New Zealand Military Forces,
Wellington, C. 1
19 February 1944
Rt. Hon. the Prime Minister
Appreciation of the Problem of the Withdrawal of One or Other of the 2nd or 3rd New Zealand Divisions
1. As directed I have prepared the attached appreciation for your perusal.
2. I have the following comments to submit regarding it:
(a) The appreciation deals with the problem of withdrawing one of the Divisions and does not discuss the question whether such action should or should not be taken.
(b) You will appreciate that certain factors such as ‘Relative Strategical Importance of European and Pacific Theatres’, ‘Present and Pending Operations’, and ‘Shipping’ to some extent, require a more extensive knowledge of Allied resources, strategical plans and intentions, and of enemy resources than is available to me to discuss them exhaustively, but the arguments advanced in the appreciation in respect of these matters admit, I suggest, of little variation, being generally in the nature of principles or self-evident truths.
(c) In arriving at a final conclusion, the chief difficulty is to give appropriate weight to each factor. In my view, practically all considerations on the military side are strongly in favour of the retention of the 2nd Division overseas, while on the political side, of which my knowledge of probable and genuine reactions is admittedly superficial and based chiefly on hearsay, the considerations, on the short view at least, favour the retention overseas of the 3rd Division. The difficulty confronting the statesman is to weigh the military considerations against his more intimate knowledge of the political considerations, while the soldier is in precisely the opposite position.
3. While the question of whether New Zealand's war effort should be concentrated more on production than hitherto, and if necessary at the expense of the fighting effort, is a matter for advice from the highest Allied authorities, the question of how the increased production is to be obtained, whether in fact it is necessary to reduce the fighting effort to obtain it, and if so by how much, is clearly a matter for the New Zealand Government, which alone is able to determine what sacrifices should be required of the people, what reorganisation or adjustments are feasible, and the effect of them.
4. It may interest you to know that after preparing the appreciation, I discussed the main factors and my conclusions with my colleagues at the conclusion of a Chiefs of Staff meeting, and the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (in the absence of the Chief of the Air Staff) have authorised me to say that they agree with my conclusions.
(Signed) E. Puttick,
Chief of the General Staff
Appreciation by the Chief of the General Staff
19 February 1944
Return of 2nd or 3rd Division to New Zealand
(a) Relative strategical importance of European and Pacific theatres
(i) Germany is still the chief enemy. She has a highly important Allied country under attack by air and submarine and under some threat of invasion. She is affecting to some degree British production and morale and reducing Allied shipping strength. Although unlikely, it is still possible that she could win the war if by inventions or strategical surprise her submarine and air attacks again became sufficiently effective, or she might create a stalemate.
She exposes the people of Britain to danger and imposes restrictions in lighting, assembly, and food which after over four years may seriously affect morale.
(ii) British and United States weakness in Europe is the small number of battle-experienced divisions to meet the war-experienced German Army.
Every battle-experienced division in Europe is literally vital to the success of pending operations.
There are signs that a really big effort may defeat Germany quickly.
(iii) Participation in the European theatre is marked evidence of the cohesion of the British Commonwealth to our Allies and enemies, stiffens British morale which has been under strain for over four years, and follows the principle of true strategy in concentrating on the principal and most dangerous enemy.
An example of a similar attitude to that of New Zealand is Canada, who, although her interest in the Pacific must be very real, has, except for Hong Kong and Kiska, concentrated her armed effort in Europe.
(i) Japan has no important Allied country other than China under similar attack or threat.
She is not affecting Allied production or morale, nor reducing shipping to any appreciable extent.
Her submarines and air strength are not favourably situated, as are Germany's, to create a danger of Allied defeat.
She does not affect to any degree the safety or comfort of any large Allied population other than China, and her operations have little effect on morale.
(ii) Proportionately, the number of battle-experienced divisions employed and likely to be employed immediately in the Pacific areas is very high, and the loss of one is relatively of nothing like the same importance as is the case in Europe. There are no indications that Japan can be defeated in the near future.
