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2. Japan, ANZAM, and the Bomb

Outside of the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and the United States also shared a keen interest in the post-war treatment and occupation of Japan. The United States led the occupation and dominated the organisations put in place to oversee the terms of Japanese surrender (which were the Allied Council and the Far Eastern Commission). This American preeminence caused considerable indignation in Australia and New Zealand. Once the US abandoned its initial occupation policies and began planning for a Japanese peace settlement in mid to late 1947, Australian and New Zealand protestations grew louder. The treatment of Japan quickly became one of the major divisive issues in the early Australian-New Zealand-American post-war relationship.

The United States took charge of the post-war occupation of Japan in part because they bore the overwhelming brunt of the war effort against them during World War II. Australia and New Zealand did form part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force and were assigned their own districts; however, the United States assumed what diplomat George Kennan later termed a “totality of responsibility” in Japan.1 US Secretary of State James Byrnes made it clear that unlike Germany, Japan would be an American-led occupation and they retained the right to make final decisions on post-war policy. As Assistant Secretary of State Charles Dunn told Byrnes, under no circumstances would Washington allow a “control Council in Japan” to diminish American influence.2

Initially, the United States pursued two basic objectives in the occupation of Japan: demilitarisation and democratisation. These policies ensured that “Japan [would] not again become a menace to the peace and security of the world.”3 As far as war reparations were concerned, President Truman’s Personal Representative Edwin Pauley asserted in late 1945 that the United States would seek a complete industrial disarmament of Japan and pass on much of Japanese industrial equipment and plants to countries entitled to reparations. Japan, in turn, would be left only with access to industries that were essential, such as food production.4 Australia and New Zealand had no objections to these plans. They ensured that Japan was completely unable to threaten Australia and New Zealand in the short-term future.

The major objections Australia and New Zealand raised during the occupation’s early stages related to the Allied Council and the Far Eastern Commission. The Council acted as an advisory body intended to ensure that Japan’s surrender, occupation and control plans were met, whereas the Commission was an organisation based in Washington that oversaw the Council. Both Canberra and Wellington argued that their voices were silenced by the Americans, who were unwilling to consult seriously with their allies about occupation policy. Indeed, whilst it appeared that these committees might offer the Allied powers a shared voice in the Japanese occupation, the United States refused to consider seriously any views that differed from or criticised US policy.

In Wellington, New Zealand policymakers were initially pleased with their position on the Far Eastern Commission. A place on the Commission offered New Zealand diplomats an opportunity to ensure that Japan’s capacity for aggressive expansion would be completely removed, and so to protect New Zealand from the possibility that Japan would again come close to threatening its borders as it did in 1942. After the first Commission meetings were held in early 1946, Counsellor in the New Zealand Legation Guy Powles reported to Prime Minister Peter Fraser that “there seemed to be a general feeling of pleasure” that New Zealand was “able to do something” in regards to overseeing the Japanese occupation.5 New Zealand’s position on the Commission also offered its senior diplomat, Minister to the United States Carl Berendsen, a unique opportunity to discuss New Zealand’s post-war security interests as they related to Japan with all the great powers. Berendsen was even appointed Chairman of the Steering Committee, an organisation that aimed to organise the Commission into various sub-committees and make recommendations about each aspect of the Occupation (including reparations, economic problems, legal reforms and war criminals). At this early stage, policymakers in New Zealand were likely unaware about the powerlessness of the Commission and these sub-organisations.

The Australians, in contrast, were not satisfied with a position on the Far Eastern Commission. Japanese attacks on Australian soil had spurred a strong sense of hatred towards Japan and its people. As both a punishment for wartime misdeeds and to prevent future Japanese aggression, the Australian people urged their leaders to demand a tough peace with Japan. Australian External Affairs Minister Herbert Evatt stated that Australia could not address these issues if it was not awarded a significant voice on Allied post-war policy towards Japan. More specifically, Evatt believed that the British government was at fault for not pressing upon the Americans that Canberra should be involved more closely in occupation plans because of its primary strategic interest in preventing a resurgence of Japanese militarism. Evatt simply did not think Britain fully understood Australian concerns about Japan. “Japan is an enemy who tried to destroy us”, Evatt told British Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin bluntly in May 1946.6

Canberra did secure one concession from the great powers. It was agreed in Moscow that a fourth member of the Allied Council would jointly represent Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India. Responding to Evatt’s claims to Attlee and Bevin, London conceded that Australia should be this Commonwealth representative. The Chifley Government appointed William Macmahon Ball as the British Commonwealth member of the Allied Council of Japan in January 1946. With Ball’s appointment, Australia hoped it might influence Japanese policy, establish its status as a Pacific power and strengthen its claim to be “Britain’s representative” in the region. The Americans, however, were unwilling to offer Australia (or any other power) a chance to meaningfully influence the policymaking process for the Japanese occupation. In short, the United States was not pleased with Ball’s appointment. Chairman of the Allied Council George Atcheson even complained that Ball’s early criticisms of occupation policy were “palpably designed to cause embarrassment” to the United States.7

