Talk:American-British-Dutch-Australian Command

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earlier comments[edit]

From Page 10-11 in "Defeat into Victory" by Slim. There is a page on the operational control of Burma:

  • 1937 Burma politically separated from India, fully responsible for its own military forces
  • 1939 with the outbreak of war Burma forces placed under British Chiefs of Staff but financed out of Burma taxes and locally administerd.
  • 1940 November operational control was transferred to the recently formed Far Eastern Command in Singapore while administrative responsibility was divided between the Burma Government and the War Office in London, which now contributed substantially to the defence budget of Burma.
  • December 12 1941, when a Japanese attack was seen to be Imminent, back to India command.
  • December 30 1941, A.B.D.A., as with our passion far initials the South-West Pacific Command...Under this organization, the Burma front was to be operationally controlled from Java and administered from Delhi.
  • With the rapid break-up of A.B.D.A. following the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies, back Burma came again to India. Thus in the space of about sixteen vital months there had been five separate superior headquarters in turn responsible for the defence of Burma

Looking on the net[1]

At the beginning of January it had been decided by the Allied authorities to unify the command of all their forces in the South West Pacific under a Supreme Allied. Commander. General Sir Archibald Wavell was appointed to this post. He arrived in Singapore on 7th January and commenced to form his staff, absorbing into it the Commander-in-Chief, Far East, and his staff. On 15th January he moved to the site selected for his Supreme Allied Headquarters, South West Pacific Command, namely to Bandoeng in Java. There on 15th January he assumed command of operations throughout the S.W. Pacific, and G.H.Q. as such ceased to exist. The code name for General Wavell's H.Q. was Abdacom.

From the net [2]

With the Japanese making ready for the final assault on Java, General Wavell turned to his superiors for new instructions. Their orders were to transfer command of Java to the Dutch and withdraw, but to maintain ABDACOM and keep his headquarters intact. When and where he would go was left to him. Ground forces "for whom there are arms" were to remain and continue the fight, but air forces that could operate from bases outside Java and other troops "who cannot contribute to defense" were to be withdrawn, the Americans and Australians to go to Australia. General Brett was to return to Australia, when released by Wavell, to command the U.S. forces there.50
The ABDA commander did not agree with the program. What he wanted was the dissolution of ABDACOM, all reason for its existence having disappeared. Burma, he pointed out, had already been separated from the ABDA theater and Java's defense was a local problem, best handled by the Dutch themselves. If the Philippines, which had never really been under his control, were taken over by the Americans again and northwest Australia by the Australians, he told the Chiefs, he could turn over his remaining forces to the Dutch and leave the area by 25 February.51
This recommendation was in line with the solution being proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff for the establishment of two areas in the Far East, one to be under American control and to include Australia; the other a British area encompassing India and the Indian Ocean. The Dutch opposed such a solution for fear it would mean the end of Allied assistance in the Netherlands Indies. 'For God's sake,' wrote the Dutch governor-general to Marshall, "take the strong and active decisions and don't stop sending materials and men."52
Still anxious to avoid the appearance of abandoning their allies, the U.S. Chiefs continued to oppose the dissolution of ABDACOM. But in recognition of the fact that Wavell had lost the confidence of the Dutch and obviously wanted to pull out, they agreed to the dissolution of his headquarters and his transfer to India, leaving control of the ABDA area to the Dutch. And lest the Dutch should think that the Americans had made this arrangement to shirk their commitments, Marshall assured the Dutch governor that the forces then assembling in Australia were "seeking opportunity to enter the ABDA battle" and would "continue their full support of the Dutch commanders in their magnificent fight."53
On the 25th General Wavell turned over command to the Dutch and left for India where General Brereton had already gone to organize an American air force. This move placed MacArthur technically under the Dutch, but he had already been told that "because of your special situation all procedures in your case remain as heretofore."54 The burden of defending Java was now squarely on the Dutch. Their forces, with the exception of minor ground units (including an American artillery battalion), American and British naval units, and a small U.S.-Australian fighter force, composed the entire command.

