Saturday, August 29, 2009

Type 99 Pontoon Bridge

One of the key success to the invasion of Malaya was the genius of the Japanese combat engineers. Rivers and beaches were often used to outflank the British forces. The Type 99 Pontoon Bridge is a craft for the river-crossing of the tank and heavy artillery. It combines with three boats, which are collapsible like Type 95 Collapsible Boat. The outboat motor is also available. The crafts were also responsible for making transporting vital troops trucks and tanks across major river like the Muar river towards the front. Their contribution to the success were not highlighted compare with their infantry or armored units. There were special engineer units for river-crossing of tank or heavy artillery. They were Jyumon-kyo (heavy pontoon bridge) units equipped with Type 99 Pontoon Bridges.

3rd Tank Group Engineer Unit and 5th Independent Engineer Company of Jyumon-kyo Unit and The OOB of 3rd Tank Group Engineer Unit HQ 1st Company (6 Type 99 Pontoon Bridges, 42 trucks) 2nd & 3rd Companies (Standard engineer companies)

Type 99 was widely used in the China and in the Pacific War. Especially, it showed outstanding performances in the Malaya campaign.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

British battle tactics

Before the Japanese invasion of Malaya, the Japanese Army studied the British battle tactics. Right from the start of their landing in Kota Bahru, they seemed to be able to read the British strategies. Battles after battles, the british were hoodwinked by their counter measures. It's no surprise that the British were predictable and the Japanese seemed think faster in the heat of battle. Below are some Japanese documents on the British.


a. General Rules

(1) Although the English army has some mechanical mobility, in general, it does not have much maneuverability. Therefore a quick decisive battle should be sought by flanking and encirclement.

(2) Since determined action is generally better than prudence, we should avail ourselves of the enemy's hesitation in completing his preparation to gain the initiative.

(3) We must gain victory by taking the offensive and seizing the initiative, and overcoming the enemy.

(4) Since their front is generally strong and the distribution of firepower especially thorough there, we should strive to operate on their rear and take advantage of surprise. Since they are unskilled in night fighting, we should make extensive use of it.

(5) As they have great numbers of vehicles and their use of them is skillful, we must make our dispositions carefully so as to limit use of these vehicles. It is essential to be on the alert for motorized flanking and encircling movements.

(6) They definitely use gas; therefore, antigas measures are essential.

b. Attack

(1) They are generally cautious in attacking, and in planned attacks they have a tendency to use positional warfare and make exhaustive reconnaissance and preparations. We should strengthen our position more and more while they are getting ready, and at the same time, by stratagem, try to take the offensive.

(2) In attack, they endeavor to encircle or break through. However, as they are cautious when carrying out an encirclement, we should strive to utilize our maneuverability, further encircle the enemy's encircling force, and fight a decisive action at a point where the enemy does not expect it.

Do not use a passive defense if you can help it, as it has the disadvantage of making it easy for the British to build up their strong firepower. On the defensive, choose a position where the front line will not be under the enemy's fire.

(3) Although they realize the necessity of a charge, particularly in gaining the final decision in a conflict, they do not concern themselves much about its strength, but rather strengthen their firepower and their positions. The infantry weapons for hand-to-hand fighting are few, and automatic weapons are many. The infantry just follow the curtain of fire and occupy the ground. For this reason, it is necessary to plan to split them by means of artillery and machine-gun fire and isolate the infantry. Then by taking advantage of a good opportunity, we can counterattack. It is necessary to carry the battle out of the area selected by him so as to not come under the concentrated fire of the enemy artillery and to prevent his pouring fire on the charging infantry.

It is especially necessary, when our forces are weak, to rely on the bayonet against the enemy troops who penetrate our positions, and to be prepared to drive them back by this means in the final melee.

(4) They are also over-cautious in selecting the main objective of their attack in a meeting engagement, and ordinarily do so after the battle has begun and they have detailed reports of the enemy's dispositions and strength. For this reason, it is essential to bring about, by swift and resolute action, a decisive battle before the enemy's preparations are completed.

c. Defense

(1) Because they often utilize an active defense, it is necessary to dispose your troops carefully, and at the same time, so that they will not discover in this disposition a good opportunity, you must make them abandon their aggressive plans by fierce and resolute attacks.