Indeed, Ball had immense difficulty in getting Australian views—and, by extension, Commonwealth views—considered seriously by the Americans. When he proposed slight alterations to the policies in mid-July, Ball noted with frustration that “during most of the time I was talking Atcheson paid no attention but was turning over papers and talking with his State Department assistant.” When Ball finished, he complained to Evatt that Atcheson “looked up and said that he could not understand my line of argument and expressed disappointment that ‘no specific and concrete’ proposals had been made.” Ball concluded that the US intended to “bog” the Council with a series of routine administrative matters to limit its influence in shaping occupation policy.8

As the weeks progressed, Ball grew further frustrated at American attempts to sideline the Allied Council. “I am sure there is a quiet and effective campaign to minimise in Japanese eyes the influence and prestige of all Allied Powers but the American”, Ball complained again to Evatt on 23 July 1946. Because of this reality, Ball even recommended that the Allied Council be abolished. “If [the Council] is to be exclusively American”, Ball continued to Evatt, “I regard it advisable to remove the pretence of an Allied Council.”9

Ball’s inability to get Commonwealth views considered in Japan began to cause serious repercussions for Anglo-Australian relations. As the Australian Government urged Britain to support Australian efforts to find appropriate resolutions on the Allied Council, London stressed that it simply had more pressing matters and needed US support elsewhere. As British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Viscount Addison told Canberra,

Our collaboration with the Americans in other parts of the world (e.g. at this juncture in the Middle East and the forthcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers) is of such outstanding importance that we are not prepared to be committed in advance to a general policy of mediation in Japan. This might well fail to achieve its purpose in Japan and at the same time cause friction with the United States Government.10

In other words, even though Australia was tasked with representing British interests as well as Indian and New Zealand interests, Canberra was unable to find any support from London for its views on the Council in Japan. Annoyed that the Americans were ignoring every proposal he made, in July 1947 Ball resigned as the British Commonwealth Representative on the Allied Council. Even with Ball’s resignation, however, there was no fundamental change in the main elements of Australian foreign policy towards Japan.11

New Zealand came to share Australian concerns with the US disinclination to consult its allies in Japan. “There is resistance to any proposed course of action which will involve the slightest deviation from the line that has been adopted” by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan Douglas MacArthur, Berendsen told McIntosh on 31 May. He added that “I cannot over-emphasise the degree of exasperation and frustration which this attitude presents to New Zealand and other members of the Far Eastern Commission.” Adding to Berendsen’s frustration was the evidence that his efforts to change this US dominance were unsuccessful. In late May, Berendsen candidly told Chairman of the Far Eastern Commission Frank McCoy about his “extreme dissatisfaction with the lack of progress” on the Commission but doubted whether even sharing this view “served any useful purpose.”12 As a result, Berendsen concluded that the Commission was “nothing but a joke.” The Commission was not “allowed to decide on any questions of policy at all”, Berendsen later told McIntosh, but rather it “follow[ed] behind [MacArthur] in every step, and merely applauded him.”

Berendsen was equally annoyed that Australia did not support New Zealand and instead opposed all its proposals. Even after speaking with Evatt and agreeing that Australia and New Zealand had similar concerns about the futility of the Commission, there was no subsequent trans-Tasman cooperation on these issues. “On the Far Eastern Commission, [the Australians] seem to go out of their way to oppose our views”, he complained to McIntosh on 2 April 1946, citing protestations about the timing of Japanese elections and the proposed wording of the Japanese Constitution.13 Taking these concerns one step further, McIntosh thought that Australia aimed to be the Commonwealth representative for all matters relating to the American occupation and the Japanese peace settlement.

Revising Policies in Japan

By 1947, growing Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union and fears over the global threat of Communism forced Washington to reconsider its policies in Japan. The United States abandoned its twin demilitarisation and democratisation objectives and instead planned to rebuild Japan’s economy so that it might become a powerful American ally in Northeast Asia. In August 1947, the Policy Planning Staff (PPS) expert on Asian affairs John Davies told Kennan that they should propose to the National Security Council that the US encourage a “stable Japan, integrated into the Pacific economy, friendly to the US, and in case of need, a ready and dependable ally of the US.”14 As a result, the US began an intensive economic recovery program in Japan to revive the war-ravaged nation as a powerful American ally and ultimately push the balance of power further in America’s favour.

