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

195 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

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

30 January 1942

Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister:

His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have reviewed the resources available to meet a Japanese attack comprising one division accompanied by possibly two aircraft-carrier groups and other naval units. This scale of attack is considered not unlikely under the present circumstances. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are strongly of the opinion that no reasonable security against carrier-borne air attack can be obtained unless the limited air striking forces available are provided with fighter protection. In addition, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand consider that some fighter protection in the form of interceptor aircraft is essential for the protection of at least the two main ports of Auckland and Wellington. Without fighter escort the effect of our bombing attacks on carriers will be greatly reduced. Without some protection for the two vital ports, the Government may have to face serious repercussions in the morale of the public which may lead to an appreciable diminution in the total war effort. It is earnestly requested that most sympathetic consideration should be given to the allocation of two squadrons of long-range fighters of 12 initial equipment and 6 immediate reserve aircraft for bomber escort duties, and two squadrons of single-engined fighters of 18 initial equipment and 9 immediate reserve for interception duties. In this connection His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are making provision for a network of radio direction-finding air warning stations and propose to develop an Air Observer Corps. While it is not desired to press for these units at the expense of aircraft allocated to the ABDA area, it is felt that there are good reasons at the present juncture for the allocation even on a temporary basis of such fighter squadrons to the Dominion, which may well become a necessary base page 219 for the defence and reinforcement of the South-West Pacific (properly so called), just as Australia will become a base for the ABDA area. In addition, steps are now being taken, at the request of the United States Government, to develop two aerodromes in the Dominion, with runways suitable for heavy American bombers, for use as an alternative reinforcing route or as a reinforcement base, and fighter protection for these aerodromes would appear to be essential. I do urge your personal interest in this matter.1