Into the Fire - the "Minor" nations of WW2 strike back

Should Chapter 40 stand?

  • Yes

    Votes: 14 51.9%
  • Yes, but with further changes

    Votes: 10 37.0%
  • No

    Votes: 3 11.1%

  • Total voters
    27
An explosion shook the night sky, and as sailors looked on to see where it came from, they were struck with a horrid sight: the carrier Shoho, in flames, sinking to the bottom of the ocean along with 700 crew and 50 aircraft. The submarine Casabianca had claimed its first victim. And the Japanese were now left with one less carrier.
Have you smudged the timeline a little here as although Shoho was in commission at the time of the attacks, she was still actually fitting out until early 1942 in Yokosuka and didn't slip for sea until February 4th?
 
Last edited:
Have you smudged the timeline a little here as although Shoho was in commission at the time of the attacks, she was still actually fitting out until early 1942 in Yokosuka and didn't slip for sea until February 4th?
Because of a pressing need for carriers to execute both a triple-pronged invasion in the south and the Pearl strike, some carriers like the Shoho were rushed and commissioned early. At the detriment of some things, like crew training or armor...
 

Sargon

Donor
Monthly Donor
I enjoyed this chapter a lot, and it makes a change seeing the IJA in particular bogged down so quickly right at the start of matters. It's not often that happens, and the IJN getting a bloody nose much quicker than OTL is interesting reading, especially with the French and it seems British forces too putting up a much stiffer resistance due to the altered events elsewhere.

Might we see the Dutch submarines getting some licks in? They had some decent craft out there.

Just one thing, Shoho was rated for 30 aircraft.


Sargon
 
Last edited:
1st - What happens to HMS Ark Royal and Eagle?
2nd - Where are the South Africans?
3rd - Did the Norwegians and Polish made their own FAA squadron in the RN?
4rd - Will Otto von Habsburg (the exiled Emperor of Austria) form an Austrian-in-exile unit, with the 101st Infantry Battalion (Separate) been made in the US?
 
Might we see the Dutch submarines getting some licks in? They had some decent craft out there.

For sure, even the Dutch fleet itself will see action.

Just one thing, Shoho was rated for 30 aircraft.

Same thing as above. With the Franco-Indochinese incident, the IJN was forced to change its plans to incorporate Indochina and Thailand in their invasion plans, and thus needed carriers that had more capacity. ITTL Shoho can take 50 aircraft as a reflection of this change, though it is once again, extremely inefficient.

1st - What happens to HMS Ark Royal and Eagle?

Mediterranean duty. The RM isn't completely down and there's about to be a major operation soon.

2nd - Where are the South Africans?

North Africa.

3rd - Did the Norwegians and Polish made their own FAA squadron in the RN?

No. No point in doing so.

4rd - Will Otto von Habsburg (the exiled Emperor of Austria) form an Austrian-in-exile unit, with the 101st Infantry Battalion (Separate) been made in the US?
No idea, not that important.
 
Only the situation in Thailand gave cause to worry, with the imminent fall of the airfield at Don Mueang and the progression of Japanese soldiers towards Battambang and Siem Reap.
From where? The OB lists the Thai Army as part of the Allied forces, so there can't be any Japanese troops there. Even if Thailand is neutral before 7 December, Japan could not station troops there. Furthermore, the OB lists 10 divisions for the Thai Army; OTL the entire Thai Army was 26,500 troops plus about 24,000 reserves.

Japan's OTL invasion of Thailand consisted of an advance across the border from Cambodia (which can't happen ITTL), a single battalion landing at Samut Prakan south of Bangkok, a regiment landing at Prachuap Khiri Khan and a battalion landing at Chumphon (both in the neck of Thailand's part of the Malay Peninsula), a reinforced battalion at Nakhon Si Thammarat further south, and furthest south the major landings at Singora and Pattani, directed at British Malaya.

If the Thai Army is indeed 10 divisions, the Japanese would have grave difficulties establishing beachheads anywhere but the far south, much less marching into the interior to threaten Cambodia from the west. Furthermore, whereas the OTL invasions were launched from nearby Indo-China, ITTL such invasions would have to be launched from Hainan, much further away, and pass all around Indo-China. Any supplies or reinforcements would have to follow the same circuitous route under hostile air cover.

With invasions of the Philippines and Malaya in progress as OTL, and a major additional campaign in Indo-China, where would the Japanese even get the forces to invade Thailand?

And finally, with Indo-China held by Allied France, any Japanese landings in north Borneo, southern Malaya, or Thailand would be made with no air cover except carriers. Even the Japanese were not that reckless.

They might try to capture airfields in Indo-China to provide land-based cover - but that operation would have to be completed before any further moves could be attempted.

