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Yellow Tide

The Japanese dream to conquer the Asian Continent.

Adventure in the Asian South East

After the unbelievable and winning attack against Pearl Harbor, Japan had to go on with its own action of aggression to reach those objectives that in the political language of its leaders were defined as “Sphere of the Coprosperity.” They included all those essential resources (oil, caoutchouc and pond in primis) that once gotten would have guaranteed the possibility to continue the war against the United States. If we consider the offensive of the Hawaii as a preventive action, the following Nipponian movements can be said “conservative” because they were planned for the survival of Japan. The raw materials required by the heavy Japanese industries heavy were however, in maximum part, on territories that belonged to the traditional European colonial powers: France, Holland and United Kingdom. While French, having been already harshly tried by the defeat in the homeland, will decide to concede Indochina without struggle, the fierce temperament of the Dutch and above all of the British won't allow the same conclusion for Western Indies and Malaya. In a long time vision of the politics of Japan in Asia, the attack to the white colonialists and their expulsion reentered in the normal order of ideas of a nation that wanted to become hegemonic in its own continent. It was only to anticipate the times.

English were the first to have been attacked, in their possessions of Hong Kong. The rich colony, situated on the Chinese coast, was the boast of the British Empire up to the entrance in China of the Japanese. With the chino-Japanese war, also the English commerce had to reappraise and, from the tactical point of view, the island of Victoria and the New Territories became indefensible. But abandoning a colony of His Majesty without fighting would have been a too great shame to accept, therefore it was organized a symbolic resistance that was reduced to six battalions of infantry, inclusive of two battalions of Canadians envoyed at the last moment. The clash unexpectedly started on December 8 1941. The Indian unit that had to defend North Point and Aldrich Bay was rout, opening the road to the island Victoria to the assailants. The Canadians were withdrawn in the Peninsula of Stanley leaving the whole weight of the defense of Hong Kong on the shoulders of the Royal Scotts and the Middlesex. The opposition wasard, but vain. With the attacks on the city the fires were multiplied and it was provoked the panic between the civil population, not prepared to the violence of the war. The English governor, Mark Young, decided to ask the surrender on Christmas 1941.

A second Gibraltar

The inevitable loss of Hong Kong had not grazed the safeties of the British who confided in the impregnability of their Malay positions. The city of Singapore was brought as defensive perfection's example comparing it to the fortress of Gibraltar. It has been discussed for a long time on the necessity to transform its port in a real naval base before the loss of the postings in China and the work, strongly accelerated, was completed just in time. It was decided to position the port structures toward the inside of the island of Singapore, on the Strait of Johore, rather than on the Malay Channel, to assure great protection. Basing on the old-fashioned theories of the maritime war, the city was strongly strengthened in direction of the sea, positioning batteries of 230mm at Tekong Besar and Blakang Mati, while on the shore the caliber of the weapons decreased to 150mm. A power never lined up first! The only neglected zone was that in front of Malay Peninsula, judged too much impervious to constitute a positioof assault. The certainty to be able to withstand under siege from a minimum of 70 days to a maximum of 124, granted to the command British ample borders of maneuver.

To increase the safety sense also arrived a report of the English Intelligence Service that classified the Japanese army as backward and bad equipped. In addition to this, it would act away from its operational bases. Only the Navy, according to the judgment of the English spies, would have been able to bring some damage if not adequately opposed. Just to avoid this, Churchill intervened. After the European defeats, he had absolute necessity to preserve a minimum of honor at least against Japan. He decided so to create a naval force of ready intervention sending some battle ships adjusted to the assignment that they have to accomplish. Foreseen in a first moment the Rodney and the Nelson, built in 1920, plus the squad of the four “R” (Royal Sovereign, Revenge, Resolution and Ramillies, already in line in World War I), they were replaced by two true jewels of the Royal Navy: the battleship Prince of Wales and the cruiser Repulse. These two ships had been held as reserve to oppose the German battleship Tirpitzanchored in the Norwegian fiords. Only the intervention of the Prime Minister diverted them on the new Asian scenery. It would be been also due to send the aircraft carrier Indomitable, but for a joke of the destiny, it bumped a rock-cliff as soon as out of the port of Kingston in Jamaica losing the possibility to join the other two great of the sea up to the complete reparation of the damages.

