122 Joint Intelligence Committee Appreciation 2/1948

MELBOURNE, 24 November 1948




1. The Defence Committee in minute No. 157/1948 laid down the zone which, for planning purposes, should be regarded as the 'zone of strategic planning for which Australia accepts responsibility' (hereafter referred to as the zone).

2. On 28th March, 1947, copies of Joint Intelligence Committee Appreciation No. 1/1947 entitled 'Appreciation of Certain Aspects of the Strategical Position of Australia' [1] were furnished to the Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Committee. By minutes dated 11/8/1948, the Secretary, Joint Planning Committee, requested that the Joint Intelligence Committee should review Appreciation No.

1/1947, and, in conjunction with representatives of the United Kingdom Chief Liaison Officer, and the New Zealand Liaison Officer, should advise on the probable form and scale of attack with regard to the zone. This appreciation deals with the latter phase of the minutes from the Secretary, Joint Planning Committee.


3. The object of this paper is to determine the probable form and scale of attack- (A) Against the zone.

(B) Inside the zone.

(C) On the vital communications to and from the zone.


4. This paper has been prepared in the light of the present strategical situation based on information available to the Joint Intelligence Committee as at November 1948.

5. The information regarding dispositions and strengths of foreign forces in the Far East is the best available, but we desire to point out that it is insufficiently detailed (particularly as regards the land forces) to enable other than broad conclusions to be drawn.

6. In discussing potential enemies and likely enemy moves we have, as an Intelligence Committee, considered the worst probable case.


7. The only major power with which the British Commonwealth, and therefore Australia, is likely to become involved in war is the U.S.S.R.

8. By virtue of her geographical position, any threat to the zone will be in consequence of hostile moves by the U.S.S.R. in the Middle East or Far East.

9. Without the assistance or connivance of India and Pakistan in the Middle East, and China in the Far East, it is improbable that the U.S.S.R. would be in a position to launch a direct land or air attack against the zone.

10. As a result of their new status, however, the participation of India and Pakistan in a war as members of the British Commonwealth cannot be assured. Present indications are that the likelihood of their assistance to the U.S.S.R., in the event of war, is remote.

We therefore conclude that their probable position win be that of neutrals friendly to the British Commonwealth.

11. In view of the mounting success of the Chinese Communist Forces, the completion of communist control and domination of all China north of the Yangtze and Manchuria is imminent. It can be predicted that the consolidation of northern China will be accompanied by political agitation and infiltration prior to overrunning Southern China. As the Chinese Communist Party adheres to the Soviet Communist Party line in international affairs, we must assume they will give full support to U.S.S.R. Forces in all areas under Chinese communist control.

12. The effect of nationalist movements and general unsettled political conditions obtaining in S.E. Asia introduce an additional significant factor.

13. In South East Asia there exist schismatic movements of two broad types:-

(a) Communist-which in the event of war would render active support to Soviet aims.

(b) Non-Communist-which by seizing the opportunity to press their claims for autonomy would indirectly further the aims of the U.S.S.R.

14. The countries in South East Asia, in which there exist such factions capable of exerting a significant influence, are as follows:(a) Pro-Soviet:

French Indo China, Burma, Malaya.

(b) Nationalist only:

Netherlands East Indies.


15. We consider, therefore, that a threat to the zone will be as a consequence of hostile moves in the Far East by the U.S.S.R. with the collaboration of communist controlled China and the pro-Soviet factions in French Indo China, Malaya and Burma. We further consider that the nationalist movement win be a disturbing clement in the Netherlands East Indies.

[matter omitted]



37. From the foregoing, it will be seen that aggression by the U.S.S.R. would of necessity be characterised mainly by land advances supported by the air forces and supplemented by intense submarine activity against trade communications and seaborne troop movements. The use of large scale airborne invasion forces must be taken into account. Global fifth column activities must be expected.

38. Available manpower makes it possible for the U.S.S.R. to take aggressive action simultaneously on her Eastern, Southern and Western frontiers. In view of the present limitations of her communications, however, and the disposition and state of development of her economic resources in the Far East, we consider that full scale aggression on all fronts would be militarily unsound and is therefore unlikely.

39. Taking into account the present strategic dispositions of Soviet forces, and the logistical difficulty of reinforcing the Far Eastern area, we consider the Soviet's general plan, therefore, would be to fight a full scale aggressive war on her Western and Southern fronts with the object of overrunning Europe- including Great Britain-and the Middle East. In the Far East she would establish forces in as much of China and Korea as would be necessary to deny us the use of any bases in these territories, and conduct an offensive against Japanese territory with the object of denying us control of that area.


