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

13 March 1942

13 March 1942

Reference Mr Nash's telegram [No. 207].

A general appreciation of the defence situation of this Dominion was contained in a telegram addressed by the Chief of the General Staff to the Military Liaison Officer, London, and repeated to you … [on] 28 February last. Though the appreciation given therein was stated as the personal opinion of the Chief of the General Staff, it does in fact represent the views of the Chiefs of the Naval and Air Staffs and is in general concurred in by us.

page 237

2. It is noted that in your telegram no request is made for an appreciation of the naval defence problems, and it is assumed that this omission is due to the fact that naval defence is to a large extent now the responsibility of the United States Navy. It must be emphasised, however, that the most effective insurance against invasion is that given by naval forces, which should with adequate air support intercept any enemy expedition before it reaches New Zealand. Moreover, naval forces with adequate air cover must be the mainstay of our subsequent offensive, for which we should start to prepare now. The preparation of naval bases for the United States Pacific Fleet must therefore receive very high priority. Proposals for Auckland and Suva, including an estimate of the materials required, were furnished to you in a telegram from the New Zealand Naval Board No. 2223Z of 8 March,1 and a message from the Commonwealth Naval Board No. 1438Z of 3 March (amended by 2100 of 4 March) to the British Admiralty Delegation, Washington.2 The defences of Nandi are being investigated by the staffs of comanzac and the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board in collaboration, and proposals are contained in a message from the Commonwealth Naval Board to the British Admiralty Delegation, Washington, 0930Z of 9 March.3 Plans for Tongatabu have not yet been made pending a decision as to whether this will become, as we propose, a United States responsibility.4 As to equipment, the provision of additional auxiliary vessels is particularly urgent, and in this connection my telegram of 19 February [No. 200] refers.

3. In my telegram of 28 February the scale of enemy attack estimated by the Chief of the General Staff was two divisions. We do not consider this excessive. There can be no certainty it will not be exceeded in view of the fact that a greater proportion of the twenty-nine Japanese divisions or more in the South-West Pacific area may, having now completed their first task, be diverted for the attack on this area. The problem must therefore be approached from the point of view of doing the maximum possible to secure both Fiji and New Zealand as bases for a future offensive. The most convenient way of answering the questions on land and air defence which you ask in your telegram is to consider the army and air problems separately. Section II of this message will therefore deal with the army side and Section III with the air. There is an added Section IV giving a brief appreciation of the manpower situation.

1 Not published.

2 Not published.

3 Not published. Listed in detail the requirements recommended for anti-submarine defence at Nandi.