On the terrestrial point of view, British strengths were as many imposing. They lined up the two mobile brigades of Singapore, the 3rd Corp of Indian Army, composed by 9th and 11th division, Sikhs and Penjabis (that at the end of the Malay campaign would have had a large number of defections that would have constituted a expedition unit for the independence of India under the guide of Subhas Chandra Bose during the Japanese invasion of Burma) a unit of Gurkas besides the eighth Australian division for a approximate total of 98.000/100.000 men, a force thought enough to sustain a tropical war against an army reputed backward. Instead, Japan would have employed the 25th Army, such only of name, constituted by 17230 fighters, in practice four regiments of infantry plus 54 tanks and an undetermined number of embarked aircrafts. The ratio of strengths was therefore of 5 to 1.

The moral strength

The big disproportion that can be noticed between the troops in field does not have to draw in deception however. A fundamental element must not have forgotten if we want objectively to judge the behavior of the operations in Malaya and that is to say the extreme military and ethic preparation of the Japanese men. The soldiers that disembarked at Kota Bharu, Patani and Singora, in the north of the Gulf of Malaya, were not young recruits, as contrarily it happened between the British. The Nipponian came directly from the regions of Shangai and Canton in China, where they had been tried by the fire of the nationalistic troops. They had faced a legend crossing, crowded in the holds of the load ships, bearing the forced cohabitation of three men for mat (two square meters) and the hunger provoked by the rationing that granted only a pot of rice and bowline for every unit.

Tempered by the iron discipline of their superiors, they have united themselves in a spirit of military brotherhood that probably has not beennymore reached. They knew that they were fighting for the survival of the homeland and so they did not complain. The officers were not less stoic. They transport with difficulty their sword to the side of modern revolver, living the tradition of the Samurais in a modern army. They do not have privileges on the troop and they share the uneasiness and the deprivations of it. Even if this enormous moral tempering had not been enough, the Japanese army possessed a better knowledge of the war in the tropical forest. It was created a special Center of Studies on the island of Formosa and the officer students who graduated there had learned that “… the jungle is our friend. It will be opened in front of us showing us streets unknown to our enemies, too contaminated by the western civilization.” less rhetorical and more practical concepts were also teached as for instance that is not necessary to be afraid of the snakes and the red ants (very feared by English), but only of the sedalang, a mighty buffalo from the exemely irascible disposition and of a small variety of wasp of which only five punctures are necessary to go toward to a certain death. The four regiments that were hocked in this adventure were real war machines, prepared to the best for their mission. Also their commander, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, was the ideal man to drive them. Extremely rough with his own submitted he became cruel if not sadistic with the enemy. Although after the war he would be ended on the gibbet to have committed actions against the humanity, he was the ideal leader to conduct a task force through 5000 kms of jungle.

English were exactly the contrary of which we have said until now. We have already spoken of the scarce determination of the Indian troops. For that that it concerns the garrison of Singapore, is necessary to remember that it was also composed by units arrived from England tortured by the bombardments. At their arrival in the island, many had the surprise to see that people ware still living as if no conflict were in progress. Big parties with hundreds of guests were given, the men played golf or cricket and the women continued their endless bridge's games in the private circles. In front of so much abundance it was inevitable a certain relaxation that ended with mining the military discipline. (It's enough known the episode of an Australian soldier, Russell Brandon that pretending to be served at the cafe of the Raffles, was expelled in bad way with great scandal of the well-off classes of Singapore) Few of the lined up units have a vague idea of what the war was in the jungle. Among the English only 2nd btalion of the Argyles and Sutherland Highlanders would have been shown ready, thanks to the training that its commander had imparted before the clashes. The Australians would have confirmed their own courage, but they also had serious problems of adaptation to the climate and the tropical territory. We arrive so to the aching note that is to say the men whom it was entrusted the assignment to organize the defense. The Head Commander of the Asian Southeast was Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, the classical colonial officer more worried of his own aspect rather than a true military commander. At his dependencies, as commander of the heterogeneous Army of Malaya we find General Percival, precise and fussy up to the exasperation. To them, it is had to add the Australian Gordon Bennett who theoretically would have had to obey to the orders of the other two men, but who with skilled political sense had succeeded in getting from his own government a decisional autonomy that arrived up to the right to refuse obedience.