ISTM that ITTL, Japan's "Southern Operation" would begin with invasions of the Philippines and Indo-China, which if successful would be followed by invasions of northern Borneo and Thailand, and only then invasion of Malaya.

But it's notmy TL.

The Navy ... had annihilated three enemy fleets since then!
Three fleets? The Franco-American force sortieing from Indochina, but what are the other two?
Shoho, in flames...
Torpedo hits break open the hull and let in water; they rarely start fires.
... sinking to the bottom of the ocean along with 700 crew and 50 aircraft
Shoho was a light carrier holding only 30 aircraft.
 
Torpedo hits break open the hull and let in water; they rarely start fires.
Shock of the hit on many occasions caused secondary effects that ended up with stuff to go boom. Lots of accounts of torpedoed tankers for instance that suffered secondary explosions that caused fires ( just needed a short for instance in the right place).
 
From where? The OB lists the Thai Army as part of the Allied forces, so there can't be any Japanese troops there.

Japanese OB lists the divisions for the invasion of Thailand.

Furthermore, the OB lists 10 divisions for the Thai Army; OTL the entire Thai Army was 26,500 troops plus about 24,000 reserves.

I took the OTL OB for the Franco-Thai War.

Japan's OTL invasion of Thailand consisted of an advance across the border from Cambodia (which can't happen ITTL), a single battalion landing at Samut Prakan south of Bangkok, a regiment landing at Prachuap Khiri Khan and a battalion landing at Chumphon (both in the neck of Thailand's part of the Malay Peninsula), a reinforced battalion at Nakhon Si Thammarat further south, and furthest south the major landings at Singora and Pattani, directed at British Malaya.

Not going to happen this time around. The Japanese are aiming to take the airfields at Singora.

ITTL such invasions would have to be launched from Hainan, much further away, and pass all around Indo-China.

As stated in story, the Japanese set up airfields in the Paracels.

With invasions of the Philippines and Malaya in progress as OTL, and a major additional campaign in Indo-China, where would the Japanese even get the forces to invade Thailand?

From the Kwantung Army, as their strike south doctrine absolutely needed for SEA to fall immediately, while China would be considered secondary: the Japanese need the oil.

They might try to capture airfields in Indo-China to provide land-based cover - but that operation would have to be completed before any further moves could be attempted.
ISTM that ITTL, Japan's "Southern Operation" would begin with invasions of the Philippines and Indo-China, which if successful would be followed by invasions of northern Borneo and Thailand, and only then invasion of Malaya.

Most of these things will be elaborated on in the next update, which will focus on Thailand and Malaya.

Three fleets? The Franco-American force sortieing from Indochina, but what are the other two?

See above.

Torpedo hits break open the hull and let in water; they rarely start fires.

Rarely.

Shoho was a light carrier holding only 30 aircraft.

See previous reply to this comment.
 
Chapter 40: South-East Asian Campaign – Part II: the Kota Bharu disaster (December 1941 – Malaya & Thailand)
Chapter 40

South-East Asian Campaign

December 7th - 20th, 1941

W4fA5lV.png


With the eye of today, one might think that the actions that led to the Kota Bharu disaster were frankly reckless, if not outright disastrous, but that would be disregarding the vision of the Imperial Japanese forces of the time. The oil embargo by the United States following the Franco-Indochinese incident and the occupation of the Paracel Islands had been dangerously close to shattering their war effort, and with every passing moment, the Chinese were getting better armed thanks to the Hanoi-Kunming railway and the Burma Road.

Japan was thus on a timer. It needed to strike fast, and that is why so many divisions that were usually affected to tasks in China were rerouted to Southeast Asia. It is also why several aircraft carriers were finished with larger capacities, at the cost of training, armor and other considerations.

It must be said that the Japanese also grossly overestimated their capabilities, and downplayed their opponents. To them, the United States were weak, and their army feeble. Taking the Philippines and annihilating their fleet at Pearl Harbor would have them come cowering to Japan’s feet. Similarly, Japan held the Europeans in no less contempt. The French were already defeated, had lost their mainland and could not properly supply their colonies. The British relied on their unmotivated local and Indian troops to protect their colonies, and would surely break at the first sign of fighting, if not turn their guns on their masters. For the Dutch, more of the same…

One could thus see how the Japanese mounted confidence during the fateful days of December 1941: defeat was simply not an option for them. As for the Thais, Japan actually did not expect to have to fight them. Phibun, ambassador to Japan, had explained that the local government was deeply unpopular amongst the army, and that it would refuse to fight against the colonialists. In fact, Japan had maintained a large network of collaborators in Thailand, which is why they expected little resistance, and that is why convoys towards the Kra Isthmus even sailed in broad daylight (the approach to Singora, Kota Bharu and Tourane, for example, were done at night). The extent of Japanese infiltration of Thai forces in the Southern Army also explained the lack of resistance at Singora and Talumpuk, with most Thai forces joining the Japanese the moment they landed. And to cap it all off, Phibun had assured the Japanese that the Thai Army would in fact coup Pridi's government in advance, further cementing the Japanese confidence...

