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War Economy

Tension Reduces in the Pacific

Tension Reduces in the Pacific

The Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942, though this may not have been realised at the time, had been a turning point of the war in the Pacific. In early August 1942, United States forces had landed at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Later in the same month the Japanese attack had been turned back in a large-scale sea battle off the East Solomons. On 30 November 1942 the naval battle off Guadalcanal stopped the southward drive of the Japanese. Of Guadalcanal, Admiral Halsey said:2

‘… This battle was a decisive American victory by any standard. It was also the third great turning point in the war in the Pacific. Midway stopped the Japanese advance in the Central Pacific; Coral Sea stopped it in the South West Pacific; Guadalcanal stopped it in the South Pacific…. If our ships and planes had been routed in this battle, if we had lost it, our troops on Guadalcanal would have been trapped as were our troops on Bataan. We could not have reinforced them or relieved them…. Unobstructed, the enemy would have driven south, cut our supply line to New Zealand and Australia and enveloped them.’

Much bitter fighting still remained, but War Cabinet's assessment of priorities changed and the home army was allowed to decline.

In November 1942 there were 104,000 persons serving in New Zealand, 3000 fewer than at peak mobilisation. Between November 1942 and August 1943 their numbers decreased by 31,000. However, while the home forces were decreasing, there was an increasing outflow of men for overseas service. The 3rd Division moved into page 484 the Pacific in the last months of 1942, and reached a strength of 12,600 in January 1943, which was raised to 17,700 by September and kept at about this level for the following six months. The number serving in all areas did not fall below 140,000 until after August 1943.

2 As quoted in The War, 1939–1945, p. 715; edited by D. Flower and J. Reeves.