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

129 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

26 January 1942

Following for your Prime Minister:

Thank you for your telegram of 24 January [No. 126] which I am afraid, however, still leaves us perplexed and, to be candid, unconvinced. An immediate reflection, if you will allow me to say so, is that your telegram seems to have been drafted primarily, if not solely, with reference to the ABDA area. In particular:


Provision is made for representations to the proposed Far East Council emanating from ‘the Supreme Commander or any of the ABDA Governments’. We assume, however (and would be glad of confirmation), that this is inadvertent, and that despite the fact that New Zealand is not one of the ABDA powers the New Zealand Government would be entitled to make their representations to the Far East Council on all matters concerning the Pacific, including the ABDA area, the Anzac area, and the general Pacific area.

1 Repeated to the Prime Minister of Australia.

page 142

You refer in paragraph 7 to the appointment of a British General to command the Pacific; the appointment is, of course, to the ABDA area (and it is incidentally worthy of note in this connection that the recent attack on Rabaul1 is outside that area). We are much concerned with the ABDA area, with the affairs of which we wish to keep closely in touch (and should be able to do so by the proposal referred to in the Secretary of State's telegram [No. 127]), but we are most intimately concerned, firstly, with affairs in the Anzac area, and secondly, with affairs in the remainder of the Pacific. In this connection I asked you in my telegram of 20 January [No. 124] to confirm our assumption that the functions of the proposed Far East Council would include affairs in these two areas as well as the co-ordination between them inter se, and also between each and both of them and the ABDA area.

On more fundamental aspects I must again express the unanimous opinion of my colleagues and myself that in view of the proposed assumption by the United States of the full responsibility for the naval defence of the Anzac and Pacific areas (as distinct from the ABDA area) it is completely essential that we should have direct contact with the Americans. Your proposals as explained do not meet this requirement. Indeed they provide no direct contact at all between New Zealand and the United States of America, and the indirect contact contemplated takes place through the following successive stages, namely:


The New Zealand Government notify their views to the New Zealand representative on the Far East Council, who conveys these views to


the Council itself for discussion.


The Chairman conveys the result of the discussion to


the Joint Staff Mission in Washington who, in turn, convey them for discussion to


the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee who, if agreed, finally transmit the conclusion to


the President or the United States authorities concerned.

We cannot regard this as adequate for our purposes—it would surely be cumbersome and there could be no certainty that our representations on any particular subject would in this manner reach the American authorities either in time for appropriate action or in the form which we should wish.

I am bound to say that the proposals as presented are not attractive to us, and that if we were obliged to choose between a Council as contemplated in London without fully adequate American representation

1 On 22 January Japanese forces landed at Rabaul.

page 143 and a similar Council established in Washington where American representation could be assured, then, with all the disadvantages which that course would involve, we would be forced to prefer the second alternative.

Put shortly: We think it not only desirable but necessary that there should be one co-ordinating authority—land, sea and air—for the whole war against Japan on which we should wish to be represented. While we do not decline to co-operate in the proposal you have outlined, with such amendments as may be possible to meet our views, and will, if necessary, do our best to make it a success, we would not willingly accept any solution of this admittedly most difficult problem that does not afford us direct and continuous access to the power which, under the arrangements so far proposed, is solely responsible for the conduct of naval operations in that portion of the world which includes this Dominion.

It may well be that among the many possible solutions—all open to some, and possibly grave, objection—the best might perhaps be as follows:


Dominion membership of the United Kingdom War Cabinet. Indeed as this is, in effect, already accorded to Australia, we must ask for a similar privilege for New Zealand.


A Committee of that War Cabinet to be charged with the special supervision, in respect of the British Commonwealth, of the war against Japan and with co-operation with the body referred to in sub-paragraph (c) below; and


A Far East Council, on the lines suggested, to be established in Washington, with representation on the governmental plane of the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, China and the Netherlands.

I am really very sorry to worry you like this, but try as we may we cannot see your proposal as a workable method of meeting the situation as we think it should, and hope it can, be met.