Japanese occupation of Singapore

Japanese occupation of Singapore

The Japanese occupation of Singapore was the period in the history of Singapore between 1942 and 1945, when Japanese forces occupied Singapore during World War II, after having defeated the combined Australian, British, Indian and Malayan garrison in the Battle of Singapore. The occupation was to become a major turning point in the history of several nations, including that of Japan, the United Kingdom, and the then colony of Singapore itself. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 "Shōnan-tō", "Island of the Light of the South" in Japanese) by the Japanese.

The Japanese, who sought to gain control of Southeast Asia in World War II, had conquered the Malay Peninsula in the Battle of Malaya with the main intent of occupying Singapore to gain greater control over her war-time resource gathering efforts, as it was a strategic port and the linchpin of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM). The Japanese took all of Malaya in under a month; the garrison defending Singapore surrendered only a week after the invasion of Singapore commenced. British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill called the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history."

Life during the occupation

The Japanese occupation is generally regarded by Singaporeans as the darkest period of Singaporean history. The Japanese had claimed that they were liberating Southeast Asia from colonialism, but in reality they were far harsher rulers than the British ever were. In addition to civilian casualties, numerous atrocities were committed by Japanese troops, particularly by the "Kempeitai", the Japanese military's secret police; the Japanese military used rape and comfort women (women forced into sexual slavery). For instance, the Sook Ching Massacre of ethnic Chinese, including civilians who had donated to charities to aid the war effort in China, claimed between 25,000 and 50,000 lives in Malaya and Singapore.

The "Kempetai" were the Japanese police. Commoners were made to bow to them as they passed, if not, they would be punished by kicking, hitting, and so on.Fact|date=April 2008

The Japanese, to 'purify' the commoners and not have 'unloyals' going against them, introduced a system called Sook Ching (translated purge through purification). There were secret informers all over the island. When asked by the Japanese to select and 'accuse', they would simply point to anyone. These people were rounded up and taken to a deserted place to be shot, bayoneted, etc.

The local people lived in fear at that time because they did not know who worked for the Japanese and who did not. This caused distrust of the people. People no longer knew who to trust, as the secret informers were well paid and they had a high chance of not being rounded up for shooting.

Resources were scarce during the Occupation. The price of rice, for example, had increased a thousandfold from five dollars per 100 catties of rice, or about 60 kilograms, to five thousand dollars. The Japanese issued ration cards to control the amount of resources the population received: adults could purchase 4.8 kg of rice per month, and children 2.4 kg. The amount allowed for adults was reduced by 25% as the war progressed. [cite web | url = http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/war/ref/japocc.html | title = Japanese Occupation | publisher = AsiaOne|accessdate = 2006-05-01 ] The Japanese issued banana money as their main currency, giving them further control over the economy as Straits currency became rare. In this sense, the Japanese instituted elements of a command economy in which there were restrictions on how much could be bought or sold, creating a popular black market. The "banana currency" started to suffer high inflation and dropped drastically in value because the authorities would simply print more whenever they needed more money; consequently the black market often used Straits currency.

Food quality and availability decreased greatly. Tapioca, sweet potatoes and yam became the staple food of most diets of the population of Singapore because it was considerably cheaper than rice and could also be grown in gardens. It was then turned into a variety of dishes, as both dessert, and all three meals of the day. The nutrients helped stave off starvation, and new ways of consuming tapioca with other produce were regularly invented in order to stave off the monotony. Both the British and Japanese authorities encouraged the population to grow their own food if they had even the smallest amount of land, the encouragement and produce were similar to what occurred with Victory Gardens in the Western nations during World War II. [cite web | url = http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/war/ref/hungry.html | title = Hungry years | publisher = AsiaOne | accessdate = 2006-05-01 ] "Ipomoea aquatica", which grew relatively easy and flourished relatively well near the water became a popular crop, as did other vegetables. It was not uncommon for bought food to be mixed with impurities or to be hard and difficult to eat, increasing the popularity of growing food at home.

During this time, the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) led by Subhash Chandra Bose was first set up in Singapore and it fought along with the Japanese during the Burma Campaign. [Bose, Romen, "A Will for freedom: Netaji and the Indian Independence Movement in Southeast Asia", V.J. Times, Singapore, 1993] . On October 21, 1943, the Provisional Government of Free India was also set up with its initial headquarters in Singapore.