Among other US allies and partners, Australia was concerned by the US revision of Japanese occupation policies. As the future of Japan was vital to Australian security interests, any movement towards an economic recovery could put Australia at risk. At least as far as the Australian military were concerned, its own interests were best served by a continued American presence in Japan. Therefore, they believed the occupation should continue under the existing conditions. As the Australian Defence Committee concluded in June 1947, the “most important single strategic question affecting Australia’s security in the Pacific is the continuance of the present favourable balance of power in the Pacific brought about by the United States participation in the occupation of Japan.” The Australian military believed that US should continue the Allied occupation of Japan “until such time as Japan is considered unlikely to endanger the peaceful aims of the United Nations.” As part of this hope for a continued Allied occupation, it was also concluded that there should also be a continued “destruction of Japanese war potential.”15

In the External Affairs Department, Australian policymakers argued similarly that a change of policy afforded Tokyo the possibility of returning to its imperialistic ways and threatened the security of Australia. Even after his position somewhat softened after visiting Japan in late 1947, Evatt reported that

The first principle of our policy has always been the safety and security of the Pacific, including our own country […] Australia has called for the disarmament and demilitarisation of Japan, destruction of its capacity to wage war, and a sufficient degree of supervision under the peace treaty to prevent the regrowth of war-making capacity. The second principle has been the encouragement of democracy in Japan, which involves the gradual growth of the social, political and economic system.16

In other words, Evatt’s public position appeared to match closely America’s original post-war Japanese policy insofar as it urged complete disarmament and demilitarisation, but was reluctant to accept any immediate change to policies for Japan.

On top of Evatt’s outline of Australian policy for Japan, the Chifley Government also demanded that Japan award reparations to Canberra for its war waged against Australia during World War II. These demands became especially urgent considering potential revisions to US policy in Japan that focused on economic development, as Australian diplomats feared that any delay might mean that Australia would not get fairly compensated. “The Australian Government feels that [the] total amount and distribution of reparations from Japan should be settled urgently”, a Department memorandum to New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser specified. The message warned that “it is possible that the United States may go ahead now and issue an interim directive on reparations” which might entail that there would be “no reparations at all from Japan.”17

Australian pronouncements against an immediate revision to Japanese economic and reparation policies were causing considerable headaches for the United States. While the US began redrafting its Japanese occupation plans, US Political Adviser in Japan George Atcheson Jr. complained on 5 July 1947 to US Secretary of State George Marshall that Australia’s “distorted pronouncements and unwarranted criticisms have been so violent and so widely publicised” that they threatened US prestige in Japan and throughout the Far East. He also warned Marshall that “any appeasement of [the] Australians will without question seriously undermine American prestige in this part of the world.”18

Complicating problems further was Evatt himself, whose abrasive and demanding personality grated on the Americans. Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett was particularly scathing of Evatt, telling Truman in October about

[Evatt’s] aggressive, egocentric manner […] He has been accused of self-seeking, and it is not always clear whether he is motivated by true patriotism or simply by egotism. He has great self-confidence and determination, is anxious to have a finger in every pie, is slow in giving his confidence, and insists on receiving full credit for his achievements.19

While Lovett was indeed concerned by the way in which Evatt acted, there remained hope in the State Department that his egocentrism could benefit the United States if properly cultivated. This was especially true in relation to Evatt’s efforts to purposely champion the voices of smaller powers in the United Nations rather than always support US policies. In the instances when Evatt’s views and American views aligned, the State Department later concluded that “Evatt’s egotism [should] be turned into constructive channels […] When we are satisfied that the Australians will follow our line of thinking he, as Australia’s spokesman, should be encouraged to take the initiative.”20

New Zealand had similar problems with Evatt, who all too often spoke on New Zealand’s behalf or ignored their point of view entirely. “If [Evatt] ever stops to think”, McIntosh once told one of his External Affairs Officers Frank Corner, he would sometimes “go out of his way to consider New Zealand’s viewpoints.” The problem was that Evatt’s list of concerns were “so large that he sometimes forgets our irons amongst the others he has in the fire”, McIntosh added, mixing his metaphors.21 So far as the revision of Japanese policies was concerned, the Americans found New Zealand diplomats much easier to deal with than Evatt and the Australians. Although Wellington also feared that a soft peace treaty and an economic revival might reignite Japanese aggression, New Zealand policymakers realised that Evatt’s antics were doing little to advance their cause with the Americans. It would be better, so far as Wellington were concerned, to keep quiet on the issue.

