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Appendix 2: “ABDACOM” Directive to Supreme Commander, Dated 3rd January 1942

Following for General Wavell from Chiefs of Staff

Begins. By agreement among the Governments of Australia, Nether-lands, United Kingdom and United States, hereinafter referred to as the ABDA Governments.

1. Area. – A strategic area has been constituted to comprise initially all land and sea areas including general regions of Burma, Malaya, Nether-lands East Indies and Philippine Islands more precisely defined in Annexure 1. This area will be known as ABDA area.

2. Forces. – You have been designated as Supreme Commander of ABDA area and of all armed forces afloat ashore and in air of ABDA Governments which are or will be (a) stationed in area (b) located in Australian territory when such forces have been allotted by respective Governments for service in or in support of the ABDA area. You are not authorised to transfer from territories of any ABDA Government land forces of the Government without consent of local commander or his Government.

3. The Deputy Supreme Commander and if required a Commander of the Combined Naval Forces and the Commander of Combined Air Forces will be jointly designated by the ABDA Governments.

4. No Government will materially reduce its armed forces assigned to your area nor any commitment made by it for reinforcing its forces in your area except after giving to other Governments and to you timely information pertaining thereto.

5. Strategic concept and policy. – The basic strategic concept of the ABDA Governments for conduct of war in your area is not only in immediate future to maintain as many key positions as possible but to take offensive at the earliest opportunity and ultimately to conduct an all-out offensive against Japan. The first essential is to gain general air superiority at the earliest moment through employment of concentrated air power. The piece-meal employment of air forces should be minimised. Your operations should be so conducted as to further preparations for the offensive.

6. General strategic policy will be therefore: –

(a) to hold Malaya barrier defined as line Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, North Australia as basic defensive position of ABDA area and to operate sea, land and air forces in as great depth as possible forward of barrier in order to oppose Japanese south-ward advance;

(b) to hold Burma and Australia as essential support positions for the area and Burma as essential to support of China and to defence of India;

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(c) to re-establish communications through Dutch East Indies with Luzon and to support Philippines garrison;

(d) to maintain essential communications within the area.

7. Duties, responsibilities and authorities of Supreme Commander. – You will coordinate in ABDA area strategical operations of all armed forces of ABDA Governments where desirable to arrange formation of task forces whether national or inter-national for executing specific operations and appointing any officers irrespective of seniority or nationality to command such task forces.

8. While you will have no responsibilities in respect of the internal administration of the respective forces under your command you are authorised to direct and coordinate the creation and development of administrative facilities and the broad allocation of war materials.

9. You will dispose of reinforcements which from time to time may be despatched to the area by ABDA Governments.

10. You are authorised to require from commanders of the armed forces under your command such reports as you deem necessary in discharging your responsibilities as supreme commander.

11. You are authorised to control the issue of all communiques concerning the forces under your command.

12. Through channels specified in paragraph 18 you may submit recommendations to the ABDA Governments on any matters pertaining to the furthering of your mission.

13. Limitations. – Your authority and control with respect to the various portions of ABDA area and to forces assigned thereto will normally be exercised through commanders duly appointed by their respective Governments. Interference is to be avoided in administrative processes of armed forces of any of the ABDA Governments including free communication between them and their respective Governments. No alterations or revision is to be made in basic tactical organizations of such forces and each national component of a task force will normally operate under its own commander and will not be sub-divided into small units for attachment to other national components of task forces except in cases of urgent necessity. In general your instructions and orders will be limited to those necessary for effective coordination of forces in execution of your mission.

14. Relations with ABDA Governments. – The ABDA Governments will jointly and severally support you in the execution of duties and responsibilities as herein defined and in the exercising of authority herein delegated and limited. Commanders of all sea, land and air forces within your area will be immediately informed by their respective Governments that from a date to be notified all orders and instructions issued by you in conformity with the provision of this directive will be considered by such commanders as emanating from their respective governments.

15. In the unlikely event that any of your immediate subordinates after making due representation to you still considers obedience to your orders would jeopardise national interests of his country to an extent

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unjustified by the general situation in ABDA area he has the right subject to your being immediately notified of such intention to appeal direct to his own Government before carrying out orders. Such appeals will be made by most expeditious methods and copies of appeals will be communicated simultaneously to you.

16. Stag and assumption of command. – Your staff will include officers of each of ABDA Powers.

You are empowered to communicate immediately with national commanders in area with view to obtaining staff officers essential your earliest possible assumption of command. Your additional staff requirements will be communicated as soon as possible to ABDA Governments through channels of communication described in paragraph 18.

17. You will report when you are in position effectively carry essential functions of supreme command so your assumption of command may be promulgated to all concerned.

18. Superior Authority. – As supreme commander of ABDA area you will always be responsible to ABDA Governments through agency defined in Annexure II.


The ABDA area is bounded as follows: –

North. – By boundary between India and Burma, thence eastward along Chinese frontier and coastline to latitude 030 degrees north, thence along parallel 030 degrees north to meridian 140 degrees east. (Note. – Indo-China and Thailand are NOT included in this area.)

East. – By meridian 140 degrees east from 030 degrees to the Equator, thence east to longitude 141 degrees east, thence south to the boundary of Dutch New Guinea (and to) coast on south coast, thence east along southern New Guinea coast to meridian 143 degrees east, then south down this meridian to the coast of Australia.

South. – By the northern coast of Australia from meridian 143 degrees east westward to meridian 114 degrees east, thence north-westward to latitude 015 degrees south, longitude 092 degrees east.

West. – By meridian 092 degrees east.

2. Forces assigned to ABDA and adjacent areas are authorised to extend their operations into other areas as may be required.


1. On all important military matters not within the jurisdiction of supreme commander of ABDA area, U.S. Chiefs of Staff and representatives in Washington of British Chiefs of Staff will constitute agency for developing and submitting recommendations for decisions by President of U.S. and by British Minister and Minister of Defence. Among chief matters on which decision will be required are: –

(a) Provision of reinforcements.

(b) Major changes in policy.

(c) Departures from supreme commander’s directive.

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2. This agency will function as follows: –

(a) Any proposals coming either from Supreme Commander or from any of the ABDA Governments will be submitted to Chiefs of Staff Committee both in Washington and in London.

(b) The Chiefs of Staff Committee in London will immediately telegraph to their representatives in Washington to say whether or not they will be telegraphing any opinion.

(c) On receipt of these opinions the U.S.A. C’s of S. and representatives in Washington of British C’s of S. will develop and submit their recommendations to President and by telegraphing to Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. Prime Minister will then in-form the President whether he is in agreement with these recommendations.

3. Since London has machinery for consulting Dominion Governments and since Dutch Government is in London the British Government will be responsible for obtaining their views and agreement for including these in the final telegrams to Washington.

4. Agreement having been reached between President and Prime Minis-ter and Minister of Defence the orders to Supreme Commander will be despatched from Washington in the name of both of them.