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Chronology of the Dutch East Indies, 12 December 1941 - 18 December 1941

Friday, December 12th, 1941

The Kimura Detachment, a combat force of approximately 2,500 men of the 16th Infantry Division under the command of Major-General Naoki Kimura, began to land at Legaspi early on the morning. No opposition was experienced. The nearest American and Filipino troops were more than 150 miles away! By 0:900 hours the Japanese were in control of the town's airfield and the last railway station of the Manila Railroad. A few hours later, Major-General Kimura sent his advance detachments to the northwest and southeast. To defend south Luzon, the Americans had at their disposal the South Luzon Force commanded by Major-General George M. Parker, Jr.. He had two Philippine Army Division under his command. On the west was located the 41st Philippine Army Division (Brigadier General Vincente Lim), and on the east was 51st Philippine Army Division (Brigadier General Albert M. Jones). Nedless to say, both division were badly equipped, trained and much under strength. At 05:30 hours the recon units of the Tanaka Detachment had reached Tuguegarao airfield, fifty miles to the south of Luzon Island.

At Hong Kong, the Indian troops, the 5/7 Rajputs Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel R. Cadosan-Rowlinson) and a platoon of Punjabis, repulsed several Japanese attacks at the Devils Peak defence line.

More than 100 Japanese aircraft hit targets at Clark Field, Batangas, and Olongapo (Subic Bay) on Luzon Island. Several American bombers B-17 attack the Japanese transports at Vigan. No hits are scored.

Shortly after 05:00 hours, two four-engine Kawanishi patrol bombers from Majuro Island, bombed Wake and Peale Islands. Captain Frank C. Tharin was able to intercept one of the big flying boats and shot it down. During the evening air patrol 1st Lieutenant David D. Kliewer saw, some 25 miles off shore, a completely surfaced Japanese submarine. He opened fire with his four .50 caliber machine guns, and a few seconds later, he released his two 100-pound bombs. Both bombs exploded nearby the submarine, which hastily submerged into the sea, leaving a large oil slick on the surface. It has probably sunk.

A Japanese submarine shells Johnston Island, but ceased firing after the US Marine coastal battery on the island fires a star shell in the general direction of the submarine.

Dutch submarine O-16 attacks Japanese shipping in the Bay of Soengei Patani, on the east coast of Malaya. Three ships are torpedoed and sunk.

Sparrow Force (Australian 2/40 Battalion and 2/2 Independent Company - app. 1,400 men) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Leggatt arrives at Koepang, Dutch West Timor.

The island of Penang on the west coast of Malaya Peninsula is bombed by Japanese planes. Approximately 600 people were killed, and probably there was the same number of wounded. The British authorities, however, allow the correspondents in Singapore to report of "only" about 70 casualties of the raid.

Saturday, December 13th, 1941

At Hong Kong, the brave Indians had to abandon the Devils Peak line. Major-General C.M. Maltby ordered the evacuation of the Peninsula. The British troops retreat with everything their hands can reach ... destroyer HMS Thracian, several boats of the 2nd MTB Flotilla, a motley collection of launches and Chinese sampans, and even some lifebelts - the real "Asian version of Dunkerque". By 9:30 hours all British and Commonwealth troops had been evacuated from the Mainland to Hong Kong Island. In the meantime, Royal Engineers are destroying anything useful on the north side.

In Malaya, Japanese troops march into Alor Star, capture a large airfield there, and take a number of Indian troops prisoner. Among the POWs is also Major Mohan Singh, who agrees to set up a speical unit for Indians, Burmanese and Thais to fight against the British. The 11th British-Indian Division continue to retreat in disarray.

Japanese (Sarawak Invasion) fleet (Rear-Admiral S. Hashimoto) left Cam Ranh Bay (French Indochina). The Army invasion consisted of Kawaguchi Detachment (app. 4000 men) commanded by Major-General Kiyotake Kawaguchi.

In the Philippines, young and green Filipino & American gunners of the 3d Artillery Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment (Philippine Army), at Lingayen Gulf hear a motor at sea, become convinced they are under attack, and open fire on a nonexistent enemy. The "enemy" was a Japanese PT boat making a reconaissance of the bay. This, however, did not prevent Brigadier General Mateo Capinpin, the commander of 21st Philippine Army Division, from reporting to Manila that an attempted enemy landing had been repulsed. The 1st Lieutenant Boyd D. Wagner of the 17th Pursuit Squadron shoots down 4 Japanese airplanes near Aparri while on a reconnaissance mission over North Luzon. In another action, Captain Jesus Villamor of the Philippine Air Force leads 6 obsolete P-26s in an interception of 54 Japanese bombers attacking Batangas Field, Luzon. They break up the enemy formation with their courageous flying and thus minimized the damage at the airfield.

