Chapter IX:
Australia and the Line of Communication

Logistics comprises the means and arrangements which work out the plans of strategy and tactics.


When in December the War Department established in Australia the command known as USAFIA it had no intention of using its ground forces to defend that subcontinent or of creating a theater of operations. All it wanted to do was to provide a base from which to supply the Philippines. That purpose was soon enlarged to include the support of ABDACOM, but not to the extent of committing large ground forces. The American contribution in that area, General Marshall told Brett before he assumed command of USAFIA, was to be "predominantly air, with other elements limited to those necessary for efficient air operation and the security of the bases."1

The advance of the Japanese into the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, and the Solomons, combined with their success along the Malay Barrier in December and January, brought into sharp relief' the danger to Australia and the necessity of enlarging its defenses. This task was assumed, somewhat reluctantly, by the United States, and with it went the additional burden of defending the islands stretching across the South Pacific -- the life line to Australia. The results, largely unforeseen and never anticipated in prewar plans, were to have a profound effect on the war in the Pacific.

The Northeast Area

North of Australia, "like a prehistoric monster, half bird and half reptile,"2 lies New Guinea, separating Indonesia to the west from the islands of Melanesia to the east. The eastern half of New Guinea (except for the Papuan Peninsula), with the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago -- New Britain, New Ireland, and the Admiralties -- and those of the northern Solomons -- Buka and Bougainville -- compose the Australian Mandated Territory. The Papuan Peninsula, which formed the tail of the New Guinea monster, was Australian colonial territory. To the east of Papua lay the southern Solomons, constituting a British colony. The strategic significance of the inaccessible and inhospitable region comprising


the southeast portion of New Guinea and the Solomons lay in the fact that its straits and seas and its isolated communities provided a double path to the important east coast of Australia and the line of communications to the United States. Both paths began at the Bismarck Archipelago. The western route led along the New Guinea coast, from Lae and Salamaua to the tip of the Papuan Peninsula, and then through the Coral Sea to the developed and industrialized east coast of Australia. The second route extended from the Bismarck Archipelago in a southeasterly direction through the Solomons to the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, the Fijis, and the island chain stretching eastward to Hawaii. Far to the south lay New Zealand, like Australia a British Dominion and a vital link in the imperial system.

At the apex of these two routes, on the island of New Britain, lay Rabaul, capital of the Australian Mandated Territory and key to the defense of the Northeast Area. With its first-rate harbor and airfield sites, Rabaul was potentially the finest base in the region for an enemy advance along either or both routes. Conversely it could be used as a springboard from which to attack with air or naval forces the Japanese stronghold at Truk, which lay only 640 miles to the north, and to drive in the right flank of the Japanese position in the Central Pacific. The other key Allied base in the Northeast Area was Port Moresby, which faced northeastern Australia across the Gulf of Papua and Torres Strait. To its rear, providing a measure of security, lay the towering Owen Stanley range.

With their limited forces, many of which were serving in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Australians could do no more than place token garrisons in the Northeast Area. At Port Moresby was a brigade group of about 3,000 men, a handful of planes, and some artillery. The rest of New Guinea was defended by a local militia called the New Guinea Volunteer Reserve, while Rabaul was garrisoned by a mixed force numbering about 1,500 men.3

The Japanese had no plan to invade Australia when they went to war, but they recognized fully the importance of Rabaul and the Bismarck Archipelago as a base for offensive operations and as an outpost for the defense of Truk and their own line of communications. In their plans, therefore, they provided for the "seizure of strategic points in the Bismarck Archipelago."4 This task was to be accomplished after the occupation of Guam and by the same force which took that lonely American outpost -- a joint force consisting of the Army's South Seas Detachment and the Navy's South Seas Force.

Vice Adm. Shigeyoshi Inouye, 4th Fleet commander, began making his plans for an advance into the Bismarck Archipelago immediately after the occupation of Guam on 10 December. It was not until 4 January, however, that Maj. General Tomitaro Horii, commander of the South Seas Detachment, was told by Imperial General Headquarters to make


ready for the invasion of Rabaul, to be undertaken around the middle of the month. Inouye and Horii, who was directly under the control of Imperial General Headquarters, quickly made arrangements for the coming operations. The South Seas Detachment would take Rabaul; the South Seas Force of the 4th Fleet, Kavieng in New Ireland. D-day was set for 23 January. With a full appreciation of the importance of Rabaul to the Allies, the Japanese anticipated a naval reaction, either from Australia or Hawaii, and took every precaution to meet such a contingency. But they had an accurate knowledge of the defenses of Rabaul and Kavieng and did not foresee any difficulty in overcoming either garrison. Nevertheless they made their plans carefully, reconnoitered thoroughly, and began softening up the target three weeks before the invasion date.5

On 14 January the South Seas Detachment, a heavily reinforced regimental combat team numbering about 5,000 men, left Guam escorted by units of the 4th Fleet. Additional protection was furnished by three carriers and supporting warships detached from the Pearl Harbor force and led by Admiral Nagumo himself; a scouting force of four heavy cruisers; and a separate submarine force of six large underwater craft. At dawn of the 20th and again on the 21st, Nagumo sent his carrier planes against Rabaul and nearby points along the New Guinea coast to complete the destruction begun on the 4th by Truk-based bombers. Then, while the carriers and cruisers stood off to the north to repel a counterattack and the submarines took up positions before St. George's Channel between New Britain and New Ireland, the convoys moved toward the target. An hour before midnight of the 22d the invasion force hove to in Rabaul Harbor.

The weeks of bombing had accomplished their purpose and Rabaul was virtually without air or coastal defenses when Horii took his South Seas Detachment ashore in the early hours of the 23d. The Australians put up only a nominal defense. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, they retreated into the hills and jungle behind the town. Four hundred men of the garrison made good their escape; the rest were captured or killed. By noon the Japanese were in control of Rabaul.6

Meanwhile, the force designated for the occupation of Kavieng, two companies of special naval landing troops, had left Truk on the 20th and under separate escort sailed directly to New Ireland. On the morning of the 23d this force landed at Kavieng without opposition, the defenders having been captured as they sought to make their escape in small boats. Thus, in a few hours, with almost no casualties, the Japanese had gained control of the strategic Bismarck Archipelago and uncovered the outer defenses of the Northeast Area.

In the weeks that followed the Japanese consolidated their hold on the area and began to convert Rabaul into a formidable base. Mopping-up operations


were completed by the end of the month and troops posted on adjacent islands to establish an outer ring of defense. In the invasion convoy had been a large number of construction troops and these were put to work immediately to repair and improve existing airfields, build new ones, and construct naval facilities. On 30 January 9 Zeros from Truk moved to Rabaul, and soon after 20 medium bombers landed at the Vinakauan airfield outside the town. By the end of February an entire air group -- 48 medium bombers, a similar number of fighters, and 12 flying boats -- was based at Rabaul.7

The fall of Rabaul alarmed the Australians as nothing else had. General Wavell's ABDACOM still provided some measure of protection against invasion from the northwest, but the Northeast Area was now virtually unprotected. This possibility had been foreseen when the ABDA area was created and the British had then suggested that the U.S. Pacific Fleet assume responsibility for the defense of the northeast approaches to Australia and for the line of communication. Still reeling from the blow at Pearl Harbor, the Navy refused this additional burden, but Admiral King had on 1 January directed his planners to study the problem. The result was a recommendation to establish the ANZAC area envisaged a year before in ABC-1, but to enlarge it on the north and east to include the Fijis, New Hebrides, and New Caledonia. Air and naval forces in this area would be supplied by Australia and New Zealand, assisted by the United States, and would be under the direction of an American flag officer responsible to the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.8

This proposal, as finally amended by Admiral King and the British First Sea Lord, Admiral Pound, was submitted to the Australian Government on 8 January. For reasons that are not clear, the Australians, though extremely concerned over the defense of the Northeast Area, took no action for two weeks. Finally, on 23 January, the day the Japanese took Rabaul, the Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, agreed to the establishment of the ANZAC area under American command, but with assumptions about the responsibilities of the Pacific Fleet commander that took another week to remove. It was not until the end of the month, therefore, that ANZAC was formally established, with Vice Adm. Herbert F. Leary in command. His task was to cover the eastern and northeastern approaches to Australia and New Zealand; protect Allied shipping and support the defense of the islands in the area; and, finally, destroy enemy forces and attack enemy positions in the area.

