“Don’t Assume”: What We Learned From The Fall of Singapore in 1942

The supposedly impregnable British bastion of Singapore fell to the Japanese on Feb. 15, 1942, after the latter marched down the Malay Peninsula and executed an amphibious crossing of the Johore Strait. Commonwealth losses throughout the 69-day marketing campaign exceeded 130,000 killed, wounded or captured, whereas the Japanese misplaced fewer than 10,000 informalties. Remarkably, the Japanese captured the “Gibraltar of the East” with a pressure that hardly exceeded 30,000 troops.

On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, Japanese forces made amphibious landings in Thailand and northern Malaya. The Japanese twenty fifth Military and supporting items underneath Basic Tomoyuki Yamashita superior quickly down the peninsula in opposition to some 140,000 British and Commonwealth defenders.

Led by Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, the Allied troops have been usually street certain, poorly educated in jungle warfare, and missing efficient air or naval help. A defective British assumption the terrain was unsuited to armor left them with out tank help, whereas the Japanese employed some 200 armored automobiles. The lack of British plane and airfields, and the sinking of the Royal Navy capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse by land-based Japanese plane, handed Yamashita air and sea superiority.

Educated for jungle warfare and extremely cellular, the twenty fifth Military outflanked the British with amphibious and infiltration operations. By New 12 months’s Day 1942 Allied forces had withdrawn to Singapore Island. The 54-day working battle price the Japanese 4,000 casualties in opposition to some 25,000 British casualties.

Percival nonetheless had practically two-thirds extra troops out there than Yamashita—and the mile-wide Johore Strait offered a buffer. However there have been no mounted defenses on the island’s north coast, and the massive weapons the British did have lacked enough high-explosive rounds. Percival unfold his forces alongside the 30-mile coast in a defensive scheme that lacked depth, flexibility and mutual help.

Considering the Japanese assault would come in opposition to the northeast coast, he stationed his strongest division in that sector, whereas the well-informed Japanese crossed the channel on February 8 and struck the northwest coast. Yamashita’s preliminary touchdown pressure of 13,000 males rapidly overran the three,000 Australian defenders in that sector, and one other 10,000 Japanese adopted inside hours. After a collection of uncoordinated counterattacks, Percival’s forces withdrew towards the south finish of the island.

As a substitute of launching a significant counterattack or resorting to city fight (each of which Yamashita dreaded, given his dearth of males and provides), Percival surrendered Singapore and his whole pressure on February 15 in what Winston Churchill described because the worst catastrophe in British navy historical past.



Don’t assume away your enemy’s capabilities. Believing the Malaysian jungles to be largely impassable, the British have been regularly outflanked and overrun by the Japanese.

Intelligence and deception are vital pressure multipliers. The Japanese scoped out Singapore’s defenses, deceived Percival as to their touchdown zone and concentrated their forces to realize overwhelming com- bat energy on the level of assault.

The larger pressure doesn’t essentially win. The British surrendered to a pressure barely one-third their measurement. Their lack of air and naval help, insufficient coaching, low morale and poor senior management negated their overwhelming benefit in numbers.

You don’t have to kill the enemy to defeat him. The Japanese troops’ glorious coaching, tenacity, aggressive and revolutionary ways, and superior mobility bewildered and demoralized British forces and rendered the management of Percival and his senior commanders weak and ineffective.

First printed in Navy Historical past Journal’s March 2017 situation.


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