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Battle of Christmas Island
Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II

Christmas Island

Date 31 March-1 April 1942
Location Christmas Island
Result Japanese victory


Christmas Island occupied by Japanese forces
United States

United Kingdom

Commanders and leaders
unknown [1] Shōji Nishimura

32 infantry Sea: 1 submarine


850 infantry Sea: 3 light cruisers 8 destroyers 1 oiler 2 troop transports Air: unknown aircraft

Casualties and losses
27 captured 1 light cruiser damaged
  • Five British officers were killed in a mutiny on March 10, 1942.

The Battle of Christmas Island was a small engagement which began on 31 March 1942, during World War II. Because of a mutiny by Indian soldiers against their British officers, Japanese troops were able to occupy Christmas Island without any resistance. However, the American submarine Seawolf caused severe damage to the Japanese cruiser Naka.


[hide] *1 Background


Christmas Island was—at the time—a British possession under administrative control of the Straits Settlement, situated 161 nmi (185 mi; 298 km) south of Java. It was important for two reasons: it was a perfect control post for the east Indian Ocean area; and it was an important source of phosphates,[1] which were needed by Japanese industry.

After the occupation of Java, Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issued orders for "Operation X" (The Invasion and Occupation of Christmas Island) on 14 March 1942.[1]

Rear Admiral Shōji Nishimura was assigned to command the Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet's Occupation Force, with the light cruiser Naka as his flagship. The fleet also consisted of the light cruisers Nagara and Natori, and destroyers Minegumo, Natsugumo, Amatsukaze, Hatsukaze, Satsuki, Minazuki, Fumizuki and Nagatsuki, oiler Akebono Maru and transports Kimishima Maru and Kumagawa Maru, with 850 men of the 21st and 24th Special Base Forces and the 102nd Construction Unit.[1]

Opposing this invasion force was an old 6 in (150 mm) gun[1] brought down from Singapore after World War I, and possibly up to three anti-aircraft guns.[citation needed] The British garrison—a detachment of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery—numbered 32, mostly Indian troops led by a British officer and four NCOs.[1]

The Indian troops, apparently believing Japanese propaganda concerning the liberation of India from British rule, mutinied and killed their sleeping British superiors on 10 March 1942, then locked up the District Officer and the few other European inhabitants of the island pending an execution that apparently was thwarted by the Japanese occupation.[1][2]


At dawn on 31 March 1942, a dozen Japanese bombers launched the attack, destroying the radio station, which stood roughly where the post office is today. Fragments of bombs dropped were still being found into the 1980s in the Post Office Padang. Because of the mutiny, the Japanese expeditionary corps was able to disembark at Flying Fish Cove without opposition.

At 09:49 the same morning, the American submarine USS Seawolf fired four torpedoes at the Naka; all missed. Seawolf attacked again at 06:50 the following morning, firing three torpedoes at Natori, missing again. That evening, with her final two torpedoes, from 1,100 yd (1,000 m),[3] Seawolf managed to hit Naka on her starboard side, near her No.1 boiler.[4] The damage was severe enough Naka had to be towed back to Singapore by Natori, and eventually was forced to return to Japan for a year of repairs. Following the hit, the other Japanese vessels depth charged the American submarine for over seven hours but it escaped.[5]

Natori returned to Christmas Island and withdrew all elements of the occupation force with the exception of a 20-man garrison detachment to Banten Bay on 3 April 1942. All that the Japanese had gained was the phosphate rock which was loaded on the transport ships.[1] After the end of the occupation, liberating troops destroyed a Shinto shrine at which the Japanese had reportedly forced many local Muslims to worship.[citation needed]

After the war 7 mutineers were traced and were prosecuted by a Military Court in Singapore and five were sentenced to death in 1947. The sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after the governments of India and Pakistan made representations.[1]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Klemen, L (1999-2000). "The Mystery of Christmas Island, March 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
  2. ^ Woodmore, Christmas Island Explorer's Guide
  3. ^ Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (New York: Bantam, 1976), p.190.
  4. ^ Parshall,
  5. ^ Hara, Japanese Destroyer Captain; Blair, p.191.


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