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Sumatra: Singapore's life line

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Lost Watchdog, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. Lost Watchdog

    Lost Watchdog Member

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    What if the British/Commonwealth forces stopped the Japanese in Johore and then made Sumatra the key to keeping Malaya/Singapore supplied?
    Let me expand. The Australians defeat the Japanese at Muar River in mid-January 1942, aided by tanks diverted from a Russian convoy and some Italian ones captured in North Africa. After about two weeks of heavy fighting Japanese logistics collapse and they dig in.
    Meanwhile, Churchill, under Australian Government pressure, sacks Pervical and appoints a "fighting general" who organises strong defensive measures. The key to this would be keeping Sumatra in Allied hands to allow resupppy and aircover for southern Malaya. To this end, an Australian division from the Middle East is sent to northern Sumatra, the rest of the British 18th Division to the south to protect the Palembang airfields. The Pensacola convoy is also diverted to southern Sumatra.
    In response, the Japanese shift their attack to East Java. As that front collapses the remaining Dutch air,sea and land forces also retreat to Sumatra.
    Unlike Bataan, the Allied forces in the area would be big enough and possess enough offensive capacity that Japan could not ignore them.

    So the big questions for you guys are
    1/ How long could Sumatra/southern Malaya hold out?
    2/Would it affect the battle for Burma?
    3/ Would the South-West Pacific become a backwater?
     
  2. Lost Watchdog

    Lost Watchdog Member

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    Ignore me while I talk to myself :( - With British, Australian, Dutch efforts now concentrated in Sumatra/southern Malaya and only holding forces (Australian and NZ) in the SW Pacific, MacArthur realises the main US effort in the war with Japan will be across the central Pacific, a job for the Navy. With no big armies waiting in Australia for him to lead he decides to stay on Corregidor, wilfully exposes himself to danger until a Japanese bomb gets him.
     
  3. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I'll keep you company a while.....firstly.....did Churchill ever sack anyone because he was pressured into doing so from another authority? He sacked many, but of his own violition.

    With the factual evidence we know of Churchill and his dealings with the Australian govt, he was never in the mood to be told anything by that govt. Apart from succumbing to the return of Australian troops and bypassing Burma on their way home which aggravated him to the core....He certainly would not sack one of his generals under pressure from an Australian govt.
     
  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Who would this FIGHTING GENERAL be that you have replace Percival? Would he be Australian? The concensus being from the Australian permanant cadre in Aussie at the time of the Army appointment of commander of their earlier expiditionary force was not the right man in the first place anyway....So who gets Singapore? Gordon Bennet?

    Percival was many things and made many mistakes but the fall of Singapore cannot be placed on his doorstep entirely. Replacing him with a FIGHTING GENERAL would not have made up for years of administrative and strategic neglect.

    Singapore needed much more than a commander replacement.

    The strategic plans for Singapores defence dating back many years involve the exact number of sqns required, in ration to army divisons and naval support. These were constantly downsized even at the late stage of Percivals appointment and his own horror at seeing the figures. To some extent this had to be accepted. There was a war on in Europe and a choice had to be made....Give Singapore the means requested in so many reports before the war on the chance Japan would indeed attack or fight the war we actually did have in Europe and Middle East. It was not that hard a choice in the end. It unfortunately was the right choice under the circumstances of the time.

    However, that doesnt negate the loss of Singapore...I just dont see how it could ever have been held under these circumstances at the time. A better fight made certainly, but the end result was never in doubt once the Japanese knocked on the door.
    It was always going to fall down.
     
  5. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I agree.

    Singapore might have been saved, but it would have taken a lot of shuffling of forces and material, and some (likely unacceptable) sacrifices elsewhere in the British empire. Singapore was written off long before the Japanese landed in Malaya; the only difference between Singapore and Manila was the US leadership was more or less honest about writing off Manila. But then, it could afford to be because it wasn't trying to get the Philippines to send troops to fight for the US.

    Churchill, according to David Day, in "The Great Betrayal" had even gone so far as to write Australia off, if it came to that. It was fortunate for Australia that the government stood up to Churchill on the issue of bringing the regular Australian divisions home, at least to the extent that the US eventually offered to send some US troops for garrison duty in Oz.
     
  6. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I'd agree with that Devil, but take issue with David Day..I'll have to get a copy of that now, I'll admit I haven't read it.

    I keep quoting from Chruchills own 6 volumes, but I believe he reports his feelings at the time in a basically honest way. LOTS left out for various reasons I know. But I seem to remember in his own words, and I have to say I believe his words on this, that he had a meeting with the Cabinet at time of Burma crisis and convoy about to sail past with Aussie troops bound for Australia, and the agruments raging at the time between himself and Aussie Primeminister..quoted in appendix in full I believe...and even getting FDR, to push Aussies on release of these troops for Burma action, that he stated to cabinet, of course not withstanding these arguments if Australia is every threatened with invasion by Japan, then Australia will be our first priority, and all other operations and theatres will have to bear the brunt to go to her aid.

