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Chronology of the Dutch East Indies, 19 December 1941 - 24 December 1941


Friday, December 19th, 1941

The Japanese troops (one infantry battalion) reach the town of Sipoco, Philippines. Some patrols of the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 52nd Philippine Infantry Regiment are engaged in some skirmishes with the Japanese patrols near Ragay.
In the night of 19-20 December landing starts at Davao City, Mindanao Island. At 04:00 hours the Miura Detachment (Colonel Miura), covered by carrier-based aircraft, began landing in the northern section of Davao while elements of the Sakaguchi Detachment (Major-General Shizuo Sakaguchi) came ashore along the coast southwest of the city. Davao City was defended by about 2,000 Philippine Army troops led by Lieutenant Colonel Roger B. Hilsman, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 101st Philippine Infantry Regiment. Miura's troops which were at first mistaken for American marine units, received little resistance. The only opposition offered to the landing force (during the whole operation) came from a MG squad which inflicted numerous casualties on the Japanese before it was finally knocked out by a well-directed Japanese shell. At about 10:30 hours that morning, Colonel Hilsman pulled his men out of the city along the road leading northwest into the hills, leaving behind his artillery. Some troops, which remained in Davao City were ordered to withdraw as soon as possible and set up defensive positions along the heights, which surrounded the city. The Sakaguchi Detachment met no resistance southwest of the city. Advancing along the coastal road, it entered the city and made contact with Colonel Miura's force early in the afternoon. By 15:00 hours the city and its airfield were firmly occupied. The SNLF unit, composed of ships' crew, took two small camps, and rescued about 500 Japanese civilians, which were interned by the Filipinos at the start of the war. Later in the evening a seaplane base was established south of the city.

Dutch flying boat X-32 from Tarakan Island sinks IJN destroyer Shinonome (Cdr. Hiroshi Sasagawa) off Miri, British North Borneo. The destroyer went down with its entire crew of 228 officers and men. Another flying boat, X-33, damages a transport ship.

Kuching is bombed by 15 Japanese bombers which set fire to a large petrol store.

Wake Island: The Japanese planes continue harassing the US Marines. At 10:50 hours, 27 of the shore-based bombers from Roi Island came over Wake Island and bombed the airstrip, Camp No. 1, and the PanAir station. One Japanese bomber was shot down. Result: no serious damage was done, and there were no casualties either.

By early morning, the Japanese foothold on Hong Kong Island was secure. The Japanese troops quickly overran weakly defended British defence lines. Before the battle Major-General Sakai instructs one of his regiment's commanders Colonel Tanaka, to take no prisoners. Tanaka obeys orders. After overrunning a battery of anti-tank guns manned by local volunteers, Tanaka's men rope together all 20 survivors of the action, and bayonet the lot to death. The Japanese then storm a Royal Army Medical Corps dressing station, which offers no resistance. The Japanese shoot and bayonet to death eight Canadians, four RAMC soldiers, and three St. John's Ambulance men. By 10:00am, the Headquarters of the West Brigade (Brigadier C. Lawson) was simply overrun. The entire West Brigade HQ's staff perished, fighting to the bitter end. Brigadier Charles Lawson, commanding the Canadian Brigade (one Royal Rifles of Canada Battalion, 1st Middlesex Battalion and 2/14 Punjab Battalion), was killed by mortar fire. About 12 hours after the landing, Major-General Maltby realized that he is dealing here with the "real" invasion. The Japanese troops constantly outflanked the British, Canadian and Indian troops. By the evening the Japanese troops held in their hands all major key points on the island: Sai Wan Hill, Mount Butler, Mount Collinson, and Jardine's Lookout. Company Sergeant Major John Osborn, a World War I veteran, earns that day the Victoria Cross [Britain's highest military decoration], the only one of the Hong Kong defence. Seeing a Japanese grenade falling in the midst of his colleagues, he shouts a warning and leaps on it itself as it explodes, saving at least six others at the expense of his own life. The minelayer HMS Redstart, river gunboat HMS Tern, the boom defence vessel HMS Barlight, and three other ships are scuttled to avoid capture by the advancing Japanese.

