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

166 — The New Zealand Minister, Washington, to the Prime Minister

The New Zealand Minister, Washington, to the Prime Minister

24 March 1942

I do not know whether you have seen the text of the proposals on the division of strategical responsibility of the United Kingdom and the United States, which reads as follows:1

‘1. In order to fix responsibility as between the United Kingdom and the United States in the prosecution of the war as a whole it is proposed:


In theatres in which the United Kingdom and the United States may operate either jointly or separately, the Combined Chiefs of Staff will exercise general jurisdiction over grand strategy and over such related factors as are necessary for proper implementation, including allocation of war materials.

1 This telegram expands the message from Mr Jordan of 12 March, No. 158.

page 184

In any theatre for which either the United Kingdom or the United States is hereinafter assigned separate strategic responsibility, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Governments concerned shall exercise jurisdiction over all matters of minor strategy and all operations.


Each Government will be responsible (within any theatre over which it exercises separate strategic direction) for arranging the necessary co-ordination and co-operation with other united powers whose territory or operational forces may be involved therein, and will, by agreement with such other Governments, set up the necessary control over machinery.


The Combined Chiefs of Staff will exercise direct supervision over both grand and minor strategy in a theatre of joint responsibility, and are charged with arranging the necessary co-operation and co-ordination in such areas with other united powers whose territorial or operational forces would be involved therein.


Theatres of strategic direction are established as follows:


The Pacific Theatre

This will include the Pacific Ocean and all land areas therein or contiguous thereto, including the American continent, China, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, but excluding Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. It will be a theatre of United States responsibility. This responsibility includes the provision of essential assistance for the security of Australia and New Zealand.


The Indian Ocean and Middle East Theatre

This will include the Indian Ocean and all land areas contiguous thereto west of Singapore (inclusive) and the Middle and Near East. It will be an area of British responsibility. United States assistance will be limited principally to the furnishing of material aid from surplus production. The United States will have access to bases in India and routes to China within this theatre.


The European and Atlantic Theatre

This will include the Atlantic Ocean and land areas contiguous thereto. It embraces the theatre (Western Europe) in which the major effort against Germany must be made.

This is a theatre of joint British and American responsibility. Agreements already made between British and American authorities regarding the allocation of responsibility for specific operations (such as the seizure of the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands) within this theatre will remain in effect.

page 185

‘2. Area commands as required will be created within the general theatres outlined above. Within the Pacific and Indian Ocean theatres the delimitation of such areas will be the responsibility of American and British Chiefs of Staff respectively. In the Atlantic Ocean theatre, such areas may be established by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.’

To these proposals Churchill replied as per text of parts 1 and 2 of your cable No. 110, 19 March,1 except that the following additional paragraphs, which may not be entirely relative, were in the text of the copy of a cable to the President which I have seen:

‘Turning back again to highest war direction, the present arrangement centres upon the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington. The three British representatives in Washington act in accordance with the instructions of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee in London. Do you wish that American representatives, say Admiral Stark and General Chaney,2 should sit in on Japanese matters from time to time with our three Chiefs of Staff here?

‘I have now heard from New Zealand that they welcome your kind offer to send an American division at the dates mentioned into New Zealand.3 They have at no time asked for the withdrawal of their division from the Middle East and they do not ask now. At the same time they do not wish to engage themselves never to ask for such return. If, for instance, they were heavily invaded, their men abroad would feel deep distress about their homes and families and desire to go home and defend them. However, I do not think that they are going to be heavily invaded and [group mutilated–anyhow?] the matter would be governed by shipping. As it is, let us take it as settled that you send a United States division to New Zealand and the New Zealand Division remains in the Middle East, at any rate for many months to come. You will probably know from Dr Evatt as soon as I from Mr Curtin what the Australian position is. It would certainly be most unfortunate if the last Australian division left the Middle East on the eve of a German offensive against the Caucasus.

‘On supremacy and general outlook in the Pacific we are both agreed on the paramount importance of regaining the initiative against Japan and making all captured places their hostages to fortune as they were formerly ours. We assume that any large-scale methods of achieving this would be capable of being discussed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington and would not be settled out of hand by the American Chiefs of Staff and their American Commanders-in-Chief. We should naturally consult similarly on large-scale methods in our area.

1 Not published. Nos. 160 and 161 of 17 March were repeated to Washington on 19 March.

2 Maj-Gen James E. Chaney, US Army; commanded US Forces in the British Isles, 1942; Commanding General, First Air Force, 1942–43.

page 186

‘There are a few points of detail. In your telegram of 10 March you say, “India would not be occupied by American troops or planes”, but in your earlier message to me, No. 113,1 in which you set out American air dispositions overseas for 1942, you allocated 60 heavy bombers and 80 pursuit aircraft for China, India and the Burma area. We hope that this proposal holds good.

‘Furthermore, in detail, we would rather have American light bombers and fighters, which you [group omitted–thought?] of sending to England by July, sent to the Middle East, where American aircraft of these types are already operating. We are very short of these fighters in the Middle East and cannot increase what we are sending from here. By sending American fighters direct you would save double lift and thus shipping. We have had to bleed the Middle East so much in order to help India, Ceylon and Burma that I am very anxious about our air position in that area.’

They do not in any way affect the main proposals, but the information may be of value to you personally.

I am still not certain that MacArthur has been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the area which includes New Zealand.

The text of paragraph 7 of Churchill's telegram to the President reads: ‘On this basis we welcome your proposal that an American should be appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Allies and of all three Services in the Pacific area, with the agreement of Commanders in Australia, New Zealand, etc.’2

MacArthur does not appear to have been appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific area, and the South Pacific to which the President referred has not yet been defined so far as I can ascertain. I am making immediate inquiries and will cable you again.

1 Not available.

2 In No. 161 this passage reads: ‘… with local commanders in Australia, New Zealand, etc.’