(iii) Participation in the Pacific theatre from the British Empire point of view is more defensive than offensive in character, in that it protects New Zealand and is not directed against the most dangerous enemy. It offers no prospects of quick success, with the consequent relief from various dangers of losing the war and power to concentrate total forces against the one remaining enemy, as is the case in the European war.
The advantages resulting and the dangers avoided through the defeat of Germany are so important as to make the European theatre of predominant strategical importance, and consequently the fullest possible concentration should be made there to defeat Germany at the earliest possible date.
(i) Has very favourable effect in Britain and will be of great value of British statesmen in combating war weariness after the defeat of Germany, when directing British forces against Japan.
(ii) Has unfavourable effect on Australia, which, faced with a very different strategical problem involving invasion of her territory, attack on her mainland, and exposure to an invasion by balanced forces moving by bounds under cover of shore-based aircraft, withdrew her forces to the Australian and Pacific theatres.
(iii) May have an unfavourable effect on that section of United States opinion which regards the Pacific war as the more important, but in view of the heavy United States participation in the European theatre, this section is likely to be at most proportionate to the forces engaged and events in Europe may well reduce it, i.e., success and the power resulting from it to concentrate overwhelming forces against Japan, will convince waverers or advocates of concentrating against Japan of the wisdom of the ‘Germany first’ strategy.
As the war with Japan will continue well beyond the end of the war with Germany, there should be ample opportunity for New Zealand to finish the war with Germany and then concentrate on Japan so as to participate in the decisive concluding stages, and so remove any earlier unfavourable opinion, if such exists, in both Australia and the United States.
(i) Has no effect on British war weariness which is not already obtained by the spectacle of a favourite Dominion endangered by a powerful Asiatic nation.
(ii) Has a favourable effect on Australia, which favours Pacific nations concentrating on the Pacific war and would like to see all New Zealand forces in the Pacific.
(Note: Australia's attitude is probably influenced by two main factors, firstly her original fear of Japanese invasion and later her desire to concentrate all possible forces to push the Japanese further away, and secondly, the political difficulties created by comparisons between the New Zealand and Australian attitude to the global war.)
(iii) Has a favourable effect on that section of United States opinion which considers the Pacific war the more important.
The withdrawal of 2nd Division, while it would cause acute disappointment in England and probably other parts of the Empire as well as to many in New Zealand, would be unlikely to cause any political difficulties.
The withdrawal of 3rd Division would create an unfavourable impression in the United States Forces in the Pacific, and in that section of United States opinion which, for the moment at least, regards the Pacific as the more important theatre. Although this unfavourable impression would be reduced if the withdrawal was effected in order to increase production to the level required to meet Allied demands for supplies, it would, on the other hand, be increased because of the prevalence of opinion amongst United States personnel that the same result could be achieved by other methods, without reducing the present fighting effort, e.g., by a reorganisation and readjustment of available civil manpower, increased working hours, abolition of non-essential activities. (Note: Opinions in this direction are created or strengthened by the frequency of and the attendances at race meetings, reduced or absence of work on Saturdays (including the closing of many Government offices all day Saturday), apart from any actual knowledge of hours worked or of existence of non-essential activities.)
Australian opinion would be unfavourable to withdrawal of 3rd Division as a breach of what Australia regards as the true role of Australian and New Zealand Forces, namely, concentration of forces against the Japanese.
The importance to be placed on the creation of unfavourable opinion in the United States and Australian is a matter for statesmen, not for soldiers. It is very probable, however, in the event that it is decided to withdraw 3rd Division, that it will be well within the capacity of New Zealand, on the conclusion of the war with Germany, to provide one division for the war against Japan, and such action would in all probability entirely remove any unfavourable impression existing prior to such re-participation. In the meantime New Zealand's record in the Pacific, including weakening of her Home Defences to secure Fiji; provision of troops for Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia to release United States troops for offensive action; garrisoning Norfolk Island; construction of airfields in Fiji; provision of powerful air forces in the forward area; provision of valuable Naval forces forward, at the expense of her Home Defences and interior economy should, it is suggested, be a sufficient answer to any Australian or United States adverse opinion, if any importance is ascribed to such opinion.