Dutch submarine O-20 (Lt.Cdr. P.G.J. Snippe) is sunk by the Japanese destroyers, 25 miles east of Kota Bharu. The following day, the Japanese destroyer Uranami rescued 32 survivors. Seven crew members, including captain Lt.Cdr. P.G.J. Snippe, lost their lives.


Saturday, December 20th, 1941

The situation in Hong Kong: late in the evening, the Japanese advance were finally checked at the Wong Nei Chong Gap. The Winnipeg Grenadiers (a battalion size unit), defending the Gap, received additional reinforcements. Major Robert Templer is ordered by Maltby to organize a relief force for Repulse Bay Hotel (converted to a Field Hospital), and which was under Japanese fire. He immediately assembled his men, mostly Royal Artillerymen acting as infantry now, and rushed off to the hotel though intense Japanese MG fire. He arrived at the hotel late that afternoon, and prepared himself for defence.

Rainy and foggy day on Wake Island. Poor visibility all day. At 15:30 hours the exhausted Wake defenders receive an unexpected visitor, a Navy PBY Catalina, bringing official mail and word that a relief convoy is due on December 24th. It takes out Major Walter J. Bayler, official reports and messages from the Marines to their families. Bayler says later: "I looked at our flag, still snapping in the breeze at the top of the pole where it had been hoisted on December 8. I looked at the cheerful, grinning faces and the confident bearing of the youngsters on the dock. As I waved a last good-bye and took my seat in the plane, my smile was as cheerful as theirs. I knew all would go well with Wake Island". Bayler is the last man off the island. In 1945, when the Japanese garrison on the island surrendered, he will be the first man to return. No Japanese air raids due to bad weather.

Admiral Ernest J. King is designated as Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet with headquarters in the Navy Department, Washington, D. C.


Sunday, December 21st, 1941

The Tanaka Detachment entered Bacnotan, south of Vigan, where they engaged in a small skirmish fight with the elements of the 11th Philippine Army Division.

Wake Island: At 07:00 in the morning, the Navy patrol PBY Catalina bomber flew back to Hawaii with personal and offical mail, and Major Bayler. At 08:50 hours, 29 Japanese Navy attack-bombers, covered by 18 fighters, arrived, bombed and strafed all the island's battery positions. The planes were coming from aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu (Carrier Division No. 2), called in by Rear-Admiral Kajioka to help soften Wake's defenses. Three hours later, at 12:20 hours, 33 Japanese bombers in two formations arrived from Roi Island. They again bombed Peale Island and Camp No.2. One Marine was killed and four wounded. One of the bombs hit the director emplacement of battery D on Peale Island, permanently disabling it, this considerably weakened the anti-aircraft defense of Wake. Of 12 Marine fighters, only two still remained in commission. Meanwhile, at 20:00 hours, Fletcher's relief force had reached a point only 627 miles east of Wake. His relief force is only doing 12 knots, held back by its force's slow tanker Neches. The commander, Rear-Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, delays by fuelling his force.

Hong Kong: At dawn, nearly the entire British logistics system had collapsed on the entire island. British troops (a force of 600 soldiers) commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H. Rose counter-attacked the Wong Nei Chong Gap. Two hours after the attack no progress was made, but Rose proceeded with an attack. By the end of the day the assault finally stalled and Rose ordered a withdrawal. The Japanese forces in the Gap area had suffered 40% casualties. The British also suffered severe casualties. Late afternoon, Winston Churchill cabled Governor Sir Mark Young and the beleaguered defenders of Hong Kong his final message: " ... There must be vigorous fighting in the inner defences and,if need be, from house to house. Every day that you are able to maintain your resistance you help the Allied cause all over the world, and by a prolonged resistance you and your men can win the lasting honour we are sure will be your due". In addition, a river gunboat HMS Cicala was sunk by Japanese aicraft.


Monday, December 22nd, 1941

The Japanese invasion force (two battalions plus some auxiliary troops) re-embarked at Miri and left for Kuching. One battalion is left to secure and to capture all British North Borneo.

