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124 Advisory War Council Minute 1352

CANBERRA, 2 May 1944


The Acting Prime Minister, in welcoming Rear Admiral Daniel to the meeting, stated that Rear Admiral Daniel was formerly Director of Plans at the Admiralty and had recently arrived in Australia to examine, in collaboration with Australian officers, the facilities necessary here to enable British Naval forces to operate in the Pacific using Australia as the base for such operations. His mission was of an exploratory nature, without commitment, but its potential significance for Australia was appreciated. It involved wide and important issues of British co-operation in the Pacific which were to be discussed at the conference of Prime Ministers in London. He invited Rear Admiral Daniel to make a statement to the Council.

2. The following is a summary of the main points of Rear Admiral Daniel's statement:-

(a) At the Cairo and Tehran Conferences, it was decided, subject to final approval, that the major effort against Japan should be made in the Pacific.

One of the matters which arose out of this decision was the question of the transfer of R.N. forces to the Pacific. This has been the subject of discussions between the First Sea Lord and Admiral King, and, at the latter's suggestion, it was decided to send a British Service Mission to the United States and the Pacific to investigate the problems associated with such transfer.

(b) There were two strategical conceptions which affected the part to be played by the Royal Navy in the war against Japan:-

Firstly-the Indian Ocean strategy. This envisaged landings on Sumatra followed by operations for the recapture of Singapore, involving perhaps 10-i2 Divisions. If the Royal Navy were committed to such a strategy, the demands would be so great as to make it extremely unlikely for the Royal Navy to be able to do anything in the Pacific.

Secondly-the Pacific Ocean strategy. This envisaged Royal Navy Forces working in close co-operation with the United States Forces for an attack in force on the Philippines, Hong Kong, Formosa, and perhaps Japan.

(c) The general feeling in Washington was that United States Naval Forces were self-sufficient for the task in the Pacific. United States Naval losses in the operations to date had been light, but they might increase as operations continue, and the United States authorities did not, therefore, exclude the possibility of British assistance in the Pacific. If, however, Britain were committed in the Indian Ocean and operations in Malaya and adjacent areas did not proceed as rapidly as expected, we would not be able to come to the assistance of the United States Forces. In this event, both prongs of the advance would be held up.

(d) Admiral Daniel's personal view was that the Pacific strategy was the correct one. Immense operations would be necessary for the defeat of Japan and we could not have too great a preponderance of strength. Royal Navy Forces should be based on Australia and operate through the New Hebrides, Solomons, Admiralty Islands to the Philippines, thus ensuring secure bases along the lines of communication.

(e) Until Germany was defeated (the 'official' date for which is October, 1944), a British Task Force was all that could be made available for the Pacific. After the defeat of Germany, a force of the following order could be made available:-

4 to 6 modern battleships 4 fleet carriers 7 light carriers 18 escort carriers 12 large and small cruisers 60 destroyers 100 escort vessels 900 aircraft (carrier based) 300 aircraft (land based) 24 submarines 2 amphibious divisions (f) Australia would, in effect, become a 'Pearl Harbour' for operations by the British Naval Forces in the Pacific, just as Pearl Harbour was the basis of the advance of the United States fleet in the Pacific. This would involve a considerable expansion of the facilities at Sydney and elsewhere, and his mission was to investigate this problem.

(g) The Japanese fleet would give battle when a vital enemy objective was threatened. The Philippines and Formosa might be so regarded by the enemy, in which event a decisive naval action would probably be fought.

(h) The Indian ocean strategy would not be proceeded with if forces were concentrated in the Pacific. A weak naval force would probably be retained in the Indian Ocean.

(i) It was important that there should be no delay in making our maximum effort against Japan, as soon as Germany was defeated.

Speed was the essence of the matter and everything possible should be done to avoid a long drawn out war against Japan.

3. The Acting Prime Minister expressed to Rear Admiral Daniel the thanks of the Council for his informative statement.

[AA:A2682, VOL. 7]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History