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

459 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

14 July 1945

I received your telegram of 5 July shortly after my return to New Zealand, and I am very grateful to you for informing me of your ideas regarding the over-all strategy in the war against Japan, with which I am in general agreement. I note particularly your tentative proposals regarding the South-West Pacific area, and also the fact that you have addressed similar suggestions regarding a British Commonwealth force to the Prime Minister of Australia as well as to myself.

I am fully seized of the value and importance of providing a British Commonwealth force such as you have in mind, and I have no hesitation in assuring you that the units of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal New Zealand Navy will be fully available if required. I regret, however, that I am not in a position to give you the definite undertaking you seek regarding the availability of New Zealand forces.

page 490

During my three months' absence, the whole question of the withdrawal of our forces from Europe and their further participation in the war against Japan has become a major political problem. The line taken by the Opposition at a by-election last month and by their Leader1 in Parliament last week—to the effect that a land force should not be sent into the Pacific unless expressly asked for by the Chiefs of Staff—renders it necessary for me to discuss this matter with him in all its aspects. I feel that unless and until the Government and the Opposition are at one on this issue, and unless there is the largest degree of unanimity in Parliament, a firm commitment cannot be entered into.

I will be unable to continue my discussions with Mr Holland and with my own people on this issue until after he and I have returned to Wellington following another by-election next week. I very much regret the delay which has occurred in regard to this matter, but the Government must give full consideration to the state of public opinion, as well as to the exigencies of manpower in the light of existing commitments.

The matter has been complicated further by pronouncements in New Zealand from American Admirals, in their well-meant endeavours to stress New Zealand's contribution to the war in the Pacific, urging the paramount necessity for concentrating our manpower resources on food production.

You will, I know, fully appreciate the imperative need for complete national unity before embarking on fresh military undertakings in what will be for us, as for you, the seventh year of this long and arduous war.

I will not fail to advise you as soon as I have been able to obtain a decision, which I trust will be shortly after my return to Wellington.

I send you with my warmest personal regards every good wish for a successful conference in Berlin.2

1 Rt. Hon. Sir Sidney Holland, PC, CH, GCB (then Hon. S. G. Holland); Leader of the Opposition, 1940–49; Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1949–57; died Wellington, 5 Aug 1961.

2 This was the Potsdam conference, attended by President Truman, Marshal Stalin, Mr Churchill and Mr Attlee.