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

172 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the New Zealand Minister, Washington

page 191

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the New Zealand Minister, Washington

26 March 1942

I am very much obliged to you for your telegrams [Nos. 166 and 167] with reference to the establishment and organisation of the Pacific area, and [No. 215]1 containing the text of President Roosevelt's reply, which has been received by my colleagues and myself with the greatest satisfaction and appreciation. Much of the information contained in your [No. 166] is new to us and valuable. Like you, we are still uncertain concerning MacArthur's appointment—whether to the whole of the Pacific area, or to the Anzac area, or to Australia and northwards alone, or indeed whether he has been appointed at all—we have had no official intimation. What we do want to make plain to you, however, is our own wishes in this connection, which are very definitely that we wish to be included within the area of his command. Your telegram [No. 167] was not received in time to allow us to comment in connection with your visit to the President. Our reflections on this telegram and on your [No. 168], which has just been received, are that while we must, of course, attach the utmost weight to American views, and especially to those of President Roosevelt and Admiral King, we are most definitely against the carving-up of the Pacific into any unnecessary areas and, in particular, we are opposed to any degree of separation from Australia. Australia and New Zealand are inevitably one strategical whole, in which already a substantial degree of co-operation, both military and economic, has been achieved which should not be jeopardised. The proposal that New Zealand and the Islands should be regarded as an entirely separate area seems to us to be impracticable and dangerous. Numerous practical difficulties, for example, as to the division of naval forces, the co-operation of the air forces, etc., would we fear arise. If the Anzac area recently agreed upon between the Australian and New Zealand Governments could be retained under an Anzac Commander subordinate to the Supreme Commander of the whole Pacific area, we would have no objection; indeed, I think we would prefer this course. If an Anzac area is not to be created, then we consider it essential that there should be no separation between Australia and New Zealand, which should continue to be regarded as integral parts of one area for purposes of offence and defence. This could no doubt be effectively achieved if the Supreme Commander of the Pacific were located in Australia. If, however, he were not so located or ceased to page 192 be so for any lengthy period, then we think that a separate commander (located in Australia or New Zealand) of the whole Anzac area as proposed, including both Australia and New Zealand, becomes essential.

There are very many loose strings about the proposed arrangements so far as we have been informed of them, and at the appropriate time it is intended to send a delegation to Australia, consisting of a Minister and the Chiefs of Staff, with a view to a clarification with the Australians of the position in the Anzac area.

We are, as you will have gathered from our telegrams repeated to you, prepared to waive all questions of detail if only we can get a combined Pacific command operating without any further delay, but we do regard it as absolutely essential that Australia and New Zealand should be treated as one for all purposes in this connection.

These views have been conveyed to Curtin and the suggestion made that, if the Australian Government agree, they might request Evatt to co-operate with you in this connection.