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

227 — 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 June 1942

We have recently given further consideration to the effect of the exclusion of the New Zealand land and air forces from Admiral Ghormley's command. It had been our intention that he should take full advantage of, and assume full responsibility for, the development and equipment of all our forces to meet the requirements both of defence and future offensive operations.

2. As regards the Army, we feel that the developments now in progress will produce forces which eventually will be capable of being employed on offensive operations in conjunction with American forces. But that does not apply to the Air Force unless special arrangements are made.

3. Before making any representation to Admiral King or to the Pacific War Council we desire to know the circumstances which led to the exclusion of the New Zealand land and air forces from Admiral Ghormley's command. We appreciate that Admiral King may have desired to prevent Admiral Ghormley being concerned too much with domestic matters in New Zealand or with land defence problems, but we feel that if the exclusion resulted from any idea that it was our wish that the exclusion should be made, then a misunderstanding has arisen which ought to be removed at once.

4. If you are able to answer this question adequately without reference to Admiral King we would prefer that you should do so at this juncture. If it is necessary for you to consult Admiral King, then you should make it clear to him that it was never our desire to exclude any of our forces from the South Pacific Command, and that we are anxious that these forces shall play their full part in future offensive operations as far as they may be required to do so (subject always to the condition agreed to by Admiral King as set out in your telegram [No. 181]1—that each nation retains the power to refuse the use of its forces for any project which it considers inadvisable), and that they page 263 should be trained and equipped in co-ordination with United States forces with this object in view. In this connection you should stress that this proposal relates particularly to the New Zealand Air Force, which has excellent and extensive resources for producing first-class squadrons and only lacks the means of equipping those squadrons with modern equipment. We do not wish, at the moment, to press for the inclusion of the New Zealand Army within Admiral Ghormley's command beyond what is already provided for.

5. It may be that the development and re-equipment of the RNZAF can proceed independently of the remainder of the United States air forces in the South Pacific, but in our judgment it is desirable that the principle of unity of command should be applied. This principle may become of great importance in the event of naval operations within striking distance of New Zealand air bases. It would be almost essential in the event of air attack against Auckland or Wellington, when United States air forces and anti-aircraft defences would have to operate under RNZAF control. It might apply with advantage also in the matter of maintenance and base facilities for American air forces in New Zealand.

6. If, in the event of your consulting Admiral King, it transpires that he does not wish Admiral Ghormley to become involved in the planning for future operations except in regard to the forces placed at his disposal, then you should ask whether King would be willing to receive an appreciation of the potentialities of the New Zealand Air Force which might be taken into consideration by his own planning staff at Washington.

1 See Division of Strategic Responsibility between the United Kingdom and United States.