At the time, there were few Australians with enough expertise in international affairs to mitigate the detrimental effect Evatt’s diplomatic style appeared to have on Australia’s allies. John Beasley and Norman Makin, Australian High Commissioner in London and Australian Ambassador in Washington respectively, were two notable exceptions and they helped to decrease the tensions that arose when Australia’s allies grew increasingly frustrated with Evatt, at least in part. The former, Beasley, was a rather softly-spoken and shy person who arrived in London in August 1946. He did, however, argue assertively for Australia’s right to be consulted on international issues and took a strongly anti-Communist stance on most matters pertaining to the Soviet Union, a position that neatly aligned with British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin’s views on the global communist threat. At times when the British Foreign Office saw Evatt’s behaviour as “sinister” and “nonsensical”, Beasley was often able to smooth over these differences and provided a channel for continued discussions about critical matters affecting Anglo-American relations such as Commonwealth policy in Japan and later discussions about joint defence arrangements.22 He could not offset every clash Evatt had with Bevin and other policymakers in London, nor could he always consistently articulate Australian views relating to the United Nations or post-war international order due to Evatt’s predisposition for ad hoc and non-consultative policymaking. That said, Beasley navigated his position quite well during a difficult period in world affairs, in which individuals such as Evatt complicated the efficacy of Anglo-Australian relations in dealing with matters of mutual strategic interest.

Across the Atlantic, Makin was another simple but more direct type of diplomat. Historian Frank Bongiorno described the British-Australian as a “small, bespectacled and tidy man that was a Labor-type more common in Britain than in Australia […] an earnest, abstaining, self-improving Methodist layman.”23 Before moving to Washington, Makin earned his diplomatic stripes through representing Australia in London at the UN General Assembly and the first meeting of the UN Security Council in 1946. While some historians and politicians have suggested Makin did not make the most of his opportunity to improve Australian-American relations in the late 1940s and early 1950s (Makin, for instance, abstained from drinking alcohol and found social gatherings with diplomats in Washington a rather frivolous and tiresome affair), he earned praise from his colleagues by providing a much friendlier and more courteous face to US policymakers than Evatt did. Paul Hasluck, the Australian counsellor in charge of the Australian mission to the UN and acting representative on the Atomic Energy Commission, described Makin as someone with “unfailing courtesy and dignity.”24 These character traits were precious commodities in the Department of External Affairs while Evatt was still serving as Minister. By most accounts, Makin was well-liked in Washington despite having to try to defuse tense situations between the United States and Australia on policy issues such as the Japanese occupation.

Despite their knack for mitigating some of the difficulties that Evatt created in Australia’s external relations, neither Beasley nor Makin could exercise enough influence in their respective posts to convince policymakers in Washington and London of the necessity for a continued hard-line policy on Japan. Reaching a common position about this became urgent after the United States issued invitations to the eleven countries on the Far Eastern Commission to attend preliminary talks for the Japanese settlement in July 1947. In an effort to find some degree of policy agreement between Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries in the face of revised US Japanese occupation policies, a Commonwealth Conference was held in Canberra from 26 August to 2 September 1947. Although Australian policymakers had been very vocal in their support for long-term demilitarisation and democratisation policies in Japan, it was agreed that a peace treaty could be finalised so long as Japan remained demilitarised. It was also agreed that there should be strict controls over Japanese imports and exports and that there should be some form of supervisory commission established to implement the terms of the treaty.25 In other words, the Commonwealth delegates hoped for a virtual continuation of strict early occupation-era controls.

Figure 3. Delegates to the British Commonwealth Conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty in Canberra, August 1947. Back row, left to right: R.T. Pollard (Australia), Sir Raghanath Paranjpye (India), U. Shwe Baw, Thakin Lun Baw (Burma); Middle row, left to right: J.J. Dedman (Australia), J.G. Barclay (NZ), Hector McNeill (UK), E.J. Williams (UK), Sir B. Rama Rau (India), M.M. Rafi (Pakistan), K.A. Greene (Canada); Front row, left to right: Peter Fraser (NZ), Lord Addison (UK), J.B. Chifley, H.V. Evatt (Australia), Brooke Claxton (Canada), H.G. Lawrence (South Africa). Photo by unknown (1947), Flickr,, CC BY 2.0.

Overall, the communiqué that was issued after the Conference urged support for an early yet hard-line demilitarised peace treaty for Japan. In Wellington, the agreements reached at the Conference were “commended” by the New Zealand External Affairs Department. A report by the External Affairs Committee on the Japanese Peace Settlement concluded that as far as a potential peace treaty was concerned, Japan “must be completely disarmed and demilitarised for an indefinite period.” The report also concluded that “post-treaty economic controls will be required” so that a peace conference could be held at an early date.26 In other words, if an early peace settlement was reached, New Zealand made it clear that it favoured a hard-line settlement with Japan.