(2) They generally do not give much consideration to their flanks and make their front strong; therefore, it is best that we carry out encircling movements.

(3) As they spend a great deal of time on their defensive preparations, it is essential to attack swiftly in open warfare and not give them any time to spare. Also, as they sometimes do not make a thorough disposition of troops so that they can move them to suit the situation, it is necessary to attack unexpectedly and swiftly and prevent their making suitable dispositions.

(4) Their firepower, particularly that of the artillery and machine guns, is disposed densely in front of their position, and therefore it is, of course, necessary to choose a deployment which utilizes the terrain and to move quickly. You must particularly pay heed to secrecy and the concealment of your movements and utilize darkness and smoke screens.

(5) Since they hold out large reserves, particularly mobile reserves, you must endeavor to keep your plan hidden and take advantage of surprise. Also, you must use strong striking forces and break through the enemy's lines at one stroke.

(6) When their dispositions are in great depth, to break through, you must also organize in depth and break through the position at one stroke. This is especially necessary to prevent their counterattacking with their mobile reserves and breaking up the attack. To cope with this situation, you must press home the attack with superior force and crush them. Even if there is a deep and somewhat flexible resistance in front of their main position, attack this with the necessary strength, but seek to keep your forces from getting mixed and to keep losses down.

(7) Although the artillery is under a unified command, it has various sorts of duties and is kept mobile; you can expect fire almost anywhere. For this reason, you must attack in strength and, using concentrated fire to the fullest, try to neutralize their guns.

(8) Where the position, especially a position in the rear, is established in depth, and a mobile reserve is used, particularly when a breakthrough is countered by mobile artillery, the coordination of the infantry and artillery, for the action after the penetration of the enemy's position must be very carefully planned.

(9) When they discover the attacker's penetration, they call down concentrated fire on it. Therefore, the attacker must make the penetration difficult to observe; and his artillery must take appropriate measures to neutralize this fire.

(10) They use tanks to good advantage; and measures against them are essential.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Battle Box Fort Canning Singapore

Battle Box Fort Canning documents the last day before the fall of Singapore. The main attraction is the wax figure displays of Gen Percival and his command staff as they meet for the last time. The display is much better than the one in Sentosa. The figures look harried, gritty and one can feel the morbid end coming. The uniforms and equipment details are very authentic and well researched.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

G3m Nell that crashed in Kota Bharu

Here's a contribution from KL Goh who wrote to me about a crash site in Kota Bharu. Interesting story. Thanks Major Goh for the info:

Forgotten Air War of Malaya by Goh K. Loon

When I was a small kid, I always playing with my friends near a jungle behind my house in Kota Bharu. I remember seeing some twisted metal with rivets on the ground. After many years I returned to the scene and was told by the old villagers nearby that the metal was a plane falling from the sky in Japanese occupation period. Then they told me there was another plane falling in flames and crashed near Kelantan river but I was told it was happened a few years after the war started. I felt so confused because most of the air battle of World War 2 In Malaya was fought only at the beginning of the. I drove to the village they mentioned and managed to find a witness (a Tok Imam), who confirmed that a few years after the war started, one day there was a Japanese twin engines plane falling from the sky trailing flames and black smokes. The pilot tried to ditch on Kelantan River but he hit a coconut tree and the plane exploded. The Japanese soldiers then came and took the bodies of two aircrews and cleared the wreckages.

I started to do my research on the air war at the latter (later) part of World War 2 in Malaya and find out that I totally missed out ‘The Forgotten Air War Of Malaya’.

After the beginning of the World War 2 in December 1941, The Japanese fought the Allied from Malaya to Singapore with fighter and bomber like Oscar, Zero, Tojo, Betty, Nell, Sonia and the greatest success was the sinking of HMS Prince Of Wales and HMS Repulse in Kuantan water solely with the use of airpower on 10 Dec 1941. After the Japanese wining the air superiority in Malaya, they were flying at will to attack any target in Malaya and Singapore. The pilots and aircrews were best trained and they even created a ‘bomber alley’ between Singapore to Sumatra to sink many ships, which evacuated the refugees from Singapore.