The ANZAC command, like ABDACOM, was short-lived, but unlike that ill-fated command did not disintegrate under Japanese pressure but because it had outlived its usefulness. Nor did Admiral Leary have responsibility for the defense of the land areas included in ANZAC; his was exclusively a naval and air command. Initially it consisted of three Australian cruisers, plus some destroyers and corvettes. To


these were added the USS Chicago and two destroyers from the Pacific Fleet. A squadron of B-17's from Hawaii was assigned and it reached Townsville in northeast Australia on 17 February. Several days later these bombers hit Rabaul in the first blow of a long campaign of attrition to neutralize that rapidly growing Japanese base.9

The establishment of ANZAC was only one of the measures taken to meet the danger created by Japanese occupation of Rabaul.10 It was at this time, too, that the Australians approved a proposal the Combined Chiefs had made on 11 January to include Darwin and the northwest coast of Australia in General Wavell's ABDA area. This approval came on 23 January, the same day that the Australians agreed to the establishment of ANZAC, and the Combined Chiefs immediately notified Wavell of his new responsibilities.11

While this change gave some hope for the security of Darwin (which the U.S. Navy was then using as a base, but which it abandoned after the attack of 19 February), it did not meet the problem of defending Port Moresby in the Northeast Area. The ANZAC force alone could not, the Australians believed, give them the protection they needed and they so informed the British while requesting 250 more fighter planes and a squadron of the American P-40's allotted to General Wavell. Neither the British nor the American Chiefs could meet this new and unexpected request, but offered as an alternative to include Port Moresby in the ABDA area. General Wavell argued strongly against this solution as well as the suggestion that he divert some of his planes to the Australians, and the matter was dropped.12

But the problem of meeting Australia's demand for fighter planes was still not solved. After considerable discussion, General Marshall agreed to divert one American squadron to the defense of Port Moresby. This solution, though it failed to satisfy the Australians, was one which, perforce, they had to accept.13 But by the time this decision was made the ANZAC force had taken over responsibility for the air and naval defense of the Northeast Area.

It was now early February and the signs of disintegration along the Malay Barrier to the northwest were clearly evident. Here was another threat to an Australia already concerned over the security of the northeast flank. Two of its divisions, the 6th and 7th, were due from the Middle East this month and the next. Under existing plans they were to be used in the defense of the Netherlands Indies, and thus, indirectly, of Australia itself. To this arrangement the Australian Government had no objections. But on 13 February General Wavell raised another possibility. In


view of the early loss of Singapore and the prospects of an invasion of Sumatra and Java he suggested to the Combined Chiefs that at least one of the two Australian divisions be sent instead to Burma.14

In Washington there was a full appreciation of the seriousness of the situation along the Malay Barrier. It was recognized, too, that, in the event ABDACOM fell, the United States could best defend the right (east) flank and the British the left in Southeast Asia.15 But the British could ill spare the troops to send there and the Australians had already made it evident that they would not permit their divisions to serve in Burma. Moreover there was in the Middle East a third Australian division, the 9th, which was scheduled to return home soon. If the British were to have the use of any of these troops, then the United States, it was becoming increasingly clear, would have to provide more than air or service troops for the defense of Australia.

It is against this background that the action that followed Wavell's message of the 13th can be best understood. Up to that time the policy of the War Department, reiterated time and again, had been to send out only aircraft and the necessary service and supporting troops to Australia. Now, on 14 February, the War Department suddenly reversed itself and decided to send an infantry division -- the 41st -- as well as additional supporting troops, all together about 25,000 men, for the ground defense of Australia. Two days later, with the help of Harry Hopkins, the ships required for most of these troops had been found. In a period when shipping space was the most precious of Allied resources, this rapid action was indeed remarkable.16

The Americans and British now turned to the Australian Government for aid in Burma. On the 16th, after the fall of Singapore, Wavell had come out flatly for the diversion of both the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions to Burma on the ground that they would have a "very great effect on Japanese strategy and a heartening effect on China and India."1 Reinforcements for Australia, he said, unaware of the decision made in Washington two days earlier, should be provided by the United States. The United States and British Governments, unwilling to go as far as Wavell and believing that Australia would never consent to his proposal, asked Curtin for only one of the divisions for Burma. To these official requests were added the personal appeals of Churchill and Roosevelt, the latter enjoining the Australian Prime Minister to "have every confidence that we are going to reinforce your position with all possible speed."18 But the Australians were adamant. They had contributed much to the imperial cause and would neither risk the loss of their men in Burma nor jeopardize the security of


the homeland to grant the British the use of their 7th Division.19

This refusal did not affect the movement of American ground troops to Australia. The first echelon of the 41st Division left the west coast early in March and the rest sailed from San Francisco later in the month and during April.20 Thus, the United States had committed itself, less than three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the ground defense of Australia, with all that such a defense implied.

The Line of Communications

Intimately associated with the defense of Australia as well as the larger problems of future strategy in the Pacific was the line of communications between that country and the United States. The islands along this line lay generally south of the equator, far from the well-traveled air and sea routes to the north. Their strategic significance lay in the fact that once the Central Pacific was lost, they offered the only route to the sister Dominions of Australia and New Zealand. Should this South Pacific line be cut these Dominions would be isolated and the island possessions of the Allies lost to the enemy.

This fact was thoroughly understood by the Japanese naval planners. The lessons taught by Admiral Mahan had not been lost on these officers and they looked on the islands of the South Pacific with an envious eye. Fortunately for the Allied cause, they were unable to include these islands in their war plans for the timetable of conquest was too close and the initial operations too numerous and scattered. But they did not overlook them either. In his order to the Combined Fleet setting out the tasks to be accomplished, Admiral Yamamoto listed among the "areas expected to be occupied or destroyed as quickly as operational conditions permit the Fijis. . .and Samoa," as well as "strategic points in the Australian Area."21 Taken in conjunction with the occupation of the Bismarck Archipelago and the islands of the Central Pacific, this statement of intentions had large implications for the war in the Pacific.

The United States had recognized early the importance of the islands of the South Pacific and in October 1941 had begun building airfields on some of them to provide an alternate air ferry route to the Philippines. But the work had only just begun when war came and, except for local defense forces, none of the islands had been garrisoned. This lack was partially remedied in the days following Pearl Harbor when General Short in Hawaii sent token forces consisting of a few gun crews to Canton and Christmas Islands, both of which were under his jurisdiction. He could do no more until his own urgent needs were filled.22

Primary responsibility for the local defense of the islands of the Pacific rested with the governing nations -- Great Britain, New Zealand, the Free French, Australia, and, in the case of


Hawaii, Samoa, and other small islands, the United States. But the task of guarding the sea lanes to Australia and New Zealand -- a separate though related problem to that of local defense -- was the responsibility of the Pacific Fleet and British naval forces. Under ABC-1 and the RAINBOW plan, the former was responsible for the defense of the area east of the 180th meridian, that is, up to but not including the Fijis and New Zealand; the latter for the region to the west as far as longitude 155° east. The Pacific Fleet had the additional mission of supporting the British in their area of responsibility which included the east coast of Australia and the southeast portion of the Papuan Peninsula.23

This arrangement was invalidated almost immediately on the outbreak of war when the Chief of Naval Operations had declared that the Pacific Fleet could do no more than defend the area east of the 180th meridian. The result of this decision, which the British and Australians accepted only because they had to, left a vacuum in the Allied defenses, which, it was apparent, the Japanese would soon fill if the Allies did not. Late in December, therefore, when the initial shock of the Pearl Harbor attack had worn off, Admiral King ordered the recently appointed Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Nimitz, to maintain the line of communication to Australia by extending his control of the line Hawaii-Samoa westward to include the Fijis "at earliest practicable date." This task, King told Nimitz, was second and "only in small degrees less important" than the protection of the line of communication from Midway to Hawaii and the west coast.24

This decision did not ensure the security of the line of communications, however, for it still left the area west of the Fijis uncovered and made no provision for local defense. The problem was therefore laid before the first U.S.-British conference then in session in Washington. No one there disagreed with the necessity for holding the islands, which it was recognized not only furnished an air route across the Pacific but provided bases for Allied air and naval forces and outposts for the defense of Hawaii and Australia as well. The real problem for the planners was to find the troops to do the job and the shipping to support them. The formula finally agreed upon, on 10 January, was to allocate responsibility for the defense of the islands east of the 180th meridian to the United States, and those west of that line to New Zealand and Australia.25

Even before this agreement was reached, the Americans had been assembling the forces needed to garrison the islands in their area of responsibility. The Army, it had been decided, would provide the garrisons for Christmas, Canton, and Bora Bora; the Navy, for Palmyra and Samoa. These garrisons would be small, for it was recognized that the security of the islands depended ultimately on air and naval power, rather than on the strength of the ground forces. To convert each island into an impregnable