As the conviction of victory can be how it can be noticed, the conviction of victory that belonged to English was mainly founded on the numbers rather than on the concrete situation in field. A strategic incomprehension that would have shown his own limits soon.

Chess to the Royal Navy

Chronologically precedent to the offensive of Pearl Harbor (basing on the Greenwich Mean Time it happened an hour before), the Japanese landing in the Malay peninsula was transformed well soon in a heroic advance at an unimaginable speed, at least for the western Head Quarters. The disposition of the British forces was the following: the Australian troops were maintained at south in proximity of Singapore, while the task to reject the invasion was entrusted to the eleventh Indian division. The plan, denominated Matador, didn't foresee some particular and very important facts, among which the bad weather that with torrential rains weakened the moral of Indians and decreased their resistance. The Japanese rather than being pushed back into the sea progressed of 120 kms in 60 hours. Prodigious it is the movement of the column disembarked at Kota Bharu that crossed the jungle toward east not caring of the lack communication way. Every attempt to check the Nipponian resulted vain and on Christmas 1941, the whole rthern Malaya fell in the hands of Emperor Hirohito's soldiers.

The defeat suffered on land would have assumed epic proportions if it had not been darkened by one well more awful that was consumed on the seas. The Royal Navy had entrusted the command of sea defense of Siam to the admiral Tom Phillips. He was, without any doubt, one of the best commanders that the Navy could offer. It had only a defect that will be shown decisive. He has been educated according to the norms of sea war that were dominant since World War I and that is to say that it has had to engage the enemy in open sea, without caring of the evolution of the aerial weapons. Phillips was not an artless. He perfectly knew which potentialities had the torpedo airplanes of the Japanese Imperial Navy, but he thought enough strong the anti-aircraft batteries of his own ships to avoid the attacks from the sky. Besides being to knowledge of the attack to Pearl Harbor, he thought that the airplanes used in Malaya were of mediocre level. They were these considerations to push him in an adventure in the Gulf of theiam to the search of the Fleet of invasion, contravening to admiral Layton's suggestion who would have liked maintaining either Prince of Wales either Repulse in the proximity of Singapore to protect the city from possible landings.

Instead, on December 8, the squad Z, which besides the two ships already quoted above also included the destroyers Electra, Express, Tenedos and Vampire, took the way of the sea. At the last moment, there was no air support also from land because English RAF was involved in the defense of the Central Malaya's positions. Despite this drawback, the moral on the ships was high. The sailors were sure of their own superiority in comparison to the enemy’s ships. Phillips had foreseen to proceed up to evening looking for the enemy. In case of missed sighting because of the presence of a much shaken sea, the squad would have changed the rout to return to Singapore. All went on in the most absolute calm up to 20.00, when the men of watch saw three airplanes at the horizon, too much distant to be identified. It remained so the doubt that they were Japanese. A little afterwards the Tenedos signaled of being short of fuel and it was forced to reenter in the port.

An hour later with lowering of the obscurity it was ordered to reverse the rout. The malcontent was spread among the crew, frustrated by the impossibility to encounter with the enemy. They did not know what fortune had had, at least for that day! Contemporarily to the order of Phillips also a squad of Japanese bombardiers was forced to return to their own bases after having looked for the English ships for the whole afternoon. The Nipponian command didn't know of the presence of the British unit for the sighting effected by the scouts signaled on that evening, but for the information already transmitted by a submarine I-56 at noon. The night spent silent and serious on the Prince of Wales. The news of a landing at Kuantan, place at few more than 250 kms from Singapore, forced Phillips to go toward the attacked port without perceiving the danger. An escort submarine of Admiral Kondo's fleet, under lieutenant Tanisaki's command, succeeded in intercepting the English ships and to launch five torpedos, but none them hit the target. English realized nothing. They did not hear even the radio message with which Tanisaki communicated his own failure. The fortune and the irresponsibility still protected this adventure in the tropical seas. Unfortunately for Phillips, the appointment with the destiny was only postponed. The same 22nd Air Fleet that had patrolled the gulf of the Siam in the afternoon was put again in alarm. Departing from Saigon, 34 bombardiers and 51 torpedo aircraft returned to the hunting.

