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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copyright © Klemen. L. 1999-2000
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942