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

(b) Political

(b) Political

2nd Division 3rd Division
(i) Has very favourable effect in Britain and will be of great value to British statesmen in combating war weariness after the defeat of Germany, when directing British forces against Japan. (i) Has no effect on British war weariness which is not already obtained by the spectacle of a favourite Dominion endangered by a powerful Asiatic nation.
(ii) Has unfavourable effect on Australia, which, faced with a very different strategical problem involving invasion of her territory, attack on her mainland, and exposure to an invasion by balanced forces moving by bounds under cover of shore-based aircraft, withdrew her forces to the Australian and Pacific theatres. (ii) Has a favourable effect on Australia, which favours Pacific nations concentrating on the Pacific war and would like to see all New Zealand forces in the Pacific.
(Note: Australia's attitude is probably influenced by two main factors, firstly her original fear of Japanese invasion and later her desire to concentrate all possible forces to push the Japanese further away, and secondly, the political difficulties created by comparisons between the New Zealand and Australian attitude to the global war.)
(iii) May have an unfavourable effect on that section of United States opinion which regards the Pacific war as the more important, but in view of the heavy United States participation in the European theatre, this section is likely to be at most proportionate to the forces engaged and events in Europe may well reduce it, i.e., success and the power resulting from it to concentrate overwhelming forces against Japan, will convince waverers or advocates of concentrating against Japan of the wisdom of the ‘Germany first’ strategy.
As the war with Japan will continue well beyond the end of the war with Germany, there should be ample opportunity for New Zealand to finish the war with Germany and then concentrate on Japan so as to participate in the decisive concluding stages, and so remove any earlier unfavourable opinion, if such exists, in both Australia and the United States.
(iii) Has a favourable effect on that section of United States opinion which considers the Pacific war the more important.

The withdrawal of 2nd Division, while it would cause acute disappointment in England and probably other parts of the Empire as well as to many in New Zealand, would be unlikely to cause any political difficulties

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The withdrawal of 3rd Division would create an unfavourable impression in the United States Forces in the Pacific, and in that section of United States opinion which, for the moment at least, regards the Pacific as the more important theatre. Although this unfavourable impression would be reduced if the withdrawal was effected in order to increase production to the level required to meet Allied demands for supplies, it would, on the other hand, be increased because of the prevalence of opinion amongst United States personnel that the same result could be achieved by other methods, without reducing the present fighting effort, e.g., by a reorganisation and readjustment of available civil manpower, increased working hours, abolition of non-essential activities. (Note: Opinions in this direction are created or strengthened by the frequency of and the attendances at race meetings, reduced or absence of work on Saturdays (including the closing of many Government offices all day Saturday), apart from any actual knowledge of hours worked or of existence of non-essential activities).

Australian opinion would be unfavourable to withdrawal of 3rd Division as a breach of what Australia regards as the true role of Australian and New Zealand Forces, namely, concentration of forces against the Japanese.

The importance to be placed on the creation of unfavourable opinion in the United States and Australia is a matter for statesmen, not for soldiers. It is very probable, however, in the event that it is decided to withdraw 3rd Division, that it will be well within the capacity of New Zealand, on the conclusion of the war with Germany, to provide one division for the war against Japan, and such action would in all probability entirely remove any unfavourable impression existing prior to such re-participation. In the meantime New Zealand's record in the Pacific, including weakening of her Home Defences to secure Fiji; provision of troops for Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia to release United States troops for offensive action; garrisoning Norfolk Island; construction of airfields in Fiji; provision of powerful air forces in the forward area; provision of valuable Naval forces forward, at the expense of her Home Defences and interior economy should, it is suggested, be a sufficient answer to any Australian or United States adverse opinion, if any importance is ascribed to such opinion.