Once reached Kuantan, the British discovered that the news of the landing was false. The harbor was completely desert. The ships had wasted the precious protection of the darkness for nothing. Returning on its rout toward Singapore, the Prince of Wales receive another radio message in which is notified that the Tenedos has been bombed by 9 Japanese airplanes and that only their scarce precision has allowed the destroyer to continue in direction of the Strait of Johore. The 22nd Japanese Air Fleet had failed for the second time its objective and it has to go back to Indochina. The Japanese command despaired of being able to find the enemy. As it often happens, the fates of a battle can be decided by the initiative of an individual and so it was also in this occasion. The lieutenant Tado Mishima, pilot of a recognition airplane, having received the order to reenter after a turn of flight of 12 hours, took the decision to continue the patrol for some minute more.

Unexpectedly, in a tear in the clouds that spaceout for the first time since the preceding day, he succeeded in clearly seeing the outlines of the Prince of Wales and of the Repulse! The young lieutenant immediately sent the news of the sighting by radio to transmit without encrypting it. The communication was intercepted on the Prince of Wales, but nobody was worried. They confided in the mighty anti-aircraft weapons that was able to shoot 60.000 hits in a, a true wall of fire. The 22nd Air Fleet for the third time returned on the sea, now however with a precise indication of the position of the target. The attacking airplanes firstly aimed the Repulse. 10 bombardiers released their load of death with a precision never seen in precedence, damaging seriously the English cruiser. Captain Tennant, at the command of the ship, signaled the damages, reassuring the Prince of Wales that the firepower and the speed were intact. Then the time of the flagship came. On it, the airplanes got unexpected results with two torpedos: they destroyed the secondary batteriesnd reduced the speed of the battleship to only 13 knots. For the whole rest of the forenoon the attacks followed incessant, particularly against the Repulse that tried in all ways to escape, without success. At 12.10, the order to abandon the ship was imparted. Twenty minutes later, the Repulse already tilted of 30 degrees, sunk, bringing in the deep ocean 400 sailors. The Prince of Wales still withstood, using the strength of the last operating anti-aircraft batteries. It is only the complaint of a dying giant. At 13.20 also the pride of the Royal Navy is turned upside-down and sinks. Once learned the news, Winston Churchill wrote: “In the whole war I didn't receive a strongest shake.”

Agony of Singapore

The mighty naval forces that would have had to protect Singapore have been destroyed in a day. The rest of the month of December 1941 and for the whole month of January 1942 it is a following each other of Japanese victories. The units landed on December 8, also without restocking, literally flied through the jungle. The explanation of so much speed of movement is to seek in the foolish order given by English not to destroy their own restocking at the moment of the retreat. All this only not to demoralize the Indian troop, susceptible to the explosions. In this way the Japanese took possession of the so-called “Churchill's stocks”, kindly offered by the government of London. Thousand of fuel drums were found intact at the side of the even more important air bases that in some cases were taken by the imperial soldiers entering them by bicycles left unguarded in the English deposits. The conquest of the airports allowed exploiting those war airplanes that the Intelligence Service had classified as poor. The efctiveness of these small jewels was experimented by the inhabitants of Singapore that was already bombed on December 8th evening exploiting the city lights that had not been extinguished for the absence of the officer that would have had to order the obscuring.

On January 31 the 90 survivors of the Argyles battalion are the last men to overcome the bank that connects Singapore with land, after that the engineers destroyed the bridge, transforming the city still in an island. Before these soldiers, hundred thousand of fugitives have crossed the same road, fleeing from the war. The images are not very different from those seen in France or that would have been seen with the invasion of Germany. They are only made even more awful by the tropical climate that mutated the large crowd accumulated along the roads in a receptacle of illnesses. The consequences already foreseen by the English command (the loss of the continental possessions and the siege of Singapore) happened with large advance. However, the metropolitan citizen was not frightened, sure of being able to withstand up to the arrival some reinforcements. These came with the landing of 18th British division. The Asian Gibraltar had never been so protected and it was not waited anything else other than the assat of the enemy.

In Great Britain, the lie had been already discovered on January 29. In that day Churchill was informed by a cable of the new head of the scenery of the Asian Southeast, Sir Archibald Wavell, that Singapore was indefensible. The irascibility of the English statesman reached levels that only Hitler in his famous outbursts ever knew how to touch. The Prime Minister attacked all the military men who had built a naval base for then letting blow up it with the approaching of the enemy, those people who had thought about directing the guns only toward the sea and finally with whom after three years of war had never realized as the position was vulnerable. He defined Singapore a naked island, what indeed it was.