MAP 3: The South Pacific line of communications to Australia
fortress would not only be wasteful of precious troop strength and shipping, but would probably be less effective than defense by mobile air and naval forces. Thus the strength of the Canton and Christmas garrisons was set at about 2,000 men each, chiefly infantry and artillery, and a squadron of pursuit planes. Bora Bora, which the Navy planned to use as a refueling station, was given an Army garrison of 4,000 consisting largely of an infantry and an antiaircraft artillery regiment.26

Palmyra, between Hawaii and Canton, was an essential link in the new air ferry route. The Navy had begun, a year before the war, to develop a seaplane base there but wished now to enlarge its facilities and to garrison the island. For this purpose it sent out a Marine detachment and naval construction units, while the Army supplied a pursuit squadron for local protection. Plans for the expansion of military facilities in American Samoa, which had been under naval administration since its acquisition


in 1899 and already possessed air and naval installations, were also pushed vigorously by the Navy. Its defenses were provided by a Marine brigade which left San Diego on 6 January, escorted by a naval force including the carriers Enterprise and Yorktown, and which reached the island seventeen days later.27

The defense of Hawaii was a special case. In the first days of war its reinforcement had seemed perhaps the most urgent task facing the Army and Navy, but by Christmas 1941 concern for its safety had somewhat abated. Priority for troops and equipment had then shifted to the Southwest Pacific. But General Emmons, the new commander of the Hawaiian Department, had been promised in December large reinforcements, including one square division, an armored regiment, aircraft of all types, and service troops. These, he had been told at the time, would be shipped later, after the emergency in the Southwest Pacific had passed. The threat in that area, however, had increased rather than diminished, and, with the additional necessity of reinforcing the line of communications, had made the prospect of strengthening Hawaii's defenses more remote than ever.28

In February, therefore, when Emmons requested reinforcements above those already authorized, the whole question of the defense of Hawaii and its troop requirements came up for review. By this time it was clear that the major part of the Japanese forces was committed to the Southwest Pacific and that Hawaii was no longer in danger of invasion. The Japanese were still capable of air and naval raids against the islands, but this threat could be met by the Pacific Fleet and the air strength already allotted. It was recognized, moreover, that the assignment of additional air and ground forces to Hawaii would play into Japan's hands for it would pin down American strength and consume valuable shipping space without any appreciable effect on Japanese military forces. The Joint Chiefs therefore turned down Emmons' new requests and decided to send him only what had been promised earlier.29

This decision made, the Army hastened the shipment of the promised but long-overdue reinforcements to Hawaii. In mid-February an advance party of the 27th Division left the west coast to make preparations for the arrival of the rest of the division. In ships loaned by the British, the New York National Guard division was moved to Hawaii in three echelons during March. But at the end of the month there were still 40,000 troops allocated to the Hawaiian garrison in the United States awaiting shipment.30

Providing forces for the islands west of the 180th meridian was not initially an American responsibility. For the


Fijis, which many thought to be seriously threatened, the United States agreed to provide air and antiaircraft forces. But it was New Zealand which furnished most of the air as well as the ground defenses of the island, a contribution which exceeded 8,000 men, including the native Fijian troops who later acquired an awesome reputation as jungle fighters.31

The security of New Caledonia was one of the most bothersome problems of the Pacific area. Second in size only to New Zealand among the islands in the South Pacific and an important station along the air ferry route, New Caledonia had a dual strategic significance. Not only did it lie at the end of the long line of islands stretching across the Pacific, but it flanked the northeast approaches to Australia from New Guinea and the Solomons. Moreover it contained valuable deposits of nickel and chrome, which would undoubtedly make it a tempting prize, Admiral King thought, for the metal-hungry Japanese.

The defense of New Caledonia was complicated by political factors. Sovereignty was exercised by the Free French Government in London through a High Commissioner, Admiral Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu, but responsibility for its defense was assigned by the Allies to Australia. Neither could spare the large forces required to make this vital outpost secure. The French had on the island 1,400 poorly equipped, ill-trained troops, mostly natives, and the Australians could contribute only a single company of commandos. Reinforcements were urgently needed, and it was this need that projected the United States into the confused politics of New Caledonia and made that island one of the major American bases in the Pacific.32

American interest in New Caledonia predated the war. Since October 1941 the United States had been actively negotiating with the Free French for the right to construct an airfield there. Work on the field was well along on 7 December, despite conflict between the French and the Australians who were building the airstrip. Pearl Harbor gave an added impetus to this effort and an urgency to the island's defense that was heightened when General Charles de Gaulle threw in his lot with the powers arrayed against Japan and offered to make available to the Allies the Free French islands of the Pacific.33 Neither Australia nor the United States, however, was yet ready to assume responsibility for the defense of the island.

The progress of negotiations soon hit a snag. General de Gaulle and his Pacific representative, Admiral d'Argenlieu, had approved American plans for the development of airfields in New Caledonia with the understanding that these fields would be under a French commander who would in turn be subordinate to any Allied command established in the Southwest Pacific. Such an Allied command,


they had assumed, would be American. By arrangements between the Americans and British, however, New Caledonia fell into the British area of responsibility, and had been delegated by them to the Australians. When d'Argenlieu learned of this arrangement he insisted that the French command all Allied forces and installations on the island and demanded that he be informed of plans for the area. He permitted the Australians to continue work on the airfield, but on a temporary basis.34

Weeks passed and d'Argenlieu received no word of plans for the defense of the island or of the decisions reached by the Americans and British then meeting in Washington. Increasingly nervous over the safety of the island, where Japanese submarines had already been sighted, and unable to get any satisfaction from the Australians, the French turned to the Americans -- to General Emmons in Hawaii and to officials in Washington -- with their complaints. Finally, on about 15 January, d'Argenlieu told Emmons that if reinforcements were not sent immediately it would be necessary to stop all work on the airfields because they would, when completed, provide the Japanese with a strong inducement for attacking New Caledonia.35

Already a decision on the defense of New Caledonia had been made, based not on d'Argenlieu's thinly veiled threats but on a sober review by the Combined Chiefs of the needs of the islands along the line of communications. By that decision, which was kept a carefully guarded secret from the French, the United States agreed to assume Australia's obligations in New Caledonia. The size of the force it agreed to send there was the largest yet allocated to the Pacific, except for Hawaii and Australia, and consisted of one division (reinforced), two air squadrons, and service troops. So large an undertaking strained an already overloaded shipping schedule and made even more marked the discrepancy between a strategy that placed the war in Europe first and a program that sent the bulk of the troops to the Pacific.

The Army planners recognized -- and deplored -- this and other diversions from the main theater but could not deny the necessity that had created them. Immediately they set to work assembling the forces required and making arrangements for their shipment. Instead of selecting a division already organized and trained the planners put together a force, under the command of Brig. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, Jr., of about 15,000 men, many of them from the recently triangularized 26th and 33d National Guard Divisions. Though this force, designated Task Force 6184, consisted of an "odd conglomeration" of units that gave it the appearance, at first glance, of a "military stew of men and equipment," it had many of the marks of an infantry division. There was a brigade headquarters from the 26th Division, two infantry regiments, the 132d and 184th, a field artillery regiment with 155-mm. howitzers, and the usual service elements, strengthened by attachments. But it included also a battalion of light tanks, a pursuit squadron, an antiaircraft


regiment, and a coast artillery battalion.36

GENERAL PATCH being greeted by Admiral d'Argenlieu.

The mission given General Patch was brief: to hold New Caledonia, in cooperation with the military forces of the United Nations, against all attacks. Presumably he would receive no reinforcements. He was an independent commander, responsible only to the War Department and reporting directly to Washington. But his authority was more restricted than it appeared on the surface. He had, for example, no control over the airfields which were causing so much difficulty with the French. That was the responsibility of General Emmons, over 3,000 miles away, and of the Australians who were doing the construction work. Also, responsibility for the supply of his force was shared by the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and General Barnes in Australia, who had also to meet the demands of Brereton and Brett for the ABDA area and MacArthur for the Philippines. Finally, as Patch soon learned, the question of French participation in the command of forces on the island was still far from settled.37

In the record time of two weeks, not without considerable difficulty and confusion, Task Force 6184, including about 4,000 air and service troops for Australia, was organized, equipped, and loaded aboard seven transports, all that could be assembled on the east coast at that time. On 23 January it sailed from New York and reached Melbourne, via the Panama Canal, on 26 February. In Australia, where there was considerable anxiety over the safety of the homeland and where American ground forces had not yet made their appearance, envious eyes were cast upon this large force, not only by the Australians but by the American commanders as well. But there was no mistaking the destination of Task Force 6184 or General Marshall's injunction that this force was to be used along the line of communications, not as reinforcements for Australia or the ABDA area.38

Meanwhile Admiral d'Argenlieu had become more and more insistent in his demand for troops and equipment. Fearing premature disclosure through Free French channels of the movement of so large a force, General Marshall was adamant


FORWARD ECHELON of the 41ST DIVISION en route to Australia unloading at Oro Bay, New Guinea.

in his refusal to do more than authorize General Emmons to tell the admiral that the Allies would provide for the defense of New Caledonia. The nationality, composition, size, and time of arrival of the force were kept secret and d'Argenlieu, perforce, had to content himself with Emmons' assurances that the island would be defended.

