'The Most Dangerous Moment of the War': Japan's Attack on the Indian Ocean, 1942

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Casemate, Nov 19, 2015 - History - 208 pages
“A well-detailed account of the [World War II] raid, which badly stung the Royal Navy but which the Japanese failed to exploit to a strategic advantage” (Seapower).

In early April 1942, a little-known episode of World War II took place. Said by Sir Winston Churchill to be “the most dangerous moment of the war,” the Japanese made their only major offensive westwards into the Indian Ocean. As historian Sir Arthur Bryant said, “A Japanese naval victory in April 1942 would have given Japan total control of the Indian Ocean, isolated the Middle East and brought down the Churchill government.”

Having crippled the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese turned their sights on the British Eastern Fleet based at Ceylon. Occupation of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, would not only provide the Japanese a springboard into India but also control of the essential convoy routes to Europe and the Western Desert. And aside from the British Eastern Fleet, the Indian Ocean lay undefended.

In April 1942, a Japanese fleet led by six aircraft carriers, four battleships, and thirty other ships sailed into the Bay of Bengal. In the ferocious battles that followed, the British lost a carrier, two heavy cruisers, and many other ships; however, the Japanese eventually turned back, never to sail against India again. John Clancy, whose father survived the sinking of HMS Cornwall during the battle, “masterfully combines the strategic overview, the tactical decision making and many personal experiences to bring this episode of the war to life” (WWII Today).

“Absolutely enthralling.” —Books Monthly

“Well researched . . . a balanced view of men acting under the stress of war during a critical time.” —WWII History


1 The Background to the Conflict
2 The Allied Response
3 Political Divisions as Ceylon Prepares
4 The Events of Easter 1942
5 The Loss of the Cornwall the Dorsetshire and Other Ships
6 Survivors Stories
7 Nagumo Follows up with Trincomalee and More Ships are Sunk
8 The Sequel and its Aftermath
9 Victory or Defeat?
A Poem by Emlyn Parry a former seaman of HMS Dorsetshire
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About the author (2015)

John Clancy is an experienced author of over fifteen local history books and holds an MA in archaeology and heritage from the University of Leicester. His father was a survivor of the sinking of HMS Cornwall, and later in life he met another survivor who provided many missing links in the story.

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