The military reasons and those politics now entered in rout of collision. The pursuance of the war would have involved that Singapore was abandoned for transferring the fresh troops as 18th division (that however had spent three months around 3 oceans) in the Burma or in India, safeguarding in this way the only ways of communication still open with Chiang Kai Scheck’s China. The political reality was well different. On the Melbourne Herald, the Australian Prime Minister let publish an article where he declared that the abandonment of Singapore would have appeared to the eyes of the Australians as “a disgraceful betrayal….” The overseas dominions had already spent the blood of their own young people fighting under the flag of homeland, to be now abandoned in the moment of the need. Churchill was aware of these difficulties of foreign politics, but still more pressing they were the inside ones. How could he ever tell to the English public opinion that what up to the day first was an impregnable fortitude, nowt has been transformed in an indefensible barren land? In the doubt on what way to follow, Sir Winston chose the only one that could be asked to an English: that of the honor. He ordered to withstand on the place up to the last man and systematically to refuse the proposals of surrender. He hoped that as at Dunquerke also for Singapore, a clear defeat could be convert in a half victory.

The times and the enemy however had changed. The defense was absurd. The Strait of Johore, wide few more than a kilometer and a half in the maximum point, did not offer any protection. The northern part of the island lengthened it self into the sea for fifty kilometers, forcing Percival to scatter his own strengths, committing so an error that can be reassumed in the wise motto of Frederick the Great: “who wants to defend everything, doesn't defend nothing.” For the whole first week of February, Singapore was under the combined bombardment of the Japanese strengths of land, sea and air. Large fires spread in the whole city transforming the tropical storms that daily fall on the tortured defenders in whirlwinds of ash and smoke. Every attempt to maintain active the service of garbage collecting had been already abandoned beginning since the third day of siege. The dead bodies started to accumulate and together with the excrements of the half million of fugitives that lived in the roads made the inhabited areaimilar to Dante's hell. In the middle of so much horror, we succeed in finding a farcical note. Beginning on February 6, the town authorities started to pour in the channels of the city 5 million braids of alcoholic drinks that had been set aside for the siege. They feared that they could fall in the hands of the enemy, making even more insecure the life after the defeat. A drunken winner was able not to possess so much magnanimity to save up the life of the losers.

On February 8, the Japanese pass the Strait of Johore. Once more English have committed an error of undervaluation. Percival, believing that the attack would have come from east, has positioned there the Indian Corp and the 18th British division. The zone at west of the dike of Johore, covered of mangroves, is considered as impenetrable and therefore its defense is entrusted only to 8th Australian division. Yamashita had instead well clear the situation. Following the example of great Napoleon, he concentrated his troops in the weakest point of the enemy. 12th and the 17th Australian Brigade have been literally broken to pieces by notably superior strengths. Already on February 10, the Japanese penetrated in the central zone of the city, full of the villas of the white resident, reduced by now to a heap of rubble. A low hill that overcomes of few the hundred meters dominates the zone. Its name is Bukit Timah, the last posting of English defense that is worthy of such name. The Japanese will attack it withoutreparation of artillery and in an only night, they will conquer it sending away the defenders of it under the water of a true hurricane. What had to have defended for more than three months it has been lost in only 10 days. On February 11, English let blow up the coastal batteries from 380mm, become by now a weight rather than a safety. The assailants were near to the deposits of water that were the last wealth that still sustained the defense. Without water, soldiers and civilians would have had to share the same destiny, not to succumb in an atrocious death.

In this tragic moment, Churchill renewed the invitation to die for the defense of Singapore through the words of Wavell who, however, was not personally on the place, complaining of a dorsal fracture that would have hold him in the hospital for the following three weeks. On day 15, the water restocking of the part of city still in the hands of English came to miss. After the end of the hostilities would have been needed several days to restore the service. The moral of the soldiers reached the same level of that of the civilian: the absolute minimum. The first to surrender were the Malay brigades that, despite they had been invited by the Japanese to turn the weapons against the white occupants, had fought beyond every expectation. On the evening of that same day, a Sunday, Percival summons all the unit commanders who succeeded to arriving to the general district with extreme difficulty, only to hear that the English government has softened the legend tones with which it wanted to mantle the defense of ngapore. Churchill has consented to leave the burden to Percival to decide when to stop hostilities. The General, to the question of one of his submitted on when this had to be, answered lapidary: “Immediately.”

