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

297 — The Prime Minister to the New Zealand Minister, Washington — [Extract]

The Prime Minister to the New Zealand Minister, Washington

9 June 1942

Will you please see Admiral King and give him the following personal message from me:

‘We wonder whether there has been some misunderstanding of our attitude in connection with the proposed retention in Fiji in the meantime of the New Zealand troops now stationed there.1 We felt that they would be an additional insurance in circumstances of considerable risk, with comparatively little to resist it, of an attack in force by the Japanese. Despite the risk which we apprehended and still do apprehend to New Zealand itself, we had felt that these troops would be of greater value in Fiji than in New Zealand, and our decision to leave them there, if this was considered desirable, was one

1 Mr Nash had reported on 30 May to Mr Fraser, ‘exclusively for your personal information’, an interview with Admiral King ‘at which I discussed Ghormley's proposal re leaving our men at Fiji. I think Ghormley's proposal good and your response to the suggestion excellent, and I told King so. His feeling, however, is that Ghormley should not have made the suggestion, which might affect the United States' promise to send a division to New Zealand and their plans for disposition in the Islands. I still think that your decision on Ghormley's suggestion was correct and reiterated this to King.’

page 328 which we hoped would be welcomed in Washington. We wonder whether in arriving at what we believe to be your decision on this matter you might perhaps have felt that our agreement to leave our men in Fiji might lead to a request, which might be embarrassing to you, for additional United States troops for New Zealand in substitution. If this thought did in fact influence you, I hasten to assure you that this is not the case and that our offer was and remains completely unconditional. We still feel that it is undoubtedly the right course to take, and we hope that it is still perhaps not too late for you to reconsider the matter. A substantial reason, not previously referred to, for considering it essential to augment the forces in Fiji is the necessity for supplementing the facilities for operating air forces by building new airfields. These new airfields should not we think be constructed without disposing forces for their defence, which under the establishment contemplated would not be available. I should make it clear in case of misunderstanding that this message is from the New Zealand Government and not from Admiral Ghormley, whom we have not in the circumstances again consulted.’

2. If it is not possible in your opinion to alter Admiral King's views on the retention in Fiji of the New Zealand troops, we will ask you in due course to endeavour to ensure that our suggestion as to individual reliefs, which you have told us in your telegram [No. 291] was agreed to in principle, will actually be applied in practice….1

1 A reference to morale in the United States plan for the relief of Fiji has been omitted.