If Thailand had resisted; December 1941

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AnchorSteam
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If Thailand had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 21 Feb 2021 05:13

On the night of December 8th the Japanese Empire intruded into Siam (Thailand at two points; the extreme south to land troops where they could strike at Malaya, and from Cambodia along the coast of the Gulf towards the national capitol of Krung Thep.

This was a demand for an alliance at gunpoint, and it was probably successful because Prime Minister Phibun's sympathy was pro-axis. That, and he appears to have made a quick decision ... the only kind Japan allowed him ... and chose what he thought would be the least destructive course for his country.
And in that, he appears to have been right. A few years of apathetic cooperation later and an quasi-"uprising" later and Siam managed to emerge from WW2 as the least devastated nation in the Orient.

But what if they had fought, instead?
The Siamese Army will appear minor at first glance, but they had just fought a reasonably successful war against French Indo-China and had some interesting eqioppment, such as the world's first self- propelled flak cannon in series production. The Air Force was heavily American-influenced and the Navy was mostly Japanese and Italian but again with very unique ideas... some of which worked very badly.
And, interestingly, their forces had a reasonably good balance to them, outside of a very heavy proportion of fighters in the air force. (70 x Hawk-75 variants to cover 25 x Dive Bombers and 15 twin-engine bombers)

Could Siam have made a good stand? I have enough details about their military to make that a reasonably good question, but what did Japan have to throw at them at that time?
Where could Japan find the resources to sustain a campaign of conquest in Siam?

Would this have prevented the fall of Burma?
There was a British Division headed for Burma that was diverted to Singapore just in time to see it fall, coudl it have been diverted to Siam instead?

This is a complicated one that I don't think has been explored yet in any detail, or am I wrong about that?

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Feb 2021 05:31

I've wondered about it, in relation to the Maylasian campaign, but never pursued it. Do we have a description of the deployment of the Thai military and its combat call at critical locations. How strong was the Japanese group advancing on the Thai capitol?

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 21 Feb 2021 07:51

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
21 Feb 2021 05:31
I've wondered about it, in relation to the Maylasian campaign, but never pursued it. Do we have a description of the deployment of the Thai military and its combat call at critical locations. How strong was the Japanese group advancing on the Thai capitol?
I can't find anything on the Japanese side of it, but I have a great deal of detail on what Siam had.
There were at least 8 Divisions (small ones) and a Mechanized group of or 2 x Tank Battalions (x50 Type 95 Ha-Go were purchased from Japan in 1940, they already had x60 Carden Loyd tankettes and x30 Vickers 6-ton tanks, plus 2 Infantry Battalions, an Engineer Battalion and Signals & Support units all on Trucks.

Artillery was a mixed bag,with light Krupp guns of 1909 or older, and heavy Borors artillery up to 150mm of the 1920s & 30s. The only mortars were Japanese, and I think they were given to the Thai after 1941.
MGs are better; Madsen LMGs, GBrowning M1917 MMGs (re-chambered for 7.92mm), and Vickers 12,7mm for HMGs.
Mauser bolt-action rifles were the only ones issued, but there were a hodge-podge of pistols & SMGs there were mostly local copies of imports.

Airpower is also interesting -
Avro 504 (training airplane, x 20 imported until about 1930, plus x 50 locally produced), Curtiss P-36 Hawk (fighter airplane, x 48 imported in 1934-1938, x 50 locally built in 1937-1939), Voight O2U Biplanes x 70 {approx.} Martin B-10 bombers; x 6 received from USA in 1937, Mitsubishi Ki-30 (light bomber; x24 airplanes), Nakajima E8N (Float-Biplane, x18 imported in late 1940)

The Avro were useless by 1941. The Voight biplanes were only a little better, but the numbers show that there were enough of them to maintain a good level of surveillance of Siam's long and torturous borders. The Float-Biplanes should have been able to give them a good coverage of the Gulf of Siam, but they failed to give good warning of the Japanese fleet's approach IRL.

The Curtis Hawks may be the most heavily modified exports; they had fixed landing gear, presumably to ease maintenance, and 2 x 20mm cannon & bomb racks were added to the armament.
The Ki-30 were already obsolescent and the B-10s were too few to matter, so this is a primarily defensive air force.

Saim was also keen on AAA and had a good number of Bofors 75mm AA, in addition to the 40mm guns.

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by Andy H » 21 Feb 2021 16:38

Hi

For anyone interested the OoB for the Thailand is here:-
http://niehorster.org/082_thailand/__thailand.html

Regards

Andy H

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 21 Feb 2021 22:06

It does appear that I underestimated the weight of the Japanese attack force available. It was the IJA 15th Army that came at Siam, with the intention of gaining free passage into their real objective; Burma.
Phibun had been looking for material assurances from the UK and US that they would help hm resist Japan, and this they were unable to do. He then secretly informed Japan that he might turn a blind eye to in incursion in the south along the Malay border. This seems to have only encouraged the Japanese to look for more ways to trample Siam's neutrality.

