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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

289 — The Prime Minister to the New Zealand Minister, Washington — [Extract]

The Prime Minister to the New Zealand Minister, Washington

12 May 1942

Your telegram of 10 May.

We agree generally with the proposals. Details of the relief will of course require to be worked out in consultation between USA, New Zealand and Fiji authorities. In the meantime we suggest that it is imperative that the first United States flight arriving in Fiji should go into a reserve camp until reconnaissances are completed, equipment assembled and reserves of ammunition suitably disposed, and that the first New Zealand troops relieved should remain in reserve in Fiji until the first flight of United States troops from New Zealand reaches Fiji. The ship proposed for the shuttle service would therefore proceed empty from Fiji to New Zealand except for such workmen and sick whom it is convenient to return to New Zealand. The shuttle system suggested in your cable could then commence. This system would result in an immediate increase in strength in Fiji during the somewhat dangerous initial period of the relief.

We recognise that economical use of shipping and the escort problem demand close attention and will affect the detailed planning. It may be possible to supplement from New Zealand resources the shipping required to transport United States troops from New Zealand to Fiji.

Action has already been taken to prepare for the accommodation of United States troops in the vicinity of Auckland.

page 324

Anti-aircraft, coast defence, and any other units and services required and now in Fiji will, as suggested, remain there till relieved by United States units.

New Zealand will continue works and the operation of port facilities until relieved.

We assume that the United States troops will bring vehicles with them and that, dependent upon the capacity of ships, either the New Zealand vehicles now in Fiji will be exchanged for vehicles brought to New Zealand with United States troops or the New Zealand vehicles returned to New Zealand. It is of course essential that all troops during all stages of the relief should have their vehicles available….1

It is desirable to effect the transfer of forces expeditiously but deliberately. To effect a too hasty transfer would endanger the defence of Fiji at what may well be the most dangerous time.

1 Text omitted gave details of the capacity of Suva and Lautoka ports.