The transshipment of Task Force 6184 from Melbourne to New Caledonia was a heavy task. The troops had to be debarked and those intended for use in Australia sent to their destinations with their equipment. The remainder of the men had to be housed and fed in nearby camps while the cargo was sorted, rearranged, and loaded.39 General Patch had left for Australia by air via the South Atlantic route to make these arrangements, carrying with him the manifests and other documents. But he fell ill in Trinidad and had to return to Washington for hospitalization. Later he flew directly across the Pacific to New Caledonia, stopping only at Hawaii to consult with General Emmons. Meanwhile Barnes made whatever preparations he could until another courier arrived.


Laboring in the heat of the Australian summer, the dock workers at Melbourne completed their task by 6 March and on that date the seven transports of Task Force 6184, with naval escort, set sail for New Caledonia. After an uneventful voyage they entered the harbor of Noumea at the southwest tip of the cigar-shaped island six days later. There arrangements for their unloading had already been made by an advance party flown in from Melbourne. General Patch had arrived on the 5th, bringing with him the information that d'Argenlieu had been seeking for so long and the news that a large force would soon reach the island. This news and the arrival of Task Force 6184 put to rest the uncertainty and fears of the French, but, unfortunately, did not end the difficulties that had plagued the planners and diplomats and now rested on Patch's shoulders.

Although General Patch had been told he could expect no reinforcements, these were soon on the way. In mid-April, he received a third infantry regiment, the 164th, and authority to organize from his force an infantry division. This was done in May when the Americal Division, which was to fight its way from Guadalcanal to Tokyo, was created.

By the time Task Force 6184 arrived in New Caledonia the 41st Division was on its way to Australia and the garrisons organized early in January to defend the line of communications had already reached their destinations. In the Fijis was the 70th Pursuit Squadron. The Bora Bora garrison, which left Charleston on 27 January, completed its journey in three weeks but so hastily had it been assembled and shipped that it did not complete its unloading until almost two months later. The Christmas Island and Canton garrisons left San Francisco on 31 January and were at their stations before the middle of February.40 The line of communications between the United States and Australia, which had lain so nakedly exposed to Japanese attack in the dark days after Pearl Harbor, was, three months later, rapidly being converted into a chain of island bases linking the two countries. But it was still only a thin line of defense, weakly held and easily pierced, and the danger of attack was still a live threat. (Table 3)

The Japanese Threat

The Japanese had not been idle during these months. Even before the war their naval planners had contended that they could not stop with the seizure of Rabaul but must go on to establish control over the Solomons and the northeast coast of New Guinea. Such action would not only secure the Japanese position in the Bismarck Archipelago with the least cost through air attrition, but would, the naval planners noted, provide a springboard for further advances to the Fijis, Samoa, and "strategic points in the Australia Area." Though they were unable to win approval for this scheme in the prewar plan, the naval planners did not abandon the project but placed it on their agenda, to be accomplished "as quickly as operational conditions permit."41

Hardly had Rabaul fallen when the



Base Infantry Artillery Aircraft
Hawaii Divisions:
   24th Division
   25th Division
   27th Division
   (Additional Division Projected)
AA Regiments:
   6 Present
    1 Projected
CA Regiments:
   (155-mm. Gun), 2
Heavy Bombers:
   41 Present
   96 Projected
Medium and Light Bombers:
   26 Present
   179 Present
   225 Projected
Australia Divisions:
   32d (En route)
   41st (En route)
AA Regiments, 3
AA Battalions, 3
Heavy Bombers:
   41 Present
   80 Projected
Medium and Light Bombers:
   152 Present and En route
   207 Projected
   477 Present and En route
   640 Projected
New Caledonia Divisions:
AA Regiment, 1
CAC Battalion,
   155-mm. Gun, 1
   40 Present
   75 Projected
Fijis Division:
   37th, Projected
   25 Present
Bora Bora Regiments
   102d Infantry
   (less one Battalion)
AA Regiment, 1  
Christmas Battalion, 1 CA Battalions, 2 Pursuit:
   25 Present
Canton Companies, 2 CA Battalions, 2 Pursuit:
   40 Present
   50 Projected
Tongatabu Regiments:
   147th Infantry (reinf.)
   (less one Battalion)
AA Regiment, 1 Pursuit:
   25 Present
Efate Regiments:
   24th Infantry (reinf.)


Navy high command raised the question of a further advance into the area northeast of Australia. "Operational conditions," the naval officers thought, were ripe for an extension of the original perimeter into the Solomon Islands and northeast New Guinea, to Lae and Salamaua in the Huon Gulf, and even to Port Moresby. Such a move, they argued, would not only strengthen Japan's defensive position but would deny the Allies key bases for counterattack. From airfields in this area the Imperial Navy could keep a close watch on enemy naval movements far to the south and at the same time "intensify pressure on northeastern Australia," hindering its use for air operations by the Allies. These large results, naval officers did not fail to point out to their Army colleagues, could be achieved at slight cost and with few troops.42

While the Army planners were digesting this tempting morsel, the Navy presented them with still another dish -- one on which they nearly choked. Since the main reason for advancing beyond the original perimeter was to delay an Allied counteroffensive from the south, why not, the Navy asked, seize the main enemy base by taking Australia itself? Apparently carried away by its own boldness the Navy went even further -- there were no limits to this kind of strategy -- and proposed that India, too, be taken as a means of forestalling Allied recovery and reorganization. Clearly the naval staff, as one of the Japanese admirals put it, had succumbed to the "so-called Victory Disease."43

No decision was reached on the invasion of Australia or India at this time. At least twelve divisions would be required to invade Australia, the Army planners said, as well as supplies and shipping in such magnitude as to make the operation "a reckless undertaking far in excess of Japan capabilities."44 Similar reasons ruled out the move against India. The Navy did not push these projects -- though it had its own plans for carrier strikes in the Indian Ocean -- and was satisfied to let the matter rest for the time being.

To the proposal to advance into New Guinea and the Solomons the Army could find few objections. It was a feasible operation, would have significant results, and would require relatively few Army troops. Agreement was quickly reached. On 29 January Imperial General Headquarters issued orders directing Army and Navy forces in the Bismarcks to occupy the Lae-Salamaua area in New Guinea and then, "if possible," move on to take Port Moresby. Operations to seize air bases in the Solomons and capture Tulagi, just north of Guadalcanal, were authorized at the same


time but would be carried out by naval forces alone.45

Plans for the invasion of Lae and Salamaua, like those for the Bismarck area, were made by General Horii, commander of the South Seas Detachment, and Admiral Inouye, 4th Fleet commander. With a full knowledge of the weakness of the Australian garrisons in New Guinea, the two commanders assigned only small forces to the operation. Salamaua was to be taken by one battalion of Horii's detachment, supported by an artillery battery and other smaller units; Lae by a naval landing force of battalion size. Naval escort and support, including four heavy and two light cruisers, would be provided by Inouye's 4th Fleet, and air cover by the 4th Air Group based at Rabaul. These plans were completed on 16 February, with the landing scheduled for the end of the month.46

The concentration of Japanese forces at Rabaul had not gone unnoticed and Admiral Nimitz had sent the carrier Lexington into the area. With Admiral Leary's B-17's at Townsville, this carrier force was to meet the enemy and, if possible, destroy it. On 20 February the Lexington, accompanied by four heavy cruisers and ten destroyers, reached a point about 350 miles south of Rabaul where it was detected and attacked by Japanese aircraft. The battle that followed was inconclusive. The American carrier force drove off the Japanese planes, but abandoned any further effort against Rabaul because all chance of surprising the Japanese had been lost and the ships were running short of fuel. Two days later the ANZAC B-17's made their first attack on Rabaul.47

These raids, while they did not alter the Japanese plan, did postpone its execution. Finally, on 5 March, all was in readiness and the invasion force sortied from Rabaul harbor to reach Huon Gulf two days later. There it split, one group heading for Lae, the other for Salamaua. Early next morning, 8 March, the troops went ashore, covered by aircraft from Rabaul and Gasmata which had been bombing the target area as well as Port Moresby since the 2d. There was no opposition at the beaches or in the towns, and during the next two days the Japanese unloaded their supplies and began to build the bases. Thus, at almost no cost, the Japanese acquired control of the straits between northeast New Guinea and New Britain and positions from which they could support a further advance southward and prevent the Allies from breaking out into the open seas north of the Bismarck Archipelago.48

