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

286 — The New Zealand Minister, Washington, to the Prime Minister

The New Zealand Minister, Washington, to the Prime Minister

8 May 1942

At my interview with Admiral King yesterday, I objected strongly to the rather precipitate method followed in connection with the proposal to alter the command at Fiji. In spite of this method of doing the job I am satisfied the weight of evidence supports the proposal and that it is the best procedure to follow.

This morning I discussed the matter again with the Admiral and he stated that the need for strengthening Fiji at once was discussed with Admiral Nimitz when King visited the west coast last week, and they both felt that the necessary urgent strengthening of the islands could be accomplished more quickly if they took over the defence of Fiji, and it was the fact that some troops were on the way which caused them to hurry; he agreed that the preliminaries were carried out rather precipitately.

page 321

Yesterday he advised Sir John Dill and Admiral Stark, so the question will be raised in London from several sources.

The discussion this morning was in every way helpful. I stressed the imperative need of six divisions being available fully trained in New Zealand if it was to be adequately defended, and urged that further amphibious divisions should be trained in the Dominion. The trouble at present is mainly that troops are limited in number and there are pulls for them from all sources, particularly Australia and Britain. I stressed again the fact that training in New Zealand would serve a double purpose—defence of the Dominion and readiness for the offensive when the time is ripe. I also suggested that we would train some of our men for amphibious work if essential equipment was provided and then they could take their part with Americans in the offensive. The position looked much better when I left.

When the proposed transfer of Fiji has been considered by the United Kingdom and yourself, and if approved, we can go into details, which will require much thought.

King said the proposal to take over would provide for United States forces on the way to get off at Fiji, and the ships to come on to New Zealand with our men.

I have arranged to discuss the Dominion position and the Fiji proposals with General Marshall at 11 a.m. Monday morning.