70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

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Zaf1
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70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 07 Dec 2009 17:56

The beach of Kota Bharu was where the historic first battle of the Pacific war took place 70 minutes before Pearl Harbor where Japanese troops landed to capture the strategic Kota Bharu airfield from the British. I've done considerable researches at these places and acquired these battlefield relics.

I've observed this day in honor of the fallen British and Japanese soldiers who gave their lives here this day in 1941

It always has been a largely forgotten battle.

Regards

Zaf
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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Peter H » 08 Dec 2009 07:24

Thanks for the nice tribute( and pics).

Peter

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Peter H » 08 Dec 2009 07:28

I was reading that the IJN and IJA had a dispute over the captured airfields in Malaya(in 1942 by Bob Wurth).

The IJN were allocated the eastern coast airfields but these were swampy,shoggy and hard to maintain.The IJA were allocated the better made,maintained western coast airfields.When the IJN approached the IJA to move some of their aircraft onto the western airfields the army refused.

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 08 Dec 2009 15:11

Thanks

The story of the Japanese landing at Kota Bharu in Malaya as told by the Brigadier ‘Billy’ Key commander in charge of the 8th Indian Brigade:

‘We were up against the possibility of landings anywhere on 35 miles of coastal beaches, all eminently suitable for landings.

I saw the biggest threat as being most likely to come from the beaches south of Kota Bharu. Our railhead was at Kuala Krai, 42 miles distant, where we had considerable stores. That railway was most vulnerable to attack because it was only a single track and had several bridges.

We were just about to be reinforced when Royal Australian Air Force located Japanese transports off Cambodia Point. Four ships were seen 100 miles north of Kota Bharu moving southward, and about an hour before midnight on Dece.7 the beach look-out posts reported ships offshore.

Next morning one 18-pounder gun on the beach opened fire against the ships. I informed commanding officer at the RAF station and the Australian Air Force. Hudsons went off to attack. The first sortie failed, but before dawn they hit a 15,000-tonner, which burned all day long.

Meanwhile, fighting had begun on the beaches. One Indian officer said the Japanese landed 60 barges drawn by motor boats. Each motor-boat carried an anti-aircraft gun, and each barge held 60 men, making total landing force of 3,600. I am inclined to think that may have been an exaggeration.

The Japanese also entered Kuala Pa’Amat, a small bay south of the entrance to the Kelantan River, thus escaping our land-mines. We attacked with artillery, mortars and machine-guns fire from pill-boxes.

My men, in the pill-boxes fought with their utmost bravery either they were killed or until their ammunition ran out. I sent reinforcements to restore the pill-boxes at the river mouth, where Japs had also landed, but could not do so effectively. We did pin the enemy that day, but it was impossible to throw him out.

Four squadrons of planes came up to help us, while six Vidlebeeste torpedo-bombers took off, but were unable to do any damage. Meanwhile, the three aerodromes were being heavily bombed. There were 27 casualties from one bomb alone.

The Japanese always had local numeral superiority. Our posts at Kota Bharu fought with the greatest bravery until overrun by the enemy.’

Most people forgot that he was the first Allied commander to fight in the land battle against the Japanese in the Pacific War, earlier than MacArthur in the Philippines

Regards

Zaf
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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 08 Dec 2009 15:58

Hi Peter,

I'm not sure about the dispute about IJA and IJN concerning allocations of the airfields. The airfields on the east coast were mostly lacking in many ways due to geographical factors and lacking in adequate road facilities. During the initial Japanese invasion Kota Bharu was occupied for a time by Japanese Navy Zero fighters until they moved southward later. The IJN did have some float planes on the Kelantan River near the Kota Bharu town jetty during the occupation.

Regards

Zaf

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Fatboy Coxy » 15 Dec 2009 11:00

On Singapore Island they divided the airfields. Sembawang and Seletar were controlled by the IJN, while Tengah and Kallang were used by the IJA.

Steve

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Klemen L. » 26 Dec 2009 20:42

Hello Zaf!

Thank you Zaf for these excellent photos of Kota Bharu today. I had a long standing interest in the Japanese landing at Kota Bharu and even wrote a short article about it which was published on my website until recently. I also did some further research about the landing via PRO in Kew, but probably most helpful sources were British and Indian WW2 official histories as well as the Indian regimental histories. I also did find out that Liddell Hart centre for Military Archives has entire archive fond dedicated to the Dogra Regiment at Kota Bharu.