    I'm not sure of exact wording, but I will dig it out.

    Of course depends if you believe Churchills own words.
     
  7. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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  8. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Well, of course, it all depends on who you believe.

    I don't happen to believe Churchill on this particular issue considering the reality and context of what was occurring at that particular time. I have seen too many examples of issues where Churchill's version of events is at variance with more reliable observers.

    Yes, Churchill really didn't want the Japanese in control of Australia, and yes, he did ask Roosevelt to provide American troops (which were forthcoming) to garrison Oz, but when it came right down to the matter, I believe that Churchill would have given up on Australia, as he did on Singapore, rather than endanger British interests in the Atlantic, the Med, or India. Had the Japanese been able to mount an invasion of Australia, I just can't see Churchill diverting more than token resources from Europe.

    If I recall correctly, though it's been some time since I've read Day, he quotes Churchill to the effect that, of course, it would be necessary to mount a BRITISH (as opposed to American) offensive to reconquer Australia once the the Germans were sorted out in Europe. Churchill was assuming the Japanese would be successful in their invasion of Australia.
     
  9. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Agreed, depends on your belief in the writer and whether it is backed up relieably. In Churchills case, the fact he said whatever he said is written down in cabinet minutes and copies of telegrams sent between himself and successice Aussie prime ministers are available to view.

    Not withstanding that. Even if he wished it to be the case that the Mother country rode with all possible aid to the Pacific kinsmen, then you have to look at the logistitcs and timescales too....Britain certainly could not have prevented a Japanese attack or invasion with the speed Japan was mounting operations. When Churchill discussed these things it was more likely to be what he would have liked to do rather than what was or could be possible.

    He contradicts himself quite a few times on many things, and this issue and problem is no different.

    One little eye opener I had not seen before or had moved past without interest I have just dug out, is the fact on what he in 1941 early months, considered was a substantial invasion force that would trigger Britains all out help, this was to be a force of 8 Japanese divisons landing in Australia. So 7 would have been alright and we would come a little slower...

    Sorry, youve just got me engrossed in volume 3 of his memoirs and the Burma Aussie, Singapore stuff is engrossing.

    Especially the acrimony between himself and Aussie leaders and their critisism of the home country. He never seems to lose his temper on paper, but reading between the lines I can bet he was in much more fowl moods than he lets on.

    My own view, is if Aussi got invaded by Japanese, there is not much the Brits could do to help in the short term which is why the Aussies quite publicly expressed their wish to tie their banner to the USA. Chruchill was just angry to discover this in the Melbourne Herald rather than in his almost daily telegrams to Prime Minister of Australia...Britain and Aussies went thru some sour relationships in those days, and much is written on the Aussie troop movements and demands in desert force in Tobruk days that he brings into the words battle.

    One thing I gained though..was Auchinlek offering to resign due to his belief in no confidence from Aussie command. Churchill got rid of him for his own reasons much later, but would not hear of any pressure to relieve a commander in the height of battle or battle planning. And basically told Aussies to take a running jump...my words not his.

    So for the benefit of this what if...Percival will never be removed....Churchill wont hear of it there is no precedence and in fact proof to the contary when it was required elswhere by Australa.
     
  10. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Duplicate, sorry, browser window keeps buggering me up .
     
  11. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    What you write seems reasonable to me.

    There is no doubt that Churchill did not personally like the Australians and the sentiment was cordially returned. But Churchill really needed the Aussies, if only for manpower, and the Australians had their own reasons for wanting to maintain at least marginally good relations with Britain and the Commonwealth.

    I think you are absolutely correct when you say that Churchill would never cashier anyone under pressure from the Aussies, even if he hated the man worse than the Devil. He would wait for some time and find some way to get rid of the officer in question that would make it appear he was being promoted. The only way Australia could dictate the choice of a theater commander to Churchill would be if the overwhelming majority of troops in theater were Australian.

    And yes, despite what Churchill might have said about coming to the aid of Australia in case of Japanese invasion, there wasn't much that he could have done had it eventuated. I really doubt There would have been much British aid whether there were 7 Japanese divisions or 17. Churchill just didn't have the forces to spare.

    The real problem between Churchill and the Australians was that their interests were diverging even as they went to war together, and Churchill could neither understand nor accept that. The Australians didn't feel as threatened by Hitler and the Nazis as Britain obviously was, and didn't want to commit the same resources. The same thing happened between the US and Britain to a much larger degree and led to friction between the two allies at almost every turn.
     

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