So another name for ABDA was "South West Pacific [theatre]" It seems that when the British created ADBACOM Wavell who was Comander in Chief of the Army in India used the staff of their Far East Command which had been stationed in Singapore to man ADBACOM. When Wavell turned over command [of ADBA] to the Dutch and left for India The Indian command which took responcibiltiy for Burma. The Americans (MacArthur) inherited what was left of the South West Pacific [theatre] after the Dutch lost Java.

Wavell did not become Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia he retained his position as Comander in Chief of the Army in India which took on Burma with the ending of ABDA. In August 1943 SEAC was formed. (Info from Page 168 of "Defeat into Victory" by Slim). Wavell became Vicroy of India and was replaced By General Auchinleck as C in C India on June 18, 1943. PBS 18:57, 26 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Good research and contribution to the article, thanks. However, the boundaries of the SWP Command were completely different to ABDA and I have edited the article to reflect this. And the only references I can find to a "Far East Command" are the RAF body. Grant65 (Talk) 00:35, Sep 27, 2004 (UTC)

Thanks. I've put in a link for the Army of India, it is not the same thing as the British Indian Army because it included British Army units in India (and after 1941 American, African etc). Both Slim in "Defeat into Victory" and [1] above(London_Gazette_1948) both mention the Far Eastern Command in Singapore. The staff of that command were very lucky to end up in ABDACOM and not in Burma under Japanese command! I don't think it is the same organisation as the RAF one. It was just that the RAF did not change their command name when they evacuated to India (as they were seperate command from the Indian Air Force) PBS 02:30, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

OK... A query: since India was not part of ABDA, did Wavell really retain control of the Army of India while he was at ABDACOM? Also, I think the comment about the US supporting ABDA for "political reasons" is not correct/NPOV, I mean all of the ABDA countries actually had forces in the Dutch E. Indies. It seems to me that Wavell was more obvious in his assessment of their prospects -- too few, spread too thin --- than the others were. Grant65 (Talk) 09:41, Sep 27, 2004 (UTC)

Yes Wavell did. It was one of the criticisms of the whole venture, because if you add up all the forces of the ABDA, numerically it would only have been a tiny fraction of the forces he commanded in India. So much of his time was devoted to the normal bureaucratic stuff that a CinC India would have to do.

When Wavell chucked in the towel on the 25th of January, the US were still willing to send troops to aid the Dutch. They seemed to have realised that this was not more than a gesture.

And lest the Dutch should think that the Americans had made this arrangement to shirk their commitments, Marshall assured the Dutch governor that the forces then assembling in Australia were "seeking opportunity to enter the ABDA battle" and would "continue their full support of the Dutch commanders in their magnificent fight." ... This move placed MacArthur technically under the Dutch, but he had already been told that "because of your special situation all procedures in your case remain as heretofore."

So how do we describe that?

The sources I have read (eg U.S. ARMY CAMPAIGNS OF WORLD WAR II East Indies) suggest that the ABDACOM was dissolved on the 25th of January. What are your sources for saying that "Following the destruction of the main ABDA naval force under Rear-Admiral Karel Doorman, at the Battle of the Java Sea, in February-March 1942, the unified ABDA command was dissolved.?

Do you have a source for the creation of the command under MacArthur? Because it seems more than a coincidence to me that MacArthur was in command of the largest piece of ADBA left after the fall of the Dutch East Indies and that his command had the same name. I would guess that he inherited the wreckage of the ABDA by now reduced to "AA" and that it was never formally disolved. But I have no evidence for this and will be intrested to know what your sources are.

