Defense Files

Report by the Planning Committee of the United States and British Chiefs of Staff1
United States: ABC–4/3
British: WW(JPC)3

Supporting Measures for the Southwest Pacific
(The Far East Area and Adjacent Regions)


1. Chiefs of Staff Directive to the Joint Planning Committee.

Until such time as the wider problem of the unified control of all available forces in the Southwest Pacific Area is solved, the aim must be to reinforce the Philippine Islands, Malaya, and the Netherlands East Indies, to the maximum extent, and to make the best possible arrangements for ensuring the safe arrival and the most effective intervention of these reinforcements.

Having regard to the existing situation in the Far East and the Southwest Pacific, the Joint Planning Committee is asked to make recommendations as to the disposition of the reinforcements, particularly air forces, expected to be available in the Southwest Pacific Area on:—

15th January, 1942.
1st February, 1942.

on the following alternative assumptions:—

The Philippines and Singapore both hold.
Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies hold, but the Philippines do not.
Neither Singapore nor the Philippines holds.

concept of operations

2. Our basic strategic concept is to maintain initially the strategic defensive in the Southwest Pacific Theatre. The present strength of forces in that area is insufficient to maintain that defensive position.

After providing immediate reinforcements for defense, and as additional forces become available, it will become possible to undertake offensive operations and ultimately to conduct an all-out offensive against Japan. Accordingly, although our operations in the near future must be primarily for defense, they should be so conducted as to further our preparations for a future offensive.

3. The general strategic policy should therefore be:— [Page 281]

To hold the Malay Barrier, defined as the line Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, North Australia, as the basic defensive position of the Far East Area, and to operate air and sea forces in as great depth as possible forward of the Barrier in order to oppose the Japanese southward advance.
To hold Burma and Australia as essential supporting positions for the Far East Area, and Burma as essential to the support of China and to the defense of India.
To reestablish communications with Luzon and to support the Philippines’ Garrison.
To maintain communications to Burma and Australia, and to and within the Far East Area.
To obtain in the Far East Area and Australasia all possible supplies to relieve shipping requirements.

forces and reinforcements

4. The estimated strength of forces initially in the Area, and the reinforcements ordered or planned to be sent are shown in the attached tables (Annexes I, II, and III).2 Future reinforcements should be planned in accordance with approved strategic policy, having due regard to the essential requirements of other theatres.


5. It is recommended that, until such time as the wider problem of the unified control of all available forces in the Southwest Pacific Area is solved:–

Under the assumption that the Philippines and Singapore both hold, the total reinforcements available up to 1st February, 1942, as shown on the attached table,2 should go forward as now arranged, subject to the direction of the commander to whom they are assigned.
Under the assumption that Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies hold, but the Philippines do not, the total United States reinforcements available up to 1st February, 1942, should be employed in furtherance of the defenses of key points on the Malay Barrier, and for protection of the vital lines of communication from the east. In the absence of unity of command, detailed dispositions of these reinforcements must be left to the senior United States Army commander, in collaboration with the senior British, Dutch, and Australian commanders. Under this assumption the planned disposition of British reinforcements remains unchanged.
Under the assumption that neither Singapore nor the Philippines holds, the total reinforcements available up to 1st February, 1942, be used for the defense of the remainder of the Malay Barrier, Burma, and Australia, United States reinforcements being used to the eastward, and British reinforcements to the westward.

[Page 282]

Note.—The subject of reinforcements for New Zealand and Fiji is being considered separately.

  1. This report was considered at the meeting of the Chiefs of Staff on December 31, ante, p. 145.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.