Sunday, December 14th, 1941

B-17s from Del Monte airfield bombed the Japanese beachhead at Legaspi, Luzon. Only one of the B-17s was able to make its way back to Del Monte, while the others had to crash-land short of their base. The Japanese lost at most 4 fighters. The 1st Lieutenant Hewitt T. Wheless is later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for bringing his crippled B-17 back to his base. Mechanics later count more than 1,000 holes in his plane.

Wake Island Relief Expedition (Read-Admiral F.J. Fletcher) leaves Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii Islands. The task force with aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and seaplane tender Tangier (hastily converted into landing craft) carries 200 Marines and a squadron of planes (the Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-221 led by Major Verne J. McCavl) for the island's exhausted defenders.

Three of the four-engine Kawanishi 97 flying boats from Wotje Island arrive over Wake at 03:30 hours and dropped some bombs on the airfield without any damage. The garrison made no attempt to return fire. At 11:00 hours 30 bombers Mitsubishi from Roi Island arrived and dropped bombs on Camp No.1, the lagoon off Peale, and the west end of the airstrip. Two Marines from Squadron VMF-211 were killed and one wounded. They also destroyed one of three remained serviceable F4F fighters.

In the morning, the retreating British soldiers blow the Sungei Kedah bridge expecting the Japanese will take three days to replace it. They repair it in less than thirty hours, attacking the British positions on the other side of the river. After two hours of battle, the exhausted British-Indian troops had to retreat. Again.

Monday, December 15th, 1941

Shortly before midnight (December 15th - December 16th) the Japanese invasion fleet anchored off Miri (British North Borneo), one ship being detached to Seria (Brunei). Landing began at once; although heavy weather hampered boat work, both forces were ashore by daylight and, meeting very little resistance, occupied the oilfields and air strip. Several Japanese soldiers drowned in the rough sea.

Dutch KNIL Colonel N.L.W. van Straten arrives by air at Koepang from Java with an additional 100 troops and assumes the command of the Dutch forces on the island. At the evening a military meeting is held at Koepang regarding Portuguese East Timor matters. It was agreed that Lt.Col. Leggatt and KNIL Lt.Col. Detiger will go to Dili next day.

Japanese submarine shells Johnston Island. One shell set off a 1,200-gallon oil tank which immediately fired the nearby building. The Japanese continued to fire for ten minutes, and hit several buildings. The US Marine garrison (Major Francis B. Loomis, Jr.) scored no hits.

At 18:00 hours, four to six four-engine Kawanishi 97 flying boats arrived from Wotje Island, dropping some bombs, most of which hit in the lagoon just off shore. Wake Island and Peale Island were both strafed in a low-flying run over the atoll. One civilian worker was killed.

Dutch submarine O-16 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. Bussemaker) is strucked by sea mine while exiting from the Gulf of Siam, and sank. Only one crew member, seaman Cornelis de Wolf, survived.

USS submarine Swordfish (Cdr. Chet Smith) sinks freighter Atsutasan Maru, off the south coast of Hainan. This is the first Japanese vessel in World War II sank by US submarine.

Hong Kong is subjected to heavy air and artillery bombardment. Major-General Sakai began preparations for the invasion. A handpicked group of 300 Japanese soldiers under command of Major Hara, a mix from all three infantry regiments, is silently sent across the Lye Mun Channel to conduct a reconnaissance of the British defence positions. The British (Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps Company, the Royal Canadian Rifle Company, and a company from the 5/7 Rajputs) expected the Japanese attack, and held their fire until the last possible minute. Few seconds later Major Hara's force came into deadly fire, killing many of his men. Despite this, some men did manage to make it on shore, but they were constantly under heavy fire. They launched a frontal assault, which failed. Japanese suffered enourmous casualties. By 5:00am, all the remaining Japanese were cleared from the Lye Mun Peninsula. Furious about the failure of his landing party, Major-General Sakai ordered a 3-day artillery and air bombardment of the north side of Hong Kong, hoping to crush the defender's morale, and force them to surrender.

British air force units start to withdraw from Malaya to Sumatra.

Major-General Brereton starts sending his remaining B-17s to Australia.

Tuesday, December 16th, 1941

Within two and a half hours after the landing at Miri (at midnight on December 15th), the troops of the 2nd Yokosuka SNLF occupied an important oil refinery in the town of Lutong, few miles north of Miri.

In Malaya, British troops evacuate Penang Island. The demolition parties left behind did destroy the town's broadcasting station and scuttle the ships in the harbour. When the Japanese arrived they took in possession of 24 self-propelled craft and other vessels which later helped them outflank the 11th British-Indian Division's troops beyond the Perak River.

In the Philippines, 1st Lieutenant Boyd D. Wagner of the 17th Pursuit Squadron shoots down his fifth aircraft near Vigan, becoming the first USAAF Ace in World War II. He receives the Distinguished Service Cross.