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/summary/xp50-001.shtml

One of the books I couldn't get in my hands was the autobiography of Colonel Prem K. Sahgal, who dedicated a few space in his memoirs to the landing at Kota Bharu, where he served with the 3/17 Dogra Regiment on that fateful night when the Japanese attacked their position... Perhaps you will stood better chance of getting a copy of this book:

"The I. N. A. Heroes: Autobiographies of Maj. Gen. Shahnawaz, Col. Prem K. Sahgal [and] Col...." by Prem Kumar Sahgal & Shah Nawaz Khan. Published by Hero Publications in 1946. 266 pages

Are you planning to write a book about the landing at Kota Bharu or are you just researching this subject for your own soul?? :)

lp,

Klemen

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 28 Dec 2009 13:55

Hi Klemen!

You are welcome. I do want to publish a book on this one day.I volunteer to held the war museum here find WW2 relics. I'm happy to know that you do some research on this subject. I do like to read about the article you wrote. I have the war diaries and Sitrep of the British units at Kota Bharu during the Japanese invasion. I have a copy of a Japanese secret document of the Japanese battle report on this battle written in late 1942 in Japanese language. I had interviewed local eyewitness of this battle who were with the Dogras on the beach and a Japanese veteran who was with an artillery unit aboard Sakura Maru during the landing.

I have a British war diary of the 2/10th Baluch Regiment which mention him who was then a Captain Prem Sahgal. He was a Captain of C Company at Bachok beach south of Kota Bharu. He fought against the Japanese near the Machang airfield. At the beach nowadays one can see the pillbox his company was at and could visit the battlefield at Machang where he fought around 12-13 December 1941. At Machang the airfield was turned into many houses but still can see some bomb craters from Japanese bombings on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese battlefield memorial built by the Japanese during the war and a pillbox and trenches of the Mysore Indian State Force guarding that place. I am unable to find such book here and wish you good luck in finding that book!

Regards

Zaf

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Klemen L. » 28 Dec 2009 21:09

Hello Zaf!

You are welcome. I do want to publish a book on this one day.I volunteer to held the war museum here find WW2 relics. I'm happy to know that you do some research on this subject.

Let me know when your book will come out. I would like to be first to buy it. Kota Bharu has long been one of the battles of World War II I always wanted to know more and it would be fitting for the battle to have its own special book. Afterall the battle officially started 70 minutes before Pearl Harbor, so the first shots were not fired on Hawaii...

I do like to read about the article you wrote.

See your PM.

I have the war diaries and Sitrep of the British units at Kota Bharu during the Japanese invasion. I have a copy of a Japanese secret document of the Japanese battle report on this battle written in late 1942 in Japanese language. I had interviewed local eyewitness of this battle who were with the Dogras on the beach and a Japanese veteran who was with an artillery unit aboard Sakura Maru during the landing.

This is great to hear! You are better equipped than me, that's for sure. :lol: To get some additional insight from the Japanese perspective I also recommend you try to get Masanobu Tsuji's book "Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat". I would also look for the regimental history of the Japanese 56th Infantry Regiment, if it exists that is. I have found in some of them some very good like about the Japanese invasion of British North Borneo in 1942.

I have a British war diary of the 2/10th Baluch Regiment which mention him who was then a Captain Prem Sahgal. He was a Captain of C Company at Bachok beach south of Kota Bharu. He fought against the Japanese near the Machang airfield. At the beach nowadays one can see the pillbox his company was at and could visit the battlefield at Machang where he fought around 12-13 December 1941.

A question: Have you been able to determine who was the first British-Indian soldier killed at Kota Bharu? I think I have found the name of the first Indian soldier killed during the Matador Operation (invasion of Thailand), also have found the first casualty of the Pacific (Flying Officer Bedell and his crew), but have no such luck with Kota Bharu casualties. Which reminds me, where exactly are buried today those British and Indian soldiers who were killed at Kota Bharu? At Taiping or Kranji?

At Machang the airfield was turned into many houses but still can see some bomb craters from Japanese bombings on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese battlefield memorial built by the Japanese during the war and a pillbox and trenches of the Mysore Indian State Force guarding that place.

Interesting. Do you have perhaps any pre-war photos of Panti Dasar Sabak, where the first Japanese landed? I would very much like to see how the terrain looked like in 1941.

I am unable to find such book here and wish you good luck in finding that book!

Unfortunately one needs more than just pureluck to find that book. :lol:

Best Regards

Klemen

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 29 Dec 2009 16:10

Hello Klemen!

