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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Formation of the Pacific War Council

February and April 1942

Location: London, UK, and Washington, USA
Players: Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and the Dutch and Philippine governments in exile.
Outcome: The formation of a multi-country council to advise on the conduct of the war in the Pacific.

The Pacific War Council meets at the White House to discuss the strategy to defeat Japan
The Pacific War Council meets at the White House to discuss the strategy to defeat Japan©
The speed of the Japanese offensive and the shocking success of their campaign in the Pacific led to the US assuming control in directing the Allied response in the area. Some countries, notably New Zealand and Australia, objected to this American monopoly, and the Pacific War Council was formed in response.

Two concurrent advisory committees were formed in London and Washington in 1942 to involve all council members in the conduct of war in the Pacific. The countries represented at the Pacific War Council included the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, and the Dutch and Philippine governments in exile.

The council met in February and April but had no operational responsibilities, despite pressure from Australia. Decisions were deferred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff committee, which combined American and British chiefs of staff with the US president at its head.

New Zealand and Australia protested loudly against this state of affairs - after all, both countries were making a significant contribution to the war effort, with Australia providing one armoured and nine infantry divisions in 1943. Their presence in the Pacific was also larger than that of the Americans - almost double the size in terms of land forces. However, there was very little these two countries could do in their efforts to have more say in the Pacific war.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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