Showing posts from February, 2022

Eighty years ago the Japanese sow panic in northern Australia and the western USA

  Over 200 aircraft from four Japanese aircraft carriers and a number of land-based medium bombers launched attacks on the Australian port city of Darwin. Darwin was the nearest major port in Allied hands to the Indonesian islands and might have been used to support attempts to halt the Japanese invasion of this territory. Despite Darwin's strategic location the defences were weak with no radar functioning to warn of the attack. Hundreds of casulaties were inflicted, thirty aircraft were destroyed  on the ground including USAAF fighters in transit  and a dozen or so vessels sunk or beached. The port was practically interdicted. There was widespread confusion and a near-breakdown of civil order. Japanese casualties were minimal. A Japanese submarine bombarded an oil refinery at Ellwood in California with its deck gun, causing slight damage and no casualties.  The operation did inspire a state of near panic, which led to the "Battle of Los Angeles" the following night in w

Eighty years ago the British Empire suffers two immense humiliations

  In the space of two days the British Empire suffered two immense military humiliations. They put Churchill's government to the sternest political test that it faced in its entire existence. Fortunately for him, there was no serious alternative as prime minister. The fall of Singapore to the Japanese may well have have been Britain's worst military defeat ever;  it spelled the end of the Britain's prestige as the omnipotent power in the Far East, the representative of the superiority of the white races over the yellow races. It marked a turning point in the history of the British Empire. In the space of a week a numerically much inferior Japanese force had landed on the island fortress that was the symbol of British military and commercial power in the region and forced the surrender of 85,000 troops. Only in the air were the Japanese superior to the British. The British commander General Percival ignored Churchill's orders to fight to the last. British battle casualti

Eighty years ago, the coincidence of a death and a publicity stunt showcases German's economic weakness

  The German munitions minister Fritz Todt died in an air crash on his way back from a conference with Hitler. He had won Hitler's favour as the architect of the Autobahn network and the Westwall defence line against France, before being given the munitions production brief in another indicator of Hitler's growing disenchantment with the General Staff.  Todt was a committed Nazi and backer of private sector industry to carry the war effort. Exposure to the realities of the eastern Front had, though, made plain to him that Germany simply did not have the industrial potential to win the war and had told Hitler so. His death has inspired improbable conspiracy theories. He was replaced by the architect Albert Speer  It who would take some time for Speer to learn the ropes and, eventually, institute a highly effective drive to rationalize weapons production. The lag is unlikely to have been decisive, but it is telling that Hitler put a vital industrial job in the hands of another ma

Eighty years ago the siege of Singapore begins but the fortress's big guns were conceived to fight attack from the sea

    The Japanese conquest of the Malay peninsula was practically completed when the British withdrew across the narrow strait to the island of Singapore.  A thirty meter breach was blown in the causeway linking Singapore to the mainland. The fortress was now unmistakeably under siege. The mighty artillery that the Royal Navy had fought so long and so bitterly to have installed was sited to defend against attack from the open sea and kitted with armour-piercing shot to engage the ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It could not be trained on land-based attackers coming from the East. The squabble over defending Fortress Singapore had been one of the rounds in the savage battle between Admiral Lord Beatty and Sir Hugh Trenchard of the RAF, which had scarred Briish military policy in the 1920s. The US general "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell was appointed as Chief of Staff for US troops to the Chinese ruler Generalissimo (as he had been baptized) Chiang Kai-Shek. The job was an immense