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339 Council of Defence Submission by Dedman

Agendum 12/1948 27 April 1948,



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.

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.'

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.'

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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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