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Japanese invasion of Thailand
Part of World War II
Japanese Invasion of Thailand 8 Dec 1941.png
Map of the Japanese invasion of Thailand. December 8, 1941
Date December 8, 1941
Location Thailand
Result Ceasefire, Japanese occupation of Thailand, Thai alliance with Japan, Thailand declares war on the Allied Powers
Belligerents
Thailand
Kingdom of Thailand
Japan
Empire of Japan
Commanders
Thailand Plaek Pibulsonggram Japan Shojiro Iida
Japan Tomoyuki Yamashita
Strength
5 divisions 2 armies

The Japanese invasion of Thailand occurred on December 8, 1941.

To invade Malaya and Burma the Japanese needed to make use of Thai ports, railways, and airfields. The Thai people, however, were fiercely proud of never having been colonised and were determined to maintain their independence, having just beaten Vichy France in the French-Thai War. The Thai army was far from negligible and their soldiers were tough. If heavy Japanese casualties were to be avoided it was vital that the early landings across the beaches in southern Thailand should be unopposed.

To facilitate this the Japanese opened secret negotiations with the Thai government. At the time it looked as though the Axis powers were going to win the war, and in October 1940, Thai dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram, gave a secret verbal promise to support them in the event of a Japanese invasion of Malaya.

However, Phibun seemed to have been quite ready to forget this promise if circumstances had changed and asked both the British and Americans in 1941 for guarantees of effective support if they were invaded. Neither country could give them, although British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in favour of giving a public warning to Japan that an invasion of the southeast Asian kingdom would result in a declaration of war by the two countries.

This drove the Japanese planners to distraction as they unsuccessfully strove to obtain agreement to a right of passage through Thai territory, on which their whole operational plan depended. Finally it was General Count Terauchi who took the decision for the invasion fleet to sail and land in Thailand with or without permission.

There is a possibility of imminent Japanese invasion of your country. If you are attacked, defend yourselves. The preservation of the true independence and sovereignty of Thailand is a British interest, and we shall regard an attack on you as an attack upon ourselves. - Prime Minister Winston Churchill's message to Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram, which was promptly ignored whilst seeking an armistice with Japan[1]

Contents

Japan Invades

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Battambang

At dawn the Imperial Guards Division, spearheading the 15th Army, crossed the border into Thailand's recently reclaimed Battambang Province. The Japanese encountered no resistance, and from Sisophon swung north-westwards into Aranyaprathet (then still a district of Prachinburi Province) along the newly constructed railway link between Aranyaprathet and Monkhol Bourei.Example text

Chumphon

The Japanese 1st Infantry Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment landed at Chumphon on the morning of December 8. They managed to form a perimeter around their landing areas, but were pinned down by determined resistance by Thai Youth Army. Fighting ended in the afternoon when the Thais received orders to cease fire.Example text

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Nakhon Si Thammarat was the site of the Thai Sixth Army Division’s Headquarters and 39th Infantry Battalion. Three Japanese troopships dropped anchor a few kilometres off the coast during the night of December 7. The ships carried the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment, the 18th Air District Regiment along with an army air force signals unit, the 32nd Anti-Aircraft Battalion, and the 6th Labour Construction Company. Shortly after midnight, they began disembarking their troops. Example text

The landing was made adjacent to the main Thai army camp, Camp Vajiravudh. The Thais, notified earlier of the Japanese invasion at Songkhla, immediately went into action. The battle lasted until midday, when the prime minister’s orders for a cease fire were received.

Pattani

Due to its closeness to the Malayan border, Pattani was the second most important objective of the Japanese 25th Army. The landings were made despite the rough seas and on unsuitable landing grounds. The invaders were effectively opposed by the Thai 42nd Infantry Battalion, until the battalion was ordered to cease fire at midday. The Thai battalion commander, Khun Inkhayutboriharn, was killed in action.

Prachuap Khiri Khan

Prachuap Khiri Khan was home to the Royal Thai Air Force’s Fifth Wing, under the command of Wing Commander M.L. Pravat Chumsai. The Japanese 2nd Infantry Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment landed at 03:00 am, and occupied the town after having crushed police resistance there.

Further landings took place near the airfield to the south. The Japanese laid siege to the airfield, but the Thai airmen managed to hold out until noon on the next day, when they received orders from the Thai government to cease fighting. The Japanese lost 115 dead according to Japanese estimates and 217 dead and 300+ wounded according to Thai estimates. The Thais lost 38 dead and 27 wounded.

Samut Prakan

The Japanese 3rd Battalion of the Imperial Guards Regiment landed at Samut Prakan in the early hours of December 8. It was tasked with the capture of Bangkok. The force was met by a small Thai police detachment. Despite a tense confrontation, fighting did not occur and the Japanese subsequently agreed not to enter the Thai capital until formal negotiations were concluded.

Songkhla

The port city of Songkhla was one of the main objectives of Yamashita’s 25th Army. The Japanese landings occurred during the early hours of December 8.

Thai garrison at Khao Khor Hong (the 41st Infantry Battalion and the 13th Artillery battalion) immediately occupied positions alongside the roads leading down to Malaya, but were brushed aside into positions the main Japanese advance could ignore. A further clash occurred at Hat Yai.

The fighting ceased at noon when orders for an armistice to be arranged was received.

Surat Thani

A Japanese infantry company from the 1st Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment landed at the coastal village of Ban Don in the early hours of December 8. They marched into Surat Thani, where they were opposed by Royal Thai Police and civilian volunteers. The desultory fighting took place amid a rainstorm, and only ended in the afternoon when the hard-pressed Thais received orders to lay down their arms.

Aftermath

Plaek Pibulsonggram's decision to sign an armistice with Japan effectively ended Churchill's hopes of forging an alliance with Thailand. He also granted Japan permission to use Thailand as a base of operations to invade Malaya. Within hours after the armistice came into effect, squadrons of Japanese aircraft had flown into Songkla airfield from Indochina, allowing them to carry out air raids on strategic bases in Malaya and Singapore from a short distance.

A treaty of military alliance between Thailand and Japan was signed on December 21, 1941. On January 25, 1942, the Thai government declared war on the USA and the United Kingdom.

See also

References

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