The charge of parliamentary is entrusted to Major Wilde who risking his life reached Japanese lines to be able to treat. Yamashita accepted the English surrender provided that it is without conditions and that the commanded sir Percival himself came to ask it, bringing the glorious Union Jack (the English) flag to side of the white flag. The photo that portrayed him during this mortifying rite will remain forever to testify one of the biggest British defeats.
Java, another footstep toward Australia.

Four nations have allied for the defense of what is defined “Malay belt” The ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian) was the interforce system for the defense of the insular Asian southeast. At its command there was Wavell, as we have already seen. The Chief of Staff and the commander of the aerial forces were other two English, respectively Sir Henry Pownall and Sir Richard Peirce. The United States had the command of the naval forces through Admiral Hart, while the terrestrial defense was being up to Dutch Heinter Poorten. The troops at their orders were as many heterogeneous. They were composed by the American Navy, the Australian one and the rests of the British naval squad for that that it concerned the sea defense (9 cruisers, 26 destroyer and 40 submarines). On land, there were as defense units the Australian territorial defense besides the Dutch colonial army, constituted by 140.000 men who, however, had never fought. Air forces could count on hundred American airplanes and on as many Dutch thatere often old open biplanes. Before that to the Japanese offensive, this defensive device had to survive to the political disputes.

Each of the four parts had proper affairs to protect in the area, but always-divergent one from the other. The Americans considered of primary importance the defense of the Philippines that, however, would have been lost well soon. English were still fighting in Malaya and they did not sent an airplane for the protection of Western Indies. The Dutch had as first worry the safeguard of their own colonial affairs. The greatest part of them had been born and grown in that places and they considered it as their true country. Finally, the Australians were in front of a rather complicated situation. The divisions that had been already recalled fought distant from home, in Africa and in the Middle East, while the island-continent was being threatened by the invasion. An Australian effort in the defense of Java was possible only in the measure in which it did not weaken the already thin defenses of the nation of the South Pacific. Adding the military unpreparedness to the political contrasts is simple for everybody understand that the ABDA did not have to have easy life.

On the other side, the Japanese were putting in action a plan studied in the least details for years. A maneuver articulated on three great tentacles would have wound the archipelagos in a deadly grasp. The first tentacle would have occupied Malaya and Sumatra, the second the Philippines and Borneo, while third through the Molucches and Timor would have threatened Australia. Such sketch was already completing before the fall of Singapore. In December, they had appropriated of Western Borneo and of Mindanao, in January of Celebes and East Borneo. In February, it was the time of Timor. The island, legally divided between the Dutch and Portuguese domination, was object of a Japanese at Dili them and Koepang on February 20. The Australian garrison denominated Sparrow Force (2/2 Battalion of 40th Division and 2nd Independent Company) had already taken possession of the Portuguese zone on December 15 and therefore it was found to face the invasion with its own solo strengths. 2nd Battalion was forced to surrender February 23 after having opposed a tireless resistance to the Japanese parachutists in the village of Babau. The rest of the squad began an activity that would have found wide employment in the Philippines: the guerrilla. Remained to the dark of what had happened to the companions because of a breakdown to the apparatus of communication, the commandos they withdrew on the mountains in the inside of the island, refusing every Japanese request of surrender. In the Australian base of Darwin received their news only in the month of April, allowing the dispatch of reinforcements (4th Independent Company). Also only reaching 700 men, this strength of interdiction had the great worth to make insecure for the Japanese the constitution of a large air-sea base in the island of Timor, preventing in this way a continuous threat towards Australia.