The air activities slowed down after Singapore surrendered. The routine air activities were limited to patrolling and others minor air operations. The Strait of Malacca was actually a graveyard for Allied submarines because their air-search radar was blocked by the hills of Sumatra and Titiwangsa range. In one patrol, the USS Grenadier was badly damaged by few Japanese planes and the submarine have to be scuttled and the crews were taken Prisoner OF War in Light Street Convent, Penang.

I met up with some great local historians like Mr. Sager and Mr. Ahamd Shaharom and we worked to put back some missing puzzle of our Malaya history. Then I found out that even the famous Boeing B-29 bomber had come to bomb some targets in Malaya (including Singapore) in 1944 and 1945.

In 1998, an American visited Malaysia with his father diary and he contacted one of our team members Mr Sager Ahmad and told that his father bailed out from a B-29 bomber in Negeri Sembilan during World War 2. Mr. Sager met the son of the aircrew from the famous B-29 bomber ‘Postville Express’ which crashed in Rembau and they visited the crash site together. Mr.Shaharom later took some pictures to put it in our website, Malaya Historical Group

More here:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Citations of the Japanese Army-11th Infantry Regiment

Citations of the Japanese Army-Saeki Tank Unit

Citations of the Japanese Army-Shimada Tank Company

citations of the Japanese Army-Itabana Platoon

Citations of the Japanese Army-Gotanda Tank Company

Citations of the Japanese Army-Ogaki Battalion

Citations of the Japanese Army-18th Division

The 18th Division under the command of Lt General Mutaguchi participated in the initial landings in Kota Bharu. The detachment were responsible for the assault on Kota Bharu airfield and also the capture of Kuantan and later British strongholds in Endau and Mersing.

Citations of the Japanese Army-5th Division

Here are some article about the Japanese side of the war. Units were awarded for their gallantry in the invasion. We read a lot about the Victoria Cross medals won by the allied army but very little was written about the Japanese side.

Citations are a very high distinction in the Japanese Army, and are usually awarded to formations and units, they are conferred on individuals only for exceptional gallantry. below are citaions awarded by Commander Tomoyuki Yamashita 15 February 1942.

Fifth Division
The 5th Division under the leadership of Lt General Matsui, carried out the landing in southern Thailand at the commencement of the operations against Singapore. Under heavy rain and intense heat, marshes, swamps and dense jungle, the division repaired more than 200 bridges, broke through enemy strongholds. Advancing more than eleven hundred kilometres, it took possesion of Johore Bahru and finally driving out the British forces from Malaya.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The War Criminals

Here are some of the Japanese War Criminals that committed attrocities in Malaya and Singapore that were convicted. Asia seems to suffer a case of amnesia where this criminals are concerned.

Yamashita General Tomoyuki. On 6 November 1941, Yamashita was put in command of the Twenty-Fifth Army. On 8 December, he launched an invasion of Malaya, from bases in French Indochina. In the campaign, which concluded with the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942, Yamashita's 30,000 front-line soldiers captured 130,000 British, Indian and Australian troops, the largest surrender of British-led personnel in history. He became known as the "Tiger of Malaya".

The campaign and the subsequent Japanese occupation of Singapore included war crimes committed against captive Allied personnel and civilians, such as the Alexandra Hospital and Sook Ching Massacres. Yamashita's culpability for these events remains a matter of controversy, as some argued that he had failed to prevent them. However, Yamashita had the officer who instigated the hospital massacre and some soldiers caught looting executed for these acts, and he personally apologised to the surviving patients.

From 29 October to 7 December 1945, an American military tribunal tried General Yamashita for war crimes relating to the Manila Massacre and sentenced him to death. This case has become a precedent regarding the command responsibility for war crimes and is known as the Yamashita Standard. The trial was especially controversial.

