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

187 — The Prime Minister of Australia to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Prime Minister of Australia to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

14 December 1942

Your telegram of 4 December (No. 180).

In my immediately following telegram I am communicating for your information the text of a message which I have sent to the President regarding the return of the 9th Division to Australia.1

Although New Zealand and Australia are in separate areas, you will recall from our exchange of telegrams in March, when the proposals for the sub-division of the Pacific theatre were being discussed, that we both considered that our two countries should be in the one strategical area. We accepted the arrangements but retained our view that, from the aspect of defence, our two countries were interdependent and that, to quote from your telegram of 26 March,2Australia and New Zealand were inevitably one strategical whole in which already a substantial degree of co-operation, both military and economic, has been achieved.’

You will agree, I am sure, that nothing has since transpired to alter that view, and the division which has been made should not affect a united front against Japan by Australia and New Zealand. To that end we have sought to assist you with munitions and other supplies to the greatest extent of our capacity.

The struggle in New Guinea has, I believe, important implications from the point of view of the security of New Zealand. You will note from my telegram to the President the difficulties of the New Guinea campaign, and the fact that there is a pressing need for the services of the 9th Division in the South-West Pacific Area. You

1 Not published. In this telegram Mr. Curtin emphasised the pressing need for the services of the 9th Australian Division in the South-West Pacific Area because of the ‘immense wastage’ in personnel in New Guinea through battle casualties and malaria and the need for the 6th and 7th Divisions to have a prolonged rest after the Buna operations. He also advised President Roosevelt that the manpower position in the Commonwealth necessitated a reduction in the strength of the Australian Army by two divisions.

2 See Volume III, Command in the Pacific: Extension of Anzac Area.

page 154 will also recall from paragraph 11 of my message of 16 November to President Roosevelt1 that our advisers consider that three further divisions are necessary in the South-West Pacific Area, of which the 9th Australian Division will be one. In view of the very direct interest which New Zealand has in the outcome of operations in New Guinea, we feel that you should be in no doubt about the situation confronting our forces there. In Timor, where we have small guerrilla forces only, a considerable increase in enemy activity and reinforcements has also been noted.

1 Not published. Paragraph 11 read:

Decisions on global strategy have been taken by Mr. Churchill and yourself. At considerable risk to the security of Australia, the Commonwealth Government has shown a ready willingness to co-operate in other theatres. This has been demonstrated by the service overseas of our naval, land, and air forces and our continued participation in the Empire Air Training Scheme. The Government considers that the contributions it has made to other theatres entitles it to the assurance that the fullest possible support will be given to the situation in the Pacific. You will recall that the military advisers of the Commonwealth Government consider that three further divisions are necessary in the South-West Pacific area. In view of its responsibilities for the local defence of Australia and in the light of the views of its advisers, the Government feels that the maximum strength of the Australian forces should be concentrated in the South-West Pacific area to meet all the contingencies of the military situation in the Pacific.