Finally I have put in two links to maps which I think would be very useful if they were included in this article directly. The website where they are currently displayed is hyperwar says The source of the material presented here is almost exclusively U.S. Government produced, -- and therefor U.S.-oriented. This choice was made to avoid any copyright issues, So I guess it is OK to include these maps directly into the article. PBS 14:50, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The maps would be a good inclusion.
I have removed the reference to dissolution following the Battle of the Java Sea. I don't think ABDA was ever formally dissolved. The land command seems to have devolved to local commanders after Wavell's withdrawal.
Personally I think ABDA was a means by which the British and US attempted to take control of the defence of the DE Indies, without offending the Dutch. Obviously Hein Ter Poorten would not have attempted to tell MacArthur what to do, any more than he would have attempted to tell Percival what to do. What that means is that MacArthur effectively held a separate "Phillipines command", in the same way that Percival did. (Likewise the ABDA navies had a "China Force" under the Australian Commodore John Collins.)
Some people may have referred to ABDA as the "SW Pacific Area" in early 1942, but not many, and it doesn't even make any geographical sense to do that, if you think about it. ABDA never included the bulk of Australia, New Guinea or the neighbouring islands, which were under direct Australian control. However, once the Dutch East Indies fell, it was a unilateral US decision to re-organise the greater "Pacific Theatre" into two new US-defined theatres. With MacArthur based in Brisbane or Melbourne for most of the war, Australia virtually became a US-occupied country and its forces became a US colonial army. According to an Australian Defence Department account:
Subsequently, with the disappearance of Wavell’s command in the ABDA area, decisions were made by the US in March 1942 to divide the Pacific area, on grounds of strategy, into the SWPA and the Pacific Ocean Area. General MacArthur was designated Supreme Commander of the SWPA and Admiral Nimitz was designated Supreme Commander of the Pacific Ocean Area. The Australian Government had no part in any of these decisions and was told about them after they had been made.[3] Grant65 (Talk) 00:22, Sep 28, 2004 (UTC)

I think you are being a bit hard on the Americans. The decision to divide the Pacific was made before that (which is why the ABDA had the geographic limits it did). The Churchill speach to the House, referenced in the external links, show that 60 years ago he considered Britian, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand to be much closer to each other than any of them are today. [ It would have been very unlikly that in those days that NZ Prime Minister would have been body searched as a potential terrorist when passing throught Australia ;-) ] Look at the mention of the PMs of those countries sitting in the British Cabinate when ever they were in the UK and that it was a pitty they were there so infrequently. So I think the Amercan decision, (which if I am right about the name, the Pacific Area was set up by inheriting ABDA agreement with extended boundries, just as the Indian theatre command was), would have to be seen in the context of the British, Australian and New Zealand debate about what to do with ANZAC divisions in North Africa and Europe "Should I Stay Or Should I Go/ If I stay there will be trouble/ If I leave it will be double". But that is for another article, this one is about finished :-) || PBS 08:00, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

If you you look at how close the Japanese got to Australia in early-mid 1942, with major air raids on Darwin and other northern towns, the battles of the Coral Sea, the Kokoda Track and Milne Bay, and with most of the army still in the Middle East...and a promised torrent of US forces, it's not hard to see that the Australian gov't had no option but to go along with whatever MacArthur said. (And he never was easy to get on with, which is why Truman sacked him in 1951.) I'm sure 99% of Australians preferred US occupation to the prospect Japanese occupation, 99% of the time. Thanks for your help with the article. :-) Grant65 (Talk) 11:06, Sep 28, 2004 (UTC)

C in C India[edit] lists the C-in-Cs India as:

1941.01.27 F.M. Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck
1941.07.05 Gen. Sir Alan Flemming Hartley
1942.03.07 F.M. The Rt Hon Archibald Percival (Wavell), 1st Earl Wavell
1943.06.20 F.M. Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck

Grant65 (Talk) 00:18, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)

I think that this needs more research: This list seems to confirm

wikipedia biography agrees with "commander in chief in India 1941–43;". says "He then exchanged commands with General Auchinleck, becoming commander in chief of India. After Japan entered the war, he was for some months (1942) supreme commander of the Allies in East Asia, but the command was abolished as the Allies lost control of the area. Resuming his command in India". "Commander-in-Chief, India, 1941-1943. Supreme Commander, South West Pacific, ABDA Command, January - March 1942"

I checked Slim and he met Wavell on 12th March when he is given Burma and mentions that Wavell has India and Burma. But that does not help us because all the above sources agree that he could be C in C by that date.