I do quite a lot of research on this so it might take considerable time. I agree that this battle certainly deserved to be known because of the earliest Pacific battle chronologically which most historical resources never mentioned at all right after explaining fully the event at Pearl Harbor. What's more the attack at Pearl Harbor was just took around 2 hours or so while the battle at Kota Bharu fought for almost the whole day. The whole world know about the attack at Pearl Harbor but few know about the battle at Kota Bharu and it is very difficult to change this as if this was the official views of history. We must change it for the sake of history, and gradually we did it, and we expect it take decades more to really change this very common view.

I don't know exactly who was the first Dogra soldier killed in the battle because the entire squad was killed. I did read that the company was under Captain Chandra something. I interviewed the eyewitness who saw their dead bodies in the pillbox. The dog tag in my photo was used to belonged to the first Allied Anglo-Indian soldier killed in the Pacific war but the name unfortunately was eroded due to salt water of the sea.

At the war museum at Kota Bharu there's a memorial for the 1st Allied pilots Australian of No.1 Squadron RAAF and have the name of the crews which were the first Australians to be killed in the Pacific.

In December 1940, the battalion under the command of Lt Col ML Hayne moved to Kota Bharu in Malaya From Singapore. It was allotted the task of the protection of the aerodrome and the beaches along with it. The battalion sector was divided into three sub sectors, which were handed over to one coy each. In November 1941, Lt Col GA Preston took over the command with around 1300 Dogras under him.

On December 6, 1941, the air force reported the presence of a large Japanese convoy in the Gulf of Siam heading for Singora, north-west of Kota Bharu. On December 7, the high tide was two hours before the daylight and was considered a possible danger period. About midnight 'A' and 'B' coys reported that five Japanese ships had anchored about two kilometers off shore opposite No 13 and 14 Posts. No 13 Post was on the right bank of the river and No 14 on the left bank. In the early hours of December 8, the Japanese landed and attacked on a narrow front astride the river mouth, which was the nearest point on the coast to the aerodrome and the main road inland.

By daylight the Japanese advance was halted. They were confined to the island where they suffered all day bombing by the Allied air force and shelling from medium artillery. The Japanese continued to pour in more troops and just before dark made a strong attack on the reserve company position. This attack was driven off by valiant Dogras.

I talked with my Japanese teacher and he said that every Japanese should know about this event because this was where they first fought in the Pacific war. Most Japanese didn't know about this. Fortunately lately things changed, even in Japan it was mentioned in Japanese newspaper:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ ... 210f2.html

I have not exactly Japanese war diary but their confidential battle report which got names of all company commanders of Takumi Detachment, the number of killed and wounded even the height of the waves and speed of wind during the landing. It was among the highest casualties in a battle suffered by the Japanese during their offensive on Singapore early in the war.

I do have more pictures but I have to find these, including pre-war of the beach and airfield at Kota Bharu

Regards

Zaf
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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Klemen L. » 03 Jan 2010 21:12

Hello Zaf!

Thank you for your replies, Zaf! Much appreciated.

I do quite a lot of research on this so it might take considerable time. I agree that this battle certainly deserved to be known because of the earliest Pacific battle chronologically which most historical resources never mentioned at all right after explaining fully the event at Pearl Harbor. What's more the attack at Pearl Harbor was just took around 2 hours or so while the battle at Kota Bharu fought for almost the whole day.

Well, I wouldn't say that Kota Bharu battle was fought almost a day before Pearl Harbor, but the fact is that with today's technology the Japanese would not get away with it. Brigadier Key would have no difficulties to send an SMS message or e-mail to Admiral Kimmel on Oahu Island to warn him about the forthcoming attack. :lol: The bottom line is that the Japanese risked a lot and their gambling strategy paid off this time.

The whole world know about the attack at Pearl Harbor but few know about the battle at Kota Bharu and it is very difficult to change this as if this was the official views of history. We must change it for the sake of history, and gradually we did it, and we expect it take decades more to really change this very common view.

One of the reasons for this is that the British themselves don't like to remember the Malaya Campaign 1941-42 too much. It was one of the darkest hours in the British military history and as a result of this very few (good!) books have been published about it. Unlike it is the case for other military campaigns like for example Burma, North Africa, Italy, Normandy, Arnhem etc.

So I really hope you will take the banner and write a good book about the Kota Bharu battle, especially since you also have access to the Japanese and local Malay sources. I hope you will also dig up some testimonials of British and Indian veterans from the battle. I always like when the story from all sides is presented. It is much easier to figure out what went good and what was a cock-up. :wink:

I personally can't wait to read your book. :wink:

I don't know exactly who was the first Dogra soldier killed in the battle because the entire squad was killed. I did read that the company was under Captain Chandra something. I interviewed the eyewitness who saw their dead bodies in the pillbox. The dog tag in my photo was used to belonged to the first Allied Anglo-Indian soldier killed in the Pacific war but the name unfortunately was eroded due to salt water of the sea.