(c) Present and Pending Operations
(i) 2nd Division is engaged in full strength against the enemy in Italy and has been allotted a highly-important tactical role, for which its special organisation, training and experience make it peculiarly suitable.
There appears to be little if any surplus Allied strength in the Italian theatre, while the operations there are undoubtedly part of the greater invasion plan.
Consequently the replacement of 2nd Division by another division would be essential, and within the next several months appears likely to create peculiarly difficult problems of suitability of the replacement division and disorganisation of prepared plans, quite apart from administrative difficulties such as the provision of shipping. The particular value of the 2nd New Zealand Division in influencing the outcome of large-scale operations has already been emphasised on at least two occasions.
(i) 3rd Division has 2/3rds of its strength in a very forward position on the South Pacific front, i.e., Nissan Island, with the remainder chiefly in Treasury Island in close proximity to strongly-held Japanese areas.
Both components of 3rd Division are now in a garrison role, though it is possible and perhaps probable that the force holding Treasury Island will shortly be given an offensive role, i.e., to capture islands north of Nissan Island.
Operations of 3rd Division are undoubtedly part of a general offensive plan designed to isolate Rabaul, in which, probably, all available divisions have been allotted their roles.
Withdrawal of forces in Nissan Island is a dangerous operation and
may be classed as impracticable until Allied forces are much farther north.
Withdrawal of forces in Treasury Island though exposed to attack is possible, while withdrawal of reinforcements &c., in Guadalcanal and New Caledonia is also practicable, but would result in forward units being unsupported and falling below establishment, besides disorganising the United States offensive plans during a critical period.
The withdrawal of either 2nd or 3rd Division is impracticable at the present time and its practicability in future depends upon tactical developments.
The disruptive effect of withdrawal would be most serious in either case but would have wider and more important disadvantageous effects in the case of 2nd Division though tactically less dangerous to the New Zealand troops in their present situations than in the case of 3rd Division.
(i) 2nd Division is almost double the strength of 3rd Division, the distance from New Zealand is five times greater than in the case of 3rd Division, and there is practically no shipping returning to New Zealand with spare accommodation for personnel, equipment, and stores.
(i) The probable availability of shipping returning from the Islands to New Zealand, and the much lower strength of 3rd Division compared with 2nd Division and proximity of 3rd Division to New Zealand would make provision of shipping for 3rd Division much easier than for 2nd Division. On the other hand, loading of heavier stores and equipment in view of the primitive facilities would be much more difficult and perhaps impracticable because the time required for loading could not be spared on account of the primary tasks on which the ships are engaged.
The movement of 2nd Division would be very much more expensive in shipping than that of 3rd Division and in view of concentrations of shipping for the invasion of Europe is likely to be impracticable.
The movement of 3rd Division utilising returning ships may be feasible and is much less expensive in shipping.
(e) Time Factor
The practicability of withdrawing either division is dependent upon developments in both theatres and cannot be judged with any accuracy. The conclusions reached under the headings of (c) Present and Pending Operations, and (d) Shipping, particularly the latter, indicate that the 3rd Division could reach New Zealand much earlier than an equal number of men from 2nd Division. Further, the tendency thus far has been to
employ 3rd Division by brigade groups and not as a complete division, and the probabilities are that this will continue, opening up the possibility of returning one brigade group and leaving the second brigade group in action. There is no such possibility in the case of 2nd Division, and all considerations therefore favour a substantial part of 3rd Division being available in New Zealand many months earlier than in the case of an equal number from 2nd Division.
(f) Climate, Relief, and Casualties
(i) 2nd Division has been approximately four years abroad, the first year on a garrison and training role. It has had severe fighting punctuated by periods in reserve. Casualties have been light judged by 1914–18 standards.
