Tuesday 6 December 2011

Part 1 : Kelantan - Ground Zero

Last week we made a road trip through Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. On Tuesday, 29th November 2011 we stayed at Pantai Cahaya Bulan in Kota Bharu.

A bit of history. Today is December 7th, 2011 - the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The Japanese also simultaneously attacked other targets in the Pacific including British Malaya. They landed on the beaches near Kota Bharu to begin the invasion of Malaya. These attacks marked the beginning of the Second World War in our part of the world - also known as the Pacific War. The attacks saw the entry of the United States into the Second World War and also forced the British Empire to declare war on the Japanese Empire.

The historians say that the Japanese attack on Kota Bharu began 70 minutes ahead of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Japanese landed along a 10 mile stretch of beach from Kuala Pak Amat (Pantai Cinta Berahi, Pantai Sabak, Kampong Kuala Pak Amat) past Pengkalen Chepa until Bachok.

The invasion of Malaya began with a naval bombardment at around 12:30 a.m. (local time in Kota Bharu) on 8 December. The Japanese carrier planes flying towards Pearl Harbor were about 50 - 70 minutes away; the attack on Pearl Harbour started at 01:18 a.m. Kota Bharu time, although it is usually referred to as the 7 December attack as it occurred on 7 December Hawaii time.

So in fact, the Pacific War started here in Kota Bharu - on the beaches of Kuala Pak Amat.

Shortly after midnight on December 7 / 8 December 1941, Indian soldiers of the 17th Dogra Rejiment patrolling the beaches at Kuala Pak Amat spotted three large shadows: the transport ships Awazisan Maru, Ayatosan Maru, and Sakura Maru, dropping anchor approximately 3 km off the coast. The ships were carrying approximately 5,200 troops of the Takumi Detachment under the command of Major-General Hiroshi Takumi.

Here is a picture of an old map showing the Japanese landing points.

The Japanese started landing troops in the dark in the heavy monsoon waves off the coast of Kuala Pak Amat. Today Kuala Pak Amat would or should include the beaches known as Pantai Sabak and also Pantai Cahaya Bulan (formerly Pantai Cinta Berahi). The Japanese lost some men to drowning but managed to reach the shore. Here is a picture of Pantai Cahaya Bulan taken at sunset last Tuesday.

Over the past 70 years, there has been much wave erosion and the original coastline has changed a lot. Some people say that the sea has encroached up to a kilometre inland - meaning the original landing beaches are now under the water.

Upon landing the Japanese encountered stiff resistance from the 17th Dogra Regiment of Punjabi and Kashmiri soldiers. Over 300 Japanese were killed in the Kota Bharu landings - the largest casualties suffered by the Japanese in Malaya. The Dogras were wiped out almost to the last man. Here is an old picture of the Dogras in action :

Once the Japanese gained the beaches, they immediately set off for Kota Bharu through Pengkalen Chepa, taking the airfield at Pengkalen Chepa first. They cycled into Kota Bharu without much resistance.

This is Kuala Pak Amat today. I took these pictures last Wednesday. It looks like paradise. It has not changed much from the time General Hiroshi Takumi landed his troops at this beach 70 years ago today.

Here is a kampong house at Kuala Pak Amat - with kids playing in the yard. I bet they have no idea that they are standing on Ground Zero - the exact spot where the Second World War began in the Pacific.

Another view of the area. To get to this Kuala Pak Amat area, you just drive around the fence surrounding the Perdana Resort at Pantai Cahaya Bulan. The "Japanese invasion" beaches are all in one stretch.

More to come
Story by : Out Syed Box

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