February 2, 1942 – Radio Tokyo – Radio Australia – Newscasts – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
February 2, 1942 – Same day, same news, conflicting reports. Singapore was close to capitulation as Radio Tokyo reported increasing and continuous gunfire erupting from the streets in and around Singapore. Refugees were swarming into Batavia and Rangoon was undergoing almost constant bombardment.
According to Tokyo, the Allies were suffering crippling losses and it was only a matter of time before Singapore would be completely occupied by Japanese forces.
Not quite so, according to Radio Australia, whose troops were holding their ground and vowing not to give up. Both sides reported losses of each others shipping as well as numbers of downed planes. Air attacks on Singapore would intensify over the next five days. The artillery and air bombardment strengthened, severely disrupting communications between Commonwealth units and their commanders and affecting preparations for the defense of the island.
The Japanese, led by General Shojiro Iida, had a straightforward plan to first seize Rangoon, Mandalay, and then the oilfields at Yenangyaung. In mid-January 1942, two divisions of Japan’s 15th Army had crossed from Thailand into Burma hoping to capture Rangoon before the British could land reinforcements. The Japanese began their campaign against Rangoon with a series of ‘softening-up’ air raids. Initially, these air raids proved to be incredibly deadly with nearly 1,250 killed in the first raid. This was primarily because there were no civil defense or air-raid precautions. But, by the third raid, the casualties were down to 60 killed and 40 wounded. Opposing the Japanese invasion was the recently arrived 17th Indian Division commanded by Major General Sir John G. “Jackie” Smyth. The British opted for a defensive strategy against the Japanese invasion because they were confident that they would be able to stop the Japanese as they approached Rangoon by utilizing the three rivers that barred the way to the capital. However, the Japanese pushed on past the Salween, Bilin, and lastly the Sittang. Over two days, February 22-23, the British-Indian brigades in Burma were crushed in the Battle of the Sittang Bridge. This defeat was described by Wavell as having “ really sealed the fate of Rangoon and lower Burma.”
Here are two news reports; one from Japan and one from Australia, both given on February 2, 1942.
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