Just found a definative source:

04 Jan 1942

Telegram from WSC to the Viceroy and Governor-General of India [2nd Lord Linlithgow, earlier Lord Hopetoun] refusing to remove General Sir Claude Auchinleck from command in Middle East [? to be Commander-in-Chief, India], asks if [? General Sir Alan Hartley, General Officer Commanding- in-Chief, Northern Command, India] or [? General Sir William Platt, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, East African Command] would be acceptable.

04 Jan 1942

Telegram from WSC to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, India, refusing to remove General Sir Claude Auchinleck from command in the Middle East.

04 Jan 1942

Telegram from WSC to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, India [and Supreme Commander, South West Pacific], advising he should set up his headquarters in Java [Dutch East Indies, later Indonesia] as also advised by the United States.

So on the January 4 1942 Wavell was C in C India and Hartley was not. So is wrong.

You might find this one interesting 09 Jan 1942:

Telegram from WSC to the Prime Minister of Australia [John Curtin] on the co-ordination of defence between Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, including the need to incorporate the United States contribution into the south western Pacific, and the defence of Australia itself; Australian, New Zealander and Dutch representatives will report via London to Washington until a Supreme Commander has been appointed.

PBS 03:24, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC) 28 Feb 1942

Telegram from General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, India, to WSC: comments on the question of appointing a Military Governor in Ceylon [later Sri Lanka] and suggests Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton [Commander- in-Chief, China]; refers to the confused situation in Burma and proposes going there; hopes that General Sir Alan Hartley will be left in India as his Deputy. 28 Feb 1942

So it looks like Hartley was premoted Deputy C in C under Wavell while Wavell was SAC ABDA. PBS 03:35, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

When I did the above search the site: Was down. It is up now and it is well worth a read because it is a report by the main British actors published by the War Office in 1948 about:

The following Despatch was submitted to the Secretary of State for War on the 14th July, 1942, by GENERAL SR ARCHIBALD P. WAVELL, G.C B., C.M.G., M.C., A.DC., Commander-in-Chief, India.
(To cover Reports by Lieut.-General T. J. Hutton and General The Honourable Sir Harold R L G. Alexander.)

Here are some bits which relate to the questions we have had Wavell writes

section 3:

Burma had been included, for operational purposes, in the Far East Command when this was established in November, 1940, with headquarters in Singapore... I paid a visit to Burma and Malaya and discussed the question with the Commander-in-Chief Far East, Air Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, and with the Governor of Burma, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith...

So the Far East Command in Singapore was established in 1940 and the commder was neither Navy or Army but Airforce. Hence the confusion in the other sources we have seen.

Section 5:

On 12th December, five days after the entry of Japan into the war, I received a telegram from the Prime Minister placing Burma under the Commander-in-Chief, in India for defence.

Section 14:

On 30th December, 1941, I received a telegram appointing me to the newly constituted South-West Pacific Command (afterwards known as A.B.D A.). Burma was included in this Command. I at once recommended that the defence of Burma should remain the responsibility of Commander-in-Chief, India, for the same reasons for which I had previously urged its transfer to India from the Far East Command (see paragraph 3). I was, however, overruled on the grounds that Marshal Chiang-Kai-Shek must feel himself connected with the new South West Pacific Command. I think that this decision was a serious error from the military point of view.... General Sir Alan Hartley who succeeded me as Commander-in-Chief, India, did everything possible to meet Burma's requirements.

Section 15.

I took over control of South West Pacific Command on 15th January, and established A.B.D.A. Command Headquarters in Java, near Bandoeng, a few days late.

So we from the telegrams that on the January 4th that he Wavell was both CInC India and SAC ABDA Hartly must have become CinC Inda after that date a possible date is the day Wavell took command of South West Pacific on January 15th.

