Chance Encounter by Robert Taylor (AP)
December 7, 1941 was, said President Roosevelt a day of infamy. The surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on that fateful day, brought America into a war that was to become global. The Japanese airstrike was the first of many attacks that day against America and other Allied Forces in the Pacific. Within a few days the British capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk, the Japanese had landed on the coast of Malaya, Guam was seized, Hong Kong taken, and landings were made in the American held Philippines. In those first grim days of the Pacific War one territory after another quickly fell to the Japanese onrush - resistance, though heroic, was almost futile as the unprepared Allies were simply overwhelmed. Retaliating as best they could, Allied Forces hit back wherever possible and one of the first successes was by Dutch Forces on 23 December, just 16 days after Pearl Harbor. A Japanese invasion fleet had been spotted steaming south towards British Borneo. Royal Netherlands Navy submarine K XIV, alerted to their position, was heading west in order to make an interception. But the Japanese changed course on to an easterly heading during the night and made for the beaches off Ktiching - the opposite direction to that of the submarine. However a patrolling Dornier 24 of the Royal Netherlands Navy sighted the fleet on its new course, and by a remarkable chance encounter also spotted the submarine on the surface, and immediately signalled the location, course and speed of the convoy. The submarine quickly engaged the Japanese in the shallow waters off the landing beach head, causing chaos amongst the fleet. Two ships were sunk and another two severely damaged. The Dornier, despite being heavily engaged by Pete floatplanes from a Japanese heavy cruiser, managed to return safely to base.
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