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Japan Invades Malaya, Thailand

8 DEC 1941: World War II and Japan invades Malaya and Thailand. This attack (which occurred virtually simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor) would lead within three months to the loss of Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese invasion of Thailand also occurred on this day. It was fought between Thailand and the Empire of Japan. Despite fierce fighting in southern Thailand, the resistance lasted only a matter of hours before ending in a ceasefire.

The Japanese invasion plan involved landing troops from the 5th Division at Pattani and Songkhla on Thailand’s east coast, and troops from the 18th Division at Kota Bharu Malaya’s northeast coast. The forces in Thailand were to push through to the west coast and invade Malaya from the northwestern province of Kedah, while the eastern forces would attack down the east coast and into the interior of Malaya from Kota Bharu.

The British plan for defending against an attack from Thailand into northwestern Malaya was a pre-emptive strike into southern Thailand, known as Operation Krohcol, to take strategically vital positions and delay the enemy attack.

The British plan for the defence of the east coast of Malaya consisted of fixed beach defences by the Indian 9th Infantry Division along the northern stretch of coastline and two thirds of the Australian 8th Division defending the southern stretch of coastline. (The other third was on Ambon, West Timor, and at Rabaul)

The Japanese attack force was drawn from Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s 25th Army. It sailed from Samah Harbour on Hainan Island on 4 December 1941. Additional ships carrying more troops joined the convoy from Saigon in southern Vietnam, French Indochina.

An RAAF reconnaissance Lockheed Hudson discovered the Japanese convoy. Admiral Sir Thomas Phillips, the British naval commander, Far East ordered the battlecruiser HMS Repulse to cancel its trip to Darwin, Australia, and return to Singapore as quickly as possible.

The invasion force was spotted again on 7 December by a Catalina flying boat of No. 205 Squadron RAF. The aircraft was shot down by five Nakajima Ki-27 fighters before it could radio its report to air headquarters in Singapore.[18] Flying Officer Patrick Bedell, commanding the Catalina, and his seven crew members became the first Allied casualties in the war with Japan.

Prior to the invasion the Japanese had recruited a small number of disaffected Malays into a “Fifth column” organization called the “Tortoise Society”. The Malayan police were aware of the society’s existence and had arrested a number of its leaders just prior to the Japanese landings. At Kota Bharu members of the society provided assistance to the invasion army and acted as guides. More;

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