The U.S. At War: Fort by Fort, Port by Port

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 3)

The capital was spared air attack for a full day, apparently because of the good work of interceptor squadrons which met the Japanese about 40 miles north of Manila. But during the first night the Japanese swept in, set fire to gasoline dumps beside Nichols Field, bombed the fort of Corregidor (but not seriously), socked naval drydocks and repair shops. The Japanese aim was reported to be un canny: few non-military buildings were hit.

This week it was reported that Japanese troops, with the help of fishermen fifth columnists, had landed on Lubang Island right at the mouth of Manila Bay. This suggests that the Japanese might try to invade the Philippines.

North China yielded up 183 U.S. marines in small garrisons at Peiping and Tientsin.

Shanghai, once the very knob of China's open door, was taken over quickly and finally from U.S.-British hands. In the small of the night, Japanese soldiers poured into the International Settlement and along the famous Bund. A Japanese destroyer eased up to the British river gun boat Peterel, fired three red warning lights, a minute later opened fire and set it burn ing blackly. Then the destroyer proceeded 100 yards downstream and captured the U.S. gunboat Wake, which had been partially dismantled and was being used merely as a consular wireless station. The flag of the Rising Sun was unfurled from its aftermast.

Hong Kong was bombed three times, expected invasion.

North Borneo was reported attacked by landing parties.

The Netherlands East Indies, so far unattacked, declared war in the knowledge that they would be attacked sooner or later. Said Governor General Jonkheer A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer: "These attacks almost make one think of insanity."

Malaya was the scene of the most important attack in the Indies. Just as the Japanese struck at U.S. vitals at Pearl Harbor, they stabbed at British vitals at Singapore. The first bombing came at 4:10 a.m., and the British were caught with their pants no worse than unbuckled. Tokyo claimed two cruisers were hit.

The real effort was a third of the way up the Malay Peninsula. There the wary British spotted five Japanese transports landing troops across monsoon-chopped waters in the moonlit night. The British rushed to meet them and repulsed the first assault. But the first assault was just a diversion. Ten miles to the south ten more Japanese transports were disgorging their eager little beach-climbers. Here the Japanese gained a foothold, then filtered through jungles and swamps toward Kota Bhary, site of an airdrome and junction of railways running south to Singapore and north to Thailand.

The R.A.F. went to work on the transports, claimed two. The British also pushed north into Thailand to meet Japanese forces landing there.

Thailand was invaded amphibiously at the neck of the Malay Peninsula. Bangkok was bombed. After five and a half hours' resistance, the Siamese gave up. They knew their cause was hopeless, since what little equipment their 100,000 soldiers had was second-rate Japanese stuff.

Thailand was perhaps the key to the first phase of Japan's rape of the Pacific. Its conquest put the attackers in a key spot for two moves — south into Malaya or west into Burma, at the root of China's supply line.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3