Updated:
Original:
Year
1942

Singapore falls to Japan

Singapore, the “Gibraltar of the East” and a strategic British stronghold, falls to Japanese forces.

An island city and the capital of the Straits Settlement of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore had been a British colony since the 19th century. In July 1941, when Japanese troops occupied French Indochina, the Japanese telegraphed their intentions to transfer Singapore from the British to its own burgeoning empire. Sure enough, on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack, 24,000 Japanese troops were transported from Indochina to the Malay Peninsula, and Japanese fighter pilots attacked Singapore, killing 61 civilians from the air.

The battle between Japanese and British forces on the Malay Peninsula continued throughout December and January, killing hundreds more civilians in the process. The British were forced to abandon and evacuate many of their positions, including Port Swettenham and Kuala Lumpur.

On February 8, 5,000 Japanese troops landed on Singapore Island. The British were both outmanned and outgunned. Pro-Japanese propaganda leaflets were dropped on the islands, encouraging surrender. On February 13, Singapore’s 15-inch coastal guns–the island’s main defensive weapons–were destroyed. Tactical miscalculations on the part of British Gen. Arthur Percival and poor communication between military and civilian authorities exacerbated the deteriorating British defense. Represented by General Percival and senior Allied officers, Singapore surrendered to Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita in front of Japanese newsreel cameras. Sixty-two thousand Allied soldiers were taken prisoner; more than half eventually died as prisoners of war.

With the surrender of Singapore, Britain lost its foothold in the East. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill attempted to prop up morale by urging Brits “to display the calm and poise, combined with grim determination, which not so long ago brought us out of the very jaws of death.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

U.S. figure skating team killed in plane crash

On this day in 1961, the entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team is killed in a plane crash in Berg-Kampenhout, Belgium. The team was on its way to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Among those killed in the crash was 16-year-old Laurence ...read more

Canada adopts maple leaf flag

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. ...read more

First Teddy bear goes on sale

On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before ...read more

FDR escapes assassination in Miami

On this day in 1933, a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara shouts Too many people are starving! and fires a gun at America’s president-elect, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami’s Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open ...read more

The death penalty–then and now

Giuseppe Zangara shoots Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, in Miami, Florida. Zangara’s shots missed President-elect Franklin Roosevelt, who was with Cermak at the time. Cermak was seriously wounded and died on March 6. Immediately after Mayor Cermak died from the gunshot ...read more

USSR and PRC sign mutual defense treaty

The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, the two largest communist nations in the world, announce the signing of a mutual defense and assistance treaty. The negotiations for the treaty were conducted in Moscow between PRC leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou En-lai, and ...read more