I quickly checked my sources and couldn't find his name either. But I did find out that the first shot in the Malayan Campaign was shot by the Dogras' 18-pounder on Badang. By 1 a.m. most of the Japanese assault barges unloaded their troops in the Kuala Pa Anat Creek (where is this creek?) and had captured the nearest Dogra pillboxes, but only after every Dogra that manned them was killed. So I guess one ought to look for their first casualty here... My guess is that he must have come from either A or B Company of the 3/17th Dogras, which were defending the Badang and Sabak beaches. I suspect this book (*) or the Dogra regimental history (**) could give an answer to our question.

(*) A. Nath. 17th Dogra Regiment: a register of casualties for World War II". [Farsta]: [Himalayan Institute], c1992.

(**) Palsokar, R.D. The Dogra Regiment, a Saga of Gallantry and Valour: A Historical Record, 1858-1981. Faizabad: Dogra Regiment, 1982

Palsokar's book is almost impossible to find.

You mention that a whole squad was killed in the early moments of the campaign... Can you please elaborate more about what you know about them?

At the war museum at Kota Bharu there's a memorial for the 1st Allied pilots Australian of No.1 Squadron RAAF and have the name of the crews which were the first Australians to be killed in the Pacific.

Yes, their names are known to me. But to find the name of the first army casualty at Kota Bharu is much tougher nut to crack...

In December 1940, the battalion under the command of Lt Col ML Hayne moved to Kota Bharu in Malaya From Singapore. It was allotted the task of the protection of the aerodrome and the beaches along with it. The battalion sector was divided into three sub sectors, which were handed over to one coy each. In November 1941, Lt Col GA Preston took over the command with around 1300 Dogras under him.

Hm... Do you happen to know this short booklet?

H. L. Wrigglesworth. The Japanese invasion of Kelantan in 1941. Perbadanan Muzium Negeri, Kelantan, 1994

On December 6, 1941, the air force reported the presence of a large Japanese convoy in the Gulf of Siam heading for Singora, north-west of Kota Bharu. On December 7, the high tide was two hours before the daylight and was considered a possible danger period. About midnight 'A' and 'B' coys reported that five Japanese ships had anchored about two kilometers off shore opposite No 13 and 14 Posts. No 13 Post was on the right bank of the river and No 14 on the left bank. In the early hours of December 8, the Japanese landed and attacked on a narrow front astride the river mouth, which was the nearest point on the coast to the aerodrome and the main road inland.

Zaf, do you have any detailed (military) topographical map of the Badang and Sabak Beach area? All the maps I have found so far are only general with little details for me to see on them and I would like to know precisely where these No 13 and No 14 Post were located. If I understood you here correctly the Japanese landed the bulk of their troops in the lagoon between Badang and Sabak beaches. That might have been the shortest route to the airfield, but was it not also almost unpassable, being a mangroove marsh??? Anyway from what I could so far determine the No. 13 Post was the kernel of the defense. It was defended by A Company under Captain Medeppa (from Compton's Eastern Epic), who himself was killed during the counter-attack which recaptured the pillbox. But the problem is that I cannot find any Captain with this name who got killed on 8th December 1941! I can find only one hit and namely Captain K.C. MEDAPPA, 2nd Battalion, 12th Frontier Force Regiment, KIA on 16/12/1941.

What's your intake on this?

By daylight the Japanese advance was halted. They were confined to the island where they suffered all day bombing by the Allied air force and shelling from medium artillery. The Japanese continued to pour in more troops and just before dark made a strong attack on the reserve company position. This attack was driven off by valiant Dogras.

Which island are you referring here? The one I marked with a red arrow? What's its name?

Image

I have not exactly Japanese war diary but their confidential battle report which got names of all company commanders of Takumi Detachment, the number of killed and wounded even the height of the waves and speed of wind during the landing. It was among the highest casualties in a battle suffered by the Japanese during their offensive on Singapore early in the war.

Who wrote this battle report?!? :roll:

lp,

Klemen

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Peter H » 04 Jan 2010 11:50

A photo of Takumi Hiroshi with the Sultan of Kelantan can be seen on page 110 of this Google book link

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=qHe ... BcQ6AEwBQ#

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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 04 Jan 2010 14:56

Hi Klemen!