Colonel Tanaka's force, advancing from Vigan, finally reached the town of San Fernando, Philippines. Only a few hours earlier the main strength of the 14th Army (48th Infantry Division from Pescador Islands) under the command of General Masaharu Homma had begun to land across the beaches at Lingayen Gulf, several miles south of San Fernando. The Japanese fight against heavy, windy weather, but came ashore anyway, quickly overrun the thin Filipino defense positions, and march south toward Manila. Between them and Manila stood only few scattered and weak Filipino troops.
The Japanese troops attacked Filipino troops (a company of 52nd Philippine Army Infantry Regiment) at Timbuyo (Legaspi area), but are repulsed with heavy losses. Nine B-17s had come from Batchelor Field near Darwin, Australia, and attacked the Japanese shipping in Davao Bay, Mindanao Island and then landed at Del Monte on Mindanao Island.

Hong Kong: Templer's men had to retreat from Repulse Bay Hotel to Stanley Peninsula. Japanese troops appeared near Victoria Peak and are quickly approaching the Fortress (Major-General Maltby's) HQ.

Wake Island: A flight of 33 Japanese dive-bombers escorted by six fighters from Hiryu and Soryu are flying toward Wake Island. While on air patrol with the last two remaining planes, Captain Freuler and Lieutenant Davidson, spotted the Japanese formation approaching to Wake. Both pilots courageously attacked the Japanese planes, but are soon surrounded by superior Japanese Zeros. Lieutenant Davidson's plane is shot down, while Captain Freuler managed to land his F4F into the field for a crash landing. He shot down two Japanese fighters. Japanese planes throughly bombed Wake Island's gun positions, yet the Marines suffered no casualties, except for Lieutenant Davidson. Marines spent the whole afternoon preparing their defense positions for the forthcoming invasion. The ground staff of the Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-211 (app. 20 men), having no planes left, reported to the defense battalion as infantry.

Mohammed Hatta, one of the Indonesian nationalist leaders, writes a newspaper article calling on Indonesians to oppose the Japanese invasion.

In Washington, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives for a conference (the so-called Arcadia conference) with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Americans and British agree to combine their General Staff to coordinate strategies against Germany and Japan. The Combined Chiefs of Staff is established, and also the idea for ABDA Command (American-British-Dutch-Australian Command) was born during this meeting.


Tuesday, December 23rd, 1941

The last stand of Wake Island: Early in the morning, the Marines observed flashes beyond the horizon north of Peale Island. Wake Island's garrison was soon on full alert, as Kajioka's invasion force was approaching the island. This time it consisted of four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, six destroyers, one auxiliary seaplane tender, two patrol boats, and three transport ships, carrying 2nd Maizuru Special Naval Landing Force with 1069 men and an additional 500 men of the ships' landing parties. Operating north of Wake Island was a task force consisting of the aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu escorted by heavy cruisers and destroyers. At about 8 knots the invasion force advanced cautiously under cover of the weather, when an advance guard destroyer sent a light signal: "The island is sighted". At about 02:00 hours, naval infantrymen of the 2nd Maizuru SNLF clambered down into the medium landing craft, two heading for Wilkes Island and others for the south shore of Wake Island.

