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

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

The New Zealand Minister, Washington, to the Prime Minister

10 May 1942

Further to my cable of 8 May [No. 286], the following is the text of a memorandum just received from Admiral King, dated 9 May:


As previously indicated, in the interest of homogeneity of the New Caledonia-Fiji-Samoa area, the United States division scheduled for New Zealand will be diverted to Fiji, thus ultimately relieving New Zealand troops and making Fiji a United States responsibility. With reference to troops on the way (cable [No. 286]), King now says that all troops are ready to embark on 17 May.


The suggested method is that two ships carrying the balance of the force (infantry, artillery) totalling 4500 men will be despatched direct to Fiji from the United States on approximately 17 May. The remainder of the division will be despatched direct to New Zealand on the same date.


Method. One of the two ships for Fiji will remain at Fiji and embark New Zealand troops to New Zealand. This ship is to run a shuttle service between Auckland and Fiji with United States troops from New Zealand and New Zealand troops from Fiji with comparable units. This arrangement is made necessary by comparison of the port facilities Auckland - Fiji. Owing to the shipping situation the New Zealand port must be Auckland.


The United States division now allocated to Fiji will eventually be increased by additional anti-aircraft and special service troops when shipping becomes available—estimated leaving the United States in July or August. In the meantime, anti-aircraft, etc., must remain in Fiji.


The United States intend to take over all the defence of Fiji, including naval, as soon as personnel, etc., becomes available. page 323 In the meantime New Zealand is to continue the responsibility for planned construction of all works and to operate port facilities until naval personnel are relieved by United States forces, when they will be returned to New Zealand.


The United States generally will eventually assume command of all Army, Navy, and Air forces in the Fiji Islands.


All plans are held up pending your approval.’

I am to see Marshall tomorrow in this connection, but before I further discuss with King and Williams sees Planners, could I have your reactions at the earliest moment?

Time has not permitted a full study of this suggested plan. My present view is that it does not meet the requirement of urgency. In your reply please include remarks on the capability of Fiji ports to handle more ships. July-August may be too late [group mutilated—unless?] urgency has passed.