Navy; 2 x Pocket-Cruisers, 2 x Gunboats, 1 x Destroyer, 12(?) x Torpedo Boats, 4 x Subs, 2 x Sloop/Escort/training ships, 8 x PT Boats.

The “pocket-cruisers” (a designation I made up just now) were a couple of the weirdest warships ever built. They had the mass of a Destroyer and yet they mounted 4 x 8” guns. They only draw 14 feet of water, which means they can go anywhere a Destroyer can. However, there must be balance in all things, and they had to give something up to get that kind of firepower, even if they were built with German Diesel engines. What they lack is speed, only capable of about 16 knots. That is half the speed of a Destroyer.

The Torpedo Boats are not the PT boats, they are just very small destroyers with torpedos. The larger ones (330 tons, seven is service) can do 30 knots and have 3 x 3” AA guns and 6 x TorpedoTubes, two of which fire dead ahead.
The even smaller ones (130 tons) have one 3" AA, 2 x 20mm AA (common to almost all of these ships) and 2 x T.T. .... and make less than 20 knots. What makes them interesting is they only draw 4 feet of water. That is a rare thing, and if you have ever seen pics of the Thai coast a few tings jump out at you, and to me it looks like Torpedo Boat heaven.

Speaking of that, there are 8 x MTBs of the Thornecroft type, 4 from the 1920s (37 knots) and 4 from the 1930s (40 knots) both types having 2 x T.T. and 2 x depth charges.

The Gunboats are smaller and older than the mini-cruisers but made with a similar idea; they are only 1,000 tons and have 2 x 6” guns and can make 12 knots on a good day. Like the larger ones, they also have 4 x 75mm AA.

This is not a Navy that appears willing to run away, if its equipment is any clue. The best tactic in a battle would be to give covering fire with their little cruisers while the Torpedo Boats dash straight in. They fared badly in the Franco-Thai war, the only major battle saw one of the Pocket-Cruisers sunk and the other so badly damaged it had to be rebuilt.... and in this scenario is currenty in Japan. :cry:

There aer also 4 Subs, the only ones Siam ever had. They all had 5 x 21" TT, could do 14.5 knots surfaced and 8 submerged.... so its the firepower of a Type VIIb in the displacement of a Type II U-Boat.



Japan's fleet;
(NOT involved in the southern landings directed at Malay)

Flagship- the cruiser IJN Kashii escorted seven transports.
Destroyers Asagiri, Amagiri, Sagiri, Yugiri, Shirakumo, and Shinonome.
Escort ship IJN Shimushu escorted transports Zenyo Maru, Miike Maru and Toho Maru' to Nakorn Sri Thammarat,
Merchant seaplane carriers Kamikawa Maru, Sagara Maru.

Six first-class IJN Destroyers is more than I had imagined could be committed here, so it does appear that Siam's surface fleet is doomed.
The Kashii isn't really a cruiser, it is a large, slow (19 knot) large escort ship, but it's 5.5" guns still over-match the 4.7" guns on the only Destroyer Siam has.

The best hope for resistant seems to be in a rapid deployment of the Army (2/3rds were reservists) and in the Air Force. It would probably be a mistake to discount the fighting ability of Siamese flyers, one of them was the first pilot to shoot down a B-29, after all.
OscarVb-29.jpg
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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Feb 2021 14:16

Hi Anchorstream,

I would suggest that "reasonably successful" more accurately applies to the French defence, especially on the naval side, as they had to fight with only their local resources without support from a defeated metropolitan France. This little war rather revealed which way Siam was leaning a whole year before the Japanese crossed the country to Malaya and Burma.

The Siamese also did not resist the British, who advanced to meet a Japanese landing in southern Thailand.

When the Siamese later attacked the British and occupied the Shan States of Burma with three divisions, I seem to recall that their advance was slow against no opposition.

Siam occupied not only the Shan States in Burma, but the northern states of Malaya. The Allies, essentially the British, had nothing to offer Siam unless they made similar such concessions in advance of war breaking out in the Far East. Such concessions were not made, so Siam's choices were either neutrality or supporting Japan.

You are certainly right that Thailand's role needs looking at, not least because it includes a genuine, if lack lustre, military campaign in the Shan States, where I think the Thais clashed with Nationalist Chinese forces.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by thaddeus_c » 22 Feb 2021 14:47

If Thailand looked set to defend against the Japanese is there any aid from KMT China? recall the Vichy authorities in Indochina at least reached out to them prior?

of course the French and Thailand are at odds, to say the least but I've wondered about some cooperation when Japan first appeared in 1940?

to try and make the whole region unappealing to them?

