339 Council of Defence Submission by Dedman

Agendum 12/1948 27 April 1948,



1. INTRODUCTION At the meeting of Ministers on the Council of Defence on 5th April, there was a discussion on the future of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in relation to the likelihood of a Conference to arrange a Peace Treaty with Japan. In addition to the Russian attitude towards a Conference, the consequential effect on United States Policy towards Japan was also discussed.

As the primary purpose of the retention of Australian participation is to give Australia an effective voice in the drafting of the Peace Treaty, the future of Australian participation hinged on the trend of the developments mentioned.

The view of Ministers was inclined towards allowing the strength of the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force to dwindle by administrative action to 5,000 men.

2. REVIEW By DEFENCE COMMITTEE At my request, the Defence Committee has submitted an appreciation, from its viewpoint, of the desirability of adopting such a course and the ideal minimum size of the force, having regard to the various considerations involved, such as the reduction and ultimate withdrawal of the United Kingdom and New Zealand components, and the overhead necessary for the command, administration and maintenance of such a force. The Defence Committee's appreciation is attached.

The conclusions of the Defence Committee are summarised in paragraph 18 of the appreciation, as follows:-

'(a) From an Australian Service point of view- (i) The value of B.C.O.F. is directly proportional to the strength of the Force.

(ii) The goodwill established during the war, on a Service level, between Australia and the United States will be strengthened, and valuable experience will be gained in American methods by the continued co-operation with the United States Forces in Japan.

(iii) It is essential, in order to prevent the resurgence of Japan, 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 exploitation by a major power likely to be unfriendly to the British Commonwealth. If this should occur, the future threat to the security of the Pacific would be even greater than it was previously from Japan alone.

(b) The minimum useful contribution to the occupation of Japan from a military point of view is an administratively self- contained Brigade Group with supporting Air and Naval Forces of approximate overall strength of 7,000; but, owing to manpower difficulties, the present strength of the Force will fan below this figure shortly after June next.

(c) The strength of the Australian component (vide Appendix "A") will fall to 3,700 by 31st December 1948, and if it is necessary for political reasons to participate in B.C.O.F. after that date, a token force could be provided by one of the following alternative methods:-

(i) One A.M.F. battalion, one R.A.A.F. squadron and a Naval Support Unit of one ship, with the necessary administrative units for their maintenance of approximate overall strength of 2,750 Army and Air Force personnel; or (ii) One A.M.F. battalion, one R.A.A.F. squadron and a Naval Support Unit of one ship, the Army and Air Force units to be supported logistically by United States Forces, of approximate overall strength of 1,350 Army and Air Force personnel.

(d) It would appear that, from a political viewpoint, the best value would be obtained if the token force was located at Tokyo.

However, under the first alternative (sub-paragraph (c)), this may not be practicable, in which case it would be necessary to locate the force at Kure.

(e) The continued provision of material requirements for British Commonwealth agencies in Tokyo by the token force will require additional administrative personnel if the force is based at Kure, and will necessitate alternative arrangements if the token force is supported logistically by United States Forces.

(f) The proposal to allow the Australian contingent to dwindle by administrative action to 5,000 appears to be inevitable, as, in fact, by 31st December 1948, the Australian contingent of B.C.0.F will be only of a strength of 3,700 or 4,400 if all available Army reinforcements are despatched to Japan.'

3. EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ASPECTS The Secretary, Department of External Affairs, has furnished the following advice on External Affairs aspects of this matter:-

'It is noted that the Defence Committee, in deciding to recommend acceptance of the proposal of the New Zealand Government to withdraw the New Zealand component of B.C.O.F. this year, has had under consideration the ability of B.C.0.F. to carry out its tasks efficiently in its area of responsibility at reduced strength.

It is understood that Ministers on the Council of Defence are inclined to the view that the strength of the Australian component of B.C.O.F. should be allowed to dwindle.

In the circumstances, this Department does not feel justified at this time in recommending against any reduction of B.C.O.F. on political grounds. Any political considerations arising from such a reduction will be discussed by the Minister for External Affairs when the matter is next before the Council of Defence.'

4. SUBMISSION TO COUNCIL The question of the future Policy for Australian participation in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force is submitted for consideration by the Council of Defence. [1]

1 At its meeting on 28 April 1948 the Council endorsed the proposals in paragraphs (c)(i) and (d). In respect of the latter it was suggested that, should the force remain in Kure, consideration be give to the possibility of a detachment serving in Tokyo. It was agreed that the reduction be effected by or shortly after 31 December 1948.

[AA:A1838/283, 481/1, ii]