Despite this, courage alone couldn’t win wars. Japan expected this, and knew it had to strike hard and fast. Everything had been timed: the strike on Pearl Harbor would bring the death knell of the American fleet, and then the IJN would sweep the South China Sea, taking the airfields at Tourane, allowing the Japanese to attack Singora and take the airfields there, and finally moving on to Bangkok, Malaya, Saigon, Singapore, Burma…

The issue with this plan was simple: Japan did not expect failure. And when victory did not come swiftly, it set in motion a catastrophic chain of events.

On December 8th, chaos swept Thailand. Despite the Japanese being leagues away, Thai outposts reported fighting in several areas, including Bangkok. Fortunately, Phraya Songsuradej knew exactly what was going on, and immediately evacuated the government from the capital. In fact, "Phibun's clique" had made their move. General Charun Rattanakun Seriroengrit and his followers tried to seize the main government buildings in Bangkok, but was rebuffed long enough for the government to leave the city. However, Seriroengrit did manage to secure the airfields, including Don Mueang, despite a firefight with loyalist units. Most of the planes for their part had withdrawn to Chiang Mai, depriving the coupers of them. The airfield being secured, IJA aircraft could move in as soon as the evening of December 8th, causing even more chaos in the Thai apparel.

On December 9th, a day after the landings in Indochina, Japanese troops of the 5th Infantry Division landed at Singora, with the clear objective of seizing the airfield complex in the area. Later that day, elements of the 33rd Infantry Division landed along the Kra Isthmus. These troops were supported by Kondo's fleet, which had come down after the successful strike at Tourane, and made good use of the poor weather which hindered Allied reconnaissance. That same day, Phibun made an announcement on Radio-Tokyo calling for "the Royal Thai forces to lay down their arms and join their Japanese brothers-in-arms against the colonialist threat".

Contrarily to what they had hoped, Phibun's address was not recieved everywhere, and when it was, it was far from unanimous. Far from it, in fact. Unit commanders chose according to who they supported, landings were opposed here and there with surprising intensity, including at Ao Manao beach, where the Thais of the 5th Infantry Division held against the Japanese of the 33rd Infantry for a day, pinning them on the beaches [1]! At Singora, however, the weak garrison had difficulty in containing the Japanese, who seized the airfields with relative ease. Soon enough, swarms of Ki-27, Ki-43 and other aircraft came pouring in a large line from Hainan to Singora via Tourane or Bangkok. These aircraft were not very contested, as the French squadrons in Indochina were fighting to defend Hanoi, Cao Bang and Bac Can, to the north. It thus fell to Commonwealth aircraft to oppose these fighters, which they did with mixed success.

In the meantime, the British did not remain inactive. Honouring the Anglo-Thai agreement, British troops of the 17th Indian Division moved into Pattani, lending a hand to the disorganized Thais, and lending a decisive air support to delay the installation of IJAF aircraft in the area. In the night, the navy would also move in, with the British battleships of the Royal Navy executing a vigorous shelling of Japanese troops at Singora. Admiral Tom Phillips would have liked to stay…but he was informed of a large carrier force heading for him. In fact, Kondo's force had been spotted by Hudsons of Sqn 1 RAAF, but the strong air cover surrounding the carriers meant that the information provided was inaccurate, but they had gotten most things right: 5 carriers and a large number of warships. Phillips himself did not have his entire force to bear: the Indomitable was still moving from Fremantle, and the French Far East Force had stayed in Singapore, leaving Phillips with only one CV and one CVL. Fearing a trap, Phillips immediately turned back to Singapore, something that would be reproached to him later.

Kondo for his part had been ordered to support the troops and protect a convoy leading Japanese troops towards Kota Bharu, in order to flank the Indian troops that had reportedly entered Thailand. Kondo’s objective was twofold: to support the landing operation by luring the Royal Navy into a decisive battle, and to annihilate the Thai naval forces, which had yet to leave port, and had sided with the civilian government, shelling the Thai insurrectionist positions in the city. Kondo was informed of Force Z's sortie, but did not manage to intercept, fearing that fighter cover from Malaya could turn the tide in the Allies' favour, while Singora was not yet secured.

