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

203 — The Chief of the General Staff (Wellington) to the New Zealand Liaison Officer (London)

page 231

The Chief of the General Staff (Wellington) to the New Zealand Liaison Officer (London)

27 February 1942

For Brigadier Park from General Puttick.

Your telegram of 25 February.

My personal views, which may not necessarily be shared by the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff,1 are as follows:

1. The scale of attack on New Zealand depends upon the following factors:


The power of Allied naval forces to interfere decisively with an expedition or at least to inflict serious casualties.


The number and quality of RNZAF units.


The Japanese estimate of the strength and quality of the New Zealand land forces which could be concentrated at the point or points of attack.


The Japanese estimate of the value of New Zealand as


a link in the USA reinforcing chain;


an enemy base to intensify attacks on Australia and on Allied shipping proceeding east to west;


the final advanced USA base if Australia is lost;


a produce exporter.


Axis strategical plans, of which there is insufficient data to form an opinion. If these include a south-east drive by Germany and a western drive by Japan, both aimed at India, which seems to depend upon the Axis estimate of Russian strength and of the actual and potential strength of India, both military and political, then the scale of attack on New Zealand may possibly be reduced, though from an estimate of the Japanese divisions available she could simultaneously attack New Zealand in strength.


The Japanese shipping situation. In a recent survey there is some indication of a shortage, and casualties have since occurred but are probably balanced by captures and charters. On the information available I do not accept the shortage of shipping as restricting Japanese expeditions.


The Japanese estimate of the effect of a heavy attack on New Zealand on the morale of the NZEF in the Middle East, and the consequent effect on operations there.

2. Conclusions: There are so many imponderable factors in paragraph 1 that any forecast of enemy intentions must be largely guesswork. If it could be clearly established that Allied naval forces could effectively intervene against the expedition, I agree that the scale of

1 Then in Australia. See p. 159.

page 232 attack is likely to consist of sporadic raids only, but the defeat of the Allied naval forces would at once make invasion possible. If our air forces could attain a strength sufficient to be considerably superior at or near to the point of attack to a Japanese air force of four carriers plus aircraft from warships, then again invasion would appear to be improbable. But while these conditions are unfulfilled and while, at the same time, our land forces are only partially trained and are deficient in many important items of modern equipment, I regard the scale of attack against which New Zealand must prepare, and in fact is preparing, as one division supported by strong naval forces, including four aircraft carriers, and followed by a second division with reinforcing aircraft ferried by carriers. As Japan should feel competent, subject to the naval situation, to seize sheltered waters such as the Bay of Islands or Marlborough Sounds, I do not regard the capture of Fiji or New Caledonia as essentially a condition precedent to the invasion of New Zealand. In any case I cannot agree that Fiji or New Caledonia affect the scale of attack against which New Zealand must prepare as, in the event of their capture, it would be far too late to make increased preparations. At the same time I regard both places as highly important advanced bases for the enemy and the Allies and requiring the strongest possible defences.

3. I regard any suggestion of a brigade group as fantastic. What could it hope to achieve? It is a case of either initially a division, perhaps of a special type, or mere raids.1

1 On 28 February the Prime Minister sent copies of this telegram to the New Zealand Minister in Washington and to the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, c/o Prime Minister of Australia, Canberra.