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

154 — The Prime Minister of Australia to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

The Prime Minister of Australia to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

7 March 1942

My telegram of 4 March [No. 151].

The following is our draft of the proposed directive to the Supreme Commander. The Governments concerned are the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and any other Government hereafter included. For the sake of convenience the above Governments are referred to in this directive as the ANZAB Governments:

1 Repeated to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

page 166

1. The Area. The Anzac area should embrace:


The present Anzac area.


The whole of Australia and its territories, New Zealand, and the islands within the boundaries of the present Anzac area to the extent not included in (1).


An area to the west and north-west of Australia including Timor, Ambon, the whole of New Guinea, and the sea area within an agreed distance of the coast of the west of Australia, or as may subsequently be determined.


The sea area to the south of Australia.

2. Forces. You have been designated as the Supreme Commander of the Anzac area and all operationally trained armed forces afloat, ashore, and in the air of the ANZAB Governments which are or could be stationed in that area.

3. No Government will materially reduce its armed forces stationed in your area, nor any commitment made by it for reinforcing its forces in your area, except after giving to the other Governments and to you timely information pertaining thereto.

4. Strategic Concept and Policy. The basic strategic concept for the conduct of the war in the Anzac area lies in an immediate change on the part of the United Nations to a positive offensive strategy, and plans must be formulated to provide for the security of Australia, New Zealand and the advanced territories, and to ensure freedom of action for offensive operations on the part of the United Nations against Japan. The piecemeal employment of forces should be minimised. Your operations should be so conducted as to further preparations for the offensive.

5. The general strategic policy should be related from the outset to further major offensive operations and, with this in view, should be directed to the security of Australia and New Zealand, not only to maintain their integrity but also to form bases for offensive action on the part of the United Nations to defeat Japan. The immediate problems that confront you are:


to secure the lines of communication from the United States to Australia and New Zealand by holding New Caledonia and Fiji;


to prevent the further southward movement of the enemy into Australia, either from New Britain via New Guinea, or from Timor through Darwin or down the west coast;


to maintain essential communications within the area.

When these have been secured it will be possible to plan offensive operations in the light of the situation then prevailing, including that in the western Pacific. In the event of failure to hold New Caledonia page 167 and Fiji, it will be a primary necessity to ensure the inegrity of the North Island of New Zealand.

6. The Duties, Responsibilities and Authorities of Supreme Commander. You will co-ordinate in the Anzac area the strategic operations of all armed forces of the ANZAB Governments, assign them strategic missions and objectives, and where desirable arrange for the formation of task forces for the execution of specific operations, and appoint any officers irrespective of seniority or nationality to command such task forces.

7. You will allocate within the area the forces and equipment that are available or which may become available.

8. You are authorised to require from the commanders of the armed forces under your command such reports as you deem necessary in discharging your responsibilities as Supreme Commander.

9. You are authorised to control the issue of all communiqués concerning the forces under your command.

10. Your channel of communication with the ANZAB Governments upon any matter relating to your mission is through the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington.

11. The commanders of all sea, land and air forces within your area will be immediately informed by their respective Governments that, from a date to be notified, all orders and instructions issued by you in conformity with the provisions of this directive will be considered by such commanders as emanating from their respective Governments.

12. In the unlikely event that any of your immediate subordinates after making due representation to you still consider that obedience to your orders would jeopardise the national interests of his country to any extent unjustified by the general situation in the Anzac area, he has the right, subject to your being immediately notified of such intention, to appeal direct to his own Government before carrying out the orders. Such appeals will be made by the most expeditious method, and copies of appeals will be communicated simultaneously to you.

13. You are not authorised to transfer from the territories of any of the ANZAB Governments land forces of that Government without the consent of the local commander or his Government.

14. Your authority and control with respect to the various operations of the Anzac area and to the forces assigned thereto will normally be exercised through the local commander. Interferences are to be avoided in the administration processes of the armed forces of any of the ANZAB Governments, including freedom of communication between them and their respective Governments. Alterations or revisions in the basic tactical organisation of any forces will not be made except in case of urgent necessity. Each national component of a task force will normally operate under its own commander and should normally be page 168 retained as a national component in the task force. You will give effect to the principle of delegation of authority to local commanders, and in accordance with this principle it is no part of your duty to control the details of actual operations.

15. Assumption of Command and Staff. Your staff will include officers of the forces of the ANZAB Governments. You are empowered to communicate immediately with the commanders of those forces with a view to obtaining staff officers essential to your earliest possible assumption of command.

16. You will report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Washington, when you are in a position effectively to carry out the essential function of the Supreme Command, so that your assumption of command may be promulgated to all concerned.

17. Superior Authority. As Supreme Commander of the Anzac area you will always be responsible to the ANZAB Council through the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington as specially constituted for the purpose of the Anzac area.

18. On all important matters outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Commander of the Anzac area, the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington as specially constituted for the purpose of the Anzac area will be the agency through which recommendations and communications may be submitted to the ANZAB Council for decision. Among the chief matters on which decisions will be required are:


provision of reinforcements;


major changes in policy;


departure from the Supreme Commander's directive.

19. This directive is to be read with the agreement between the ANZAB Governments concerning the machinery for the higher direction of the war in the Anzac area.1