, General Kenji (1883-1948). Commander, Kwantung Army, 1938-40; Supreme War Council, 1940-43; army commander in Singapore, 1944-45. Deeply involved in the army's drug trafficking in Manchuria. Later ran brutal POW and internee camps in Malaya, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. Convicted on counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, 54.

Itagaki, General Seishiro (1885-1948). Chief of Staff, Kwantung Army, 1936-37; minister of war, 1938-39; chief, army general staff, 1939; commander in Korea, 1941; Supreme War Council, 1943; commander in Singapore, 1945. Troops under his command in China terrorized prisoners and civilians. Was responsible for prison camps in Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Borneo and elsewhere. Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, 54.

Yoshimura, Sergeant Eiko. Head of Japanese Kempeitai Ipoh. Was responsible for the torture and abuse of civilians and Sybil Karthigasu. Convicted and hanged.

Nishimura, Lieut. General Takuma. Responsible for the massacre of 110 Australian and 35 Indian prisoners in the aftermath of the Battle of Bakri. January 17 1942. He was also charged with the massacre of Allied prisoners in the Parit Sulong incident.

Lieutenant General Takuma Nishimura, Lieutenant General Saburo Kawamura, Lieutenant Colonel Masayuki Oishi, Lieutenant Colonel Yoshitaka Yokata, Major Tomotatsu Jo, Major Satoru Onishi and Captain Haruji Hisamatsu

In 1947, the British Colonial authorities in Singapore held a war crimes trial to bring the perpetrators of the Sook Ching Massacre to justice. Seven officers, namely Lieutenant General Takuma Nishimura, Lieutenant General Saburo Kawamura, Lieutenant Colonel Masayuki Oishi, Lieutenant Colonel Yoshitaka Yokata, Major Tomotatsu Jo, Major Satoru Onishi and Captain Haruji Hisamatsu were charged with carrying out the massacre. While Kawamura and Oishi received the death penalty, the other five received life sentences. The court accepted the Nuremberg Trials defence of “just following orders." The death sentences were carried out on 26 June 1947. Even though the Chinese community urged the British authorities to stage the executions of Kawamura and Oishi in public to ease the anger in the Chinese community, the British allowed only six members of the victims' family association to witness the execution. After the trial the British colonial government in Singapore considered the matter closed, and only demanded war reparations from Japan for damage caused to British property, much to the dismay of the Chinese community.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

British 25 pounder Gun

The Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before World War II, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a reasonably lethal shell in a highly mobile piece. It was the British Army's primary artillery field piece well into the 1960s, with smaller numbers served in training units until the 1980s.

The most famous field gun used by Australian forces during World War 11 was the Mark 2 25-pounder gun-howitzer. Introduced in 1940 it could fire at high velocity on a flat trajectory as well as serving as a howitzer, capable of firing on targets hidden behind hills, which made it invaluable in Malaya. When the full weight of fire of a Battery was brought to bear on a target the result was devastating.

The 25 pounder fired a 25-pound projectile at a normal range of 12,500 yards, extending to 13,400 yards when using super charge. Fitted with a telescope sight as well as the usual dial sight for indirect fire, the 25 pounder could traverse a full 360 degrees on its special firing platform. To witness the effect of a direct hit on an enemy tank was an awesome sight It was also used when repulsing attacking enemy boats at Muar.

The steady rate of fire of five rounds a minute made it valuable in repulsing enemy attacks, as the advancing 'g Japanese found on several occasions. Its superb accuracy, reliability and efficiency were the pride of the gun crews who manned them, keeping others busy at the work of feeding its voracious appetite for ammunition.

Thanks for visiting and contributing!

Many thanks to all you for writing in to support this blog. Soon the blog will hit 2000 visitors, no doubt it's a tiny figure compared to thousands of other blogs, it's a pleasant surprise for me. Also There's many of you out there who's into Malayan history. What's great for me is also finding new stories about the war that I believe will lay buried if it's not for the web. So keep the stories coming. Enjoy Malaya!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lt Sadanobu Watanabe

Was watching the “General Wars” on Satelitte TV last night. The episode was on The Battle of Singapore. General Yamashita vs General A.Percival. It was pretty interesting. New footage of the British Army were shown. Couple of facts were debated. Amongst the interesting trivials were, British Infantry carried an average of 18 kilos of kit vs Japanese infantry’s 32 kilos. The Japanese’s use of bicycle made that possible. Yamashita’s looted the British supplies of food and ammunition made his invasion of Malaya quicker.

