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Subject: Postcards From The Edge 6. The Empire Strikes Back rss

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Simon Nicholls
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Apologies for the break in transmissions. Has been a little busy at work. Anyway, onward and downward ...

1. The Empire Strikes Back
November / December 1941

“In the end, our choices were quite simple. The US Ambassador had made it plain that an oil embargo would be placed within the month if we did not withdraw from China. This was not possible - if nothing else, Army High Command would have rebelled en masse. Admiral Yamamoto was positive that he could take all our objectives within four weeks of commencing hostilities. And, we were positive that the Americans would not stand by if we took Batavia by force ….”
Prime Minister Lojo, quoted in US magazine article 1952

“I am concerned that our Pacific and Indian Ocean territories are vulnerable to Japanese aggression. Currently, all our spare assets are committed to holding Suez and maintaining a foothold in North Africa. What can be done to reinforce the area if the worst should occur?”
Excerpt from memo, Nichill to War Office, Nov 2nd 1941

“Current reports indicate that the Japanese are preparing for a major offensive in Southern China. No indications have been received that they are preparing to move against our Pacific holdings and, indeed, their major fleet elements seem to be scattered through most of the South China Sea. We recommend no specific action in this area.”
Reply to Nichill from M. Megg, Co-ordinator, Military Intelligence Pacific, Nov 6th 1941

“Long range weather forecast favorable - proceed with operation Water-lily”
Message intercepted and decoded by US OSS, 1600hrs, 8th Nov 41 -interpreted as instructions for a military pageant to celebrate Lojo’s Birthday.

“First thing I knew of it was when I was blown out of my bunk by an explosion. Turned out it was a shell from a Jap cruiser that had pulled up to within a thousand yards of the shore and was just lobbing the bastards straight into the camp. The confusion was incredible - everyone running everywhere like headless chickens, turns out Mac was up inland on some sort of health cure for too much drink. By the time we could find anyone to give any orders, me and the lads had already got down to the pens and got the old Codfish fired up. Just as well - the Nips had taken Corregidor within an hour and one of the boats got caught at anchor. “
Interview in 1946 with CPO F Flintstone, USS Spearfish.

The noble forces of the Emperor have taken Manilla, Rabaul, Singapore, Tricomalee and Hong Kong. The Western running dogs have fled the seas.
Extract from report, Yamamoto’s headquarters to Imperial Army HQ, Tokyo

“Strewth! Pass me a stubbie.”
Reported comment by Prime Minister Foster of Australia when reports of Rockhampton landings reached Canberra


“Immediate action: 7th Motorised Corps to embark for Australia. All haste.”
Message, War Office to CinC Indian Ocean, Aden

“This day, long may it live in infamy, …”
President Simonsen, addressing congress, 10th Nov 1941

“Although we knew it was coming, the speed and ambition of it all took us by surprise. But I knew we needed to make the most of it - the British would be totally distracted and their immediate reserves would need to go to other theaters. I ordered Graziani to assault across the canal immediately, rather than wait for the promised German reinforcements. We caught them by surprise again! Of course, the gloss on this was somewhat tarnished by Balbo’s pathetic efforts in Morocco.”
Benito Laurencini, taped interview 1948

War with Japan! Unprovoked attack on Philippines! US Submarines sunk! US troops engaged in desperate defense of Corregidor! President orders mobilisation! More on pages 2 to 14! (Japan captures Malaya, NEI, New Britain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ceylon, lands in Australia - foot of page 16)
New York Times, Nov 11th, 1941

“Is this good news? Certainly the further weakening of the British can only help our cause, but what of the Americans? They have already overtly supported Nichill, surely they will soon join the English against us.”
Johanns, diary entry 14th Nov 41

“We didn’t really expect it - the winter issue kit had just arrived, we were all fitted out and then the weather just stayed perfect. We sat there in pools of sweat under blue skies waiting for the word to advance. I guess the Russians were just as warm though - especially when we moved forward.”
Hauptman Fritz Lang, Konigsberg Militia Regiment, Leningrad front
Diary, 16th Nov 1941

Have advanced East to outskirts of Tula. Will commence assault once sufficient troops have been brought forward.
Report from v Leeb, Commander Army Group North, 16th Nov 41

Leningrad has fallen! Wonderful news, have decided to award Knights Cross to Field Marshall Von Bock. Less good news from von Leeb - he has botched the assault on Tula. Have demoted him and promoted Rundstedt to command Army Group Centre.
Johanns Diary, 18th Nov 1941

Bad weather has made major advances impossible for the last three weeks. At the moment this does not matter - all the Russian forces between here and the Urals are concentrated near Moscow or pocketed near Smolensk. I am however worried about the reports of Russian reinforcements in the Caucus mountains - we had not expected any significant resistance there once Rostov had fallen.
Report from Manstiens headquarters to OKW, 6th Dec 41

“I was sitting with Major General Bratwurst in the command post, just talking you know, and I said something like - I bet there isn’t a single Russki between us and the Volga. He looked up and asked me what I would bet, I laughed and said a bottle of Cognac. Next thing I know, the entire Division is formed up and heading out and two weeks later we were in Stalingrad. I remember the face of one Commissar, came running out into the road in front of my half track screaming something and waving a gun. Gunther blew his brains out for him, but our translator couldn’t stop laughing - seems the poor fool thought we were Russian and was going to arrest us for desertion. Anyhow, the General won his bet.”
Major Sepp Blatter, 8th SS Motorised Division, interviewed in 1952

“We had no idea where we were going - one moment we’re in Honolulu, next moment it’s pack up and ship out. Next thing we know, we’re sailing into Brisbane harbour. Eight weeks at sea, no foolin’. Guess they took the long way round. Anyhow, by the time we got there, word was that the Japs were only forty miles North. We marched straight out and dug in North of the city, but we never saw nothing of the Japs - guess they didn’t want to mess with the US army.”
Unnamed US private, interviewed by local Brisbane paper in late 43

“Having taken their initial objectives, all the indications are that the Japanese will concentrate on Australia. Recommend immediate re-inforcement”
CMIP M Megg, 22 Dec 41, memo to War Office

“Have made landing on Indian mainland and seized port facilities at Pondicherry. The conquest of India has begun.”
Colonel Satsuma, 2nd Imperial Marine Division, 24th Dec 41

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Matt Ward
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Great stuff, thanks!
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Andrew Pleass
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excellent AAR please keep posting
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