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

54 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand

2 September 1941

Following is a most secret and personal message from the Prime Minister for the Prime Minister:

Events about Japan seem to have taken a favourable turn in the last month. The Japanese were then threatening to invade Siam as well as to make jumping-off grounds in Indo-China on the approaches to Singapore. However, as you will have seen from the telegrams sent you about our Atlantic Conference, I persuaded the President to take a hard line against further Japanese encroachments in the South Pacific, and he was also willing to add the North-Western Pacific. You will have seen the Notes delivered by the United States Government to Japan. The President and the State Department think it a good thing to gain time, be it thirty days or ninety days, so long as there are no further encroachments, and the Japanese seem disposed to parley on this basis. Our interests are served by a [group mutilated – standstill] and the Japanese for their part want to know what is going to happen to Russia.

2. As soon as the President had made these declarations I made the statement in my broadcast which conformed to all we had agreed upon with you and the other Dominions beforehand and has since been endorsed by all. Encouraged by this, Russia comes along with a very stiff answer to the Japanese complaint about American supplies entering Vladivostok. The Russian Siberian Army has been very little diminished so far and their Air Force is capable of heavy and much-dreaded bombing of Japan. We have thus got very heavy forces, to wit, Great Britain and Russia, coming into line, with the United States in the van, and in addition Japan is sprawled in China. They would thus have about three-quarters of the human race against them, and I do not wonder that they are plunged in deep anxiety and hesitation. I cannot believe that the Japanese will face the combination now developing around them. We may therefore regard the situation not only as more favourable but as less tense.

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3. Nevertheless, the growth of our battleship strength, the ravages made in the German Navy, which is now reduced, apart from the Tirpitz and the U-boats, to very [group mutilated – modest] proportions, and the measure we now have of the Italian Navy, will make it possible in the near future for us to place heavy ships in the Indian Ocean. The Admiralty are carefully considering what is the best disposition to make. But I should like to let you know that, as they become available, we contemplate placing a force of capital ships, including first-class units, in the triangle AdenSingapore – Simonstown before the end of the year. All this will be without prejudice to our control of the Eastern Mediterranean. I can assure you we are giving constant attention to all this, and you may be sure that we shall never let you down if real danger comes.