Domino Dawn – Japan Invades Thailand 1941

Oct 22nd, 2007 | By | Category: Southeast Asia

Domino Dawn

The Battle of Prachuap Khiri Khan, 8-9 December 1941

The Battle of Prachuap Khirikan Airfield was a key engagement of the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II.  It was fought from December 8th to 9th 1941, at the airfield of Prachuap Khirikan in Thailand, on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand along the Isthmus of Kra.  It saw the loss of Thailand, and the opening of the Malay Peninsula to the Japanese, who intended using Thailand as a base to strike at British possessions in Burma and Malaya, having attacked Thailand without warning.

During the battle, the Thai’s surrendered to the Japanese, but confusion and distrust continued this fight for some hours after the armistice. From this one battle, a skirmish by European or North African standards, the first of the SE Asian dominoes fell, in a campaign that could have been stopped before it started.

The effects on the greater war? Thai Prime Minister Phibulsongkhram is a wild card in this battle – his conflicting tendencies in late 1941 could have swung Bangkok in either direction – either capitulating (as he did) to the Japanese, or digging in and appealing to the Allies for help. The entire battle / mini-campaign could be fought on either basis. The British Empire garrison at Singapore was a day’s train ride away. Bangkok only 6 to 8 hours by train, and the Thai equivalent of Salisbury Plain, only 12 hours away scattered between Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and Singburi.

Would Singapore have fallen had Thailand held out? How would the rest of the SE Asian campaign have progressed, if Thailand had refused to surrender? Could Thailand have given the British Empire Forces in Mandalay, Rangoon, and Singapore, the Anzac divisions in transit from North Africa, as well as the Indian and Sikh Corps in Eastern and North-eastern India, time to push eastwards and repel the Japanese? There were effective British and volunteer air squadrons in Rangoon (including the legendary Flying Tigers) – under a 90-minute flight away – was any call made to them for assistance? What of the free-Chinese forces in southwest China, centred on Kunming?

Well, those are questions for you to mount your own larger-scale campaigns.

Order a back copy of Miniature Wargames to read the full article.

by Garry Harbottle-Johnson

Published in Miniature Wargames No. 299, March 2008
The article, as published, is a 5-page feature with photography by Richard Ellis

 

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2 comments
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  1. The Thais had a Partisan movement during occupation.

  2. Got any details Joewl – or any book titles covering the topic?

    Gaz

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