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

158 — The High Commissioner for New Zealand (London) to the Prime Minister3

The High Commissioner for New Zealand (London) to the Prime Minister3

12 March 1942

The Pacific War Council met this afternoon. The United States message referred to in my telegram is in substance:

To a line west of Singapore operations in the whole Pacific will be the responsibility of the United States of America. The activities of the Services will be decided in Washington by the United States Chiefs of Staff. An Advisory Council with representatives of Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands East Indies, China, and perhaps Canada, is to be established in Washington under the presidency of an American. The existing London Pacific War Council page 171 might be moved to America, at any rate in so far as operations are concerned, leaving the Council in London to deal with political questions. The Supreme Command in the area to be American, but local control of Australia, New Zealand, China, and Dutch East Indies is to be exercised by a national of each of these countries. An arrangement such as outlined above would relieve the British, since America is accepting definite responsibility, except that Britain would supplement American efforts with material where possible. The United Kingdom is to control the area from west of Singapore to the West Mediterranean, with such assistance as Australia and New Zealand can afford, America assisting with munitions and tonnage where possible. The Atlantic area is to be under the joint control of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The grand strategy of all three areas would, however, continue as at present.

The American proposals were welcomed by the British Chiefs of Staff as containing elements of simplicity. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands1 preferred not to move the whole control to Washington, preferring to have a body here to discuss the situation, since America has had no experience of war. Earle Page thought consideration of the proposals should be deferred and agreed with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. I said that as I had observed Churchill's request not to communicate the United States suggestions to you on Tuesday, I had no knowledge of your mind, but expressed the personal opinion that the United States was geographically well situated for control of the Pacific area, yet the proposal that control be entirely in the hands of American people might be questioned, and we should have more confidence if representatives of our countries and men of the British Services were associated wherever operations were being considered, as the experience and tradition of our Services would surely be worth something to their American colleagues. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Attlee agreed. The First Sea Lord2 agreed that the United States should be given operational control.

Churchill favours the American proposals in general provided that the Empire has power to call attention and express an opinion on any movement. He will cable his reply to the President of the United States and let us have the text of such reply shortly. He will probably cable you direct. I should be grateful for your observations at a very early date. Meeting Tuesday.

3 Repeated to the New Zealand Minister, Washington.

1 Dr P. S. Gerbrandy, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, 1940–45; Minister for the Co-ordination of Warfare of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 1942–45.

2 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, GCB, GCVO, OM; First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, 1939–43; died 21 Oct 1943.