Bargaining for Supremacy: Anglo-American Naval Collaboration, 1937-1941

By James R. Leutze | Go to book overview

15.

"Get the Americans into the War"

13 February 1941-29 March 1941

The prime minister had not been pleased with Bellairs's "heavy weather" concerning the Far East; the Americans were equally distressed, and it is not difficult to understand why as one reads the long, closely reasoned two-part document that Bellairs prepared. In it he analyzed, first, the importance of Singapore and, second, the proper manner of defending it. As Bellairs put it, Singapore was not only important strategically but also for "political, economic, and sentimental" reasons.1 Furthermore, Great Britain had made "specific undertakings" to support Australia and New Zealand; Singapore was essential to fulfilling those promises. So significant were these guarantees, the paper stated, that if "Singapore were in serious danger of capture...we should be prepared to send a fleet to the Far East, even if to do so would compromise or sacrifice our position in the Mediterranean." In short, the loss of Singapore would be a "disaster of the first magnitude second only to the loss of the British Isles."

Defending the fortress was not as easy as setting the priorities. Forces could be drawn from the Royal Navy in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean but that seemed illogical. The most practical solution would be for the U.S. Navy to dispatch at least one carrier and a division of heavy cruisers from the U.S. Fleet at Pearl

-234-

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