Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

top secret
Participants: Prime Minister of New Zealand, Peter Fraser;
Minister of New Zealand, Mr. C. A. Berendsen;
Secretary Byrnes

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Fraser, accompanied by Minister Berendsen, called this morning at his request.

After a preliminary discussion of developments at the recent meeting of the General Assembly in London, the Secretary brought up the question of Pacific bases. The Prime Minister stated that he had had a very good discussion with our men on yesterday and that there now remained merely the matter of adjustment, adding that “we were both after the same thing”. He said that it was just a matter now of arranging details. The Secretary went on to say that we ought to get together and determine the kind of agreement we wanted and get the matter disposed of.

The Secretary told the Prime Minister that it would be impossible for our military to maintain all the places in question in the Pacific. It would be far too costly. The Prime Minister concurred in this.

The Prime Minister said that back in 1944 when he had spoken with General Marshall13 about the Pacific Islands, he had asked General Marshall if, when the war was over, we would be in full control of these [Page 7]islands. General Marshall had replied that the Prime Minister sounded very generous, adding that when the war was over he hoped reductions might be made in this regard.

The Secretary said that people like those of his country and of New Zealand are not a military people. The sentiment in this country appears to be against universal training. Today or tomorrow the Army and Navy plans to submit to Congress a report recommending an increase in pay in the services as an inducement to getting men since we are not able to get them in sufficient number.

The Prime Minister said that the same conditions prevailed in Great Britain and that the Army there was considering the matter of an increase in the bonus.

The Secretary said that he thought that the terrible lesson of un-preparedness would remain but he was deceived in this. He said that he was going to deliver an address this coming Thursday14 to try to impress the people of the country along these lines. He said he could not conceive of another disaster of such a character that we would have a year and a half to two years time to prepare. Things move too quickly now.

The Secretary said that he had been advised that a few places in the Pacific should be kept. Christmas Island and Canton were of importance. The rest of the islands the people of the country just would not want to maintain.

The Prime Minister said that they would take care of the maintenance of Western Samoa.

The Prime Minister said that the first thing to do was to make the arrangement with the United States and then get the agreement registered. He said the one point of difference was whether we should declare it a strategic area. Mr. Fraser said that the matter would, of course, be settled satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, he said they were now about 99.9% in agreement.

The Prime Minister suggested that Mr. Searls15 might meet with representatives of the four powers concerned regarding the question of bases. The Secretary replied that he did not believe there was any necessity for having a four-power meeting since it would merely call attention to it and create a great deal of talk.

Mr. Fraser said that when he returned to his country, he would make it a point of going to Australia to discuss the matter.

Minister Berendsen said that France could not be ignored because of her ownership of New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. The Prime Minister said that he was sure that France would not cause any [Page 8]trouble. He said that, frankly, as long as China and Russia did not intervene, he anticipated no difficulty, adding that he did not want Russia and China coming in there at all.

The Secretary said that with regard to certain bases like the Azores, some arrangements would have to be made. He said that it would cost enough to keep these places up let alone maintaining places below the Equator that would be of no practical use to us.

  1. Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
  2. February 28.
  3. Fred Searls, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.