499 Fraser to Chifley

Cablegram 29 WELLINGTON, 22 February 1947, 10.31 a.m.


We have had under examination the position of our component in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan which at present consists of one R.N.Z.A.F. Squadron of approximately 300 personnel and an Army Brigade Group with supporting troops totalling 4,254.

All personnel w[ere] recruited on a voluntary basis for a period of twelve months service and arrangements must be made for the relief of the Army component in May (3,310) and July (646).

Personnel of the Air Force Squadron were relieved recently.

2. Within the last fortnight an appeal has been made for volunteers for the Army component but the result to date indicates that the numbers forthcoming will probably not be sufficient to provide more than one infantry battalion and a few administrative personnel a total approximately of 1,200 all ranks. In all the circumstances we will find it necessary therefore to reduce our future army contingent to this figure plus one R.N.Z.A.F.

Squadron. We feel sure that the position in which we find ourselves will be understood by other Commonwealth Governments and would be glad if we could be advised urgently of your comments on our proposal which we assume will also be submitted to J.C.O.S.A.

for consideration.

3. It will I am sure be appreciated that the maintenance in Japan of a force of even this size will because of the general manpower shortage constitute a severe burden on industry. Notwithstanding this and the serious doubt we feel as to the value of continued British participation in military occupation of Japan we are anxious to do what we can with our Commonwealth partners in contributing to the security of the Pacific. We would, however, suggest that the whole position might be reviewed. It seems to us that purely military tasks must be reducing, so permitting some overall reduction in the size of the force to be maintained.

Furthermore the existence of the force does not afford any of the participating Governments any share in the military Government of Japan and an opportunity therefore of influencing directly the development of democratic institutions and a way of life in Japan which will not be a menace to the future security of the Pacific.

It is doubtful also whether the existence of the force is of any value to us in the advocacy generally of policies affecting Japan while its maintenance in a position of substantial inferiority to the Americans tends to diminish our prestige in the eyes of the Japanese.

4. We would welcome your general observations on the question of the value of the force.

[AA : A1067, P46/10/61, i]