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

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

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

17 November 1941

Circular telegram. Reference my telegram of 27 October, M.339.1

The United States reply observed that it had been the policy of the United States Government to give sympathetic consideration to priority of export applications from the Thai Government, and that the Thai Minister in Washington had been informed that the United States would place Thailand in the same category as China were the former to be attacked and endeavour to defend herself. In so far as we were unable to spare further aircraft for Thailand from Singapore, the United States Government would agree to the release to that country of aeroplanes being supplied to us from the United States should we desire this course. The question of the release to Thailand of aviation spirit and lubricant oil was still under consideration by the United States.

2. In view of urgent representations by the Thai Prime Minister we have felt it desirable not to delay the further offer of assistance, and page 71 His Majesty's Minister at Bangkok has accordingly been authorised to inform the Prime Minister in the following sense:


An attitude of resolute independence will do much to hamper Japanese plans and constitute the surest means of winning external support for Thailand if attacked.


We are, however, fully alive to the Japanese menace and have a natural interest in frustrating it.


Military assistance to Thailand must be discussed on a realistic basis. It is on our successful defence of Singapore that the ultimate fate of Thailand depends, and it is essential that this should not be jeopardised by dissipation of forces.


Should it be necessary for us to meet the Japanese menace in the Kra Isthmus, it is important for us to be assured that we shall not meet with Thai opposition. We hope we may count on active co-operation, since only by our success can the final independence of Thailand be assured.


We are prepared to authorise the Commander-in-Chief Far East to send an expert adviser in aerodrome defence, and His Majesty's Minister is to offer twenty-four 4·5–inch howitzers and twelve field guns, with British instructors. If the offer is accepted, twelve howitzers with 1000 rounds of ammunition per gun would be released at once from Malaya, other guns being sent in batteries of twelve at intervals of from two to three months.


In view of the immense calls on our resources, we cannot offer aircraft at present and are doubtful whether a supply of fighter or bomber aircraft can be arranged from any other source, though we are making inquiries. We are also inquiring into the possibility of the supply of [group mutilated – similar?] training aircraft, and are prepared to supply limited quantities of aviation petrol—adequate for the current needs of the Thai Air Force.


If the reaction of the Thai Prime Minister is favourable we are prepared to consult the United States Government as to what further can be done.

3. Sir J. Crosby reports he is at once communicating with the Thai Prime Minister in the above sense.

4. The Thai Prime Minister has recently accepted our proposal to increase our staff of the Assistant Military Attaché in Bangkok to four, thus raising our military representation to five against eight Japanese officers.

1 Not published. Reported proposals to supply assistance to Thailand in answer to the Thai Prime Minister's appeal.