Thanks for giving me support to write on this subject. I think I'd divide this into two section, one on the subject of British and local defence, and another on the invasion itself. This are from my own researches.

After the fall of France in 1940 the Japanese quickly occupied the helpless French colonies in Indo-China in order to stop the weapon supplies to China from the Indo-China. The British army built the extensive defences in Kelantan mainly to defend the 3 RAF forward airfields, at Kota Bharu. Machang and Gong Kedak facing the Gulf of Siam around 1940 where they expected the Japanese to come from newly occupied French Indo-China a few hundred miles away.

These airfields were guarded by 2nd rate force in the pillboxes, these were not exactly from the Indian Army but the ISF (Indian State Force) from some princely Indian state forces that at time manned A/A gun but didn't have armored vehicles.

The beach were defended by troops in several pillboxes and in between these pillboxes some reserve machine gun post located some distance behind the pillboxes. Most of these pillboxes on the beach are submerged in the sea due to severe sea erosion
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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 04 Jan 2010 16:18

Peter,

The photo is Major-General Takumi but not with the Sultan of Kelantan. This sultan is the sultan of Terengganu where the Japanese occupied without losing a single Japanese soldier as Takumi later informed the sultan, the only state not affected because there was no battle in that state.

The sultan of Kelantan is in this 1937 stamp image.

A photo of the Kelantan AFS or Auxiliary Fire Service in November 1941. Note the 'AFS' words on their helmets.

Regards

Zaf
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Re: 70 Minutes Before Pearl Harbor: Kota Bharu 1941

Postby Zaf1 » 04 Jan 2010 19:16

I read a book which mentioned the A Company was led by Capt. Naiwin Chandra at Badang beach while B Company at Sabak beach was led by 2nd Lt. Hayne. The small islet a the Pak Amat estuary was Pulau Gorek. Pak Amat islet was the larger islet. Behind the islet were a few small streams and rivers, muddy swamps coconut groves and some rice paddy fields.

I had interviewed the eyewitness of the battle on the beach. In brief what I heard was there were many 'Punjabis' (Indian soldiers) on the beach. That night one of the person told me he was singing Indian songs with the troops on the beach. Moments later a sentry came and informed the officer that the Japanese were seen off the coast. Some of the soldiers told the villagers to run away from the beach because 'the Japanese will come shooting'. Some villagers merely smiled because they couldn't believe that the Japanese will come invading the beach, because many knew Master Kawa the local Japanese food seller who often come to their home on the beach to sell foods and he was always bowed and polite. What the villagers didn't know that he was really Japanese army intelligence officer, and he came to spy the British defences on the beach. Most of the villagers were very surprised to see him among thousands who landed on the beach that night, wearing a high ranking Japanese officer uniform.

Many villagers were leaving their homes and heard the long burst of Dogra Bren guns and later followed by booming 18 pounder gun on the beach, shaking their entire houses. Still many thought it was merely the usual practice, a war game of some sort. Later when they saw rounds whining in the air from the direction of the sea that they knew it was really war.
On the right side of the river, there was a pillbox with around 6 or 7 soldiers and some more in the trenches. Most of the Japanese died due to land mines scattered on the beach. On the Badang-Sabak beach the Dogras were badly outnumbered, merely 2 half-trained Dogra companies to resist an entire 56th Infantry Regiment with 3 infantry battalions supported by one company of 75 mm mountain guns and 2 companies of anti-tank guns with around 5590 fanatical Japanese soldiers.

Of the soldier in the pillbox, they died the day after the battle. The people that I interviewed told me the wall of their pillbox was shot to bits from heavy Japanese gunfire. They eventually ran out of bullets due to continuous firing against too many targets. They unable to send signal because by then the Japanese had cut the wire behind their pillbox. This pillbox was bypassed and the next day when they already captured the beach and the airfield the Japanese came to this pillbox. All the Indian soldiers gave up, and were on their knees begging for their lives but the Japanese soldiers stabbed them with the bayonet. Some villagers were ordered by the Japanese to drag out their body with ropes. The villagers had to go inside the pillbox, and waded in a pool blood from these 6 or 7 dead bodies.

I think Captain Meddapa was not a Dogra officer but the 2/12th Frontier Force Regiment that Brigadier Key sent to recapture the beaches.

The Japanese archive that I have was translated as: Top secret. Summerized report for landing in Kota Bharu for the period from 8 to 11 December 1941. June 28 1942. The 25th Japanese Army.

Regards

Zaf


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