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26 Februari 2013


Military tactic is just like water, flowing on its current naturally, namely from the high place flowing down to lower one. And so is in a war. Avoid the strong sides but attack the weak ones.

Water forms its current pursuant to the kind of land it flows. The soldiers will combat for their victory depending on the enemy they face. Therefore, just like water which is always not in fixed form, the condition in war will never be constant.
Stay away from enemy having perfect banners, avoid attacking a good troop in strong reliable structure is an art in learning the environment.

If our power is not in balance with the power of our enemy, it means that it is not necessary for us to make a direct attack.

(Sun Tzu)

The structure of strength of a fleet or sea combating force is determined by the number of ships and their types, condition and their capabilities.  A big power structure does not always guarantee its strength. And although the factor of technological superiority is still determinant, however it still depends on its situation and condition. It is for this reason that the term “the strong side” of a combating power at the sea shall be meant pursuant to its various situation in dimension of space and time.

A task force of reliable destroyer ships patrolling in the middle of deep sea certainly will be a threat for its enemy’s submarines, and classified as belonging to ‘strong side’ category. However, if such a task force has to maneuver at shallow waters or at waters having a lot of coral islands, then such reliable ships will be in “weak side” condition, because when operating in such waters, they are not in their free condition to use their capabilities.

And so is the existence of a fleet at a resting position in a base and not in condition of ready to combat, must become a sitting duck target for its enemy. But if the said fleet is in moving condition at the sea in full alert, it can be deemed as a power having perfect banners.

The sea power, pursuant to its basic nature as an element having high mobility and maneuver, its condition in general will become weak when the element of its mobility decreases, either due to the natural and technical factors or due to a factor made on purpose in conformity with the goal of its uses. For example in an amphibian operation, an amphibian task force will be in a weak condition when moving approaching the landing coast, or when conducting the amphibian landing.
The art of knowing the strong and the weak sides of the enemy’s power unavoidably is the result of the intelligence source. So, the thing to be done by a wise authority and good leader to attack and defeat the enemy and achieve the things which are impossible for the common soldiers is to know the enemy’s condition before he himself starts to move.

Intelligence agents start to play not only during high escalation or in war time, but also conduct their missions far before the war is planned and started, even when the condition is still normal and peaceful.  Japanese surprise attack to the US Fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is an example of an attack, avoiding the strong side and attacking the weak one.
That attack had been planned one year in advance, and wascarried out after passing through a Battle Training for a skillful proficiency.  The condition of US Fleet in Pearl Harbor by then was not in the state of ready to combat, considering that the situation was peaceful and no signs nor signals that Japan would attack. The day of attack chosen by Japan was Sunday, the time when the ship crews and workers enjoyed their week-end.

In this attack, in many aspects were considered as a treacherous attack.  Japan even did not give a chance for the enemy to make counter attack.  It was different from the attack to Prince of Wales and Repulse three days afterwards, namely on December 10, 1941. Those two British battle ships were provoked to come out from their base in a condition without any air protection, then suddenly attacked in surprise by around 100 Japanese torpedo bomber planes.

The attack to British ships had been accurately planned by Japan. Japan knew from its reliable intelligence sources that Prince of Wales and other British ships that were prepared to be ready in Singapore by then were not in their profitable condition. Prince of Wales and Repulse usually had never been released from the escort if the carrier ship Indomitable functioning to give the air protection or naval air cover, but by then Indomitable was docking for repair.

For Japan, particularly for Admiral Yamamoto as the thinker of maritime strategy, the backbone of a fleet relied on the carrier ship, since it was only a carrier ship which was capable of providing good air cover, and at the same time using the fighter planes she carried to attack the enemy.
Without the presence of a carrier ship, as experience by the aforesaid British battle ships, put them in weak condition.   Seeing the weakness in enemy’s side, Japan planned a landing in Malay Peninsula in three different places. This plan had already been made since early November 1941, still far from the day of attack to Pearl Harbor.

And at the beginning of December 1941, the Japanese amphibian task force including 19 ships of LST (Landing Ship Tank) had been waiting and dropping the anchor at Samah waters, Hainan. It was planned that the aforesaid task force would pass through the Siamese Gulf to do the landing in Malay. Japan had realized that its task force would face the risk of failure if they had to deal with Prince of Wales, Repulse, and some other British destroyer ships. Therefore, it was determined to have three places of landing.

This was intended “to attract” all the British air power available in land from the three battle fields with the purpose that the movement of the British battle ships would get no air protection. On the other hand, Japan had already been ready to attack the British ships with its torpedo bomber fighter planes whose base was in Indochina.

If we want to have a battle, the enemy can be forced to be busy though they are taking a shield behind high bunker and deep ditches. What we need to do is attacking the other places that force the enemy leave their places.

(Sun Tzu)

Admiral Sir Tom Philips who was on board of Prince of Wales realized that his condition was weak since there was no carrier ship. He did not realize either that there was an air threat to his fleet if he moved Northwards. However, in the effort to prevent Japanese landing in Malay, Sir Tom Phillips was bound by Navy tradition that Navy could not keep silent and do nothing and let the Air Force and Army struggle alone to defend themselves.                                                                   

Therefore on December 8, Sir Tom Phillips ordered his fleet to move out toward Siamese Gulf. The fleet power by then consisted of 5 ships, namely the Prince of Wales battle ship, the cruiser Repulse, and 3 destroyers. The aforesaid ships were moving and maneuvering to look for the Japanese task forces with the goal to destroy them before reaching their landing places. Sir Tom Phillips took a very brave decision although he knew that all the fighter planes in land would be mobilize to hit the Japanese landing.

On December 8, Japan tried to land in Kota Bharu, Malay, but was stricken to retreat. When Prince of Wales arrived in that waters, the Japanese task force had already been withdrawn backwards. This was not known by Sir Tom Phillips, so he continued his searched Northwards.

On December 9, Sir Tom Phillips realized that the position of his ships had been 150 miles from South Indochina, and 250 miles East of Malay Peninsula, already been entering the radius of air raid that possibly conducted by Japan from Indochina. Therefore, he ordered his fleet to turn their directions back and in full speed returned to Singapore.

        You can only guarantee the safety of a defense if you defend only at the positions impossible to   be attacked.

You could take a rest and be safe from the chase if you could  move faster than your enemy.

(Sun Tzu)

If Sir Tom Phillips moved directly to Singapore, the history would tell another story. Before midnight on December 9, he got an intelligence report that by then Japan had already landed in Kuantan, a place located in between Kota Bharu and Singapore.
Sir Tom Philips thought that the condition would be very dangerous if Japan succeeded in landing in Kuantan. Therefore, he turned the direction of his fleet directly towards the Kuantan waters in order to destroy the Japanese task force. However, it was found out that such intelligence report was mistaken.

In the morning of December 10 when arriving in Kuantan waters, the Prince of Wales and Repulse were attacked in surprise by approximately 100 Japanese torpedo bomber fighter planes. These two ships were badly destroyed and got sunk together with Admiral Sir Tom Phillips.


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