The number of long-service men has been considerably reduced by earlier casualties and prisoners, and by exemptions and defections from the furlough draft. Practically all men of over three years’ service have now had lengthy furlough.
(ii) 2nd Division has had some three years in a semi-tropical but healthy climate with good amenities. It is now in a temperate climate.
Normal relief from the forward area into a reserve role provides the necessary relief from active service strain.
(iii) 2nd Division will have fewer climatic casualties and less post-war ill-health on that account, but is likely to have higher battle casualties.
(iv) Periodic reliefs of 2nd Division from forward area raises no question of return to New Zealand and therefore no difficulties in return of the Division to the forward area.
(i) 3rd Division has been approximately two years in being, as regards 50 per cent of the force, a proportion having about three years’ service, but both above categories have had a break of several months’ Home Service. Remainder of the Division has had approximately 18 months’ service.
The Division has had little fighting and negligible casualties.
(ii) 3rd Division has been in a tropical climate, which in the areas they have occupied during the last six months has been oppressive.
Amenities have been poor.
For climatic reasons, normal relief to a reserve role is not sufficient, and the Division requires relief at about six-monthly intervals in a more temperate climate.
(iii) 3rd Division will have higher climatic casualties with the possibility of a more or less serious legacy of post-war ill-health. It is likely to have lower battle casualties than 2nd Division, but it cannot be assumed that this will continue, in view of the isolated nature and amphibious character of its operations.
(iv) Periodic reliefs of 3rd Division could be suitably carried out by return to New Caledonia, but the absence of amenities and sentiment will lead to a demand for leave in New Zealand. If this leave is granted, there is likely to be difficulty similar to that experienced with the furlough draft when the men are due to return to the forward area.
The factors of length of service abroad and severity of fighting favour return of 2nd Division. The strain on these accounts can be efficiently met by periods of relief in the operational area.
The 3rd Division, however, must have relief from the climate requiring retirement to rear areas, which would bring them within easy distance of New Zealand and lead to insistent demands for leave in New Zealand.
This, in turn, is likely to cause difficulty in the men rejoining the division. On the grounds of military necessity, therefore, and discarding sentiment the factors favour withdrawal of 3rd Division.
(g) Re-employment of Troops
Whichever division returns, a considerable proportion of the men will require to be sent as reinforcements to the other division over a period.
(i) Men of the 2nd Division would almost certainly flatly refuse to proceed to the 3rd Division so long as there were fit men in New Zealand who had not been overseas.
(i) Men of 3rd Division would in all probability readily proceed to 2nd Division, but some difficulty would probably be encountered through the contention being continued that fit men in industry should go overseas before returned troops are required to proceed twice.
It would be much easier to use men of 3rd Division to reinforce 2nd Division than vice versa.
(h) Temporary return of either Division
This would lead to the disappearance of the division as a fighting formation, requiring reorganisation and training over a period of not less than six months before the division was fit for active service.
Of the factors considered above, the conclusions arrived at in regard to (a) Relative Strategical Importance of European and Pacific Theatres, (d) Shipping, (e) Time Factor, (g) Re-employment of Troops are decisively in favour of retaining 2nd Division in Europe.
(c) Present and Pending Operations—slightly favour retaining 2nd Division abroad, while (f) Climate, Relief and Casualties—favour retaining 3rd Division in the Pacific, except for the difficulties created in 3rd Division through the necessity on account of climate to grant leave in New Zealand.
(b) Political—strongly favour retaining 3rd Division in the Pacific though, subject to expert judgment on political issues, it seems that a sufficient answer to any Australian or United States adverse opinion is available in New Zealand's past record in the Pacific and in the Air and Navy forces remaining there, and a complete answer when after the defeat of Germany, a New Zealand division again takes the field against Japan.
(h) Temporary return of either Division—applies equally to both divisions.
Retain 2nd Division abroad.
Return 3rd Division to New Zealand when the operational situation permits.
Chief of the General Staff