In the programme, there was a section on the Battle of Slim river. A tank commander Lt Sadanobu Watanabe was highlighted how he single handedly broke through the road blocks set up by the Allied forces. On one of the bridges, Watanabe in true bushido style, personally jumped out of his tank and severed the demolition wires with his sabre before the British could destroy them. He continued to secure another 5 bridges in that battle.

Below are excerpts from the battle:

The 28th Brigade Positions

Before reaching the 28th Gurkha Brigade Shimada’s tanks were offered a perfect target in the form of Lt. Col. Cyril Stokes’ 5/14th Punjabis, who were in marching order (long columns of units following each other) on either side of the road to Trolak. Stokes’ Punjabis were heading up to reinforce Stewart’s brigade. Commanding Shimada’s three leading tanks was Lt. Sadanobu Watanabe, who lead his tanks straight through Stokes’ Punjabis, machine guns firing at the perfect target offered by the lined up soldiers. Lt.Col.Stokes was mortally wounded and his battalion suffered heavy casualties before Watanabe’s tanks carried on toward the road bridge (5/14th Punjabis mustered 146 officers and soldiers by 8 January ). By 8:00 a.m. the leading Japanese tanks were within Selby’s brigade H.Q. area. The 28th Brigade were completely unaware of what had happened to Stewart’s entire brigade and the Japanese tore through them faster, scattering both the 2/2nd and 2/9th Gurkhas, which were spread around Selby’s brigade H.Q. Although they suffered heavy casualties many of the soldiers from these two battalions made it across the rail bridge before the main Japanese force got to their position.

Like the Punjabi’s, the last battalion of Selby’s brigade, the 2/1st Gurkhas under Lt. Col. Jack Fulton, were on the march either side of the road as the Japanese tanks reached them. This time though, the marching column of Gurkha’s were facing away from the approaching Japanese and Watanabe’s tanks caught them from behind, the death toll was even higher than that of the Punjabis. One officer and twenty-seven other ranks answered roll call the next day. Fulton, wounded in the stomach and taken prisoner, would die in captivity two months later. Shimada’s tanks had by now broken through both brigades and were into the rear area of the 11th Indian Division, heading for the two bridges. Leaving the rail bridge for Shimada and the main Japanese force, Lt Watanabe headed toward the more important road bridge six miles away. In this attack Watanabe broke through the artillery, medical, and other support units in front of the road bridge. Two British artillery colonels were surprised and killed while driving on the road in this lightning attack. Upon reaching the road bridge at 8.30 a.m. Watanabe found it defended by a battery of Bofors anti-aircraft guns from the Singapore and Hong Kong Artillery Regiment. Although two of the guns managed to lower their barrels quickly enough to fire on the tanks, the rounds did not damage the tanks’ armor and the gunners fled. Watanabe himself cut the wires to the demolition charges on the bridge with his sword. It was still only early morning and the Japanese attack had managed to scatter the entire 11th Indian Division, leaving most of its survivors attempting to escape across the Slim River.

In the last part of this 16-mile Blitzkrieg-like attack Watanabe, now in control of the road bridge, sent a force of three tanks under the command of Ensign Toichero Sato to explore the other side of the river. Sato travelled three miles before encountering more British artillery, in the form of two 4.5 inch Howitzers from the 155th Field Artillery Regiment, RA. Sato’s tank opened fire on the first gun, turning it over and blocking the road. The gunners from the second gun managed to lower their barrels in time to fire on the tanks at point blank range. Sato’s tank was hit and destroyed, killing him, and forcing the other two tanks in his force to retreat back to the road bridge.

