponding increase of defence forces in New Zealand is recommended by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff.
3. We recognise that our principal security must rest in the ability of the United Nations to maintain dominance at sea in the South-West Pacific. But while sea supremacy remains in dispute, and in view of the fact that at any time as the result of naval action or attrition our sea power might be so weakened as to reduce our security at sea for a prolonged period, we are not content to rely for our defence so fully upon sea power as the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff indicate.
2 Brigadier Park cabled General Puttick on 28 March: ‘Would make it clear that the Chiefs of Staff report summarised in my telegram of 27 March was prepared previous to receipt of NZ Government cable [No. 209] dated 13 March.’
5. We are aware that a decision to form a naval base in Auckland (which must take about six months to effect fully) and the movement of American naval forces to that base would bring with it substantial forces of naval aviation, which presumably would be in addition to those recommended by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff. Although this scale of air defence would still fall short of the requirements to meet the scale of attack envisaged by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff, it would come much nearer to our requirements than the recommended provision of Army forces. But these additional air forces cannot be established and operated in the near future, and this makes it all the more necessary that our armed forces should be substantially strengthened at once.
6. You should inquire from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, as to whether they have received the report by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff and, if they have, represent to them in the strongest terms that it does not reflect the view of this War Cabinet and the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff, which has been fully set out in our telegram [No. 209] to you. In particular, you should stress the importance of the early arrival of at least one American division in this country, as indicated in your telegram [No. 218] of 27 March.
8. With regard to Fiji, we feel that the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff have similarly failed to measure the defence requirements there in relation to the anticipated scale of attack and the extent of the area to be defended. In regard to land forces, we consider that at least one additional division is required for the defence of Viti Levu. This would still leave Vanua Levu undefended.
9. It seems to us that the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff, having adequately visualised the very possible dangers to New Zealand and consequently to the Allied strategy in this part of the Pacific, fail to carry the matter to its logical and reasonable conclusion, inasmuch as they set forth defence requirements that cannot be reconciled either with the possible scale of attack or the needs of future offensive operations.