Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • After the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7 would always be remembered as the day of

  • infamy in which the Japanese started the Pacific War.

  • But at the same time, the Empire of Japan also began simultaneous offensives against

  • British, Dutch, and American possessions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

  • Today we are going to cover some of these attacks in mainland Southeast Asia, primarily

  • focusing on the invasion of Malaya and the British response against the Japanese aggression.

  • Learning about the sponsor of this video Bokksu was one of the highlights of 2021: Bokksu

  • is a monthly snack box subscription that partners with century-old family snack makers to deliver

  • exclusive Japanese snacks and tea pairings to your door!

  • Every month you will receive a box with a different theme and different snacks: it's

  • a gourmet journey through Japan every month!

  • This month's Bokksu is called Prefecture Passion, as they take you on a flavor tour

  • of twelve Japanese prefectures!

  • Bokksu makes such a perfect and memorable gift for anyone in your life who appreciates

  • Japanese snacks and culture, especially during a time where people aren't able to travel

  • as easily as they would like.

  • Actually!

  • Not only would you be gifting them Bokksu, which is already awesome, but you would also

  • be gifting them the chance to win Free Tickets to Japan, because Bokksu is having a giveaway.

  • They will be picking one lucky winner to win a free set of tickets, and anyone who is subscribed

  • before December 31st is automatically entered.

  • The link is in description, check out the Terms & Conditions and other methods of entry.

  • Don't forget to use our code KINGSANDGENERALS10 and the link in the description to get 10%

  • off and save up to $47 of your own authentic Japanese subscription box from Bokksu!

  • Don't miss out on this amazing snack journey through Japan!

  • With the rise of the Japanese threat after the end of World War One, the UK had decided

  • to establish a main naval base in Singapore during the 20s to defend their colonial possessions

  • in the Far East.

  • Singapore was selected due to its strategic importance and because it was the only British

  • territory to be excluded from the non-fortification clause of the Washington Naval Treaty, and

  • their intention was to have a strong fleet in here to deter Japan from any act of war.

  • But this was clearly not enough, as Japanese aggression in the region during the 30s kept

  • rising and threatening the British colonies.

  • The outbreak of the Second World War in Europe also limited the capability of the UK to defend

  • this region, leaving British Malaya, Burma, and Hong Kong alone in case of war with Japan.

  • Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself believed that the Japanese wouldn't dare to attack

  • them as early as 1941, so he chose to reinforce the Mediterranean instead.

  • In case of attack, however, the British plan of defense consisted of delaying the Japanese

  • advance as long as possible while maintaining control over their fortress at Singapore for

  • the arrival of reinforcements to save them, even though they actually couldn't afford

  • to send reinforcements to the Far East, so this plan was very unrealistic.

  • In Malaya, Commander-in-Chief Robert Brooke-Popham of the British Far East Command had been assigned

  • the defense of the region, although he knew that without reinforcements they wouldn't

  • be able to withstand a Japanese attack.

  • Malayan ground forces were under the command of Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, who

  • only counted with 31 inexperienced infantry battalions, untrained to fight in jungles

  • and rubber plantations, which were organized into three divisions and with the Malayan

  • garrisons totaled some 88600 men.

  • Airpower was also key for the defense of Malaya, but the British only counted with 14 squadrons

  • of mostly old aircraft, a small force to cover both strike and reconnaissance roles.

  • Naval forces were old and small as well, but they would be reinforced by Admiral Tom Phillips'

  • Force Z, consisting of the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse along with four destroyers,

  • mainly intending to deter any act of Japanese aggression.

  • The British government also believed that Hong Kong couldn't be defended because of

  • the strong Japanese presence all around it, but Major-General Christopher Maltby thought

  • that he could at least delay the Japanese advance long enough to be rescued by British

  • reinforcements, even though there were none available.

  • He then placed three infantry battalions at the Gin Drinkers Line, a defensive line that

  • stretched across the Kowloon Peninsula, intending to stop the Japanese advance in the mainland,

  • while three more battalions with a volunteer corps held Hong Kong Island itself.

  • On November 11th, 1940, the German raider Atlantis captured the British steamer Automedon

  • in the Indian Ocean.

  • The ship was carrying papers meant for Air Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

  • The information was about the weakness of the Singapore base, and in December 1940 the

  • Germans handed this information over to the Japanese.

  • Alongside this the Japanese broke the British Army Codes in January 1941, learning details

  • of the weakened state of the "fortress of Singapore", allowing them to prepare for an

  • invasion.

  • As we've already seen, after the embargo enacted by the US, the UK, and the Dutch in

  • July of 1941, the Japanese had decided to simultaneously invade their possessions in

  • the East to get their hands on the rich resources they possessed.

  • It is interesting to note that, as China tied many of their forces, the Japanese could only

  • employ eleven divisions for these offensives, so speed was really of the essence before

  • the Allies could reinforce this region.

  • By late November, preparations for the attacks had already been carried out, and on December

  • 2, the order toClimb Mount Niitakahad been sent, setting in motion the start

  • of the offensives.

  • For the invasion of Malaya, the Japanese planned to do several naval landings in southern Thailand

  • and northern Malaya , followed by an advance through the Malayan Peninsula along the western

  • coastal plain until the final assault against Singapore across the Strait of Johor.

  • The plan developed by Tsuji Masanobu was very bold, having to traverse 400 miles of jungle

  • road against a major force that had established formidable defenses in Singapore.

