Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
458 — The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
As you are aware, plans for British participation in the Japanese war have until now been restricted to the British Pacific Fleet, the Very Long Range Bomber Force, to operations in South-East Asia Command, and to Australian operations under United States command in the South-West Pacific area.
2. The over-all objective in the war against Japan is to force the unconditional surrender of the Japanese by:
Lowering the Japanese ability and will to resist by establishing sea and air blockades, conducting an intensive air bombardment, and destroying Japanese naval and air strength.
Invading and seizing objectives in the industrial heart of Japan.
We have not hitherto planned to provide land forces to take part in operations against the Japanese main islands, but with the early capture of Rangoon1 and the prospect of the opening of the Malacca Straits before the end of the year, it has been possible to reconsider the whole problem.
3. A preliminary examination has shown that it might now be possible to provide a British Commonwealth force of some three to five divisions, carried in British shipping and supported by British naval forces and a small tactical air component. The whole force would be placed under United States command.
4. I am well aware that the New Zealand Government wish to take part in operations against Japan, and therefore I propose, with your agreement, that the Headquarters and two infantry brigades of the New Zealand Division now in Italy should join this force, and that the Royal New Zealand Air Force should form part of the air component. Ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy are already operating with the British Pacific Fleet.
5. I am sending a similar proposal to the Prime Minister of Australia.
6. I am sure you would agree with me that a joint Commonwealth force of British, Australian, New Zealand, British-Indian and possibly Canadian divisions would form a striking demonstration of Commonwealth solidarity, and that it is important that we should share with the Americans the burden of the assault on Japan. If you concur, I will approach the President to obtain agreement in principle to a proposal on these lines. It would then be for the staffs to work out the exact size, composition and role of the British Commonwealth force.page 489
7. In presenting our proposal to the Americans, we wish also to discuss the question of command in the South-West Pacific area.
8. The United States Chiefs of Staff have recently proposed that they should hand over the South-West Pacific area, less the Philippines and the Admiralty Islands bases, to British command. They do not intend, however, to leave in this area any resources which it is possible to move further forward, and we are therefore loath to accept responsibility for this area at the time proposed (15 August).
9. If our proposals for participation in the assault on Japan are accepted, however, it would clearly be desirable eventually to assume responsibility for the South-West Pacific area, particularly if the Australian Division were taken from that area.
10. Our tentative proposals, therefore, would take the form that the United States should hand over responsibility for the South-West Pacific area, less the Philippines, as soon as practicable, probably after the recapture of Singapore, and that the Australian Chiefs of Staff, linked with the Combined Chiefs of Staff through the British Chiefs of Staff, should take over that part of the area east of the Celebes, while the remainder should come under the Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia. Details of the boundaries must, of course, await broad agreement.
11. I would be grateful if you could give me your views on these proposals. A very early reply would be appreciated in order that the proposals may be discussed at the next conference.