December 10th, 1941, was still the day considered to be “Thailand’s Pearl Harbor”. Early in the morning, a swarm of D3A1 “Val” flew to Don Mueang, and plunged on the anchored Thai vessels, wreaking havoc amidst the fleet which had been such a nuisance for the insurrectionists. There were little survivors: the destroyer Phra Ruang, which was at Ko Samui, along with two submarines and three torpedo boats. The Phra Ruang was ordered to make due haste towards Singapore, with the two submarines in tow [2]. The three remaining torpedo boats did not have the range and would have to scuttle. Disheartened and outgunned, the loyalist forces had to give up the capital to the insurrectionists.

Kondo's presence in these waters also meant that his navy was also quite vulnerable, as the Allies had other means to sting him with. And the British submarines surely did not take their presence well. In the afternoon, the destroyer Oyashio was sunk by the HMS Oberon, and the Ryujo itself was taken for a target several times. Kondo was thus forced to withdraw northwards in the night, fearing that he was risking his ships too much, and thinking that the link between Tourane and Singora was enough to secure the bridgehead.

But this also meant that precious hours were lost. While the bridgeheads in Thailand were too solid, and the situation in the country too chaotic for them to be pushed out, it was not the case at Kota Bharu! There, the landed Japanese were expected to take the Indians from the rear and destroy them. Problem: while there were certainly Indians in the area, they were also faced with Alan Vasey’s 7th Australian Division! The Japanese were decimated on arrival. The Commonwealth troops had mined the area, and had already placed several traps, including petrol canisters that were detonated and set ablaze, raising a sea of flames which gave the landscape a hellish feeling.

With no naval support, Kondo's force having bombed Bangkok and turned tail, the Japanese were left to fend for themselves, in a desperate fight for survival. The men of the 18th Infantry Division, when they reached the shore, were faced with machine-gun fire emerging from pillboxes, as well as armored vehicles rushing to them! These were in fact Valentines lent by the Australian 1st Armoured which had come to the rescue. Air support was sparse at best, with the IJA focusing its efforts on the Thai front, leaving the Japanese at the mercy of the Allied air forces Thus, to add to this disaster, the Spitfires of Sqn 30 RAAF and Beauforts of Sqn 458 RAAF came to hack the landing barges to pieces, massacring the remaining Japanese on the beaches. At night, the Commonwealth troops were victorious: their opponents were tired, and had not even made it out of the beach.

However, there was little time for celebration. The Japanese did not cease fighting, even when it was clear all hope was lost. Japanese troops feigned to surrender, before taking the pin out of a grenade and taking a few Aussies with them. Some, out of ammunition, just limped back into the sea to drown. This was the first contact for the Commonwealth troops with the fanatical devotion of the Japanese fighters. But for these ones, it was a disaster. Nearly five thousand Japanese troops lay dead or wounded, and the beachhead had been completely destroyed.

The Imperial command was enraged, but did not have time to linger on this defeat. Singora had been secured and the airfield was now fully stocked with modern fighters and bombers, and the Thai Army seemed to be in full rout.

On December 14th, Japanese troops began moving northwards towards Bangkok, finally under friendly air cover, to link up with the insurrectionists and their own air forces at Don Mueang. The weak resistance of the Royal Thai Air Force, overwhelmed and outgunned, meant that the British had to send the two squadrons of the AVG in Burma down to Moulmein to relieve some pressure. Despite this, the Thai army still struggled, still reeling from the attempted coup a few days pruor. The Japanese had been reinforced with armour, and were now coming dangerously close to Bangkok.

Phraya knew that Bangkok's fall would take a heavy toll on his units, but by this point, it was too late. Taking the most loyal units, those of the Phayap Army, under Major General Phin Choonhavan (the son of a Chinese immigrant, he had good reason to dislike the Japanese), he ordered a stopper line towards Singburi and Prachinburi, in order to defend the northern half of the country. Phraya and Phin did manage to save numerous Thai troops, and rallied a sense of common cause amidst the Thai army, but it also meant several things: the road to Bangkok was completely open, and so was the road to the Cambodian border.

This meant that Japanese troops entered the capital almost without firing a shot, and that the airfields at Don Mueang were finally relieved on December 18th. With Bangkok secured, Japanese troops rushed towards Pattaya, but also Sa Kaeo, aiming for Battambang and Cambodia, trying to outflank Saigon. On December 20th, the first units had reached the border.

