505 Shedden to Burton

Memorandum MELBOURNE, 15 April 1947

Reference is made to cablegram No.72 dated 4th April, from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, asking that steps be taken immediately to secure the agreement of the Government of the United States to the reduction of the New Zealand army component in Japan from a brigade group of 4,239 personnel approximately to a brigade on a reduced basis of a total of approximately 2,400 all ranks.

2. The intention of the New Zealand Government to reduce its army component in Japan, as previously conveyed in cablegrams Nos. 29 and 43, has been considered by the Defence Committee (augmented to include representatives of the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand), which noted with regret the New Zealand proposal but felt there was no alternative but to accept it. The Minister for Defence is in agreement with this view, having regard to New Zealand's stated manpower difficulties, and, unless your Department wishes to raise any special aspect, it is asked that the following cablegram be despatched now to the Australian Ambassador, Washington (repeated to Wellington, London and New Delhi with reference to New Zealand cablegram of 4th April):-

It is desired that a communication in the following terms be transmitted to the United States Government immediately:-

'The Government of New Zealand proposes, in view of the difficulty of securing personnel to serve overseas, to reduce the New Zealand army component in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan from a brigade group of 4,239 personnel approximately to a brigade on a reduced basis of a total of approximately 2,400 all ranks. The Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron now in Japan will be maintained there. In accordance with paragraph 3(b) of the MacArthur-Northcott agreement, the Australian Government submits the request of the New Zealand Government for the reduction of its army component for the agreement of the United States Government.

As all New Zealand personnel in Japan were recruited for a period of twelve months service, and arrangements must be made for the relief of the army component in May (3,310) and July (646), the New Zealand Government proposes, subject to the concurrence of the United States Government and the availability of shipping, to effect the reduction between June and September of this year.' [1]

3. In regard to the second question raised in cablegram No.29 from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, namely the value of continued British participation in the occupation of Japan, this matter was referred to the Joint Planning Staffs for the preparation of an appreciation of the military aspects, but it has not yet been considered by the Defence Committee. However, in regard to the draft telegram forwarded with your letter of 28th February, the following is a summary of the views of this Department against the withdrawal of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces:-

'Australia formed a close bond with the United States during the war, particularly when, in the early stages, the Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area were predominantly Australian and were unreservedly placed under an American Commander.

Later we supplied the United States Forces with extensive Reciprocal Lend-Lease Aid.

We expressed a desire to be in the final campaign against the Japanese Home Islands notwithstanding pressure to assign our Forces for operations elsewhere.

It is imperative to stay with the United States to the end even if the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand withdraw, for United States co-operation is of vital importance to future defence arrangements in the Pacific. It is also essential for an effective voice in the Japanese Peace Treaty.

Also in order to prevent the resurgence of Japan, it is essential that the occupation should continue until a peace treaty has been concluded, satisfactory guarantees for its fulfilment established, and assurances exist that she will not become an easy mark for Russian exploitation. If this should occur, the future threat to the security of the Pacific will be even greater than it was previously from Japan alone.

It is therefore imperative for Australia to continue in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, even if all other parts of the Empire withdraw, though the extent of our commitment might have to be reviewed if reductions by others continue.'

The main factor relating to the Kobe-Osaka area, which is also referred to in your draft cablegram, is the strength of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces which will be greatly reduced by the United Kingdom, Indian and New Zealand withdrawals.

4. It is not thought that consideration of the broader and more long-term question referred to in paragraph 3 above should delay the immediate despatch to Washington of the cablegram set out in paragraph 2, particularly in view of New Zealand's intention to commence the reduction of its army component in June of this year, and the fact that reductions are not to be made to the extent originally contemplated.

1 This communication, with minor amendments, was dispatched on 16 April.

[AA : A1838, 539/1/2]