The absence of opposition did not mean the Allies would take this fresh assault without reprisal. Since the inconclusive raid of the Lexington on 20 February, Admiral Nimitz had assembled another force, almost double that of the first, in an effort to halt the Japanese advance into Australia's Northeast


Area. This time he used two carriers, the Lexington and the Yorktown, supported by more cruisers and destroyers plus elements of the ANZAC force. These vessels sortied northward toward Rabaul early in March, too late to intercept the convoys headed for Lae and Salamaua. But they were not too late to do damage, and on 10 March, from positions in the Gulf of Papua, the carriers sent their planes aloft toward Huon Gulf. The strike apparently came as a complete surprise to the Japanese, who lost four vessels sunk, three more damaged, and almost 400 men killed and wounded. Next day the B-17's from Townsville came over Lae and Salamaua, but with less effect. That attack marked the last serious effort made during this period against the Japanese, who by this time had brought aircraft into the area and declared it secure. They were now within 170 air miles of Port Moresby.49

Operations against Port Moresby and Tulagi, which the Japanese intended to use as air bases, were to have begun immediately after the capture of Lae and Salamaua, according to the 29 January directive from Imperial General Headquarters. But by the time those bases had been taken more than a month later, Admiral Inouye had revised his view of the seriousness of the next step. His original plan had been based on the assumption that the Allies would be unable to bring air power to the target and that therefore he would need only the long-range planes from Rabaul as support. In view of what had happened since 20 February, and the growing strength of Allied air power in Australia, that assumption was no longer valid. The seizure of Port Moresby and Tulagi would be far riskier than anticipated, Inouye concluded, and would require carrier support. But the carriers that he needed were no longer available, for the striking force of the Combined Fleet with five carriers and four battleships was making ready for a raid against Ceylon, scheduled for early April. Admiral Inouye had no choice, therefore, but to await the return of the fleet from the Indian Ocean. In the interim he consolidated his position in the Bismarck Archipelago and advanced into the northern Solomons -- to the Shortland Islands and Bougainville.50

Meanwhile in Tokyo the question of an invasion of Australia had come up again. The Navy pushed more vigorously for its plan this time, arguing that the U. S. Fleet would be unable to take offensive action in the western Pacific until the end of 1942. In the meantime, the naval planners warned, the Allies were pouring airplanes, men, and supplies into Australia and converting it into a base for offensive operations. The Army's desire to consolidate along the original perimeter and concentrate on the war in China and preparations for a possible attack by Soviet Russia, the naval planners argued, constituted a defensive and negative policy. "Such a policy," asserted Yamamoto's chief of staff, "would in effect render futile all our military successes" and put Japan "in the position of waiting for her enemies to attack without any special advantage


to herself. . . ."51 The wisest course, therefore, was to continue on the offensive, with Australia as the ultimate objective.

The Army remained adamant in its opposition to this plan. Its original conception of operations in the Southwest Pacific had been defensive and the Navy's proposal for an aggressive policy in that area was alarming. Army forces, already widely scattered throughout the Netherlands Indies, Malaya, Burma, Indochina, the Philippines, and elsewhere, would have to be spread dangerously thin if Japan embarked on new and costly adventures. Moreover, the fear of Russia, which had dictated the time of attack and the speed of the advance, had not abated and the Army was anxious to adhere to the original plan to deploy its forces to the north. All these considerations, plus the size of the force required and the difficulties of supplying and maintaining this force, convinced the Army that the invasion of Australia was a "ridiculous operation."52

The outcome of this debate, which lasted through March and April, was a compromise plan, approved on 28 April, to cut the line of communications and isolate Australia. Under this plan, the long-deferred Port Moresby and Tulagi operation would be speedily concluded and would be followed by the occupation of important points in New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Samoa. From these newly acquired bases, Japanese aircraft and submarines could interrupt if not cut off entirely the flow of weapons, men, and supplies to Australia and prevent the development on that continent of a base for an Allied counteroffensive. Obviously this was a compromise which favored the Navy point of view.53

Preparations for the Tulagi and Port Moresby invasions were already complete when Imperial General Headquarters issued its new plan on 28 April. The South Seas Detachment and the naval landing troops of the 4th Fleet were standing by, ready to embark; three days earlier Rabaul-based bombers had begun to strike northeast Australia. D-day for Tulagi was set for 3 May; for Port Moresby, a week later. On 29 April the 5th Carrier Division (two carriers) and the 5th Cruiser Division reached Truk. At long last, Admiral Inouye could begin the Port Moresby operation.

On 4 May, the day after Inouye moved his headquarters from Truk to Rabaul and a naval force landed at Tulagi, the Port Moresby invasion force set sail. Already the joint staff in Tokyo was making plans for the invasion of New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Samoa.

Pacific Build-up

At the same time the Japanese were heatedly debating their future course, the American planners in Washington were reviewing the twin problems of strategy and deployment in the Pacific in the light of the decision to make the main effort against Germany. Despite every effort to halt the movement of troops, planes, and weapons to the Pacific and every argument that these movements and the precious shipping they


consumed were in violation of the accepted strategy, this flow continued and even increased. And with each shipment of troops came increased demands for additional troops, for more planes, and for supplies.

No one could deny the necessity that created these demands. The Japanese were not pursuing a plan that fitted into the Allied blueprint, and it was the Japanese advance, not Allied strategy, which dictated what must be done. But the mounting drain of the Pacific war on the limited resources of the Allies could, by the end of February, no longer be ignored. "Through a combination of circumstances," observed General Eisenhower, the Chief of the War Plans Division, "we are being drawn into a deployment in the Southwest Pacific that far exceeds original planning objectives and which in the absence of powerful air and naval forces . . . is not warranted."54

The immediate occasion for a review of the entire problem by the staff in Washington was the demand from almost every quarter for planes and more planes. Aircraft, especially heavy bombers, were, after shipping, perhaps the most critical of the Allied resources. The Australians wanted about 200 P-40's to meet the threat to Port Moresby; the New Zealanders asked for bombers for the protection of the Fijis; Admiral Leary needed a squadron of B-17's for his ANZAC force; and the Dutch, who were making ready for a last-ditch defense of Java, pressed hard for 72 fighters.55

In addition to these requests, there were other demands to be met by the Army. Its obligation in Hawaii had not been fulfilled, and there was from Admiral King a request that the Army furnish garrisons for two more islands in the South Pacific -- Tongatabu in the Tonga Group, southeast of the Fijis, and Efate in the New Hebrides, between New Caledonia and the Solomons. The first would provide protection for the southern route from Samoa to Australia, the second an outpost for the defense of New Caledonia and the Fijis. "The Navy," complained General Eisenhower, "wants to take all the islands in the Pacific -- have them held by Army troops, to become bases for Army pursuit and bombers. Then! the Navy will have a safe place to sail its vessels."56

Eisenhower's comment was indicative of a difference in view between the Army and Navy over the importance of the Pacific and the priority it should enjoy in the constant struggle for men and materiel. The Army planners recognized fully the importance of Australia and the line of communications but considered their retention as desirable rather than vital operations. Their support should be accomplished, they believed, with a minimum of effort, and priority should go to Europe to make possible an early offensive against Germany. "We've got to go to Europe and fight," wrote Eisenhower, "we've got to quit wasting resources all over the world -- and still worse -- wasting time."57

For the Navy, with its traditional interest


in the Pacific, that area held a greater importance than for the Army and its reinforcement had first priority. The safety of the line of communications was essential to the fleet and until the Japanese threat to the islands along that line had been met -- and for the Navy this threat was still a very live one -- the naval planners considered the Allied position in the Pacific precarious. They did not wish to abandon the efforts to launch an early offensive in Europe, but felt strongly that until the danger was over the Pacific should have first call on American resources. There were extremists on both sides, too, some who were willing to risk the loss of the Southwest Pacific for the advantage of an early offensive against Germany, and others who would concentrate entirely on the Pacific, even if it meant the abandonment, for the time being, of the Atlantic theater.58

