506 Shedden to Burton

Memorandum MELBOURNE, 17 July 1947



Reference is made to my memorandum of 15th April, in which it was advised that the question raised in Cablegram No.29 dated 22nd February, from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, relating to the value of continued British participation in the occupation of Japan, was being considered by the Defence Committee.

2. A summary of the views of this Department against the withdrawal of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force is embodied in paragraph 3 of this Department's memorandum of 15th April.

3. The Defence Committee, augmented by representatives of the United Kingdom, India and New Zealand, has now completed its examination of an appreciation of the military aspects of B.C.O.F.

prepared by the Joint Planning Staffs. In its consideration the Defence Committee took into account the views set out in the draft cablegram prepared by your Department as a proposed reply to cablegram No.29, and forwarded to this Department for comment. The suggestion of the United Kingdom authorities in Dominions Office cablegram No.3 that the port and district of Kobe be included in the B.C.O.F. area, which is commented upon in your draft cablegram, has been mentioned by the Defence Committee in its appreciation. A separate memorandum is being forwarded to you on this matter [1]

4. A copy of the 'Appreciation of the Value of B.C.O.F.' submitted by the Defence Committee (Extended) is forwarded herewith for any comments which you may have from the political aspect, before action is taken to arrange for it to be sent to New Zealand. In view of cablegram No.3 from the Dominions Office expressing the desire of the United Kingdom authorities to participate in any discussions taking place on the question raised by New Zealand in cablegram No.29, it is also proposed to send a copy of the appreciation to the United Kingdom.

5. An additional copy of the appreciation is enclosed which the Acting Minister for Defence considers might be forwarded by air mail to the Minister for External Affairs while he is in Japan.


Defence Committee Minute 137/1947 22 April 1947 (JCOSA No.588), Appendix A




1. In this appreciation the economic and political aspects, which are inseparable from the purely military object and role of BCOF, have been considered in the light of the views expressed by the Department of External Affairs in their draft telegram to New Zealand, with regard to the proposed reduction of the New Zealand Army Component. (External Affairs memorandum of 28th February, 1947 refers.) Views expressed by the Government of the United Kingdom concerning the economic importance of the Kobe area have also been taken into account.

2. The decision to send a British Commonwealth Force to Japan was made by the British Commonwealth Governments concerned not at the request of the United States Government, but with its concurrence.

The details of the consequent agreement between the British Commonwealth Governments concerned and the United States Government are embodied in the Memorandum for Record (commonly referred to as the MacArthur-Northcott Agreement) signed at Tokyo on 18 December, 1945 [2], as modified by the provisions set out by the United States Government in its note dated 22nd January, 1946, to the Australian Legation at Washington. [3]


3. The objects of BCOF are set out in the directive to Commander- in-Chief, BCOF, are as follows:-

(a) to represent worthily the British Commonwealth in the occupation of Japan;

(b) to maintain and enhance British Commonwealth prestige and influence in the eyes of the Japanese and of our Allies; and (c) to illustrate to, and impress on, the Japanese people, as far as may be possible, the democratic way and purpose of life.

In addition, the establishment of BCOF and its control and administration, which includes provisioning and maintenance, are regarded as constituting a further development in British Commonwealth co-operation.

4. The military role of BCOF was agreed by the British Commonwealth Governments concerned to be, under the direction of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, within the area allotted to BCOF:-

(a) the safeguarding of all Allied installations, and of all Japanese installations awaiting demilitarisation;

(b) the demilitarisation and disposal of Japanese installations and armaments; and (c) military control; this does not include military government.


5. The present Allied occupation of Japan and the consequential control of her resources, economic development, and war potential, maintains for the United States and the British Commonwealth a favourable strategic position in the Pacific. Whilst it is unlikely that the withdrawal of BCOF would jeopardise the United States Forces in Japan, it would certainly rob them of a valued contribution to their security and, from a military point of view, could not be regarded as an act conducive to co-operation in matters affecting the Pacific.