But while in the north things were going well, in the south it wasn’t much the case. The 17th Indian Division had attacked and repulsed the Japanese from Pattani towards Singora, seriously threatening the airfields there. And while the use of these airfields became less strategic thanks to the capture of Bangkok, they were very important to cover the troops who would push towards Malaya! Despite the reinforcement of IJA planes, these still came in at a pace deemed too slow for the Imperial Command, and the Commonwealth air forces still held the upper hand, despite the agility of the Ki-43 “Oscar” which often clashed with the P-39s, P-40s and Spitfires deployed in the area by the RAAF and RNZAF [3]. The Allied squadrons thus managed to "pick off" the IJA planes as they came in, forcing the Japanese to pour more and more forces into the endeavour. For the Japanese, Malaya would have to wait: it had bit off more than it could chew, and the priority was now to secure Thailand, and, most importantly, secure the airfields at Singora and Don Mueang.

The British command for its part was confident. It had lost only a few irrelevant localities in Burma (most notable of which was Mergui), and Malaya had not been attacked by land forces since the Kota Bharu debacle. As such, Alexander planned to use the 11th and 17th Indian Divisions to surge from their positions at Jitra and Pattani to attack northwards towards Singora and Trang, dislodging the Japanese from their positions and retaking the airfields. Codenamed Operation Matador, this push would be executed on December 21st, 1941. Admiral Tom Phillips was thus ordered to sally with his force in order to support the troops with a vigorous shelling of Japanese positions in the area.

Phillips, who wished to redeem himself for the mistake he made a week earlier, made every preparation he could, wish a vengeance. This time, if the Japanese came to him, he would be ready. These actions set in motion the events that would lead to the first battle over the horizon in history…





[1] OTL this unit was thrown into disarray when the order to stop fighting came through. With no such order here, they stand their ground.

[2] These submarines were the HMTS Matachanu and Sinsamut.

[3] The Ki-43 wasn’t extremely superior to the P-40 but since it was used in bigger numbers, it gained that reputation. With less Ki-43 in the air against more P-40s, it gains less of a “killer” reputation than OTL and will lead to Allied pilots learning to deal with it a lot faster than OTL.
 
Last edited:
It is also why several aircraft carriers were finished with larger capacities, at the cost of training, armor and other considerations.
With that in mind, does that adjust when Yamato sails for her first mission? I could honestly see the IJN going "Hmm... We need to destroy the enemy ships - send the old girl out" and cut to a few days later with Yamato hoving into view and taking on a number of targets at once
 
As stated in story, the Japanese set up airfields in the Paracels.
250 km SE of Hainan, and of no additional use in operations in the Gulf of Siam or off Malaysia.

I ask: how do the Japanese sail large invasion fleets over 2,000 km from Hainan to Malaya, the Kra Isthmus, and the Bight of Bangkok, in close proximity to unfriendly-neutral countries, without being detected? Bear in mind that at 12 knots, which would be fast for a convoy, the voyage would take 90 hours (as compared to less than 24 hours from Indo-China).

thailand.jpg

Assuming landings at daybreak, the sections in yellow would be traversed in broad daylight. Also note that the northernmost landing force has an extra 500 km to go and has to sail a day ahead of the others. These waters are not empty ocean, like the North Pacific, they're busy with merchant shipping; and there are aircraft crossing as well.

The French even have at least 100 aircraft in Indo-China, which would be patrolling there. There would be US planes out of the Philippines and British planes out of Malaya and Borneo.

How do the Japanese expect to reinforce and supply these invasions across such a long stretch of waters that will immediately become exposed to enemy attack? Yes, they could transfer additional troops from Manchuria, but where do they get the shipping?

Even the Japanese were never this foolish (except perhaps in the last months of the war, when they were literally suicidal), nor were the Allies so incompetent that the Japanese could execute such a plan even as far as the landings.
TTL Shoho can take 50 aircraft as a reflection of this change, though it is once again, extremely inefficient.
Shoho displaced 11,000 tons. No one could operate 50 aircraft on an 11,000 ton hull. And no, the hull was already built (as a sub tender) before conversion to a carrier, so that can't be changed.

I've followed this TL very closely up till now. It 's been a lot of fun, and the premise is really novel and interesting. There have been improbabilities, but nothing that couldn't be overlooked. But when flat-out impossibilities appear, then it's over for me.
 
Fixed implausibilities to accommodate the timeline.
Tourane's airfields now fall on the first day, and the Japanese raid Tan-Son-Nhut to the point that French air forces are seriously weakened in southern Vietnam.
Bad weather makes reports on IJN presence in the area inaccurate.
Made Indomitable not be operational and Dixmude be forgotten in Singapore to lend credence to the fact that Phillips does not wish to engage Kondo with his own force.
Thai Pearl Harbor moved to later (still with Navy aircraft).
Shoho capacity reduced to 35 aircraft.
Japanese intelligence managed to turn a significant number of Thai forces in advance.

Will change more if it is still too unrealistic, or outright delete the last chapter depending on the overall thoughts on it.

I'll let the readers decide.
 