Despite this difference, Admiral King finally secured the garrisons he wanted for Efate and Tongatabu. For the former the Army furnished a reinforced infantry regiment, the 24th, numbering about 5,000 men, and the Navy the aircraft and artillery (both Marine) . This force arrived early in May to relieve the small detachment Patch had sent up from New Caledonia to guard this important outpost. Later, a portion of the Efate garrison moved up to Espiritu Santo to build a bomber strip there. The Tongatabu garrison, composed of an infantry regiment (less one battalion), a regiment of antiaircraft artillery, and a pursuit squadron, plus a naval contingent, amounted to 8,200 men. It reached its destination on 14 May and began work immediately to construct a naval base and airfield. Like the Bora Bora force, which it greatly resembled, it was assembled and loaded in haste and paid the penalty in the difficulties it met when it began to debark.59

Meanwhile the review of strategy and deployment, which had begun on February with a directive from the Combined Chiefs, had almost run its course. The results were far from conclusive. About all the planners could agree on after a month of intensive study was a recommendation that the Joint Chiefs decide immediately "on a clear course of action," and then follow that course "with the utmost vigor." They did, however, suggest three possibilities, each representing substantially a view held at the outset of the debate, for the Joint Chiefs to choose from, thus leaving to their superiors the decision they were themselves unable to make. The Chiefs made their choice two days later, on 16 March. The United States, they then agreed, should assemble in the United kingdom the forces needed for an offensive "at the earliest practicable time," and provide for the Pacific only those forces allocated under "current commitments." This meant, in effect, that the Joint Chiefs would thereafter test the demands from the Pacific against the needs of the European theater and the priority of operations there.60


This policy had hardly been formulated when it became necessary to depart from it. On 5 March, when the situation in the Middle East appeared critical, Winston Churchill had asked Roosevelt if the United States would, among other things, send a division to Australia and one to New Zealand. In this way he hoped to retain in the Middle East those troops the Dominions wanted brought home for their own protection. After consulting his military advisers, Roosevelt agreed to the Prime Minister's proposal, subject to approval by the Australian and New Zealand Governments. The Australians, who had correctly diagnosed the Japanese plan to take Port Moresby and cut the line of communications, accepted this arrangement as a temporary solution to their difficulties. The War Department thereupon selected the 32d Division, already alerted for shipment to Ireland, for assignment to Australia. It would arrive in May, and, with the 41st, scheduled to leave within the month, would place two American divisions in the Southwest Pacific.61

For New Zealand the Army planners picked the 37th Division (Ohio National Guard). Already that division's 147th Infantry Regiment (less one battalion) had been sent to Tongatabu, and in mid-April an advance detachment of eighty men left for New Zealand. The division itself was scheduled to sail late the next month. But before it left the President precipitated another comprehensive review of deployment to the Pacific by raising the question early in April of the defenses of Fiji and New Caledonia, a review that led to a change in the destination of the 37th Division.

The discussions that followed the President's query made it clear that the differences which had split the planners before were still unresolved. The Navy, with a clear appreciation of Japanese intentions, persisted in its belief that the strength allocated to the Pacific, especially in aircraft, was inadequate to meet the danger there. The Army took a more optimistic view. While admitting the inadequacy of Allied air defenses in the Pacific, the Army planners asserted -- at a time when the enemy was preparing to move to Port Moresby, Tulagi, New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Midway -- that the danger in the Pacific was not great enough to warrant the diversion of aircraft from the planned major effort in Europe. Failure to reinforce the Pacific, Army planners admitted, involved risks, but such risks, they insisted, must be taken in order to move against Germany.

To these differing views were now added those of General MacArthur, recently arrived in Australia, reinforced by the representations of the Dominion governments. The second front, MacArthur held, should be in the Pacific. Not only would an offensive there aid Russia by releasing the forces held down in Manchuria, he argued, but it would also protect Australia and India and have the enthusiastic support of the American people.62 This proposal and


others like it all added up to a strong plea for priority in the Pacific.

The month-long debate that ensued raised sharply the entire question of strategy in the Pacific and its relation to the war against Germany. On the assumption that Japanese forces were capable of attacking the line of communications and that their next move would be in that direction, the Navy wished to strengthen each of the bases along that line with bombers and fighters. Mobile forces in Hawaii and Australia, the naval planners believed, would be unable to concentrate at the point of attack in time to prevent an enemy landing. The Navy had another reason for wanting to build up the forces along the line of communications. Already it was planning to use these islands as bases for offensive operations and for the support of the fleet. "Given the naval forces, air units and amphibious forces," Admiral King told the President, "we can drive northwestward from the New Hebrides into the Solomons and the Bismarck Archipelago after the same fashion of step by step advances that the Japanese used in the South China Sea."63

The position taken by the Army and Air Force planners was that the area should be defended by mobile forces, with bombers based on the flanks, in Australia and Hawaii. There would thus be no necessity to pin down large forces on each of the islands. The line of communications, it was true, lacked defense in depth but that was preferable, the Army planners believed, to scattering the bombers needed for the projected air offensive against Germany.64

MacArthur went even further than the Navy in his demands on Allied resources. Not only did he want reinforcements to hold his present position and a 100 percent increase in aircraft but also the forces required to conduct operations northward from Australia -- three more divisions and aircraft carriers. In Washington there was no intention of undertaking the kind of campaign MacArthur contemplated, which consisted essentially of an active and aggressive defense from Port Moresby rather than Australia itself. His requests, therefore, were politely but firmly denied. But MacArthur was not one to accept defeat easily and with Prime Minister Curtin's support continued to press for reinforcements through other channels. Though this procedure brought him a reprimand -- which the President softened by a gracious letter -- it also brought the problem forcibly to the attention of the highest authority.65

Plans for war against Germany had by early May created heavy requirements for men and materiel in the European theater that threatened to put a strong brake on Pacific deployment. In mid-April at a conference in London between American and British representatives, it had been agreed, largely at American insistence, that the Allies would begin planning immediately for an invasion of the Continent in 1943 (RUONDUP). It was recognized, however, that action against Germany might have to be undertaken


earlier in the event of disastrous Soviet reverses or some unexpected favorable development that would present the Allies with an opportunity to exploit a weakness in the German position. To meet such a possibility, the Allies agreed on a contingency operation for the invasion of the Continent in the fall of 1942 (SLEDGEHAMMER), by which time Pacific deployment would be largely completed. Forces for the invasion in 1943 would be assembled in the British Isles on a schedule, worked out in great detail after the London Conference, that would place sufficient forces in Britain in time to meet the requirements of an emergency operation in the fall of 1942 should that prove necessary or desirable. This build-up in the British Isles, which was known by the code name BOLERO, became the basis for the planned deployment of forces to Europe.66

The competing demands of Europe and the Pacific came into sharp conflict early in May, after the President had expressed a desire, presumably in response to pressure from the Australian Prime Minister, to raise the number of ground troops planned for Australia from 25,000 to 100,000.67 This proposal created serious concern among the Army planners, and General Marshall, immediately on his return from a tour of inspection, protested directly to the President, pointing out that this diversion from BOLERO would imperil the plans so recently made for the invasion of the Continent.6 On 4 May, the entire problem was discussed at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Marshall held firmly to the position already stated by the Army planners that any increase in the forces already allotted to the Pacific would make BOLERO impossible. The Joint Chiefs, he asserted, must therefore stoutly resist all demands from that theater, no matter how legitimate. Admiral King argued strongly against this view. Without denying the desirability of an early offensive in Europe, he insisted that the reinforcement of the Pacific was fully as important as BOLERO, and more urgent. "We must not permit diversion of our forces to any proposed operation in any other theater," he argued, "to the extent that we find ourselves unable to fulfill our obligation to implement our basic strategic plan in the Pacific theater." This strategy he stated simply as holding "what we have against any attack" the Japanese could launch.69 The implications of such a strategy were clear.

Unable to reach agreement, the Joint Chiefs could only refer the matter to the President himself for decision, and on 6 May General Marshall, after outlining his own and King's position, asked the Commander in Chief in effect to make the choice. The answer came two days later: "I do not want 'BOLERO' slowed down."70 The issue had finally been decided in favor of the Army.