A Japanese infantry battalion of 143rd Infantry Regiment of the 55th Infantry Division, which had crossed the Burma-Siam border a few days ago, seized the town of Victoria Point, south of Tenasserim. British forces, a platoon of the Kokine Battalion, Burma Frontier Force, promptly retreated.

Acehnese agents from Sumatra Island make first contact with advancing Japanese troops in Malaya.

Wednesday, December 17th, 1941

First battle contact between Japanese and American troops at Legaspi area: a Japanese patrol met with a demolition detachment of the 51st Engineer Battalion working on a bridge near Ragay. The engineers managed to destroy the bridge and establish themselves on the near bank of the gorge, whereupon the Japanese patrol promptly withdrew.

At midday, Major-General Sakai ordered his artillery to cease-fire and the air force to cease their bombing attacks. At 11:30am a Japanese delegation, under Colonel Tokuchi Tada, was sent across the harbour. Major Boxer and a platoon from the 1st Middlesex met them on the wharf. Tada handed Boxer a note demanding the unconditional surrender of all British-Commonwealth Forces in Hong Kong. At 2:30pm the Japanese arrived from across the harbour and met with Boxer again. The Governor of Hong Kong Sir Mark Young "declines absolutely to enter into negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong and he takes this opportunity of saying he is not prepared to receive any further communications on this subject".

Wake Island: at 13:17 hours, 27 shore-based bombers arrived from Roi Island at 19,000 feet. They bombed tiny Wilkes Island, where a diesel oil supply tank was set on fire, and Camp No. 1, where the majority of the 1st Defense Battalion Detachment's tentage, its mess hall and quartermaster storage, were destroyed. One of the evaporators was also damaged. One Japanese bomber was shot down. At 17:50 hours eight Japanese flying boats from Wotje Island hit Wake Island with bombs and strafing but without inflicting any major damage.

Admiral Chester C. W. Nimitz is ordered to relieve Admiral Husband E. Kimmel as Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet.

In the afternoon at 01:00pm the Australian and Dutch troops (app. 200 men) landed, unopposed on a sandy beach about 2.5 miles west of Dili. Immediately a small party of signallers went into town under Lieutenant Rose and experienced no trouble in taking over the radio station. Captain Manuel de Abreu Ferreira de Carvalho, the Portugese Governor in East Timor, strongly opposed to the Allied occupation, and at 10:50am announced that he received the message from his government in Lisbon (also President Salazar strongly protests against this act), in which he is intructed that he definitely must not allow troops to land unless under attack. Then the Dutch troops occupied the town and as Major Spence with his detachment of Australians took up positions near their main objective, the airfield.

Thursday, December 18th, 1941

The Kimura Detachment entered in the town of Naga, west of Legaspi, Philippines. They continue advancing northwest from Naga, rebuilding bridges and repairing roads.

Heavy storms battered the British colony of Hong Kong. Thick fog and smoke shrouded the harbour and the beaches on the north side of Hong Kong Island. Major-General Sakai knew this may be his chance for a break through. He is sick of numerous telegrams of the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo, demanding to know when the colony will fall. He immediately ordered his infantry group commander, Major-General Takeo Ito, to prepare the invasion troops at once. By 10:00pm the first wave, over 3,500 soldiers, set off for Hong Kong Island across the Lye Mun Channel. At midnight, the second wave (4,000 soldiers) also began crossing the channel. Before the Japanese landing, a group of Chinese Fifth Columnists, massacred the small garrison of Sai Wan Fort. The Japanese first wave now landed in silence onto the beaches of the Lye Mun Peninsula. The Japanese troops were soon engaged by MG fire manned by the Royal Canadian Rifles led by Major Bishop. In addition, a new Japanese landing occured at North Point. The Japanese landing was first spotted by Captain John Hance, commander of the HKVDC Company at the North Point. He immediately made a phone call to Fortress Headquarters. The phone was answered by one of Maltby's senior staff members, Colonel Noonan. Hance told Noonan that hundreds of Japanese were coming ashore at North Point. Noonan calmy replied that he's exaggerating, and ordered Hance to go back to bed and that he will look into the matter in the morning. Then he hung up the phone. Hance tried with another phone call. This time another officer answered the phone. In reply to Hance's message, this officer simply said: "That is impossible, the Japanese would never invade in weather like this, the water is too choppy, and they would all get seasick before they even reached the beaches", and hung up the phone. In the meantime, the Japanese troops overran his weak HKVDC Company.

Dutch aircraft from Tarakan and Singkawang II airfields made several attacks on Japanese shipping off Miri, but without any success.

A quiet day on Wake Island. Marines can finally get some sleep and rest.

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Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942
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