This sentiment was shared in Australia. As Evatt said to US Secretary of State George Marshall after the Conference, if the Commonwealth was to support a peace treaty, special provisions must be made to ensure that Japan could not access “certain industries with obvious war potential” such as steel and iron ore.27 External Affairs Advisor to the Australian Delegation at the Commonwealth Conference Frederic Eggleston went one step further, arguing that the Conference did not properly demonstrate how important it was for Australia that Japan remained demilitarised if it was to agree to any Japanese peace settlement. “Conferences of this kind do not approach the crucial issues”, he told Assistant Secretary of External Affairs Alan Watt in September, “to agree on negatives is a waste of time.”28

Eggleston warned Evatt directly against reaching a speedy settlement in Japan and doubted the possibility of the country becoming truly democratic. “I feel somewhat disturbed at the views which appeared to predominate at the British Commonwealth Conference”, he told Evatt, adding that “there seems to be a feeling that nothing could be done except to demilitarise [Japan] and that the democratisation of Japan was desirable, but the Allies could not impose it and it was futile to try.” According to Eggleston,

If these views prevail, a position of instability will develop in the Pacific which will be very disappointing to the Australian people. Japan will be free to resume her superiority in East Asia and will then be available to move with all her economic and strategic power into the orbit of the highest bidder […] under these circumstances, I strongly urge that we ask for a prolonged occupation or control of Japan.29

Evatt had no serious problems with Eggleston’s claims about the risks associated with a militarised Japan. The crucial issue, especially in Australia, was Japanese remilitarisation. At the time, Australia and the Commonwealth was only open to a peace settlement if Japan’s war potential was completely denied or strictly controlled. Evatt, assuming that no movement had yet been made towards remilitarising Japan, told US Secretary of State George Marshall and MacArthur that the Commonwealth agreed with US policy in Japan and supported movement towards a peace settlement. However, the State Department was in the middle of reconsidering the idea of a demilitarised Japan. In September 1947, the Policy Planning Staff drafted a top-secret paper titled “US Policy Toward a Peace Settlement with Japan” which outlined that “a major shift in US policy toward Japan [was] being talked about under cover.” The paper suggested that the “idea of eliminating Japan as a military power for all time [was] changing” and that a peace treaty “would have to allow for this changed attitude.”30 This drastic alteration in US policy would have serious ramifications for the movement towards a peace settlement, as Australia and New Zealand vehemently opposed the idea of post-occupied Japan having its own military power without assurances from the United States that their countries would be protected. This critical issue between Australia, New Zealand and the United States subsequently formed one basis for future treaty negotiations.

Under these policy changes, Australia would still not be afforded the opportunity to influence the decision-making process. The United States, in short, remained intent on dominating the Japanese occupation without seriously consulting with its allies in the Pacific. Even while it was highly desirable to procure Australian support for its policies in Japan, the State Department advised that the United States should do little more than explain the reasons for these new policies to its allies rather than involve them in the decision-making process. “Whenever possible”, the State Department suggested on 18 August 1948, “announcements of new policy decisions should be preceded by [a] frank explanation of our motives to the Australians both here and in Canberra” in order to avoid any measures being “misunderstood by the Australian Government.” Since the Australian public took a “lively interest” in Japan, the Department advised that “every effort should be made to brief Australian correspondents both [in Washington] and in Japan on reasons for SCAP policies.”31

Similarly, the State Department recognised that efforts should also be made to explain American policies to New Zealand diplomats and journalists. As a State Department policy statement claimed on 24 September 1948, “New Zealand shares Australia’s certain dissatisfaction with present relations between the Far Eastern Commission and SCAP and has been critical of many of General MacArthur’s policies.” The United States, in turn, should “be careful to prepare the ground through diplomatic channels before new measures are adopted in Japan” and “unheralded interim directives by SCAP should be avoided wherever possible.”32 Again, these conclusions concisely demonstrated US disinclination to consult with Australia and New Zealand in Japan. US policymakers aimed to explain American policies as clearly as possible to Australian and New Zealand policymakers after decisions were made in Washington and Tokyo, yet these diplomats would not be accommodated a place in the decision-making process.

ANZAM and the Bomb

As discussions over the Japanese occupation and a potential peace treaty progressed, Australia hoped to secure a regional defence pact with the United States to safeguard against the possibility that it might be attacked by Japan or elsewhere. “What [Australia] needs is an appropriate regional instrumentality in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific”, Evatt announced in Parliament on 26 February 1947 as part of his endeavours to conclude a regional pact with the United States over the settlement of Manus Island. He also suggested Australia needed access to US military planning so that it might better prepare for its own defence in the event of another world war. “The proposed regional instrumentality”, Evatt announced, “will at least facilitate the free and rapid exchange of basic information […] and plans for regional cooperation.”33 The United States, however, was unwilling to consider a formal pact during negotiations over Manus Island and refused to share military information. As a result, Australia’s attention turned to coordinating defence planning more closely with Britain. This manifested itself in two ways: the formation of ANZAM and the Anglo-Australian Joint Rocket Project.34

Britain’s dire post-war economic situation forced London to look for allied assistance in regions that were not in its primary interests. Against this backdrop, it became wholly practical for Britain to work more closely with Australia and New Zealand in the defence of bases in Southeast Asia. In the Pacific, Britain’s major post-war concerns centred on Hong Kong, Singapore and security issues resulting from Communist insurgencies in Malaya. The Foreign Office and British Chiefs of Staff realised that in the event of a global war the defence of the Far East and Southeast Asia would be a low priority. That being the case, London was open to the possibility of coordinating strategic planning more closely with Australia and New Zealand. As Communistt activity in Southeast Asia became one of the most immediate post-war threats to Australia and New Zealand, both Canberra and Wellington welcomed closer strategic coordination with Britain. Australian, New Zealand and British security interests in Southeast Asia coincided and the informal agreement known as ANZAM was established.