Though the President's decision meant that the Navy and General MacArthur would have to shelve, temporarily at least, their plans for offensive operations and a strong defense in depth, it did not halt the movement of troops and planes to the Pacific. Rather, it speeded up these movements, for the Army, having won the victory, was anxious to meet its commitments promptly. "Since we have won our point," Eisenhower wrote General Arnold on 8 May, "it is my opinion we should reach and maintain the amounts indicated . . . as quickly as possible." Arnold agreed and listed the number of planes he expected to have in the Pacific by 1 July.71

This determination to bring the forces in the Pacific to their authorized strength did not solve all the problems that had been raised during the course of the debate. One of these was the defense of the Fijis, then garrisoned by New Zealand troops and an American pursuit squadron. It was General Marshall who proposed a solution which would meet the need for stronger forces in the Fijis without requiring additional troops. The 37th Division, which had been promised to New Zealand in return for the retention of the Dominion's troops in the Middle East, could be sent instead to the Fijis, Marshall suggested, thus releasing almost 10,000 New Zealand troops for the defense of the Dominion. Admiral King raised no objections to this proposal and it was quickly adopted by the Joint Chiefs and approved by the President. The New Zealand Government accepted this arrangement, too, in return for an agreement that the United States would assume strategic responsibility for the defense of the Fijis. Orders for the 37th Division were hurriedly changed, and early in June the first detachment landed at Suva. Since it had proved impossible to collect in so short a time the additional troops required for a balanced garrison force, the rest of the 37th went on to New Zealand where an Army port detachment had already gone to handle its debarkation.72

New Zealand's demands had been satisfied without altering the basic strategy but there was no way of meeting the demands from Australia without abandoning or delaying BOLERO. All of Mr. Curtin's appeals to Washington and London, and MacArthur's requests to the War Department came up against the hard fact that the planners did not believe Australia was in imminent danger of invasion or that the time had come for offensive operations in that theater. The best that Churchill and Roosevelt could offer was admiration for the aggressive spirit which prompted the requests for troops and assurances of support if a real threat developed. Meanwhile, the President told MacArthur, every effort would be made to send him "all the air strength we possibly can." To do more, as Marshall had pointed out, would make the Southwest Pacific the principal theater of operations. MacArthur would have to do with what he had, at least for the present.73

Though the President's decision of 8



  Present En Route Projected
Base Ground Air Ground Air Ground Air
Totals 109,920 29,760 37,700 --- 231,060 44,140
Hawaii 62,700 8,900 7,300 --- 100,000 15,000
Christmas 1,700 320 --- --- 1,700 490
Bora Bora 3,850 --- --- --- 3,850 ---
Canton 1,300 40 --- --- 1,300 50
Fijis 10 700 --- --- 15,000 720
Australia 16,900 17,100 30,400 --- 60,000 24,000
New Caledonia 16,000 2,000 --- --- 23,000 2,500
Suva 10 700 --- --- 10 720
Tongatabu 0 0 --- --- 6,300 660
New Zealand 0 0 --- --- 15,000 0
Efate 450 0 --- --- 4,900 0
a Excludes strength in Philippines where forces surrendered in May 1942.
Source: Adapted from Chart 2, Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42.

May, made two days after the Port Moresby invasion force had left Rabaul, had eased temporarily the heavy drain of the Pacific on Allied resources, it was, in a sense, a tribute to the enormous progress made by the Army and Navy under the most adverse conditions in building up the defenses of the Pacific in the short period of five months. At the start of the war, the United States had in the Pacific only two garrisons of any size, Hawaii and the Philippines. By the beginning of May, despite defeat and disaster and the decision to concentrate on the war in Europe, Hawaii had been considerably reinforced, the defenses of Australia and New Zealand bolstered with American ground troops and aircraft, and a chain of island bases established along the line of communications. In the area, or scheduled soon to arrive, were over 250,000 Army ground and air troops (exclusive of the Philippine garrison). Ground forces included six divisions and Task Force 6184, soon to be organized into the Americal Division, the equivalent of almost three separate infantry regiments, a large number of coast and antiaircraft artillery units, and service troops of all types. Each of the island bases had at least one pursuit squadron, but most of the air as well as the ground strength in the Pacific was concentrated in Australia and Hawaii. The former had 41 heavy bombers, 150 light and medium bombers, and about 475 fighters; the latter about 30 heavy bombers and considerably fewer aircraft of other types. Both were still short of the authorized goals, especially in heavy bombers. This weakness constituted the main complaint of the Navy and was to be one of the chief problems in the Pacific in the months to come.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter [8] ** Next Chapter [10]


1. Rad, Marshall to Brett, No. 41, 25 Dec 41, WPD 4628-3.

2. Samuel Eliot Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942-1 May 1944, vol. VI, "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1957), p. 27.

3. Dudley McCarthy, Southwest Pacific Area--First Year: Kokoda to Wau (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), ch. II; Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1957), ch. I; USSBS, The Allied Campaign Against Rabaul (Washington, 1946), p. 6.

4. Army-Navy Central Agreement, Nov 1941, in USSBS, The Campaigns of the Pacific War, app. 12.

5. This account of the planning and seizure of Rabaul and Kavieng is based on Hist of the South Seas Detachment, Japanese Studies in World War II, 36; Japanese Opns in SWPA, series II, ch. V; Southeast Area Air Opns and Southeast Area Naval Opns, Japanese Studies in World War II, 38 an 48.

6. For an account of the Rabaul operation, see Wigmore, The Japanese Thrust, ch. XVIII.

7. USSBS, The Allied Campaign Against Rabaul, pp. 6-7, 11-12.

8. CCS 15, The ANZAC Area, 29 Jan 42, ABC 323.31 (1-24-42) POA 1; Mins, White House Conf, 1 Jan 42, WDCSA 334 Mtgs and Conf; Hayes, The War Against Japan, vol, ch. I, pp. 61-64; ABC-1, ann. 3. in Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings, pt. 15, p. 1516.

9. G. Harmon Gill, Royal Australian Navy, 1939-42, ser. 2, vol. 1, "Australia in the War of 1939-1945" (Canberra: Australian War memorial, 1957), p. 519; Milner, Victory in Papua, p. 8.

10. The measures discussed in the remainder of this section are covered fully in Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. II, p. 7-12; Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 128-31.

11. CCS 8, Inclusion of Port Darwin in ABDA, 24 Jan 42, ABC 323.31 (1-29-42); Wavell, "ABDACOM," ABDA Msg File; Gill, Royal Australian Navy, p517.

12. Memo, Gerow for Marshall, 27 Jan 42, sub: Msgs for Australia, WPD 468-24; Rads, CCS to ABDACOM, DBA 5, 29 Jan 42; Wavell to CCS, 00649, 1 Feb 42; all in OPD ABDA Msg File; Mins, CCS Mtgs, 23 and 27 Jan 42.

13. Mins, CCS Mtg, 3 Feb 42; Rads, CCS to Wavell, DBA 8, 3 Feb 42; Marshall to Wavell, 5 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

14. Rad, Wavell to CCS, CCOS 7, 13 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

15. Rad, Roosevelt to Prime Minister, 18 Feb 43, ABC 323.31 (1-29-42 sec. 1A) POA; Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 502-03.

16. Rad, Wavell to Prime Minister, 16 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File; memo, Marshall for Eisenhower, 14 Feb 42, no sub, WPD 4630-64; Churchill, Hinge of Fate, pp. 140, passim; Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-1942, pp. 128-30; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, p. 174.

17. Rad, Wavell to Prime Minister, 16 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

18. Rad, Roosevelt to Curtin, No. 330, 20 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File; Churchill, Hinge of Fate, p. 157.

19. Rad, Curtin to Churchill, 21 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

20. Memos, WPD for G-3, 17 and 19 Feb 42, sub: Movement of Troops to SUMAC [Australia], WPD 4630-66 and 70; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, p. 174.

21. Combined Fleet Opn Order No. 1, 5 Nov 41, copy in Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings, pt. 3, p. 438.

22. See above, p. 99; Mins, JB Mtg, 26 Nov 41; Msgs in AG 381 (11-27-41 sec. 1) Far East; K. Williams, The South Pacific Air Route, USAF Hist Studies, No. 45.

23. ABC-1, copy in Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings, pt. 15; Mins, JB Mtg, 8 Dec 41.

24. Secy for Collab to Br Staff Mission, 16 Dec 41, sub: Modification of ABC-1; Rad, COMINCH to CINCPAC, 1740, 30 Dec 41, both cited in Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. I, pp. 11, 58.

25. ABC-4, 31 Dec 41; ABC-4/8, 10 Jan; sub: Defense of Island Bases, both in ARCADIA; Memo, WPD for CofS, 4 Jan 42, sub: Troop Movements to pacific Bases, WPD 4571-22.

26. Relevant papers on the planning and organization of these organizations are filed in WPD 4571-22 and 24. The story of the establishment of the base at Bora Boar, with emphasis on the logistical problem, is told in Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, ch. VII; see also, Craven and Cate, AAF I, p. 431.

27. Department of the Navy, Building the Navy's Bases in World War II, (Washington, 1947), pp. 121-290-95, 208-13; Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, p. 259; Craven and Cate, AAF I, p. 437.

28. Rad, Marshall to Emmons, No. 1013, 16 Jan 42; Emmons to TAG, No. 1677, 13 Jan 42, both in WPD Msg File; Memo, Gerow for Eisenhower, 20 Feb 42, sub: Reinforcements for Hawaii, WPD 3444-19. See also Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-1942, p. 152; Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts, ch. VIII.