Operations against the Japanese

: "Main article: Operation Jaywick, Operation Gustavus, Operation Rimau"

The Japanese occupation of Singapore did not run smoothly. On September 26, 1943, an Allied commando unit known as Force Z, led by Major Ivan Lyon, infiltrated Singapore harbour undetected and successfully sank seven Japanese ships, comprising over 39,000 tons.

Major Lyon led another operation against Japanese shipping almost a year later, codenamed Operation Rimau, sinking three ships. But Lyon and his men were discovered and after inflicting severe losses on the Japanese, he was killed, along with thirteen others. The other ten were captured and subsequently beheaded following a mock trial.

Another operation which took place before Operation Rimau was Operation Gustavus, led by Lim Bo Seng of Force 136, an anti-Japanese resistance fighter considered by Singaporeans today as a hero for resisting torture. Their mission was to set up an espionage network and gather military intelligence about the Japanese. This would allow the British to carefully plan Operation Zipper, an operation to liberate Malaya and Singapore. But Lim Bo Seng was betrayed by a fisherman named Chua Koon Eng, who revealed to the Japanese the location of the spies without even being tortured. Most of the men were captured, tortured and mistreated, and eventually Lim Bo Seng was killed. He never revealed any information of Force 136 while he was tortured.

No other operation took place in Singapore until Lord Louis Mountbatten ordered the British Army to retake Singapore, codenamed Operation Tiderace, after the Surrender of Japan. The commander of the Japanese 7th Area Army in Singapore, General Seishirō Itagaki, originally planned to resist the liberation fleet but surrendered without a fight.

End of the occupation

: "Main article: Operation Tiderace"

On the 6th and 9th of August, 1945, US B-29 bombers dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a decisive move in ending the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia. By this time, the Japanese forces had lost their will to continue the war and allowed Allied forces to send in reinforcements and food supplies. Prisoners-of-war (POW) were checked by the medical officers and arrangements were made to send them home.

On August 15, 1945, Japan announced its surrender. The formal signing of the surrender instrument was held at the City Hall, Singapore, then known as the "Municipal Hall", on September 12, 1945. This was followed by a celebration at the Padang, which included a victory parade.

After the surrender, there was a state of anomie in Singapore, as the British had not arrived to take control, while the Japanese occupiers had a considerably weakened hold over the populace. Incidents of looting and revenge-killing were widespread. Much of the infrastructure had been wrecked, including the harbor facilities and electricity, water supply, and telephone services. It would take four or five years for the economy to return to pre-war levels. When British troops finally arrived they were met with cheering and fanfare. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia Command, came to Singapore to receive formal surrender of the Japanese forces in the region from General Itagaki Seishiro on behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchi on September 12, 1945 and a British Military Administration was formed to govern the island until March 1946.

Banana money quickly became worthless after the Occupation ended, and many individuals whose wealth had been mostly in such currency found themselves penniless overnight.


History of SingaporeAlthough the British had been welcomed back into Singapore, the fact remained that the British had failed to defend them, and in the eyes of many Singaporeans this had cost them their credibility as infallible rulers. The decades after the war saw a political awakening amongst the local populace and the rise of nationalist and anti-colonial sentiments. Hence, the Japanese Occupation caused the path to eventual independence to be greatly accelerated, as public confidence in the ability of their British leaders in protecting them and their lifestyles crumbled.

The Japanese occupation also prompted the Singapore government to establish a sizeable military force using conscription service should the country's safety be ever threatened again.

Popular culture

*The Singaporean TV series, "A War Diary", is mostly based on the Japanese occupation, from the view of a Chinese family.

Monuments and historical markers in Singapore relating to the occupation

*Civilian War Memorial near Suntec City
*Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery
*Changi Chapel and Museum
*YMCA on Orchard Road
*Alexandra Hospital grounds
*Old Ford Motor Factory

ee also

*History of Singapore
*Civilian War Memorial
*Japanese occupation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak


External links

* [http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/Malaya_and_Singapore/body_index.htm Fall of Malaya and Singapore] A detailed history of the Battle of Singapore.

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