Section 21

On 23rd February I was ordered to close down A.OB.D.A. Command Headquarters and to reassume my appointment as Commander-in-chief, India. I thus against became responsible for the defence of Burma within a few days of having handed it over. [sic (the "OB" and "against" are in the source) PBS]

So Hartley did take ovder as CinC India after January 4, probably before January 15, He became Deputy Commander between Febuary 23 when Wavell was "ordered to close down" ABDACOM and to reassume his appointment as CinC India and 28 Feb 1942 when Churchill sent Wavell a telegram address to him as CinC India. It was probably the 25th if the US source is correct.

Bit tought to be promoted CinC only to be told 5 weeks later you are demoted to Deputy! PBS 10:58, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Certainly was...very interesting material. We were thinking along similar lines and here are a few other impressions I've gained from my research:

  • It seems to me that we can also talk about a British India Command[4] --- which as we know included Burma from early 1942, and which (officially at least) had the combined Allied SEAC imposed from above in 1943.
Yes but not in this article as it happend in the future. I think it is coverd already in South-East_Asian_Theatre_of_World_War_II#Command_Structure but you might think it needs an expansion.
  • References to Wavell as "Supreme Commander SW Pacific" seem to almost always exclude the word Allied, which suggests to me that the title referred to British forces only and was a secondary/subsidiary one to the ABDA Command. Considering that there was no continuity between Wavell and MacArthur, and the latter was appointed unilaterally, it seems to me we are dealing with somewhat different beasts in talking about ABDACOM and SWPC.
I don't think the fact the word "Allied" is missed out is significant see the telegram above which starts 09 Jan 1942: Telegram from WSC to the Prime Minister of Australia.... It implies that it is an interchangable phrase with ABDA. It helps to keep them seperate, so that people who have not looked at all this stuff, realize that it is diffrent (if only in who ran the show) from the American MacArthur command of the same name. Although as I said before I suspect that once the British and Dutch had gone, he inherited commander postion and used the name as an alternative to calling it AACOM ;-)
  • I think we need to change the present wording slightly, about the British "Far East Command" being the "kernel" of ABDA. That overlooks the significant US and Dutch input. The Far East Command does seems to have been swallowed up by ABDA, but it also looks to have been diminutive: apparently Brooke-Popham was appointed in October 1940 and succeeded (briefly) by Pownall from December 23, 1941. The point being that Percival and Wavell are well-known, but not Brooke-Popham. (Perhaps he should be, considering that it was an air marshal who oversaw the failure to deploy any significant Allied air power on the Malayan Pensinsula!) Grant65 (Talk) 11:26, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)
By all means change it, but I think kernel is fine because there would have been plane loads of REMFs in the command not just the high profile names and in the lenght of time ABDA existed there would not have been much time to gather any one else. It seems that Wavell specifically went to Singapore to collect them, but so long as you include the fact that the British Far East Command made up part of the ABDA command it does not matter. I want that handle left so that it can be expanded on in a sub-article at some point in the future.
I suspect that the Far East Command ended up in India as the part of the staff to the CinC and ran theatre ops outside India for him. But that is for further research and belongs in a seperate article.

What do you think? Grant65 (Talk) 11:26, Sep 30, 2004 (UTC)

I've put my thoughts between your bullet points under each one. PBS 14:26, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The maps look great, well done. I may mention the major land battles and then leave the article alone for a while :-) Grant65 (Talk) 01:06, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)

Re MacArthur & ABDA: my recollection (without a source in front of me) is he got a separate SWPA command after (or concurrent with) the dissolution of ABDA, as the defense of the "Malay Barrier" was seen to be impractical (or impossible...). This followed the destruction of Doorman's scratch force. To confirm, look to Willmott's Barrier & the Javelin (1983). Trekphiler 12:45, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Check the article, it says: "MacArthur was ordered to re-locate to Australia. On March 17, the US Government appointed him as Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area." BTW I have reverted your last edits because the titles you added were U.S. Navy ones not joint ABDA (Allied) positions. Grant65 | Talk 16:21, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

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