Last edited:
I put up a poll for the issue of the latest chapter.
I'll take the results 24 hours from now.

If people vote for option 2, please give out changes that could be possible to fit the timeline.

Thanks.
 
I quite liked it as it stands to be honest. Whilst 35 aircraft for Shoho sounds right for standard operations, I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese ITTL did the standard carrier doctrine of carrying a few others in order to replace losses - I could easily see them getting an extra five or six in there with a bit of careful packing or even, as was the case for real, hanging them off the hanger ceiling
 
Yes but explaining is simple. Planes at the ends of their patrol lines/already on return leg away from fleet with some bad weather/regular cloud cover. Submarines at the other ends of their patrol boxes/lines and submerged in daylight with poor sonar conditions or even being told our fleet will be passing through the area and wanted to make sure you are aware and away from them so you are off station. At night no planes with ASV in the area coupled with the submarines on the surface in weather or again having fleet units in area so out of position to see or detect the IJN. Worse things than that happened, look how long it took before they knew the Bismark was out and they were watching it.
 
Fixed implausibilities to accommodate the timeline.
Tourane's airfields now fall on the first day, and the Japanese raid Tan-Son-Nhut to the point that French air forces are seriously weakened in southern Vietnam.
Bad weather makes reports on IJN presence in the area inaccurate.
It's still not plausible. The Japanese cannot count on bad weather screening all their operations for 3 1/2 days. Unless there is bad weather over the entire region, in which case...
Some soldier once said: "The weather is always neutral." Nothing could be more untrue. Bad weather is obviously the enemy of the side that seeks to launch projects requiring good weather, or of the side possessing great assets, such as strong air forces, which depend upon good weather for effective operations. If really bad weather should endure permanently, the Nazi would need nothing else to defend the Normandy coast! -- Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe.
Japanese intelligence managed to turn a significant number of Thai forces in advance.
Even then... This scenario has Japan launching an amphibious invasion of a nation, over 2,000 km from their nearest base. Nobody in history ever tried this. US operations in the Pacific were against island garrisons, and supported by huge carrier fleets. One wight compare this to TORCH, where the Allies expected immediate French defections led by pro-Allied generals, but heavy fighting continued until the Darlan deal.
Will change more if it is still too unrealistic, or outright delete the last chapter depending on the overall thoughts on it.

I'll let the readers decide.
My suggestion, which unfortunately requires major retconning, is that Phibun remains in power in Thailand. He and his faction would like to try it on with France over Indo-China, but don't dare to ITTL, because that would be explicitly joining the Axis while surrounded by Allied countries.

The Allies make this clear in a heavy-handed way. Also, the Allies get the idea (probably mistaken, Idunno) that the Thai court is pro-Japanese and get caught backing the Thai republican movement, giving further offense. Thailand explicitly allies with Japan, and allows Japan to station forces there. The Allies don't like this, but can't do anything unless they go to war against a neutral - which would alienate the US.

When the balloon goes up, there are enough Japanese forces in Thailand to insure that "minor nation" Thailand can "strike back", i.e. participate effectively in the war in a more important way.

Also: AIUI, this TL is not intended as an Allies-wank. With the much stronger position of the Allies in SE Asia ITTL, putting Thailand in the Axis fully gives the Axis a chance in this theater.

This is extremely presumptuous from someone who's never done a full TL. (I've written out a few one-post extended scenarios, but that's all.) But seeing this TL go off the rails like this after 37 brilliant chapters gooses the engineer in me to want to fix it.
 
My suggestion, which unfortunately requires major retconning, is that Phibun remains in power in Thailand. He and his faction would like to try it on with France over Indo-China, but don't dare to ITTL, because that would be explicitly joining the Axis while surrounded by Allied countries.
The majority of readers seem to wish the chapter to stand. But the perfectionist in me is still annoyed.

So I'll follow what the majority wants, but I'll still modify the chapter. This time I made so that there is a coup within the Thai army before the Japanese arrive, allowing the Japanese to secure Don Mueang airfield even before the first units land. The chaos and confusion of the fight along with the capital being in Japanese-friendly hands, along with friendly air support from Don Mueang means that the Japanese are confident enough in taking the gamble since they assume that if they coup the government, Thailand will immediately fall.
The coup is only partially successful, but it means that the Japanese face little opposition and gain immediate air support prior to the landings, which means they go through.
The chapter overall isn't too affected, the rest of the story shouldn't either, and plausibility isn't as bad as before where I admit, it was being a bit too much to swallow.

