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

(a) Relative strategical importance of European and Pacific theatres

(a) Relative strategical importance of European and Pacific theatres

2nd Division 3rd Division
(i) Germany is still the chief enemy. She has a highly important Allied country under attack by air and submarine and under some threat of invasion. She is affecting to some degree British production and morale and reducing Allied shipping strength. Although unlikely, it is still possible that she could win the war if by inventions or strategical surprise her submarine and air attacks again became sufficiently effective, or she might create a stalemate.
She exposes the people of Britain to danger and imposes restrictions in lighting, assembly, and food which after over four years may seriously affect morale.
(i) Japan has no important Allied country other than China under similar attack or threat.
She is not affecting Allied production or morale, nor reducing shipping to any appreciable extent.
Her submarines and air strength are not favourably situated, as are Germany's, to create a danger of Allied defeat.
She does not affect to any degree the safety or comfort of any large Allied population other than China, and her operations have little effect on morale.
(ii) British and United States weakness in Europe is the small number of battle-experienced divisions to meet the war-experienced German Army.
Every battle-experienced division in Europe is literally vital to the success of pending operations.
There are signs that a really big effort may defeat Germany quickly.
(ii) Proportionately, the number of battle-experienced divisions employed and likely to be employed immediately in the Pacific areas is very high, and the loss of one is relatively of nothing like the same importance as is the case in Europe. There are no indications that Japan can be defeated in the near future.
(iii) Participation in the European theatre is marked evidence of the cohesion of the British Commonwealth to our Allies and enemies, stiffens British morale which has been under strain for over four years, and follows the principle of true strategy in concentrating on the principal and most dangerous enemy.
An example of a similar attitude to that of New Zealand is Canada, who, although her interest in the Pacific must be very real, has, except for Hong Kong and Kiska, concentrated her armed effort in Europe.
(iii) Participation in the Pacific theatre from the British Empire point of view is more defensive than offensive in character, in that it protects New Zealand and is not directed against the most dangerous enemy. It offers no prospects of quick success, with the consequent relief from various dangers of losing the war and power to concentrate total forces against the one remaining enemy, as is the case in the European war.
page 451

The advantages resulting and the dangers avoided through the defeat of Germany are so important as to make the European theatre of predominant strategical importance, and consequently the fullest possible concentration should be made there to defeat Germany at the earliest possible date.