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 22 Feb 2021 19:46

thaddeus_c wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:47
If Thailand looked set to defend against the Japanese is there any aid from KMT China? recall the Vichy authorities in Indochina at least reached out to them prior?
I'm not sure what China could have sent, even if they were so inclined. There is no shared border, so it would have had to come through Burma, and thanks to the lousy roads and no RR connection, anything major would have had to be shipped from Rangoon.
That would also have been the end of neutrality for Saim, if they had agreed to this ahead of time, and it would have had to be done well ahead of time to make any difference.
thaddeus_c wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:47
of course the French and Thailand are at odds, to say the least but I've wondered about some cooperation when Japan first appeared in 1940?

to try and make the whole region unappealing to them?
See the next post -

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 22 Feb 2021 20:29

Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:16
Hi Anchorstream,

I would suggest that "reasonably successful" more accurately applies to the French defence, especially on the naval side, as they had to fight with only their local resources without support from a defeated metropolitan France. This little war rather revealed which way Siam was leaning a whole year before the Japanese crossed the country to Malaya and Burma.
The Naval battle was the on instance that Siam did not dominate in that war. Remember that the at this time the only Asian power that had prevailed against a wester power was Japan, Against Russia and in WWI against Germany.... somewhat.

Even so, Siam was able to over-run Laos quickly enough. The biggest battle was a French offensive at the villages of Yang Dang Khum and Phum Preav, which was beaten back with heavy losses. The Siamese tried to give chase and annihilate them, but artillery fire from the Foreign Legion stopped their tanks cold.

The war in the air was so one-sided that Admiral Jean Decoux, the governor of French Indochina, grudgingly remarked that the enemy planes seemed to have been flown by men with plenty of war experience.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:16
The Siamese also did not resist the British, who advanced to meet a Japanese landing in southern Thailand.

When the Siamese later attacked the British and occupied the Shan States of Burma with three divisions, I seem to recall that their advance was slow against no opposition.
Yes, throughout the war the Siamese Army was unenthusiastic about fighting the UK and the USA. It seems they didn't care for this Shotgun-Wedding style of alliance.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:16
Siam occupied not only the Shan States in Burma, but the northern states of Malaya. The Allies, essentially the British, had nothing to offer Siam unless they made similar such concessions in advance of war breaking out in the Far East. Such concessions were not made, so Siam's choices were either neutrality or supporting Japan.
If that is what Siam was asking for, then I can see why the western powers but this on the back-burner. However, the Siamese point of view is worth considering;

Siamese_territorial_concessions_(1867-1909) copy.gif
Now, East Cambodia and much of Laos were actually more like "client states" and I am unsure of the real status of the Shan States, but all of the rest of it is land that Siam had considered its own. As you can see, the French were the primary aggressors, but here is another map-
e17511f7484ef2e3f00caaab7fad42ad copy.gif
That weird bite out of the panhandle is now shown as a British move, and I never understood why that was done.

As you can see, every most they made was into territory Siam had lost to the Colonialists.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:16
You are certainly right that Thailand's role needs looking at, not least because it includes a genuine, if lack lustre, military campaign in the Shan States, where I think the Thais clashed with Nationalist Chinese forces.

Cheers,

Sid.
The most forgotten corner of the "Forgotten theater"!
There was an entire Thai Army there for most of the war, but if they failed to nip off even a small corner of China. I am looking into that now because other than the mess that lead to the formation of the Golden Triangle I don't know much about that area myself.
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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Feb 2021 22:31

Hi Anchorstream,

The question is, how much was Siam an imperial power itself?

The Thais are understandably resentful at all the territorial losses they suffered at French and British hands in the 19th and very early 20th Centuries. But were these losses of Thai-populated territories, or of Burmese-, Malay-, Lao- and Cambodian-populated territories?

Certainly I seem to recall that the words Shan and Siam had the same linguistic roots. The Lao are also Thai-speakers in linguistic terms, but don't seem to consider themselves Thai in national terms.

What actually are the natural borders of Thailand?

As regards the Franco-Thai War, it ended at a moment of stalemate after the superior Thai ground forces had made some border gains, but less than they might have hoped for. This despite the fact that the French had almost no air force, the Japanese were already occupying the northern parts of the colony and had to be guarded against, and internal security was under threat. At sea the French were victorious.

As you say, the mere fact that a second Asian power had made gains against a European colonial power was significant, whatever the latter's weaknesses. On the other hand, the Battle of Koh Chang stands out as the only purely French naval victory without allies since at least the Napoleonic Wars, so there was some life in the old dog yet!