On 1 April 1947, the Australian Defence Committee considered reports from the Joint Planning Committee about plans for cooperation with Britain for Commonwealth Defence in Southeast Asia. These reports were based on discussions about a Joint Australian-New Zealand-British Liaison Staff to deal with mutual defence problems, which took place during the Prime Ministers’ Conference in May 1946. The Australian Defence Committee report suggested that the Australian government should undertake greater responsibility in strategic planning relating to regional security matters in the Pacific. Such planning would have to be derived, the Committee concluded, from a broader worldwide strategic plan in which the British Commonwealth would participate.35 One month later, a memorandum on “Commonwealth Defence Cooperation” was produced on 23 May that outlined the larger contribution Australia was prepared to make to Commonwealth defence in the Pacific in coordination with Britain. The report advised that a Joint Defence Committee with British and New Zealand representatives would be established to achieve this goal.36 This Committee also formed the basis for trilateral discussions relating to the activities of Commonwealth forces stationed in Occupied Japan.

Five days later, Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley sent a letter to British Prime Minister Clement Attlee that explained his government’s plans for this Committee. At a meeting chaired by Attlee in June, the British agreed to appoint three lower-rank representatives of their Chiefs of Staff to attend Australian Defence Committee meetings. Attlee then replied formally to Chifley’s offer on 17 August, welcoming Australia’s willingness to chair defence council meetings and take primary responsibility for strategic planning in Malaya.37

After Britain indicated it was agreeable to the Australian proposal, Chifley contacted Wellington in October to enquire whether New Zealand would also accept its joint strategic plan. New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser responded on 13 November, saying that his government was also agreeable to Australia’s proposals for cooperation in British Commonwealth Defence. “I have no doubt that the arrangements will prove satisfactory”, Fraser noted after he told Chifley that New Zealand was appointing Chief of Staff Colonel Duff as the NZ Joint Service Representative.38 With Britain and New Zealand accepting Australian plans, the revised system of defence cooperation for Malaya and Southeast Asia (which was later termed the ANZAM area) began on 1 January 1948.

Once joint planning began in 1948, the Australians raised the perennial question of the relationship between Commonwealth planning and American planning. Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley argued that Australia needed concrete information from the British Chiefs of Staff about US plans in the Pacific. Australia would need to know, as a minimum, about American plans for the Pacific in relation to Australian security, the southern boundaries of the US zone of responsibility and the extent to which any assistance might be required from Australia in the Pacific. The British joint planners appreciated Australian concerns, but also realised that sharing American information involved confidentiality issues.

British reluctance to share American military information stemmed from issues arising during the Anglo-Australian Rocket Project, in which Australia hosted and assisted British efforts to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. Australia was eager to take part in a British-led nuclear weapons project. As an Australian Defence Appreciation Report concluded, “the advent of the atomic bomb […] may revolutionise the organisation, equipment and employment of armed forces.”39 With these benefits in mind, Chifley accepted the British plan for a joint rocket project and began working on the project in mid-1947. The Australian Defence Committee even began contemplating a proposal for an Australian atomic stockpile. Defence officials argued that Australia should develop “atomic energy from the viewpoint of Defence.” Australian atomic energy development would also have advantages for “industrialisation, scientific and technological development.”40

While New Zealand tended to be an ardent supporter of British foreign and defence policy, New Zealand External Affairs Department officials were particularly apprehensive about the joint rocket project and the proliferation of atomic weapons. At the same time Chifley and Evatt were negotiating with Britain over this possible joint project, New Zealand Ambassador in Washington Carl Berendsen expressed to New Zealand External Affairs Secretary McIntosh that he “heartily dislike[d] the look of the world” which was especially grim because of America’s recent discovery of the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb’s “completely destructive power”, Berendsen said, “just completes my cup of doom.” “[The bomb] will certainly be discovered very quickly by others” including Britain, Berendsen added, and he “did not see anything to be gained, and perhaps a good deal to be lost, by such a course.” McIntosh shared Berendsen’s concerns and was fearful of Attlee’s determined pursuit of the bomb. “This damned atomic bomb is certainly the worst thing that has ever happened”, he wrote in reply to Berendsen, suggesting almost jokingly that Attlee’s talks with Truman and the Australians were about “nice and friendly […] ways and means of devising bigger and better slaughters by atomic methods in the future.”41

