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

464 — General Freyberg (London) to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg (London) to the Prime Minister

7 August 1945

This cable is to put the New Zealand Government in possession of the facts as seen by us in London.

1. I find that military opinion here is hardening against South-East Asia Command as a main theatre of operations for the United Kingdom's war effort against the Japanese. It is now proposed to send a mixed Empire force, equipped with American equipment, to fight under General MacArthur's command in operations against the mainland of Japan. South-East Asia Command now becomes of secondary importance in the nature of a series of mopping-up operations after the capture of Singapore.

2. In conversations in the War Office it is clear that they want the New Zealand force to take part in the new proposed operations and will ask, if they have not already done so, for permission to use the New Zealand force in these operations.

3. Coronet, the proposed operation, visualises three divisions, one each Australian, Canadian and British, and if possible the New Zealand Division as a fourth, but General MacArthur will have to agree to this.

4. The present project is still in the planning stage and is the result of the Berlin Conference. It envisages the British and New Zealand divisions at present in Europe moving to the United Kingdom and then concentrating as soon as possible in the United States, where they will draw American equipment. After a short period of training they would then move to the Pacific.

5. If the New Zealand Division is accepted, this proposal would appear to have much to recommend it from New Zealand's point of view. It enables us to get clear of jungle fighting and we will be used in our traditional role, together with all our guns and heavy equipment. In principle I am in agreement. I have never been in favour page 495 of the South-East Asia Command theatre of war for reasons I have already explained to the New Zealand War Cabinet in my earlier appreciation.1

6. The implementing of this new proposal presents a number of problems, which are not insurmountable. If the New Zealand War Cabinet agreed with the proposal, we would hand in all our British equipment in Italy and the 2nd NZEF would then have to divide into two groups, the 8th, 9th and 10th Reinforcements for repatriation to New Zealand, while the remaining 12,000 would be moved to the United Kingdom for short leave en route for the United States of America, to be joined in the United States by the 16th, 17th and possibly 18th Reinforcements.

7. In my inquiries in the War Office I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of manoeuvring going on here for shipping. I fear we are likely to suffer unless a firm line is taken by the New Zealand Government.

8. I heard unofficially that there is a proposal being formulated in military planning circles for the British division, which is to form part of CORONET, to take the shipping intended for the New Zealand forces to move it at an early date to the United States, the planning circles urging that the New Zealand Division could move to the United States after the other three divisions of the force have concentrated.

9. I must advise against this proposal should it be made to you. I feel that in view of the drastic nature of our reorganisation, a very early concentration in the United States is necessary. I will not attempt to go into any detail until the proposal is put to you in a concrete form, as it will be, by the United Kingdom Government.

10. The purpose of this cable is to let the New Zealand War Cabinet know what is happening here in the United Kingdom. I have not taken part in any of these War Office discussions or expressed any opinions. I have told the Chief of the Imperial General Staff that I am not in a position to discuss questions of major policy, which are purely a matter for the New Zealand War Cabinet. Time is a most important factor. When the decisions are finalised, I could work out all the movement plans here in London and then go back to Italy to see them implemented.

11. Would you please acknowledge this cable, and if War Cabinet can give me any early guidance as to their wishes, it will greatly assist me here in getting the whole involved problem sorted out.

1 See Vol. II, No. 419, dated 19 Feb 1945. General Freyberg considered that operations in South-East Asia Command were of secondary importance and that the ‘main and decisive battles for the defeat of Japan’ would probably take place in China, Manchuria and Japan itself.