The Defense of Wilkes Island
At 02:45 hours Marines from Wilkes Island opened MG fire at one of the Japanese barges sailing toward the island. The battle has begun. Few moments later, the 2nd Company (Lt. Takano) of the 2nd Maizuru SNLF with approximately 100 men came ashore under heavy fire coming from two .50-caliber machine-guns above the landing area. The tiny garrison of Marines (Captain Platt) on the island numbered only approximately 70 men. The Japanese soon overrun the positions of Battery F, and also commenced movement to the west, toward the 5-inch battery. That was all that the Japanese had accomplished on Wilkes Island. Further advance was not possible, as well camouflaged machine-gun nests pinned the Japanese to the ground. By 04:00 hours, the situation on Wilkes Island haa stabilized. The Japanese were in firm possession of Battery F's 3-inch position, surrounded by the Marines, which prevented them from any eastward expansion of the beachhead and halted their push towards Battery L's 5-inch guns on the west side of the island. In the meantime, Captain Platt assembled his tiny force, divided it into two small combat groups, one on each flank, and at dawn launched a counter-attack. Within a matter of minutes after the jump-off, Platt's men were engaging the Japanese within the 3-inch position, and Lt. McAlister formed a skirmish line from his 25 men. Soon the two Marine combat groups joined their forces, and then proceeded to sweep the entire position. After the successful attack, Captain Platt reorganized his force, assigning 10 additional men to McAlister's combat group for the mopping up of the 3-inch position, while he himself led the remaining handful of men on a sweep across the island. The Japanese casualties were horrible: they lost four officers and at least 90 men; probably even more. Platt's losses were 9 Marines and 2 civilian workers killed, and five wounded. His success cost him dearly, as he lost almost 20% of his force.
At 08:00 hours, Platt again tried to reestablish communication with the battalion's command post, which was cut since almost the beginning of the battle. He was only able to get a reply from Camp No.1, while the communication line with Devereux's command post was still dead. This has later probably misled Major Devereux into belief that Wilkes Island had already fallen into Japanese hands. After their forces being pushed from the island, the Japanese continued with aerial and sea bombardment of Wilkes Island, and finally managed to silence the island's coastal battery, which caused them so many troubles. In one of the last aerial attacks Marine Private Robert L. Stevens was killed by a direct bomb hit. He was the last battle casualty sustained during the defense of Wake Island.

The Defense of Wake Island
In the meantime, on the south coast of Wake Island, east of Wilkes Island, the patrol boats No. 32 and No. 33 (old destroyers) deliberately run ashore off the west end of the airstrip. Convinced that the south shore is most threatened, Major James Devereux ordered Lieutenant Poindexter to move the Mobile Reserve to the area between Camp No. 1 and the western end of the airstrip. He also ordered, realizing the importance of holding this area and of supporting 2nd Lt. Robert M. Hanna's weak detachment south of the airstrip, the VMF-211 detachment (some 20 men led by Major Paul Putnam) to form an infantry support between the 3-inch gun and the enemy landing. Shortly before 03:00 hours, Devereux lost communication connection with his units in the field, leaving him in the dark. South of the aistrip, 2nd Lt. Hanna and his crew had reached the gun, and fired on the nearest patrol craft, No. 33. One of the grenades hit the bridge, wounding the captain and the navigator plus killing two seamen and wounding five more. When the 1st Company (Lt. Kinichi Uchida) and the 3rd Company (Lt. Itaya) of the 2nd Maizuru SNLF swarmed down the sides into the water, Lieutenant Hanna and his crew fired 14 more 3-inch rounds into the hull of patrol craft No. 33, which immediately burst into flame. Helped by the light of the burning ship, Hanna and his men shifted his fire onto the other beached vessel, patrol craft No.32, which was then also considerably damaged. At 03:00 hours, Major Devereux ordered Captain Godbold, the commander of D Battery on Peale Island, to send one gun section (9 men) by truck to the battalion command post only to be dispatched southward down the shore road to make contact with Lt. Hanna's men. In the meantime, on the southern coast, Lieutenant Poindexter was fighting its small war with the landed Japanese SNLF soldiers, when he suddenly heard MG fire from Camp No.1 area. Poindexter returned to camp, only to discover that two large landing craft had grounded on the reef about 30 yards off shore, east of Wilkes Channel entrance. The MG being ineffective, Lieutenant Poindexter formed two teams of grenadiers to move down to the sea's edge and throw their hand grenades at or into the barges. Covered by MG fire, they move down to the beach, attacked both barges and managed to score one hit, which inflicted some casualties to the Japanese. Despite the attack, the Japanese landing party (app. 100 men) landed on shore, and was soon infiltrating the brushy area, east of Camp No. 1. At 03:30 hours, the Japanese cruiser was shelling Wake Island. In the meantime, another Japanese landing party most probably commenced landing between Peacock Point and the beached destroyers, and started to shell by MG and mortar fire the positions of Battery A at Peacock Point, forcing the Marine commanding officer to form an infantry outpost facing northwest across the high ground. North of the airstrip, one gun section led by Sergeant R. Gragg (approximately 10 men) was advancing to the west along the east-west road. As he advanced along this road, his squad came under heavy fire which forced them to ground about 50 yards beyond Battery E's perimeter. South of the airfield, the VMF-211 detachment still held its position, but it was by now surrounded by reinforced Japanese troops, who made several attacks against Putnam's boys. In one of these attacks the 1st Company commander, Lieutenant Kinichi Uchida, of the 2nd Maizuru SNLF was shot through the head and killed, while leading an attack. Also losing his life during one of these attacks was brave Captain H.T. Elrod. All attempts to relieve the detachment failed. Camp No. 1 was still under Japanese siege, and out on the sea the Japanese warships were patrolling around the island, staying out of range of the American costal batteries. Experiences from December 11th were still fresh. Soryu and Hiryu launched their planes in support of the fighting 2nd Maizuru SNLF troops, which were at that time going through some pretty rough battles with the Marines. At 07:15 hours, carrier-based dive bombers arrived over the island, hammering Battery B's gun positions on Peale Island. North of the airfield, near the command post, Major Potter's defense line found itself under heavy rifle and MG fire, and Japanese infiltrations. With his command post under attack, convinced of the fall of Wilkes Island, and with enemy air superiority above his head, Major James P.S. Devereux, notified Commander W. Cunningham of the seriousness of the situation and asked whether any friendly forces are coming to relieve them. The reply being negative, all hopes dashed, and, at 08:00 hours, Major J.P.S. Devereux, bearing a white flag, moved southward down the shore road to surrender the island with its scattered and exhausted garrison to the Japanese. Shortly after 13:30 hours, Major Devereux also informed a surprised Captain Platt and his Wilkes defenders about his decision to surrender.
Out at sea, Rear-Admiral F.J. Fletcher's (relief) task force is ordered to turn around, back to Pearl Harbor.