Middle East:

40. In the Middle East, the U.S.S.R. could seize Persia, Iraq and Palestine, and occupy Arabia to a line between the head of the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal.

This would give her control of 90% of the existent Middle East oilfields, and complete the isolation of Turkey which could be reduced at leisure. Should Pakistan and India prove unfriendly, the U.S.S.R. could occupy Afghanistan as a base for operations against Pakistan and India, and for use as a propaganda base to further disrupt their unity.

41. Sea and air lines of communication to United Kingdom via the Middle East would be subject to serious attack by both submarine and air forces west of Suez; attacks east of Suez may be expected only on an insignificant scale.

Far East:

42. We consider the moves of the U.S.S.R. in the Far East would probably be to:-

(a) Consolidate her position in the Far East in the areas under communist domination, viz., Northern China, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang and Korea with a view to:-

(i) Assuring herself a buffer area on an otherwise vulnerable frontier.

(ii) Exploiting the valuable resources of the occupied area.

(iii) Obtaining advanced naval and air bases in the occupied area.

(iv) Denying us free use of bases in Southern China.

(b) Attack our bases within range of the Asiatic mainland, especially Japan, with a view to neutralizing them.

(c) Conduct a submarine campaign to a radius approximately as far south as the Equator on the sea communications to and from the zone, with sporadic long range raids on sea communications within the zone. We consider that approximately 30 submarines would be available for the former task, and about 10 for the latter. [2]

(d) Carry out air attacks on our sea and air lines of communication in the Far East.

(e) Conduct sabotage operations and engage in subversive activity in Japan and South East Asia with the object of diverting troops for internal police duties, as well as denying to us strategic economic resources.


43. We conclude that the likely form and scale of attack will be:-

(a) Against the Zone- (i) By sea-Submarine attacks on sea communications in the Eastern South China Sea and Philippines Sea.

(ii) By land-Occupation of air and naval bases in territory dominated by Communist forces and a probable airborne invasion of Japan.

(iii) By air-Air attacks against our bases within range of the U.S.S.R. or Soviet held territory and on vital lines of sea and air communication in the area. Use of airborne forces for invasion of japan.

(iv) By Fifth Column-Attacks on key points in Japan, Southern China, F.I.C. [3], Burma, Philippines. This may include the use of bacteriological agents which would be an alternative in Japan to the invasion envisaged in (ii) above.

(b) Inside the Zone- (i) By sea-Submarine attacks on communications in South East Asia and sporadic submarine raids on focal points of sea communications, particularly in South East Australian waters. [4]

(ii) By land-No immediate activity.

(iii) By air-Raids on a minor scale on our bases in the north of the zone and on lines of air communication in this area.

(iv) By Fifth Column-Sabotage against key points and resources in South East Asia and Australia. Subversion by promotion of disaffected elements. The use of biological warfare must not be disregarded in these cases.

(c) On communications to and from the Zone- Submarine and air attacks, and/or physical occupation of Middle East, will virtually deny to us the use of the sea and air route to the United Kingdom via the Mediterranean. [5] The sea and air routes through South East Asia will be subject to submarine and air attacks of a moderately heavy nature.

[i] Sporadic submarine raids on the Pacific Ocean routes to the Zone are unlikely.

(d) Significance of autonomous movements- Campaigns by nationalist forces to further their aims for autonomy will indirectly assist the Soviet aim by diverting troops for internal security duties, and by denying us resources within their sphere of operations. [6]

1 Volume 12, Document 160.

2 The copy submitted to the Joint Planning Committee does not include this sentence. See JPC report 58/1948, dated 6 December 1948, in AA:A8738/9, 4.

3 French Indo China.

4 The copy submitted to the Joint Planning Committee has an additional sentence here: 'Minelaying is likely to be favoured' 5 This sentence is expressed differently in the copy submitted to the Joint Planning Committee. It reads: 'Submarine and air attacks of a serious nature on communications to the United Kingdom via the Mediterranean are likely west of Suez and on an insignificant scale cast of Suez. Should the Soviet occupy the Canal area, the route would be virtually denied to us.' 6 The appreciation was further considered by the Joint Intelligence Committee on 27 November 1948 and, after amendment, forwarded to the Joint planning Committee for examination and report. It was endorsed by the Defence Committee in minute 282/1948, dated 9 December 1948. In 1949 it was reviewed and replaced by Joint Intelligence Committee Appreciation 6/1949, dated 30 November 1949.

[AA:A1068/7, DL47/5/1A]