277 Legation in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 85 WASHINGTON, 16 January 1942, 1.55 a.m.


For Chief of the Naval Staff [1] from Naval Attache. [2] Tropic No. 149 New Caledonia. Paper now approved by British and United States Chiefs of Staff contains inter alia a recommendation as follows:-

'Defence of New Caledonia should, in principle, be accepted as an Australian responsibility but that United States should, as a temporary measure, furnish forces as early as possible for defence of the island, and after meeting the emergency in the A.B.D.A.

area. Question of arming Free French troops should be taken up between United States and British Chiefs of Staff as soon as opinion has been received from Australia.'

2. United States Army indicated that above decision means a force of about 22,000 men including about [7,000] [3] infantry, 900 light field artillery armed with 12 75 mm. guns, 800 medium field artillery armed with 12 155 mm. Howitzers, 2,000 anti-aircraft artillery (mobile) armed with 24 3" anti-aircraft guns and 24 50 calibre anti-aircraft machine guns, 520 coast artillery armed with 8 15 [5] mm. guns, about 1500 air corps personnel (machines to come from pool being formed in Australia), miscellaneous [and] service troops.

3. Convoy containing this force is forecast to sail from United States east coast port about January 21st; I understand convoy will also contain units other than those due for New Caledonia and will not be tactically stowed. Whole convoy will proceed to Australia where New Caledonian force will be restowed tactically before proceeding to the island.

4. Although this force is earmarked for New Caledonia I understand final decision to send it to the island will be taken in the light of situation (especially in A.B.D.A. area) when convoy reaches Australia. United States War Department are particularly anxious about defence of aerodromes in northern Australia and adjacent Dutch islands from which their air forces may be operating although they are fully alive to the importance of securing New Caledonia and the consequences of its occupation by the enemy. You will no doubt see instructions sent to United States Commanding General, Australia [4], in this regard.

5. Please see Mr. Casey's telegram No. 86. [5] United States army authorities are most anxious for reasons of security that Free French in the island should not know of this impending reinforcement until a short time before its actual arrival.

1 Admiral Sir Guy Royle.

2 Commander D. H. Harries.

3 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 218A.

4 Lt Gen George H. Brett.

5 The Minister to the United States's cablegram of 16 January is on file AA:A981, New Caledonia 5A, ii.