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

Part 1: south pacific islands

Part 1: south pacific islands

(1) If adequate naval and air forces could operate from the South Pacific Islands and the Australian mainland be held, the invasion of New Zealand is extremely unlikely, although raiding operations against shipping and shore installations in New Zealand are possible.

(2) With the Japanese in possession of the Netherlands East Indies, attack on these Islands becomes almost a certainty.

(3) The scale of attack is assessed at not less than one division, but this could be increased if the Japanese thought it necessary. Naval escort would consist probably of six 8-inch cruisers, three to five aircraft carriers (120 to 240 aircraft) and twenty destroyers, with the addition of one to thirty submarines operating in the area. Simultaneous attacks are possible against more than one group of islands, or alternatively these forces could be concentrated against each group in turn.

(4) The report discusses the responsibility for local defence, naval, army and air, and points out the weakness in regard to Western Samoa.2

page 252

(5) Recommendations on New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa. To achieve as rapidly as possible a reasonable standard of security for these islands the following action should be taken immediately:


The Anzac area should be extended to include the Samoan Group of islands.


The naval forces in the Anzac area should be maintained on the following scale: six 8-inch cruisers, three 6-inch cruisers, one large aircraft carrier, one small aircraft carrier, four armed merchant cruisers, twelve destroyers; reinforcements to effect this cannot be provided from British sources.


The army and air forces in the Islands should be completed to the approved target figures noted in Dominions Office telegram No. 97 dated 6 February 1942 to the New Zealand Government,1 plus one long-range General Reconnaissance squadron and one torpedo or medium bomber squadron for Fiji, and one longe-range General Reconnaissance squadron for New Caledonia. These cannot at present be provided from British sources.


The operation of all air forces based in these Islands should be co-ordinated under the strategic direction of the Commander-in-Chief Anzac Area. A single Air Commander is essential.


The necessary aerodromes should be developed under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief Anzac Area.


The United States of America should be invited to assume the responsibility for the local defence of Western Samoa and to provide such additional measures of defence as are required.


Development of a protected fleet anchorage in the Fiji Group, to be selected by the Commander-in-Chief Anzac Area, should be accelerated, and adequate anti-submarine and mine-sweeping vessels should be provided.


An improved coast-watching and RDF system should be organised.

(6) In regard to Fanning Island and French Oceania, the report recommends that the USA be invited to assume responsibility for the defence of these islands.