Was your school a japanese HQ & Torture Chamber

There were numerous stories going around that the school we went to when we were still in shorts were used for execution of innocent civilians and allied prisoners. Stories of haunted halls and stairways were plenty. Here are some schools that were in fact Japanese torture chambers.

  1. St Michael’s Institution, Ipoh – A group of Catholics missionaries arrived here in 1912 and began building a school next to the famous Kinta River. It did not take long for the missionary brothers who ran the school to have enough funds to erect a huge school building with unique French structural design. When the WW2 broke out, the school was used bu Japanese secret police as their headquarters. Needless to say, there were lots of torturing carried out. The buidling itself had many tunnels which had been sealed off and the tunnels were said to be used by the Japanese to torture prisoners and to store food.
  2. Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Kuala Kangsar, Perak – This school is said to be a former site of Japanese occupation camp during WW2.
  3. Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur – The boys school was turned into a Japanese base during the Occupation. Many British soldiers and locals were brutally tortured to death in the basement and some older buildings on the campus.
  4. The Tuanku Muhammad School Kuala Pilah was used as the headquarters of the Japanese Kempetai (or secret police), how hundreds of people had been tortured at the school, and how over three hundred mainly Chinese victims lay buried in the small rubber plantation at the back of the school.
  5. King Edward VII School. Taiping. The Central School, started in 1883, was the first English school in the Malay States and house its first 1 students. It was renamed the King Edward VII National School when in conjunction with the coronation of England's 7th King in 1901. During the Japanese occupation,the school was the base of the garrison commander who converted the classrooms into torture chambers and dug up the playgrounds to grow food."
  6. St Georges' Institution. Taiping. " The Catholic boys' school was established in 1915 and 13 years later the original building was extended with a wing on each side. During the Japanese Occupation, the school served in turn as Nippon-Go Gakko (Japanese school), Kempetai (Japanese military police) base and Japanese officers' hotel."
  7. Convent Taiping. ' In 1889, the first convent was started in nearby Klian Puah by three sisters from the convent in Penang. The class and orphanage in Taiping were upgraded when the present school building at Kota Road opened in 1938. In May 1941, the British requisitioned it for a large military hospital but in December it was taken over by the Japanese. Towards the end of war, the Taiping Convent became the headquarters of the Japanese military administration, the Gun-sei Kan-bu."
  8. Light Street Convent Penang.
  9. King George VI Seremban. In 1941, the school premises were taken over by the Australian Imperial Forces. During the Japanese occupation, the school was used as the Japanese Military Police Headquarters by the Miyazaki Butai regiment. The dressing room beside the stage in the school hall were reportedly used as torture chambers. After the Allied reoccupation, the British army maintained a military hospital in the school for a further 6 months.
  10. SMK Tinggi Kajang is reported to be one of the oldest schools in the country. During World War II, it was used by the Japanese army as a burial site.
  11. Clifford School (formerly Anglo-Chinese School) Kuala Lipis. During the Japanese Occupation, the school became the military headquarters of the dreaded Japanese secret police, the Kempetai. The Japanese torture chamber built within the school compound was still standing. However, it was demolished in the 1980s, perhaps after too many a ghost story scared the school kids?

Friday, August 7, 2009

64 years since the end of the war

Timely reminder of the anniversary of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. 64 years ago today millions in Asia breathe a sigh of relief to the end of the Japanese occupation.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks near the end of World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States at the executive order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively. After six months of intense fire-bombing of 67 other Japanese cities, followed by an ultimatum which was ignored by the Shōwa regime, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on Monday, August 6, 1945, followed on August 9 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. These are to date the only attacks with nuclear weapons in the history of warfare.

The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, roughly half on the days of the bombings. Amongst these, 15–20% died from injuries or the combined effects of flash burns, trauma, and radiation burns, compounded by illness, malnutrition andradiation sickness. Since then, more have died from leukemia (231 observed) and solid cancers(334 observed) attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians.

Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender to theAllied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending the Pacific Warand therefore World War II. (Germany had signed its unavoidable Instrument of Surrender on May 7, ending the war in Europe.) The bombings led, in part, to post-war Japan adopting Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding that nation from nuclear armament.