For the second half of February, the encirclement of Java could be considered concluded. The bombardment of the city of Darwin in Australia and the taking of Bali that was few kilometers from Java, make by now imminent the time of the truth. The port of Batavia (the Dutch name of the modern Jakarta) was to the limit of the collapse for the immense number of ships that they crowded it. They were full with all the fugitives of the English defeats. The deserters tried to mix themselves to the civilians in escape that here perhaps more than in Singapore. Wavell, discharged from the hospital was not optimist. He thought that Java was indefensible just as Singapore and he did all he could to prevent that the Australian units withdrawn from the Middle East were sent here, after that he arrived to close his own office and on February 25, perhaps unwillingly, perhaps happy, he finally succeeded in leaving Batavia. The Dutch were left practically alone if is excluded the assistance of the Australian government. Fate didedly unfair for a nation that since the Battle of England, passing through the invasion of Malay and the fall of Singapore, had fought always to the side of Great Britain with all its weak strengths. After the defeat of Holland in May 1940, Western Indies represented the only hope to be able to return, one day, to the reinstatement of the royal sovereignty also in Europe.

To divide the Japanese from the complete victory it still remained the heterogeneous fleet at the order of the Dutch Admiral Doorman. During the Malay Campaign and for the whole winter 1941 it had been so much effectiveness against the Japanese transports to sink a double tonnage in comparison to the Royal Navy and to the U.S. Navy. On February 27, Doorman received news of a Japanese convoy that would be found at only 60 kms from Java. The sally is necessary to avoid that everything is lost. His squad was composed by two heavy cruisers (the English Exeter and the American Houston), three light cruisers (the Australian Perth, the Dutch De Ruyter and Java) and nine destroyers. The enemy that would have to face had equivalent strengths, for the precision two heavy cruisers, two light and fourteen destroyers. For once, it is not the motivation of the allied troops to decide the fates of the battle. The Dutch would have fought up to the death as the other nations involved in the largest sea battle since the timesf battle of the Jutland. A technological advantage would have allowed the Japanese winning. They possessed some torpedos from 600 mm that had greater range and explosive power than those of the allies. They would be revealed decisive.

The clash happened in half afternoon and almost immediately the Exeter, stricken to the boiler was forced to abandon the line of fire and to shelter to Surabaya. The light cruisers were torpedoed around 22.30 and in their sinking, Admiral Doorman lost his life. Only the Houston and the Perth survived up to on March 1, when trying to pass between Java and Sumatra to shelter in the Indian Ocean, were tracked down and sunk. The Exeter, last remained ship, trying the same escape through other way, had same fate on the same day. The whole fleet of the Asian southeast was destroyed in the turn of an only day. On March 1 with few times of delay caused by the sacrifice of Doorman's squad, the Japanese landed to Java. In a week, the island had cut in two from the 48th imperial division that could count on the support of 450 airplanes of the Imperial Navy. The city of Bandung, created as heaven of the vacations for the Europeans would have had to constitute, after the abandonment of Batavia, a redoubt of resistance anin case of defeat, the mountainous territory around it would have had to represent the base for the guerrilla. Nothing of this happened. The native population abandoned the Dutch. The Indonesians that were considered faithful to the legitimate government welcomed the Japanese as liberators accepting of their politics of exploitation of the archipelago with the most faithful support. In front of this betrayal, General Poorten understood that the resistance was useless. He decided to prolong it only for a matter of honor. On March 7, when the hospitals of Bandung arrived to the glut, capitulation was announced.

A bright dawn

The military defeat of English also assumed a political meaning that went strategically well beyond the loss of important territories. With the nearly contemporary fall of Singapore and Java, the political institutions that had commanded for centuries those lands came to miss. The ideological formulation that the Japanese had given to the struggle had gotten full success. The native populations almost anywhere had rebelled to his own colonizers, in some cases also with the weapons. Then the fall of Burma and Corregidor completed in only three months the conquest of that “Sphere of Coprosperity” that had to be the base to survive to the war with the United States. The victories gotten by the Germans in Europe and Africa were darkened by those of the Japanese Empire. The term Blitzkrieg coined by the western journalists to describe Nazi victories was even reducing if used for the actions done in Asia. The Emperor Hirohito spoke to the people asking imperishable gratitude for that army that with the loss of onl5000 brave men had conquered a place in the history. He said that it was been to the eve of a new era for the world. Moreover, for a nation that has in its own flag the rising sun, we have to describe such moment with the same words, which he used: the new day for Japan was announced by a radiant dawn.

Sources: “World War II” by Raymond Cartier, “World war II. Illustrated Chronology of 2194 days of War.” By Cesare Salmaggi and Alfredo Pallavicini, “Men and Battles of World War II” by John Keegan.

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