6. The withdrawal of BCOF from Japan might lead to a public demand in the United States for the withdrawal of the United States Forces in conformity with the withdrawal of the British Commonwealth Forces. Whilst such a demand might embarrass the United States Government we are of the opinion that it would not, of itself, cause the withdrawal of the United States Forces from Japan. However, should any combination of reasons cause the United States Government to withdraw its troops, Japan would be less able to resist propaganda from her most powerful neighbour-Russia, and powerless to prevent any military infiltration or occupation that Russia might be disposed to initiate. In this case, the favourable strategic position referred to in paragraph 5 would be reversed.

In fact, strategically any decisions to withdraw BCOF will react against the best interests of the British Commonwealth as a whole, and against Australia and New Zealand in particular.


7. Participation by members of the British Commonwealth in BCOF gives some tangible evidence of their willingness to share in the obligations involved in the maintenance of security in the Pacific. Participation in the occupation of Japan by them will strengthen their undoubted claim to participate as principals in the peace settlement. The withdrawal of any country at the present stage would tend to weaken United States/British Commonwealth influence in Japan and so provide an opportunity for an increase in Russian political influence.

8. It is believed that the importance of membership of the Far Eastern Commission and the Allied Council for Japan is considerable. The position of the British Commonwealth Members of these bodies is strengthened by the fact that the Occupation of Japan is not entirely an American commitment.


9. The presence of British Commonwealth Forces in the Allied Occupation Forces in Japan ensures that the value of the British Commonwealth as a factor in developments in the Far East is not underrated or overlooked. In this regard, the more widespread and influential the sections of the Japanese public who have the advantage of contact with these Forces, the greater will be British Commonwealth economic and social influence with Japan in the future.

10. We would emphasise at this stage that the recent reductions which have taken place or have been agreed upon in BCOF because of extreme manpower difficulties, and any further reductions which may take place for similar reasons, render it all the more important from the political, the economic, and the military viewpoints that BCOF should be in occupation of an area which is of real significance. It follows, therefore, that the smaller the size of BCOF, the greater the importance which attaches to the area occupied.

11. With the imminent re-entry of Japan into the world's economy, it is clearly important for the trade of all British Commonwealth countries that the British Commonwealth acquires a direct responsibility in the control of a suitable port of entry for trade, e.g. the Kobe area. (United Kingdom Saving telegram No.3, dated 12th February, 1947, refers.) This economic aspect, though not stated in the directive to Commander-in-Chief, BCOF, since the directive may be read by other nationals, is none the less implicit as one of the reasons which induced the British Commonwealth Governments to participate in the occupation of Japan. Having regard to the discussions which have taken place between the United Kingdom, the Dominions and the United States Governments concerning the level of Japanese merchant shipbuilding, it appears that the Japanese export trade will be carried largely by ships of other nations for many years to come.

12. From a long-term aspect the occupation by BCOF of a port such as Kobe will be of great assistance to the British Commonwealth Mercantile Marine in obtaining its share of Japan's overseas carrying trade.

13. Against these advantages must be set the fact that the maintenance of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force involves an economic strain on the countries concerned, principally in manpower, and to some extent in shipping and finance.


14. The demilitarisation and disposal of Japanese installations and armaments has virtually been completed without resistance from the Japanese. But the safeguarding of all Allied installations, and equipment and goods to be used for reparations, still remains a task while Allied forces or British Civil Missions, requiring Allied military protection, remain in Japan. SCAP has stated his opinion that so long as there is not sign of disunity or break-up among the United States/British Commonwealth contingents, and the Allied front is maintained with properly balanced forces, there is no possibility of the Japanese giving trouble. Properly balanced Occupation Forces should therefore be retained in Japan so long as there is a military commitment.


15. It is desired to stress the importance both now, and in the future, of the objects of BCOF as given in sub-paragraph 3(b) and 3(c) above. These objects are largely civil. We wish to emphasise that the present Force is attempting militarily (with some success) to achieve these objects:-

(a) by providing the military backing for the United States Military Government in the BCOF area;

(b) by efficiency, smartness of turn-out and by the standard of equipment arid drill;

(c) by preservation of the dignity of all ranks on or off duty;

and (d) by the influence and conduct of the Provost Courts which deal with Japanese offenders against occupation rules. At these open Courts the Japanese public can see democratic law and justice functioning in practice. These Provost Courts, composed of BCOF personnel, are a potent factor in impressing upon the Japanese the control exercised by BCOF and the fair dealing which true democracy represents.

