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

347 — Memorandum from Lieutenant-General Puttick to the Minister of Defence — Operations in the Pacific

page 365

Memorandum from Lieutenant-General Puttick to the Minister of Defence

2 November 1942

Operations in the Pacific

1. In view of the despatch of New Zealand forces to Norfolk Island and Tonga, the decision to assist Fiji in raising additional forces, and the impending despatch of 3rd Division, policy questions arise which require consideration and direction by War Cabinet.

2. The policy regarding Norfolk Island and Tonga has been decided. Troops at Norfolk Island are to be relieved when practicable by troops of lower than NZEF category, and the despatch of the battalion to Tonga is to be regarded as an emergency measure to assist the Americans, who have been requested to relieve the battalion. A definite decision is required as to the categories of men who may be included in the force to relieve Norfolk Island.

3. The decision to despatch 3rd Division raised various questions. As explained to War Cabinet the various Kiwi forces originally asked for by Admiral Ghormley were designed—as far as they could be at that time—for taking over forward areas captured by the United States Marines and consequently are not necessarily suitable for the specific task now confronting 3rd Division, or what is really Kiwi ‘C’. The suitability of this force is primarily the concern of the United States Officer Commanding the island, but a considerable measure of responsibility still remains with the New Zealand Government to ensure as far as it can that New Zealand forces are reasonably adequate to meet the situations which may arise. In this connection it should be borne in mind that when asking for Kiwi ‘C’ to be despatched, the United States Commander knew that Kiwi ‘D’ was not ready nor likely to be ready for some time, that the forces for Norfolk Island and Tonga had to be found from Kiwi ‘C’, and that Kiwi ‘C’ (reduced by the troops sent to Norfolk Island and Tonga, which were only partly replaced in Kiwi ‘C’) was the largest force the New Zealand Government was able to provide from the forces it had agreed to prepare for operations in the Pacific.

4. Before the New Zealand Government can discharge its responsibilities in connection with Kiwi ‘C’ it should know:


What forces of all kinds, including naval and air, are likely to be available for the defence of the island; the defensive arrangements including sea-mining; and the ability of the forces in the island mutually to support each other.

page 366

The United States plan for reinforcing the island and for support—Navy, Army and Air—from other areas in the Pacific.


The general United States naval plan in sufficient detail to enable a judgment to be made as to the cover afforded by United States main naval forces.

An appreciation by comsoupac1 covering the above matters would be most useful.

5. Without information on the matters raised in paragraph 4, it is possible only to indicate what appear to be the main weaknesses in the composition of Kiwi ‘C’ These are:


No tanks—one armoured regiment would be reasonable.


Field artillery is one field regiment (24 guns) below normal establishment.


Two of the six infantry battalions are below establishments.

6. The duty of supporting the forces in operational areas lies with the Commander responsible for the operations, in this case comsoupac, and New Zealand could perhaps legitimately rely upon not being required to meet any such commitment in the absence of any warning that supporting forces might conceivably be required from New Zealand.

In my opinion, however, the nature of the campaign and the accidents of war make it advisable that New Zealand should at least make such preparations as would enable New Zealand troops to be moved at short notice to the support of its forward troops if the situation should make such a course necessary.

7. To be in a position to carry out possible requirements as set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 and to implement the policy already decided in respect of Norfolk Island and Tonga (vide paragraph 2), (the latter only arising if the United States is unable to relieve the New Zealand battalion), we should be able to select existing sub-units, units, and formations from the New Zealand Home Defence forces now and get them ready as far as possible in case they should be required.

The only other alternative—the raising of special units, etc.—can only be effected by withdrawing men from existing units. These units have already suffered heavily by withdrawals of men for other purposes and must still find further men for reinforcements either for 2nd or 3rd Divisions or both, and, apparently, also for industry. This destructive process must be reduced to an absolute minimum as otherwise the Home Defence forces will be so disorganised and weakened as to be ineffective against a powerful attack. If, however, complete sub-units, etc., are selected, this disorganisation need not occur, and the selection could be made in such a way as to interfere

1 Usually comsopac.

page 367 only to a minor degree with the proper distribution of forces for Home Defence.

8. Before the selection of units, etc., for the relief of the Norfolk Island's force and for the possible role of going to the support of Kiwi ‘C’ in an emergency can be proceeded with, a definite and early decision is necessary as to the categories of men who may be included. As War Cabinet is aware, our Home Forces include men of 18 years and upwards, and of lower medical categories. I need hardly point out that any categories of men which War Cabinet decide cannot proceed to Norfolk Island, or in an emergency to support 3rd Division, must be transferred from the selected units and their places taken by men of acceptable category from other units.

9. In view of the general manpower situation of the Army and the necessity of reducing to a minimum the transfer of men between units, I suggest the following categories for consideration by War Cabinet:


Reinforcements for 2nd Division:

All Grade I men, 20 years of age and up to 40 years.


Reinforcements for 3rd Division:

As for 2nd Division, supplemented if necessary by selected Grade II men.


For Norfolk Island relief, also Tonga if necessary:

Existing Home Defence units less men under 19 years of age, all ‘A’ grade men to be transferred to 2nd and 3rd Division reinforcement unit.


Supporting Force for 3rd New Zealand Division in emergency:

Existing Home Defence units of approximately one brigade group in strength, all ages and categories, i.e., the balance of Kiwi Force to make up Kiwi ‘D’.

10. As regards paragraph 5, I consider War Cabinet should not await further information before deciding to despatch a tank unit to Kiwi ‘C’, and recommend that an existing tank battalion with attached troops should be equipped as an armoured regiment and despatched at the first opportunity.1 The question of an additional field regiment and additional infantry could await further information and possibly the relief of Norfolk Island and Tonga respectively.

Until decisions on paragraphs 9 and 10 are made I am unable to take any action in these matters.2

(Sgd) E. Puttick


commanding new zealand military forces

1 On 5 November War Cabinet approved the despatch of an armoured regiment with the Kiwi ‘C’ force.

2 A note dated 3 Feb 1943 by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff (Brig K. L. Stewart) on the Army Headquarters file copy of this memorandum reads: ‘Considered in War Cabinet 3 Feb. All questions have been dealt with or are under action in connection with other matters.’