Pearl Harbor’s role in the fall of the British empire | Letters

Letters: The reason the US fleet was attacked by the Japanese was to prevent its warships and aircraft from coming to the aid of Singapore

The pictures of President Obama and the prime minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, standing side by side to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago (Obama and Abe in historic joint visit to Pearl Harbor, 28 December) has me wondering how many people are aware that two momentous attacks – not one – took place in the Pacific on 7/8 December 1941 (the actual date of the strike on Pearl Harbor). One hour earlier, in real time, Japanese transport ships began landing troops on the east coast of Malaya, prior to overrunning the peninsula and capturing the “impregnable” British bastion of Singapore 10 short weeks later.

The anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought America into the European war, is thus also the anniversary of the first strike in the unravelling of the British empire in east Asia. The reason the US fleet was deliberately attacked by the Japanese was to prevent its warships and aircraft from coming to the aid of the British colony, which had virtually no air defences. The dramatic devastation at Pearl Harbor was immediately blazoned across press billboards back in England – at the same time as a blanket of silence descended on the alarming news of the concurrent Japanese invasion of Malaya. That silence has remained in place pretty well ever since and, with it, the mutual dependence of these two momentous events – both in time and intent – has almost been lost to public consciousness. It’s high time this fudge of history was corrected.
Patricia Graham
Tonbridge, Kent

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
China syndrome dictates Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific strategy | Simon Tisdall

Simon Tisdall: Obama has no wish to conjure the spectre of a new cold war but is determined to beat back any Chinese bid for

Simon Tisdall

06, Jan, 2012 @6:54 PM

Article image
'Britain at its worst': Luke Treadaway on the shock of The Singapore Grip
In ITV’s epic wartime drama, the actor plays an uptight colonialist caught in Britain’s biggest ever surrender. He talks about racist rulers, life in lockdown – and why you should never act with cats

Stuart Jeffries

10, Sep, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
The Guardian view on North Korea: keep calm and carry on | Editorial
Editorial: The world will have to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea. The alternatives are even worse


03, Sep, 2017 @5:39 PM

Article image
UK must take lead role in de-escalating threat of nuclear war | Letters
Letters: Fourteen medical doctors and scientists call on the British government to join the international treaty demanding the ban of nuclear weapons


31, Aug, 2017 @6:33 PM

Article image
Families of British prisoner and Japanese guard are united by poem 70 years on
Toby Norways travelled to Japan to research his father Bill’s friendship with Kameo Yamanaka, and found an ode in English next to Yamanaka’s grave

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

16, Aug, 2015 @4:19 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Obama in Hiroshima: facing a nuclear past, not fixing a post-nuclear future | Editorial
Editorial: The president has long been drawn to the ideal of a world without atomic weapons. His trip to Japan will encourage the vision, but the gritty realpolitik of the region renders it a distant dream


26, May, 2016 @6:32 PM

Article image
Chin Peng obituary

Communist guerrilla leader who fought the British and the forces of the newly independent Malaya

Dan van der Vat

22, Sep, 2013 @4:29 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Asia-Pacific competition: risks and opportunities | Editorial
Editorial: The Philippine president’s vow to separate from the US has highlighted Washington’s rivalry with Beijing


25, Oct, 2016 @6:40 PM

Article image
Ethics and the Empire under the spotlight | Letters
Letters: Professor Philip Murphy on Nigel Biggar’s ‘Ethics and Empire’ project; Harvey Sanders on Francesco Guardi’s Rialto Bridge painting; and DBC Reed on the slave trade pushing up 18th century property prices


07, Jan, 2018 @7:17 PM

Article image
The end of empire and an India worth celebrating | Letters
Letters: Chris Birch remembers the British empire’s scramble to destroy its records as colonial rule came to a close, and Nitin Mehta lists the achievements of India since partition


17, Aug, 2017 @6:18 PM