The State Department and Pentagon were also anxious about closer Anglo-Australian defence relations, especially when they involved the production of atomic weapons outside of American control. Recent US relations with Australia were chilly, not least because of Evatt’s abrasive diplomatic style and his demands for closer US-Australian cooperation and exchange of military information. Relations with respect to the joint rocket project took a further hit once the Australian media found out about present and planned military projects through a series of leaks to the press. Australian Defence Minister John Dedman was particularly fearful as to what these leaks would mean for Australia’s relations with the United States and Britain. The leaks will “increase the distrust in the safeguarding of secret information in Australia, and may have a serious effect on the readiness of the United Kingdom and the United States to furnish information to Australia”, Dedman told a fellow minister.42 His fear soon materialised after the US, which became convinced these leaks confirmed Australia could not be trusted with its own military secrets, banned Australia from receiving classified information from the United States. Although its motives were not entirely clear, the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that there was an “unsatisfactory security situation” in Australia and demoted the country to a “Category E” recipient of US military information. This was the lowest category among all nations with diplomatic representation in Washington.

The US ban on classified information to Australia was an embarrassment for the Chifley government, which had argued both publicly and privately in Washington that Australia and the United States shared a lot of common ground and that both countries should work together in tackling mutual threats in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian Ambassador to the United States Norman Makin speculated that it “placed [Australia] on a basis little better than the USSR.” Although Makin was briefed on 3 July 1948 that the ban was temporary, he was concerned that there was no certainty when the United States might reverse this decision. “In [the] United States”, Makin told Chifley apprehensively, “‘temporary’ arrangements frequently extend over an indefinite period.” In any case, Makin was certain that the ban would “seriously hinder” the joint rocket project and Australia’s relationship with the United States.43

Determined to upgrade Australia’s reliability in the eyes of the Americans, Chifley realised that although Australia wanted to play a greater role in world affairs, it could not do so effectively unless this ban was reversed. “Australia should assume a large share of defence responsibilities”, according to Chifley, especially because Australia’s defence expenditures were large in comparison to its small population. His Defence Secretary, Frederick Shedden, reiterated this point later to the State Department, pointing to the difficulties that occurred during the launch of the joint UK-Australian rocket projects because of a ban on classified information. “In addition to the difficulties in connection with the rocket range project, defence planning in the Pacific was being hampered by the lack of exchange of information”, Shedden remarked. So far as he was concerned, all Australia needed to fix these difficulties was “information which would enable her to shape her plans for Australia’s role in Pacific defence” that the State Department and US Department of Defense was refusing to pass over.44

The US position on the exchange of military information with Australia highlighted its overall reluctance to treat Australia as an equal and trustworthy partner. Australia did not even receive information on US atomic projects first hand. Evatt, after telling the State Department in February 1949 that it was his “understanding that information on rocket projects at the present time passed through a third country” (presumably Britain), argued that this arrangement was unsatisfactory and hoped that the “mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries which had obtained during the recent war might be continued.”45 Even after these protestations, State Department officials did little to re-evaluate US security ties with Australia, preferring instead to pass information through other countries which was then relayed to Canberra. The United States simply did not trust Australia with classified military information.

By early 1949, there was little agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States on mutual post-war security issues. Australia and New Zealand bitterly opposed efforts to soften Japanese occupation policies. These countries also pursued closer strategic cooperation with Britain in Southeast Asia, an effort that undercut US primacy in the region. Further distrust between the three countries manifested during the Anglo-Australian rocket project. New Zealand was seriously concerned by potential Anglo-Australian access to nuclear weapons and the United States simply refused to share military information with Australia once secrets about the project was leaked in the Australian media. How, then, did these countries manage to agree on forming an alliance less than two years after Washington demoted Canberra to the lowest category recipient of US military information? The following chapter explores the unique international and domestic circumstances that facilitated speedy movement toward the ANZUS Treaty.

1 George Kennan, Memoirs, 1925-1950 (New York: Bantam Books, 1967), 388.

2 Dunn to Byrnes, 30 August 1945, FRUS 1945 Vol. VI, 697.

3 US Initial Post-Defeat Policy Relating to Japan, 12 August 1945, FRUS 1945 Vol. VI, 609.

4 Statement by Edwin Pauley, 31 October 1945, FRUS 1945 Vol. VI, 997-998.

5 Powles to Fraser, 20 March 1946, Documents on New Zealand’s External Relations (hereafter DNZER) Vol. II, 347-349.

6 Corner to McIntosh, 27 May 1946, in Unofficial Channels, 50.

7 Eiji Takemae, Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and its Legacy (New York: Continuum, 2002), 102.

8 Ball to Evatt, 12 July 1946, NAA, A1838, 482/1/7.

9 Ball to Evatt, 23 July 1946, NAA, A1838, 482/1/7. For a recent detailed examination of Ball’s time in Japan, see Ai Kobayashi, W. MacMahon Ball: Politics for the People (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013).