29. JCS 11 and 11/1, Hawaiian Defense Forces, 12 Feb 42, ABC 381 (2-12-42) Hawaii.

30. Edmund G. Love, The 27th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry journal Press, 1949), p. 18. Relevant papers are filed in AG 370-5 (12-26-41).

31. Craven and Cate, AAF I, pp. 430-31, 434.

32. This account of the reinforcement of New Caledonia is based on OPD Hist MS, Delaying and Containing Action in the Pacific, pp. 28-35; Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 115-17; Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. II, pp. 59-60; Capt. Francis D. Cronin, Under the Southern Cross (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1951), ch. I. Valuable material is contained in WPD 3718, AG 381 (11-27-42) (1-19-42), and folder entitled Political Disturbances, New Caledonia, OCMH.

33. Capt Tracy B. Kittredge, Evolution of Global Strategy, pt, II, ch. II, pp. 29-30, JCS Hist Div.

34. Ibid., pp. 31-33.

35. Memo, CofS for Secy State, 20 Jan 42, sub: Defense of New Caledonia, WPD 3718-14. Many of the papers dealing with New Caledonia are located in this file.

36. Cronin, Under the Southern Cross, p. 4. For a list of the units in TF 6184, see p. 422; Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, p. 149, N. 10.

37. Memo, WPD for TAG, 22 Jan 42, sub: Defense of New Caledonia, WPD 3718-17.

38. Rad, Marshall to Brett, No. 69, 2 Feb 42, AG 381 (11-27-41 sec. 2A), Far East.

39. Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, p. 150 Passim. The documents on this shipment are well summarized in Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, p. 150, n. 14.

40. Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42,, p. 150; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, ch. VII.

41. Combined Fleet Operational Order No. 1, 5 Nov 41, Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings pt. 3, p. 438.

42. Japanese Opns in SWPA, SWPA Series II, ch. V, pp. 6-7; Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, Japanese Studies in World War II, 72, pp. 33-34; Lt Gen Seizo Arisue, formerly intelligence chief of the General Staff, reply to author's questions, 14 Jul 49, ATIS Doc No. 49157, p. 27, copy in OCMH.

43. Statement of Rear Adm Tadaichi Hara, cited in Samuel Eliot Morison, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, May 1942-August 1942, vol. IV, "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1949), p. 4; Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V. 10-11; Arisue Questionnaire, pp. 28-29; Interrog of Lt Gen Shinichi Tanaka, 25 Oct 47, copy in OCMH; Statements of Rear Adm Sadatoshi Tomioka, Navy Sec, imperial GHQ, 2 Aug 50, ATIS Doc 61232; Col Takushiro Hattori, Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, 29 Aug 49, ATIS Doc 50307, both in Statements of Japanese Officials, IV, 314 and I, 331, copy in OCMH.

44. Arisue Questionnaire, p. 29.

45. Navy Sec, Imperial GHQ, Directive No. 47, 29 Jan 42. The order is quoted in Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V, pp. 7-8.

46. Southeast Area Naval Opns, Japanese Studies in World War II, 48, pp. 19-20; Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V, pp. 8-98; Milner, Victory in Papua, ch. I.

47. Early Raids in the Pacific Ocean, 1 Feb-10 Mar 42, Combat Narrative, ONI, pp. 35-40. See General Marshall's warning of probably enemy carrier operations northeast of Australia in his letter to Barnes, undated, but written early in February, WPD 4630-57.

48. Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V, p. 9; Hist of South Seas Detachment, Japanese Studies in World War II, 36, I, 10-11; Naval Invasion of Eastern New Guinea, Japanese Studies in World War II, 101.

49. Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, p. 37; Early Raids in the Pacific, ONI Combat Narrative, pp. 57-69; Hist of South Seas Detachment, Japanese Studies in World War II, 36, I, 11-12.

50. Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V, p. 10; Southeast Area Naval Opns, Japanese Studies in World War II, 48, I, pp. 1-2; Hist of South Seas Detachment, Japanese Studies in World War II, 36, p. 8.

51. Private Papers of Rear Adm Mutome Ugaki, quoted in Japanese Opns in SWPA, ch. V, p. 11, n. 30; Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, Japanese Studies in World War II, 72, pp. 45-50.

52. Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, p. 50; Japanese Opns in the SWPA, ch. V, pp. 11-13.

53. Hist of Army Sec, imperial GHQ, pp. 50-51; Arisue Questionnaire, pp. 28-29; Deposition of Shinichi Tanaka, IMTFE Exhibit 2676.

54. Memo, Eisenhower for Marshall, 28 Feb 42, sub: Strategic Conceptions, OPD 384 PTO sec. 1, case 11.

55. The material in this section is treated fully in Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. V, pp. 1-48; Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 156-64, 210-16, 221-27.

56. Eisenhower Notations, 17 Feb 42, copy in OCMH; Memo, King, no addressee, 18 Feb 42, noted in memo, Marshall for King, 24 Feb 42, sub: Garrison for Efate, OPD Exec Files.

57. Eisenhower Notations, 22 Jan 42, copy in OCMH.

58. For these views and others, see the JPS 2 series, ABC 370 (1-28-42).

59. Memos, Marshall for King, 24 Feb 42, sub: Garrisons for Efate; King for JCS, 2 Mar 42, sub: Defense of Tongatabu and Efate, ABC 381 (3-2-42).

60. JPS 2/1 Directive to JUSSC, 11 Feb 42; Mins, CCS Mtg, 10 Feb 42; JPS 2/2, Review of Strategic Situation in Japanese Theater, 18 Feb 42, with minority reports JPS 2/2 (A); Mins, JPS Mtgs, 19, 21, 24 Feb 42; JPS 2/4 (D) Strategic Deployment, 24 Feb 42; JPS 2/5 and 2/6, same title, 6 Mar 42; JCS 23, same title, 14 Mar 42; Mins, JCS Mtg, 16 Mar 42. All in ABC 370 (1-28-42) and CCS 281 (1-30-42).

61. Memo, WPD for CofS, 5 Mar 42, sub: Answer to Prime Minister, OPD Exec Files; CCS 56 and 56/1, Prime Minister Msg, 5 and 6 Mar 42, ABC 311.5 (1-30-42); Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 739, 18 mar 42, OPD MacArthur File.

62. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, No. 176, 8 May 42, CM-IN 2333; memo, Capt John L. McCrea, naval aide to president, to JCS, 2 Apr 42, with JPS 21 ser., ABC 381 (1-22-42) Pacific Bases. The views of the Army and Navy planners can be found in the same file. Mins, JPS Mtgs, 4 and 6 Apr 42.

63. Memo, King for President, 5 Mar 42, no sub, OPD Exec Files.

64. JPS 21/7, Defense of Island Bases, 18 Apr 42, and attached OPD Notes on JPS 13th Mtg, 22 Apr 42, ABC (1-22-42 sec. 2) Pacific Bases).

65. Rads, Marshall to MacArthur, Nos. 739 and 1499, 18 Mar and 26 Apr 42, OPD MacArthur File; MacArthur to Marshall, Nos. 70470 and 588, 4 and 25 Apr and 1 May 42, CM-IN-6643 and 0186; Marshall to MacArthur, No. 31, 6 May 42, CM-OUT-1136; MacArthur to Marshall, No. 176, 8 May 42, CM-IN-2333.

66. For a full discussion of the London Conference and the planning that followed, see Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 183-91, passim, and Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, ch. XIV.

67. Memo, McCrea for JCS, 1 May 42, sub: Aircraft and Troops for Australia, OPD Exec Files.

68. Memo, CofS for President, 4 May 42, no sub, OPD Exec Files.

69. Memo, King for JCS, 4 May 42, sub: Defense of Island Bases, JCS 48, app, to JCS Mins of that date.

70. Memo, President for Marshall, 6 May 42, no sub; CofS for President, same date, sub: Pacific theater vs BOLERO, JCS 48, ABC 381 (1-22-42) sec. 2 Pacific Bases.

71. Memos, Eisenhower for Arnold, 8 May 42, o sub, OPD 381 case 62; Arnold for Eisenhower, 14 May 42, no sub, OPD 381 PTO, case 21.

72. Mins, JCS Mtg, 4 May 42; Joint Army-Navy Plan for Fijis, 13 May 42; Memo, COMINCH for N.Z. Minister, 9 May 42, same sub, both iin OPD 381 Fiji. See also Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, p. 178.

73. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, 3 May 42, CM-IN-0667; Ltr, Marshall to Dill, 22 May 42, OPD Exec Files; Milner, Victory in Papua, pp. 29-32.

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