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

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

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

19 March 1942

Will you kindly convey the following message through the appropriate channels from me to President Roosevelt:

‘1. Mr Churchill has advised me of the offer which you have been so good as to make through him to despatch to New Zealand a division of the United States Army in order to enable us to retain in the Middle East the New Zealand Forces which are at present engaged there. I have informed Mr Churchill that we warmly welcome and at once accept this offer, and I wish to extend to you personally an expression of our deep gratitude and appreciation.

‘2. In our view it is impossible to exaggerate the importance in the war against Japan of New Zealand and Fiji as essential stepping-stones on the route of aerial reinforcements from the United States, or of New Zealand itself as one, with Australia, of the only two possible strongpoints in this part of the world which can and must be held during the defensive period until, when the time for the offensive arrives, they become vitally essential as the only possible bases from which that offensive can spring. These facts seem to us to be so patent that they must be apparent to the Japanese, who may well act accordingly. Substantial Japanese forces are obviously now free for further page 249 adventures, and it seems to us, therefore, that time is of the very essence of the matter if a Japanese attack in this direction is certainly to be repulsed, and we are not without the gravest apprehension lest the help that you are sending to us may arrive too late.

‘3. If, therefore, in addition to the naval forces which we have been so happy to welcome in the South-Western Pacific (whose recent activities have been such a great encouragement and inspiration to us) there is any opportunity of expediting and, if possible, indeed increasing, the help in men and, not less important, in equipment which the United States is now so generously extending to us, believe me Mr President this would not only be a matter of the greatest satisfaction to us but, we think, a very substantial contribution to our combined war effort in the Pacific.’