Also, Philippines chapter coming tonight or tomorrow.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 41: South-East Asian Campaign – Part III: Moment of Truth (December 1941 – Philippines)
Chapter 41

Philippines Campaign

December 1941

VLmJlm4.png



Despite Asiatic Fleet HQ knowing about the Pearl Harbor attack early, between confirmations and counter-confirmations, General Douglas McArthur would only be informed of the state of war between the United States and Japan at 03:40 AM on December 8th. Immediately, General Lewis H. Brereton (Far East Air Force) requested a strike against the airfields in Formosa, but was rebuffed by General Richard K. Sutherland (McArthur’s chief of staff). Once more, at 06:15 AM, Brereton begged Sutherland to attack Formosa as news of an attack on Davao airfield came, but Sutherland rejected this once again, angrily telling him to await orders.

Brereton then got two calls at 08:00 and 08:30 AM. The first from General Henry H. Arnold, in Washington, to tell him to not get caught with his pants down, and the second from his French counterpart in Tourane, who informed him that they had just been attacked by a large Japanese force. General Brereton, now sure that a threat was coming, ordered all units on full alert. He made every B-17 take-off, ready to carry out the raid, or withdraw to Mindanao. Once more, Brereton asked Sutherland for authorization for a raid, and once more, he was refused.

At 09:25 AM, when Japanese bombers attacked USAFFE headquarters at Baguio, as well as two other deserted airfields, Sutherland refused to budge. Sensing disaster, Brereton still put all units on full alert, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. In the meantime, he landed all the B-17s, and refuelled them, getting ready for them to take off in the other direction.

Finally, at 10:14 AM, McArthur authorized Brereton to conduct an air strike on Formosa, but by now it was too late. About a hundred fighters had taken off from Formosa and were zoning in on Clark Air Field, where Brereton’s force was located. At 11:30 AM, Iba Field detected the oncoming wave, prompting USAFFE to jump into action. All available fighters took to the air, including the old P-26s, while the B-17s were ordered straight to Mindanao. Having gotten the full details of the strike on Tourane, Brereton did not want to risk his planes being hit on the ground while they were being armed [1].

Brereton was right to do so. When his fighters encountered the curtain of enemy aircraft, it was to see that almost 80 A6M “Zero” were heading straight towards them. Over 40 P-40s were shot down, alongside 16 P-35s and all 12 P-26s. But the Japanese strike wasn’t clean: twenty-two “Zeros” were shot down, including one downed by a particularly brave P-26 of the Philippine Army Air Corps which was immediately destroyed afterwards [2]. As for the bomber force, it could carry out its strike on the Clarke and Iba fields unmolested, with the loss of only four G4M “Betty”. Luckily, because of Brereton’s quick thinking, most B-17s had managed to leave towards Mindanao (only four were destroyed on the ground), but the damage to Clark field was extensive, and Iba field was totally put out of action. As a result, and with a heavy heart, Brereton ordered the last fighters to evacuate to Batangas or the Visayas, stating to McArthur that it was either this or have them be destroyed in another inevitable upcoming raid.

But the Japanese were not done. Another raid struck the Cavite Peninsula, dealing heavy damage to the Naval Base and forcing Admiral Thomas C. Hart to concede that – in effect – Cavite had ceased to operate as a naval base. Luckily, only one submarine was damaged, which was a small miracle. Hart ordered the submarines currently at sea to make for Cam Ranh at the end of their patrol, an order which would soon be changed to Batavia or Singapore. The heavy units for their part would continue to operate from there up until December 22nd.

More air raids came during the following days, with the airfields being cratered one after the other, each time with the USAAF not being able to do much about it. But they were learning. Less and less pilots tried to dogfight the “Zero” with their P-40s, instead opting just for a frontal pass, denying a combat that would be doomed considering the superior maneuverability of the “Zero”. Moreover, each casualty they dealt the IJA was felt dearly by the Japanese, who still had yet to properly attack Malaya, Burma or the Dutch East Indies.

On December 10th, the Japanese finally started landing, around Aparri, in Northern Luzon. And while the U.S air forces could do little about it, it was not the case for the U.S. Navy. DesDiv 58, under Lt.Cdr. Miller, sailed in the night to try and catch the transports unaware. Their gamble paid off as the destroyers on guard did not expect the U.S Navy to be so bold, and swiftly, three transports had been sunk! Unfortunately, these transports had time to call for help: namely that of the cruiser Nagara and its escort.

In the early morning of December 11th, almost twenty-four hours before the French, the U.S were struck with the power of the Long Lances. The cruiser Marblehead was fatally hit, with the destroyers Parrott and Bulmer following it at the bottom of the ocean. The survivors, the destroyers Barker and Stewart, rendezvoused with the heavy cruiser Houston and the light cruiser Concord off Mindoro and made haste towards Miri, in Borneo, where the modern units of the Asiatic Fleet were concentrating before withdrawing towards Batavia. Pearl Harbor had promised reinforcements in the form of an extra Destroyer Division and a cruiser, for the moment.

