Defense Files

Report by the United States and British Chiefs of Staff1
United States: ABC–4/5
British: WW–3(Final)2

Draft Directive to the Supreme Commander in the ABDA Area

By agreement among the Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, hereinafter referred to as the ABDA Governments:

1. Area.

A strategic area has been constituted, to comprise initially all land and sea areas included in the general region Burma–Malaya–Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines; more precisely defined in Annex 1.3 This area will be known as the ABDA Area.

2. Forces.

You have been designated as the Supreme Commander of the ABDA Area and of all armed forces, afloat, ashore, and in the air, of the ABDA Governments, which are:

Stationed in the Area;
Located in Australian territory when such forces have been allotted by the respective governments for services in or in support of the ABDA Area.

You are not authorized to transfer from the territory of any of the ABDA Governments land forces of that government without the consent of the local commander or his government.

3. The Deputy Supreme Commander and, if required, a commander of the combined naval forces and a commander of the combined air forces will be jointly designated by the ABDA Goverments.

4. No government will materially reduce its armed forces assigned to your Area nor any commitments made by it for reinforcing its forces in your Area except after giving to the other governments, and to you, timely information pertaining thereto.

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5. Strategic Concept and Policy.

The basic strategic concept of the ABDA Governments for the conduct of the war in your Area is to maintain initially the strategic defensive. The ABDA Governments intend to provide immediate reinforcements for defense. As additional forces become available, it will become possible to take the offensive and ultimately to conduct an all-out offensive against Japan. The first essential is to gain general air superiority at the earliest possible moment, through the employment of concentrated air power. The piecemeal employment of air forces should be minimized. Although your operations in the near future must be primarily for defense, they should be so conducted as to further preparations for that offensive.

6. The general strategic policy will therefore be:—

To hold the Malay Barrier, defined as the line Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, North Australia, as the basic defensive position of the ABDA Area, and to operate sea, land, and air 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 Area, and Burma as essential to the support of China, and to the defense of India.
To re-establish communications through the Dutch East Indies with Luzon and to support the Philippines’ Garrison.
To maintain essential communications within the Area.

7. Duties, Responsibilities, and Authority of the Supreme Commander.

You will coordinate in the ABDA Area the strategic operations of all armed forces of the ABDA Governments; assign them strategic missions and objectives; where desirable, arrange for the formation of task forces, whether national or international, for the execution of specific operations; and appoint any officer, irrespective of seniority or nationality, to command such task forces.

8. While you will have no responsibilities in respect of the internal administration of the respective forces under your command, you are authorized to direct and coordinate the creation and development of administrative facilities and the broad allocation of war materials.

9. You will dispose reinforcements which from time to time may be dispatched to the Area by the ABDA Governments.

10. You are authorized to require from the Commanders of the armed forces under your command such reports as you deem necessary in the discharge of your responsibilities as Supreme Commander.

11. You are authorized to control the issue of all communiqués concerning the forces under your command.

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12. Through the channels specified in Paragraph 18, you may submit recommendations to the ABDA Governments on any matters pertaining to the furtherance of your mission.

13. Limitations.

Your authority and control with respect to the various portions of the ABDA Area and to the forces assigned thereto will normally be exercised through the commanders duly designated by their respective governments. Interference is to be avoided in the administrative processes of the armed forces of any of the ABDA Governments, including free communication between them and their respective governments. No alteration or revision is to be made in the basic tactical organization of such forces, and each national component of a task force will normally operate under its own commander and will not be subdivided into small units for attachment to the other national components of the task force. In general, your instructions and orders will be limited to those necessary for effective coordination of forces in the execution of your mission.

14. Relations With ABDA Governments.

The ABDA Governments will jointly and severally support you in the execution of the duties and responsibilities as herein defined, and in the exercise of the authority herein delegated and limited. Commanders of all sea, land, and air forces within your Area will be immediately informed by their respective governments that, from a date to be notified, all orders and instructions issued by you in conformity with the provisions of this directive will be considered by such commanders as emanating from their respective governments.

15. If any of your immediate subordinates, after making due representation to you, still considers that obedience to your orders would jeopardize the national interests of his country to an extent unjustified by the general situation in the ABDA Area, he has the right, subject to your being immediately notified of such intention, to appeal direct to his own government before carrying out the orders. Such appeals will be made by the most expeditious method, and a copy of the appeal will be communicated simultaneously to you.

16. Staff and Assumption of Command.

Your staff will include officers of each of the ABDA powers. You are empowered to communicate immediately with the national commanders in the Area with a view to obtaining staff officers essential to your earliest possible assumption of command. Your additional staff requirements will be communicated as soon as possible to the ABDA Governments through channels of communication described in Paragraph 18.

17. You will report when you are in a position effectively to carry out the essential functions of Supreme Command, so that your assumption of command may be promulgated to all concerned.

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18. Superior Authority.

As Supreme Commander of the ABDA Area, you will be directly responsible to the ABDA Governments through the agency defined in Annex 2.4

(By Power furnishing Supreme Commander)

Other ABDA Representatives.

  1. The source text was Annex 3 to JCCSs–7; see ante, p. 147. The report was apparently sent to the President on the afternoon of December 31, under cover of the memorandum signed by the United States Chiefs of Staff, ante, p. 287.
  2. Despite the designation “Final”, the draft directive to the Supreme Commander in the ABDA area and Annex 2 thereto were subsequently modified as a result of the meeting in the White House on January 1, ante, p. 152. See ABC–4/5 (Approved), WW–6, January 10, 1942, post, p. 313.
  3. Annex 1 was a copy of the paper entitled “Boundaries of ABDA Area”, which was Annex 1 to ABC–4/5, WW–3, dated December 30, 1941, ante, p. 292.
  4. Annex 2 was a copy of the memorandum of December 30, entitled “Higher Direction of War in the ABDA Area”, ante, p. 288.