In Hong Kong, the British, Indian and Canadian troops are at the last fortified line known as "The Ridge" near Violet and Sugarloaf Hill's, Stanley Peninsula. They knew that from there was no retreat. By now the entire supply system had collapsed. The troops are terribly exhausted and at the end of their strength.

Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Wavell flew to Chungking to discuss the war situation and to ask for specific help from the Chinese Government, especially in defence of Burma.

In the Philippines, Brigadier General A.M. Jones, the commander of 51st Philippine Army Division, ordered his troops to withdraw from the Bicol Peninsula when a Japanese invasion force (parts of 16th Infantry Division from the Ryuku Islands) landed at Atimonan and Mauban, advancing toward Manila. Still, the 51st Division had accomplished its main objective. It had delayed the Japanese advance as much as possible and prevented an immediate juncture of the Kimura Detachment with the main elements of the 16th Infantry Division soon to land at Lamon Bay The 4 B-17s take off from Del Monte airfield, Mindanao Island, and during the night of 22/23 December bomb shipping in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon Island. Approximately 12 P-40s and 6 P-35s strafe Japanese forces landing in San Miguel Bay on Luzon Island.

Dutch reconnaissance aircraft spot the Japanese invasion force heading to Kuching. The convoy is about 150 miles away from Kuching. At 11:40 hours, 12 Japanese bombers bombed Singkawang II airfield, damaging the runways.

Dutch submarine K-XIV (Lt.Cdr. C.A.J. van Well Groeneveld) sinks two Japanese ships and damages another two.

The Japanese invasion convoy is seen at 6 p.m., approaching the mouth of the Santubong River, Kuching. Two hours later Lieutenant Colonel C.M. Lane received orders from Singapore to destroy the Kuching airfield. Lane asked Lieutenant General Percival for permission to withdraw as soon as possible into Dutch north-west Borneo.

Japanese planes (54 bombers and 24 fighters) attacked Rangoon, Burma's capital, for the first time. The town had no anti-aircraft guns available, so the whole defence relied on only a few Allied fighters to stand against them. Approximately 2000 inhabitants were wounded, as they watched on the streets air dogfights in the sky, instead going into air raid shelters. In the next couple of hours a "river of refugees" flooded the harbour and paralysed traffic. Many fires raged throughout the city, killing and wounding thousands of people, wrecking shore-front warehouses. Thousands of Burmese and Indians clerks and other officials fled the city, leaving behind chaos. The Japanese lost 10 bombers and the Allies nine fighters (four American Flying Tigers and five RAF planes). The Allies had at that time only two fighter squadrons - 16 P-40s of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) and 16 Brewster Buffaloes of the RAF.