The raid of DesDiv 58 did delay the Japanese landing slightly, as it contained much of the heavy equipment of the divisions, and it was not until December 12th that Japanese forces took Tuguegarao airfield, which was completely cratered by Japanese bombs, and empty of any aircraft. That same day, Japanese forces landed at Vigan and Legazpi, prompting the U.S command in the Philippines to start concentrating to defend Manila, in a set of defence lines south of Rosario and in front of the Philippine capital. McArthur also requested from the Navy in Pearl that aircraft carriers come to reinforce his depleted air squadrons, which was of course denied.

On December 20th, the Japanese landed on Mindanao, but this time, the Americans struck back with vigor! The submarines patrolling in the area claimed three transports, and then a heavily escorted formation of B-17s came to strike at the unloaded troops! Shocked, they requested air support, but it was too late: the damage had been done and the unloaded troops had been seriously hit. As a result, they could hardly do more than hold on to their territory and hope for reinforcements [3].

In fact, Mindanao wasn’t where things would be decided. Up north, another Japanese force made landfall in Lingayen Gulf, where they were once more struck by the U.S Navy! Two more transports were sunk alongside the seaplane carrier Chiyoda, struck by the USS Snapper. The British HMS Osiris would also claim the seaplane carrier Mizuho, prompting Kondo to retreat from Lingayen Gulf quite quickly! In fact, this was due to the submarine threat, but also to the fact that the landings had been completed in relatively good order, and the fact that the Army (decidedly useless) was being shelled and beaten back in Thailand! Kondo thus steamed south to meet Force “Z” in the Christmas Day battles…

McArthur hardly cared about Kondo's fleet. He only saw that a large number of Japanese forces had been landed on Luzon (the failure of the Mindanao landings notwithstanding), and had to order the evacuation of Manila on December 23rd, after a probing attack by a lightly armored American force failed to dislodge the Japanese from their landing grounds. What’s more, Hart had told him that the U.S Navy was completely evacuating Cavite, which was now the target of almost daily bombings by the IJA and IJN. Most of the heavy units had in fact already joined Batavia, safe for a few old destroyers, but this still enraged McArthur, who couldn’t do much about it regardless. On December 26th, while Tom Phillips and Régis Bérenger were fighting a battle of gargantuan proportions just south, admiral Thomas C. Hart quietly boarded a submarine and left towards Singapore, after a short stop at Palawan to let the storm pass…

McArthur, after seeing the result of the Christmas Day battles, was fuming. “God strike me down if I run away, tail between my legs, while our Allies are fighting and dying out there, like that fool Hart did!” he exclaimed to Sutherland, his chief of staff [4]. McArthur would honor that promise. But while McArthur ranted, his forces were being pushed back both in the south and the north. Brave, but poorly trained and equipped, General Wainwright’s Filipinos put up a strong fight, but one doomed to failure. Manila was swiftly declared an open city, and the retreat was sounded all the way to the Bataan peninsula, where McArthur was confident he would hold.

On December 29th, a sally by the American armored brigades at Malolos, to cover for the retreating units from South Luzon, finally gave some reason to be optimistic. The M3 light tanks entered the town and encountered enemy armored vehicles. These were Ha-Go tanks of the Japanese 16th Infantry Division, and they did not last long. Sixteen of them were knocked out or destroyed, for no losses on the American side, while the U.S-Filipino forces could safely withdraw towards San Fernando! A small success, but one that was dearly needed by the Americans. Just like the French at Quang Ngai and An Khe, or the British at Pattani, the Americans had discovered that the Japanese tanks were hardly a match for their own vehicles...

The Japanese of General Homma vowed revenge. In fact, they considered that victory was now assuredly theirs: the Americans had just boxed themselves in the Bataan Peninsula. 80,000 troops (the vast majority of which were Filipino) which were now trapped like rats. All they needed to do was clean them out, or starve them out. The Japanese were far from thinking that these “trapped rats” were about to write one of the most magnificent pages in both U.S and Filipino army history.



[1] OTL the B-17s were caught unaware on the ground, and mostly wiped out. Because Brereton gets detailed information on the number of Japanese fighters in the Tourane strike, he stops the arming of the bombs and orders the bombers to Mindanao to avoid a slaughter.

[2] With more fighters in the air, FEAF puts more of a fight but is no less decimated by weight of numbers.

[3] With the Clark raid not going as well as OTL, the B-17s can mount a solid response to the Mindanao landings which are effectively neutered.

[4] McArthur didn't use the word "fool" but a slightly more pejorative term.
 
Top