The Forgotten Attack

The Pearl Harbor attack has become such a symbol of the war in the Pacific that we often forget about the other attacks Japan launched simultaneously against America, Great Britain, the Philippines, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and other nations, all across the western Pacific. To those who survived them, the attacks were as devastating as that at Pearl Harbor, and only a prologue to the terrors Americans would face when the Japanese stormed ashore a few days later.

What people in Hawaii feared the most actually happened in the Philippines, on Wake and Guam, and in Hong Kong: Japanese paratroopers and infantrymen landed and quickly overran the meager American, Philippine, English, and Chinese forces.

Just after dawn on that day (because of the international date line, it was Monday, December 8, from the Philippines west) the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, first with planes that knocked out the tiny air force of three torpedo bombers and two amphibians. Then troops stationed across the border in China marched into the British territory and quickly conquered it.

On Formosa, which Japan had held since taking it from China in 1895, the bomber and fighter pilots were supposed to take off for the Philippines at sunrise in order to gain as much of a surprise as possible, although they must have known news of the Pearl Harbor attack would have reached the Philippines before dawn. However, Formosa was fogged in and the attack force had to sit on the field all morning, waiting for the fog to burn off.


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The Day the War Began


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