16. With regard to 15 (a) above, the British Commonwealth of its own wish, as expressed in the MacArthur-Northcott Agreement, does not exercise the functions of military government. BCOF has, however, small teams attached to all the United States Military Government organisations operating in the BCOF area. Thus, although it is true that BCOF has no direct responsibility in framing military Government policy, it is not entirely divorced from what the United States authorities are doing, and can therefore influence them to some extent.

17. Having regard to its size, and the little time it has been in Japan, the evidence points to BCOF achieving a reasonable success in illustrating to and impressing upon the Japanese people the democratic way and purpose in life current in the British Commonwealth countries concerned.

18. With the virtual conclusion of the demilitarisation and disposal of Japanese installations and armaments, Commander-in- chief, BCOF has been reviewing the size and composition of his Force. Whilst it is clear that any reductions found possible can be made under the MacArthur-Northcott Agreement, it should be noted that unilateral action by a British Commonwealth Government to reduce its forces, without full consideration of the problems of the other British Commonwealth Governments concerned, is likely to produce an unbalanced Force and is contrary to the spirit of British Commonwealth co-operation which it was hoped BCOF would develop. Such unilateral action would throw an extra strain on the other participating countries.


19. BCOF affords a useful experiment in the integration of British Commonwealth Forces and is therefore valuable from the point of view of present and future British Commonwealth Co-operation. For this reason, Commander-in-Chief, BCOF was directed to foster the maximum integration of Services and personnel. This maximum integration can only be achieved if each participating country provides its quota of personnel. Those participating countries which would otherwise lack an opportunity for overseas service for their forces are provided with this opportunity by BCOF. This is particularly valuable from the administrative point of view as problems of maintaining a force overseas in peace are similar to those which occur in war.


20. The Defence Committee (Extended) concludes that, in spite of the economic difficulties in maintaining a British Commonwealth Force, BCOF is of value to the British Commonwealth in general and the participating countries in particular for the following reasons:-

(a) The contribution of BCOF assists the United States Forces in the present necessary Allied occupation of Japan. This military control must continue at least until the signing of the peace treaty has been concluded, satisfactory guarantees for its fulfilment established, and assurances exist that Japan will not become an easy mark for exploitation which Russia might be disposed to initiate. The British Commonwealth should therefore continue to play its part in order to fulfil the obligations incurred when they decided to participate in the occupation of Japan.

(b) The withdrawal of BCOF might embarrass the United States Government politically and strategically and reduce the degree of co-operation being achieved with them in the Pacific, with adverse effects on the British Commonwealth.

(c) The withdrawal of BCOF would greatly lessen British Commonwealth prestige in the eyes of the Japanese as well as in the eyes of the United States, and other countries, especially those in the Pacific. This loss would strengthen any tendency to underrate the value of the British Commonwealth as a whole, as a factor in the security of the Pacific area, and, in particular, would damage the prestige of Australia and New Zealand, as powers in the Pacific.

(d) Presence of BCOF in Japan supports the claim of the British Commonwealth as a whole, and of the participating countries in particular, to take part as principals in the formulation of the Japanese peace treaty.

(e) Presence of BCOF in Japan strengthens the position of the British Commonwealth representatives on the Far Eastern Commission and on the Allied Council for Japan.

(f) Presence of BCOF in Japan ensures that the British Commonwealth's value as an economic and social factor in developments in the Far East is not overlooked or underrated.

(g) BCOF and its associated problems afford valuable experience in British Commonwealth co-operation and provide administrative experience and overseas service to such participating countries as would otherwise lack them.

(h) Withdrawal of BCOF would eliminate Japanese contact with British Service personnel and would end the illustration of the British Commonwealth way of life which an appreciable section of the Japanese population see in the everyday work of the Force.


G. JONES Air Marshal Chief of the General Staff

1 It observed that acceptance of any new commitment would have to be weighed carefully from the military viewpoint, in view of the overall reduction in BCOF. It recommended that Evatt discuss the suggestion with Robertson and MacArthur in Japan, and, if necessary, with the US Government, with a view to an examination of its feasibility by SCAP, Commander-in-Chief, BCOF, and Japanese civil authorities.

2 Volume VIII, Document 463.

3 See Volume IX, Document 49.

[AA A5954/1, 1652/7]