Wednesday, December 24th, 1941

In the Philippines, the Japanese landed reinforcements on Luzon Island, at Lamon Bay, only 60 miles cross-island from Manila. This time approximately 10,000 men. General Douglas MacArthur, aware the fact that Manila is doomed, orders War Plan Orange-III to be carry out. The remnants of American and Filipino troops performed a double retreat (north and south), yielding Manila, and retreating back into the mountainous and malarial peninsula of Bataan, west of Manila. While the retreat goes just fine, as the bulk of US and Filipino troops reach the peninsula, they leave behind precious supplies of food. MacArthur, with his wife and son Arthur, flees by ferry to the fortified island of Corregidor and sets up his new headquarters there. Before that Manila is declared an open city. Japanese planes bomb it on December 27th and December 28th anyway. In Manila and Cavite Navy Yard, US demolition groups destroy millions of gallons of fuel and other military material, which might come in handy to the enemy. Almost all US ships are dispatched to the Dutch East Indies or Australia.
Japanese troops enter the town of Baguio, southeast of San Fernando, Luzon Island.
3 B-17s flying from Del Monte airfield, Mindanao Island, bomb the Japanese airfield and shipping at Davao on Mindanao Island and then land at Batchelor Field near Darwin, Australia.
At 20:00 hours, the Japanese invasion force, so-called Jolo Force, consisting of one infantry battalion (less two companies), with attached artillery, engineer, and communications units, and the Kure 2d Special Naval Landing Force landed on Jolo Island, Sulu Archipelago, south of Mindanao island. The American defense troops on the island consisted of only about 300 men, mostly Filipino constabulary officered by a few American army officers. They offered some resistance, but by the following morning (December 25th) the Japanese troops entered the town of Jolo, the island's largest city.

In Hong Kong, Colonel Tanaka's 229th Infantry Regiment launched frontal assaults on "The Ridge" position. After almost an hour of hard and bitter fighting, with both sides sustaining heavy casualties, the Japanese broke through to Stanley Fort. In the village of Stanley, the Japanese attack doctors and wounded soldiers in St. Stephen's College Emergency Hospital, bayoneting more than 50 men in their beds. British destroyer HMS Thracian is damaged by Japanese aircraft and forced to beach.

British and Dutch air force units retreat from Borneo (Singkawang II airfield) to Palembang, Sumatra Island.

Palmyra Island: At dawn, a Japanese submarine surfaced 3,000 yards south of the main island and began shelling the tiny island. Only one hit was registered before the US Marine artillery fire forced the submarine to submerge. There were no casualties and the damage was light.

Kuching: Early in the morning, Dutch submarine K-XVI (Lt.Cdr. L.J. Jarman) torpedoed IJN destroyer Sagiri near Kuching, Sarawak. The destroyer went down with 121 officers and men. Approximately 120 men survived. Five Bristol Blenheims of 34th RAF Squadron from Singapore, bombed the ships at anchor off Kuching but did little damage. At 9 a.m., twenty enemy landing craft were observed approaching the shore. The small Punjabi gunboat platoon withdrew up the river without loss. At 11 a.m. as they neared the town the landing craft were engaged by the gun and mortar detachments, who sank four before themselves being surrounded and killed. During the afternoon three more craft were sunk by gunfire, but the remainder were able to land their troops on both sides of the river, and by 4.30 p.m. the town of Kuching was in Japanese hands. Meanwhile Lane had been instructed by Percival to hold the Japanese for as long as possible and then act in the best interests of west Borneo as a whole. Since the capture of the town threatened to cut off the forward troops, Lane ordered them to withdraw to the airfield. The Japanese followed up and before dark made contact with the airfield defences. Throughout the night sporadic firing went on as they felt their way round the perimeter.


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Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

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