Southern Asia 1941: Japanese Invasion of Thailand and Malaya
In July 1941 the Japanese moved into southern Indochina, prompting the US and Britain to freeze Japan’s assets and cut off its oil supplies. Without oil, Japan faced the choice of either withdrawing from its conquests or invading the oil-rich East Indies and further provoking the US. It chose the latter course, simultaneously bombing the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and moving south into Malaya and Thailand. British attempts to defend Malaya collapsed while Thailand quickly chose to side with the invaders.
Changes to the map 29 August 1941–10 December 1941
Japanese invasion of Malaya: The Japanese have landed at and secured Khota Baru in northern Malaya.
Japanese invasion of Thailand: The Japanese have occupied the territory to the southeast of Bangkok and much of the Kra Isthmus.
Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran: After briefly occupying Tehran, the Soviets and British have divided Iran into two occupation zones with an ostensibly independent zone around Tehran.
Italian East Africa: The last major Italian resistance at Gondar has surrendered to the British.
British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf
The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.
The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.
Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.
The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.
The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.
Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.
1 Oct 1941 Opening of the Persian Corridor▲
Following the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, Reza Shah is replaced by his more compliant son, Mohammad Reza, and the country divided into two zones of occupation with a nominally independent region around Tehran. On 1 October 1941 the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union sign the First Soviet Supply Protocol in Moscow - the first of a series of nine month protocols covering Allied aid to the Soviets. The so-called Persian Corridor across Iran is chosen as one of the three main supply routes, although it is initially only able to handle 6,000 tons of supplies a month.
13-27 Nov 1941 Battle of Gondar▲
British, Commonwealth, and Ethiopian forces converged on the mountain town of Gondar, Ethiopia, which was defended by 40,000 Italian troops under Generale Guglielmo Nasi. The Allies seized the two mountain passes to the town, attacking Gondar itself on 27 November. The Italians surrendered soon after, ending conventional resistance in Italian East Africa (although guerrilla warfare would continue into 1943).
7 Dec 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor▲
At 7:48 am Hawaiian Time, Imperial Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers mounted a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack damaged all eight US battleships present, sinking four, as well as hitting three cruisers, three destroyers, and two other ships. In addition, 188 US aircraft were destroyed and 2,403 Americans were killed, with another 1,178 wounded. Japanese losses were much lighter. The following day the US declared war on Japan.
8 Dec 1941 Japanese invasion of Thailand▲
At 23:00 on 7 December, Japan demands that Thailand allow entrance to the Japanese military, giving the Thai government two hours to respond. Several hours after the expiration of the ultimatum, the Japanese simultaneously invade Thailand from French Indochina and make landings south of Bangkok and along the Kra Isthmus. After initial fighting, Thai Prime Minister Phibun arranges a ceasefire at noon, agreeing to form an alliance with Japan on 14 December.
8 Dec 1941 Japanese invasion of Malaya▲
Just after midnight on 8 December 1941 (before the attack on Pearl Harbor - it is still 7 December in Hawaii), Japanese troops under Tomoyuki Yamashita land at Khota Baru, Malaya. Khota Baru is the Royal Air Force’s and Royal Australian Air Force’s base of operations in northern Malaya, but attempts to bomb the incoming Japanese transports fail to stop the Japanese landing three infantry battalions by noon. Outnumbered the British and Australians withdraw south.
10 Dec 1941 Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse▲
Japanese land-based bombers and torpedo bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy sink the British Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse off the east coast of British Malaya, near Kuantan. The British ships had been sent to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet north of Malaya.