  • The 25th Army of Lieutenant-General Yamashita Tomoyuki , initially consisting of two divisions

  • , was appointed to execute this operation, covered by the 2nd Fleet of Admiral Kondō

  • Nobutake in its role of escorting convoys to Thailand and Malaya.

  • The landings at Thailand would be critical because the British couldn't defend this

  • area, giving the Japanese an easy landing point to commence their advance.

  • Thailand's dictator, Marshal Plaek Phibun, had promised the Japanese to allow them safe

  • passage for a possible invasion of Malaya, yet at the same time, he was negotiating with

  • the British and Americans for guarantees, which made the Japanese feel like they couldn't

  • trust him.

  • The 15th Army of Lieutenant-General Iida Shōjirō, initially composed of two divisions , also

  • needed to transit through Thailand, as it had been prepared for an invasion of Burma.

  • If the Thais didn't allow the Japanese safe passage by December 7, then this army would

  • invade from Indochina and head straight to the Burmese border.

  • To counter a possible invasion of Thailand, Brooke-Popham had planned for the 11th Indian

  • Division to establish positions at Singora and Patani before the Japanese could land,

  • although this action meant invading a neutral nation.

  • Since Operation Matador didn't get automatic approval, the plan was essentially dead, but

  • it would have one major consequence: the 11th would be prevented from completing defensive

  • positions at Jitra.

  • And at Hong Kong, the 23rd Army of Lieutenant-General Sakai Takashi, consisting only of one division

  • , had the task of executing a three-pronged attack against the Gin Drinkers Line, while

  • Hong Kong Island itself was blockaded and bombarded into submission.

  • On December 4, troop transports from Hainan Island, escorted by Admiral Kondō's fleet,

  • started to sail en route to their objectives.

  • Two days later, the Japanese were spotted by British reconnaissance, but Brooke-Popham

  • wasn't authorized to take any actions yet, only putting his forces on full alert.

  • At 23:00 on December 7, the Japanese presented an ultimatum to the Thai government, demanding

  • safe passage and giving them two hours to respond.

  • As Phibun couldn't be located until late morning, the Thais would be invaded some hours

  • later.

  • From Indochina, the Imperial Guards Division and the 55th Division invaded Phra Tabong

  • unopposed, then continuing northwest towards Aranyaprathet [-eht].

  • Meanwhile, a regiment of the 5th Division landed at Patani and the rest of the division

  • landed at Singora , quickly taking the upper hand against the fierce Thai defenders . From

  • Saigon, elements of the 15th Army would also execute some naval landings across Thailand,

  • but they would face staunch Thai resistance that would prevent them from making any progress.

  • At the same time, almost an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began, the 18th Division

  • landed at Kota Bharu with much effort, quickly running into beach defenses held by an Indian

  • battalion . In response, the defenders employed their artillery and their Hudsons to bombard

  • the Japanese positions, while the men in the pillboxes pinned down waves of enemy soldiers,

  • thus inflicting heavy casualties on the invaders.

  • After heavy combat, the Japanese finally penetrated the center of the Indian line by 03:45, threatening

  • the valuable airfield nearby.

  • Concurrently, 17 Japanese bombers attacked Singapore, only causing minor damage to their

  • airfields and killing 61 persons.

  • Yet this was a shock to the British command, who didn't believe that their foe had access

  • to long-range aircraft . Japanese fighters and bombers also started to appear in Kota

  • Bharu and across the main airfields of northern Malaya, causing havoc on Brooke-Popham's

  • RAF and proving their air superiority.

  • In the ensuing confusion, two counterattacks by different Indian battalions were repelled

  • at Kota Bharu, prompting the British to prematurely destroy their northern airfields to prevent

  • them from falling into enemy hands, while at night, the defenders, at last, retreated

  • from the beaches to guard Kota Bharu itself.

  • And further west, a small Indian force based at the town of Kroh had been earmarked to

  • execute a mini Operation Matador, codenamed Krohcol, with the objective of occupying the

  • easily defendable Ledge position on the Patani road.

  • While confusion reigned at the British headquarters, Operation Krohcol was launched at 15:00.

  • After crossing the frontier, however, the Indians were met by staunch Thai resistance

  • from the police based in the town of Betong.

  • These policemen, led by Major Prayoon Rattanakit, established important roadblocks that managed

  • to delay the Indian advance for two whole days, while at the same time fighting the

  • Japanese at Patani.

  • After several hours of fighting, Japan and Thailand signed an armistice by midday, with

  • Phibun finally allowing Japan to use his country as a base of operations, although the Thais

  • would not join the war effort for now.

  • Unopposed but traversing over bad roads, the Japanese at Patani would also start to advance

  • to the Ledge position that was some 60 miles away from them, starting a race with the Krohcol

  • detachment to get there first.

  • Meanwhile, at Hong Kong, the three columns of the 38th Division commenced their attack,

  • quickly overrunning British defenses in the New Territories and reaching the Gin Drinkers

  • Line by late afternoon.

  • The British colony was also subjected to a heavy air bombardment and a naval blockade

  • by Vice-Admiral Niimi Masaichi's 2nd China Fleet, although two British destroyers managed

  • to escape the encirclement at 21:30 to join Force Z at Singapore.

  • But unbeknownst to them, Admiral Phillips had already sailed from Singapore after dusk,

  • intending to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet in the South China Sea.

  • He expected to arrive at Kota Bharu on December 10, and he relied on the surprise factor for

  • the success of his operation.

  • The following day started with renewed fighting at Kota Bharu.

  • As the Japanese pressed on the disorganized defenders, they began to infiltrate around