10 Addison to Department of External Affairs, 16 April 1946, NAA, A3317, 1/46 Part 2; Christopher Waters, The Empire Fractures: Anglo-Australian Conflict in the 1940s (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 1995).

11 De Matos, “Diplomacy Interrupted?”, 196.

12 Berendsen to McIntosh, 31 May 1946, DNZER Vol. II, 409-412; Berendsen to McIntosh, 2 April 1946, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 107; Berendsen to McIntosh, 4 June 1946, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 110-111.

13 Berendsen to McIntosh, 31 May 1946, DNZER Vol. II, 411-412.

14 Davies to Kennan, 11 August 1947, FRUS 1947 Vol. VI, 485-486.

15 Australian Defence Committee Minutes, 24 June 1947, NAA, A1838, 539/1/2.

16 Evatt Statement, 17 August 1947, Current Notes on International Affairs (hereafter CNIA) 1947 Vol. 28, 470.

17 Australian Government to Fraser, 20 April 1948, NAA, A1838/2, 479/10 Part V.

18 Atcheson to Marshall, 5 July 1947, FRUS 1947 Vol. VI, 531.

19 Lovett to Truman, 7 October 1947, President’s Secretary’s Files, Truman Papers, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library (hereafter TL).

20 Policy Statement of the Department of State, 18 August 1948, NARA, RG 59, 711.47/8-1848.

21 McIntosh to Corner, 14 June 1946, in Unofficial Channels, 58.

22 Frank Bongiorno, “John Beasley and the Postwar World”, in Carl Bridge, Frank Biongiorno and David Lee eds., The High Commissioners: Australia’s Representatives in the United Kingdom, 1910-2010 (Canberra: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2010), 124,

23 Frank Bongiorno, “Norman Makin and Post-War Diplomacy, 1946-1951”, in David Lower, David Lee and Carl Bridge eds., Australia Goes to Washington: 75 Years of Australian Representation in the United States, 1940-2015 (Canberra: ANU Press, 2016), 39,

24 Ibid., 45.

25 Department of External Affairs to Mission in Tokyo, 8 September 1947, NAA, A1068, P47/10/61 Part IV. For an agenda list of the Commonwealth Conference, see Preliminary Notes on Provisional Agenda by Evatt, August 1947, DAFP 1947 Vol. XII, 578-591.

26 Report by the External Affairs Committee on the Japanese Peace Settlement, 20 November 1947, DNZER Vol. III, 195-107.

27 Evatt to Marshall, 2 September 1947, NAA, A1838, 538/1 Part II.

28 Eggleston to Watt, 3 September 1947, DAFP 1947 Vol. XII, 613-615.

29 Eggleston to Evatt, 1 October 1947, DAFP 1947 Vol. XII, 617-621.

30 Kennan Memorandum, 14 October 1947, FRUS 1947 Vol. VI, 536-537.

31 Policy Statement of the Department of State, 18 August 1948, NARA, RG 59, 711.47/8-1848.

32 Policy Statement of the Department of State, 24 September 1948, NARA, RG 59, 711.47H/9-2448.

33 Evatt Statement, 26 February 1947, Commonwealth of Australia House of Representatives Debates, no. 9 1947, 166.

34 ANZAM refers to the Australian, New Zealand and British arrangement for the joint defence of Malaya and Commonwealth interests in Southeast Asia.

35 Defence Committee Memorandum, 1 April 1947, NAA, A2031, 119/1947.

36 Memorandum by the Australian Defence Committee, 23 May 1947, NAA, A5954, 1850/1.

37 Chifley to Attlee, 28 May 1947, DAFP 1947 Vol. XII, 322-324; McIntyre, Background to the ANZUS Pact, 213.

38 Fraser to Chifley, 13 November 1947, Archives NZ, EA, 156/10/2 Part 2.

39 Appreciation for the Strategical Position of Australia, February 1946, NAA, A5954/1, 1664/4.

40 Report by New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee, 7 May 1948, in Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1945-1974, Wayne Reynolds and David Lee ed. (Canberra: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2013), 10-11,

41 Berendsen to McIntosh, 1 October 1945, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 100; McIntosh to Berendsen, 1 November 1945, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 103.

42 Peter Morton, Fire across the Desert: Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project, 1946-1980 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1989), 104.

43 Makin to Chifley, 3 July 1948, NAA, A3300, 750.

© 2018 Andrew Kelly, CC BY 4.0