Roosevelt Papers

Prime Minister Fraser to Prime Minister Churchill 1
most secret
most immediate

Addressed Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs No. 564 repeat Prime Minister Australia No. 430. Your telegram of 29th December No. 550 (Grey No. 159) and 551 (Grey No. 148).2 Following for Prime Minister.

H.M. Government in New Zealand are in cordial agreement proposal to appoint General Wavell in whose capacity they have every confidence and for whose character and standing they have the highest regard, to supreme command of that portion Pacific to which the proposed arrangements relate.

In opinion of H.M. Government in New Zealand the proposal does not go far enough. Defeat of Japan is essentially a question of sea power. Our object must be to regain that command of Western Pacific Ocean which is now completely in Japanese hands. Once we can cut Japanese sea communications, we shall regain any possession which we have lost and can ensure defeat of Japan by economic pressure as well as by military means. To attain this object the New [Page 294] Zealand Government feels it is essential all Naval forces in Pacific entente, including United States Pacific Fleet and British Eastern Fleet, should be under one unified command, which might be exercised by an American Admiral working in closest possible co-operation with General Wavell.
Until the above policy can be implemented H.M. Government in New Zealand are willing to concur in proposals in general. At the same time they are not without doubts on certain aspects on which they have made assumptions set out below. They would be glad to have confirmation of these assumptions or further information.
It is assumed that General Pownall now becomes “Commander-in-Chief at Singapore and Malaya”, and that the Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet, is to be superseded by “American Admiral” referred to in para, (d), who is to be subordinate to General Wavell.
It is noted that Naval command in area “East of Philippine Islands and Australasia” is to be American. They presume ambiguous term, “Australasia”, is intended to include New Zealand and that the line of demarcation is intended to follow line of ABC 1 report.3 If this is otherwise, it appears New Zealand must be dependent upon joint resources of Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy for Naval defence within this area, and that land and air defence of Fiji will remain a New Zealand commitment. H.M. Government in New Zealand are particularly concerned that this point should be clarified, and that a definition should also be given of Naval responsibility for protection of line New Hebrides—Fiji—Tonga which is at present apparently protected only by an air patrol operating from Fiji and such small Naval force as can be made available from Australia and New Zealand.
It is assumed from para. (f) that General Wavell’s authority is to include lines of communications from America to area in question and New Zealand Government are not without doubt as to whether this would give him authority over Fiji, which is one of the essential bases [apparent omission] prolonged lines of communication. They would raise no objection if this is so, but they would call attention to paramount importance of sea fortifications to safety of Fiji, which would appear to depend upon American Fleet at least until Fiji is powerfully reinforced.
No reference is made in para. (d) to New Zealand Naval forces. It is presumed they are intended to be included.
H.M. Government in New Zealand have two further observations to offer:
While they fully realise the necessity in time of war of making very urgent decisions, they feel it will be realised in London and in Washington that the short time at their disposal may not have given them adequate opportunity to raise proposals with care they require, and that further observations may become necessary after further study;
If General Wavell’s proposed command impinges directly or indirectly upon defence New Zealand or Fiji, they would wish instituted from the outset some form of liaison between them and General, perhaps by representations on joint staff referred to in para. (e), and they would also wish to be represented on “appropriate joint bodies” also referred to in para, (e) as to constitution of which they would be glad of further information.
  1. Forwarded from London by the Lord Privy Seal (Attlee) as telegram Taut No. 296 to Prime Minister Churchill, December 31; the source text in the Roosevelt Papers is Churchill’s copy No. 1.
  2. These telegrams have not been found in American files, but evidently one or both transmitted from London to Wellington the language contained in Churchill’s telegram of December 29 to Attlee concerning command in the Southwestern Pacific; for draft of December 28, see ante, p. 277, and for final text, see Churchill, The Grand Alliance, pp. 675–676.
  3. For explanation of ABC–1, see ante, p. 16, footnote 2.