(31) On 16 March, King suffered a major setback: the Joint Chiefs decided to implement a War Department plan for rapid buildup in Europe and restriction of reinforcements in the Pacific to "current commitments." Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs approved King's request for bases at Efate and Tongatabu. The army believed that three divisions in the southwestern Pacific were sufficient; the Joint Chiefs approved a single Army Air Forces (AAF) pursuit squadron for Christmas Island, Canton, Tongatabu, and Efate.
The principal bases for the Allied ships were Tongatabu, in the Friendly Islands (Tonga); Noumea, on New Caledonia; Efate, in the New Hebrides; Suva and Nandi, in Fiji; and Tutuila, in the American protectorate of Samoa.
For example, the sea distance from Noumea to Tongatabu, Tonga, is about a thousand miles.
Nimitz directed Fletcher to sail east to Tongatabu for replenishment.
On 17 April, he expressed concern that carriers were leaving the Coral Sea for Tongatabu. He wrote to Nimitz, "[I] consider it necessary that one task force [be] maintained in that area at all times to check further enemy advance." Nimitz was surprised at the message but assured MacArthur that TF 17 was being withdrawn only to replenish and deal with problems with its fighter aircraft.
On the Allied side, TF 17 spent seven days at Tongatabu for provisioning and upkeep.
(230) On 10 May, Fletcher informed Nimitz that he planned to stop at Tongatabu on the way to Pearl Harbor.
In fact, it was his second-in-command, Tongatabu
Joe, who realised the profit to be made and collected a store of shell while Banner was in Sydney (Ganter 1992, 20).