Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
339 — Memorandum from Lieutenant-General Puttick to the Minister of Defence1 — Overseas Operations
Memorandum from Lieutenant-General Puttick to the Minister of Defence1
1. In response to a request from the Commander South Pacific—Admiral Ghormley, USN—I called on him on Tuesday, 28 July.
2. His views on the employment of New Zealand troops in any forthcoming operations are as follows:2
To provide forces of all arms to follow up United States amphibious troops and hold captured areas, in order to release the United States troops for further amphibious operations, for which they have been specially trained and equipped.
The size of the New Zealand forces necessary for operations would naturally depend upon the scope of the operations and the actual locality or localities involved. He suggested that New Zealand should prepare at once to provide the following alternative forces so as to be able to meet any contingency at short notice:
New Zealand Forces should be prepared to embark at any time after 25 August.
Regarding amphibious training, Admiral Ghormley informed me that sufficient troops trained in this type of operation were available but that the special equipment required was in short supply, though of course the 1st Marine Division was fully equipped. He therefore regarded the role proposed in paragraph 2 (a) as the one New Zealand should prepare for.
3. On the assumption that it is the wish of War Cabinet that New Zealand troops should take part in offensive operations against the Japanese, I propose that the following preparations be put in hand forthwith:
Adopt Force ‘D’ as our target for planning.
Use the 3rd Division (ex Fiji) as the basis of the force, and add the necessary units and services from existing New Zealand formations.
Appoint at once a divisional commander to command the 3rd Division so that in the event of War Cabinet deciding to send Force ‘D’, the Commander will have taken part in its page 353 organisation, equipping, and training, or in the event of a smaller force being required, an experienced Commander is charged with its preparation.
4. The proposals in paragraph 3 involve considerable work and there is no time to spare. The additions required to the 3rd Division will have to be found from all over New Zealand so as to interfere as little as possible with the plans for defence of the country. The bulk of the additional forces required will have to be found from the Army Reserve Brigade Group, and from existing anti-aircraft and coast defence units.
5. These measures will naturally reduce the strength of the forces available for Home Defence. On the other hand, the greatly increased power of the Army Tank Brigade, the improvement in the efficiency of the Home Guard, and the improved equipment situation plus the additional training that has taken place in the interim will leave the forces relatively more powerful than they were three months ago.
Further, the Pacific situation has improved somewhat though admittedly Japanese plans cannot be foreseen with certainty. It can, I think, be claimed that the position in the Pacific is definitely more secure because of the increased all-round United States strength in the Pacific and Australia, apart from any increase in our own efficiency.
There must always be some danger to be accepted in war, but if every possible danger is to be guarded against to the fullest possible extent, forces which should, in order to win the war, be used offensively or in support of offensive action, will be tied down to defensive action or in other words contained by the possibility of enemy attack, and this can only lead to the creation of the very dangers which it is desired to avoid.
6. I have therefore to recommend for consideration of War Cabinet that New Zealand should assist in the direction indicated by Admiral Ghormley to the maximum possible extent.
In the meantime I am proceeding with the reorganisation of the 3rd Division, and have already given some preference to the Army Reserve Brigade Group in the posting of men of categories suitable for overseas service. In this latter connection I recommend that the age for such service be reduced to 20 years to reduce the reorganisation that will be necessary.
(Sgd) E. Puttick,
Commanding new zealand military forces
1 Hon. F. Jones, Minister of Defence, 1935–49.
2 On 24 July War Cabinet gave General Puttick authority to discuss with United States naval authorities in New Zealand the amphibious training to be undertaken by New Zealand troops and the equipment necessary, and instructed him to submit recommendations ‘on the employment of New Zealand forces in amphibian operations’.
3 For clarity, the abbreviations in the original text have been spelt in full.