Cheers,

Sid.
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 22 Feb 2021 23:03, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by maltesefalcon » 22 Feb 2021 22:35

I'm curious why the OP title used the term Siam? AFAIK the country was known as Thailand at the time of the Pacific War.

(Just like no one would refer to my own country as British North America today.)

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by thaddeus_c » 23 Feb 2021 01:59

AnchorSteam wrote:
22 Feb 2021 19:46
thaddeus_c wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:47
If Thailand looked set to defend against the Japanese is there any aid from KMT China? recall the Vichy authorities in Indochina at least reached out to them prior?
I'm not sure what China could have sent, even if they were so inclined. There is no shared border, so it would have had to come through Burma, and thanks to the lousy roads and no RR connection, anything major would have had to be shipped from Rangoon.
That would also have been the end of neutrality for Saim, if they had agreed to this ahead of time, and it would have had to be done well ahead of time to make any difference.
thaddeus_c wrote:
22 Feb 2021 14:47
of course the French and Thailand are at odds, to say the least but I've wondered about some cooperation when Japan first appeared in 1940?

to try and make the whole region unappealing to them?
way out there in terms of speculation, but there was Sino-German cooperation which the German side abandoned in favor of Japan.

at least the putative reason for Japan arriving in Indochina was the KMT was being supplied through there.

do not know of any trade with Thailand by Germany, only shipbuilding by Italy, but they might have been brought into the fold by territorial concessions on the part of Vichy (less onerous than what Japan looked to impose?)

just thinking the combination more of a deterrent than any one separately?

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 23 Feb 2021 03:48

maltesefalcon wrote:
22 Feb 2021 22:35
I'm curious why the OP title used the term Siam? AFAIK the country was known as Thailand at the time of the Pacific War.

(Just like no one would refer to my own country as British North America today.)
You know, you are right about that!

The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851–1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut Rex Siamensium (Mongkut King of the Siamese), giving the name Siam official status until 24 June 1939 when it was changed to "Thailand".[20] Thailand was renamed Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it again reverted to "Thailand".

All this time, I had been thinking that the change that was made in 1948 was the only one.

Good job, but I don't know if I can change the title now.

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by AnchorSteam » 23 Feb 2021 04:09

thaddeus_c wrote:
23 Feb 2021 01:59
...
way out there in terms of speculation, but there was Sino-German cooperation which the German side abandoned in favor of Japan.

at least the putative reason for Japan arriving in Indochina was the KMT was being supplied through there.

do not know of any trade with Thailand by Germany, only shipbuilding by Italy, but they might have been brought into the fold by territorial concessions on the part of Vichy (less onerous than what Japan looked to impose?)

just thinking the combination more of a deterrent than any one separately?
Yeah, that's pretty "out there" and all I really have to go on is arms imports.
Prior to WW1 the Thai Army had armed itself with Krupp cannon and Mauser Rifles. The kept those in service, but in between the wars they upgraded with Bofors guns ranging from 37mm AT guns to 150mm Howitzers. I speculate the the shine wore off after Germany's defeat, as silly as it sounds. THe could probably have picked up a lot of cheap left-overs like a lot of other people did.
One source said that Japanese rifles and macine guns were only taken into service because the Thai had trouble finging 7.92mm ammo by 1943. So it looks as if there was one thing they were still importing from Germany.

Other than Diplomacy Germany had nothing that could reach the Orient after 1939.

Japan felt they had to occupy Indo-China to put a stop to Nationalist imports through Haiphong and the railway. The rest of it was just a bonus, but I don't seen the Japanese being generous with their spoils.

There will be some fighting, historically it was kept to the minimum; just enough to be sure the Thai people knew how was boss.
What I ask here is, could Thailand have made a stand, and brought the Japanese Juggernaut to a halt short of Burma?

One thing I had not thought of.... the Flying Tigers?

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Re: If Siam had resisted; December 1941

Post by Terry Duncan » 23 Feb 2021 09:43

AnchorSteam wrote:
23 Feb 2021 03:48
maltesefalcon wrote:
22 Feb 2021 22:35
I'm curious why the OP title used the term Siam? AFAIK the country was known as Thailand at the time of the Pacific War.

(Just like no one would refer to my own country as British North America today.)
You know, you are right about that!

The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851–1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut Rex Siamensium (Mongkut King of the Siamese), giving the name Siam official status until 24 June 1939 when it was changed to "Thailand".[20] Thailand was renamed Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it again reverted to "Thailand".

All this time, I had been thinking that the change that was made in 1948 was the only one.

Good job, but I don't know if I can change the title now.
Did you want the title to be changed?

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