Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army

The Southern Expeditionary Army was responsible for executing the major ground operations of the Centrifugal Offensive by which Japan hoped to seize southeast Asia before the Allies could react. This offensive was completely successful, achieving all of its objectives ahead of schedule and at smaller loss than anticipated. Southern Expeditionary Army was subsequently renamed Southern Army.

The location of 21 Division, the area army reserve, is uncertain. Morton places it still in North China until 20 January 1942.

Order of battle, 7 December 1941:

Southern Expeditionary Army (Terauchi; at Saigon)
  1 Parachute Brigade "Dash Forward" (at Nyutabaru, Kyushu) Deployed to Southeast Asia in December 1942 following the outbreak of war.

  1 Parchute Regiment (at Chiai)

2 Parachute Regiment (at Saigon) Conducted airborne attack on Palembang

21 Division (Tanaka; at Cam Ranh?) From Kanazawa. Had seen two years' service in China.

38 Division (Sano; near Hong Kong) From Nagoya. 20,000 men with motorized transport. Assigned to Southern Expeditionary Army from 23 Army for the attack on Hong Kong. The commander of 23 Army, Sakai, seems to have personally supervised the Hong Kong operation. 

228 Regiment

229 Regiment

230 Regiment

21 Independent Mixed Brigade (Yamagata) Eventually committed to New Guinea.

21 Air Regiment (at Gia Lam)

82 Light Squadron (at Tien Flo)

  12 Ki-48 Lily

84 Squadron (at Nha Trang)

9 Ki-27 Nate

83 Air Regiment (at Sanya)

71 Squadron

10 Ki-51 Sonia

73 Squadron

9 Ki-51 Sonia

89 Squadron (at Dau Mot)

12 Ki-32 Mary

7 Air Regiment (at Chiai) Transport for Dash Forward?

1 Squadron

6 Ki-59 Theresa

2 Squadron

6 Ki-59 Theresa

13 Squadron

12 Ki-57 Topsy (at Chiai)

6 Ki-59 Theresa (at Dau Mot)

47 Squadron (at Tien Flo)

9 Ki-44 Tojo Experimental squadron

14 Army (Homma) Responsible for taking the Philippines.

16 Division (Morioka; at Naze)
From Kyoto. This division had been recently triangularized and had not seen recent combat. Homma did not rate it very highly. Those elements not detached to Magong or Palau were embarked with the Lamon Bay Force.

9 Regiment

20 Regiment
At Magong

33 Regiment
Two of its battalions were at Palau (Kimura Detachment)

48 Division (Tsuchihashi; at Magong) Embarked with Lingayen Gulf Force. Formed in 1940 in Formosa and lacked battle experience, but Homma still considered it the best division in 14 Army. It was partially motorized and reinforced with artillery.

65 Brigade (Nara; at Magong) From Hiroshima. 6500 mostly older reservists. Considered totally unprepared for combat by its own commander. Intended for garrison duty.

4 Tank Regiment (at Magong)
Light tanks. Attached to 20 Regiment, 16 Division.

7 Tank Regiment (at Magong) 80-100 tanks, including "heavy" 13-ton tanks. Attached to 48 Division.

3 Engineer Regiment (at Takao)

21 Engineer Regiment (at Magong)

15 Army (IIda; at Phnom Penh?) Responsible for taking Burma. Little more than a cadre ln 7 December 1941, with some of its units still in China.

33 Division (Sakurai; in Central China) From Sendai. Had seen service in central China.

55 Division (Takeuchi; on Thai border) From Zentsuji. Less 143 Regiment, which was assigned to 25 Army.

16 Army (Imamura; at Tokyo) Responsible for taking the Netherlands East Indies. Would not deploy to the combat zone until the Philippines and Singapore were isolated.

2 Division (Maruyama; at Cam Ranh)

56 Brigade (Sakaguchi; at Palau) Designated to become the infantry group of 56 Division. Responsible for seizing Tarakan and Balikpapan. Included 146 Regiment.

25 Army (Yamashita; at Cam Ranh) Responsible for taking Malaya

5 Division (Matsui; with Singora Attack Force) From Hiroshima. One of the finest and most heavily mechanized divisions in the Japanese Army with specialist training in amphibious assault. Also one of the largest, since it was still a square division. Three of its four regiments were assigned to land at Singora and the fourth at Patani and drive down the west coast of Malaya.

9 Brigade (Kawamura; with Singora Attack Force)

11 Regiment (at Cam Ranh) Would deploy as second echelon to Singora by 1941-12-16

41 Regiment (with Singora Attack Force) Formed the vanguard of 5 Division at Singora.

21 Brigade (Sugiura; at Cam Ranh)

21 Regiment (at Shanghai) Did not deploy to Thailand until January 1942.

42 Regiment (with Patani Attack Force)
Responsible for securing Patani.

18 Division (Mutaguchi; at Canton) From Kurume. Had considerable combat experience in China and had specialist training in amphibious assault. A square division, but one of its brigade headquarters was detached with one regiment to operate under 16 Army, leaving the other brigade headquarters and three regiments with the main body of the division.

23 Brigade (at Canton)

55 Regiment (at Canton)

56 Regiment (with Kota Baharu Attack Force)
Responsible for seizing Kota Baharu.

35 Brigade (at Canton)       
Kawaguchi Detachment was built around the brigade headquarters and 124 Regiment and was responsible for seizing points in west Borneo: Miri, Kuching, Brunei

114 Regiment
In reserve for probable deployment to Malaya.

  124 Regiment

56 Division (Watanabe; at Fukuoka) From Kurume. This division was newly activated and the brigade designated to become its infantry group (56 Brigade) was operating with 16 Army. Yamashita left the headquarters in Japan, where it was effectively part of the area army reserve. Deployed to Burma 1941-12.

Imperial Guards Division (Nishimura; on Thai border)

Consisted of 3, 4 and 5 Guards Regiments. Responsible for securing Thailand and the Kra Peninsula before joining the rest of 25 Army in Malaya

3 Tank Group Amounted to a full armored division, with four regiments.  Three regiments (1, 2, and 6) were equipped with 37 M-97 and 20 M-95 tanks; the 14 Tank Regiment was equipped with 45 M-95 tanks.

143 Regiment Detailed from 55 Division, 15 Army, to seize points along the Kra Isthmus. Regiment headquarters embarked on a transport off Prachuap; two battalions in two transports and one cargo ship off Jumbhorn; another battalion and three transports off Nakhorn.

3 Air Division (Sugawara; at Kompong Trach) There is excellent agreement on the composition of 3 Air Division among various sources.

3 Air Brigade (Endo)

27 Light Air Regiment (at Kompong Chanang)

23 Ki-51 Sonia

59 Air Regiment

24 Ki-27 Nate

75 Light Air Regiment

25 Ki-48 Lily

90 Light Air Regiment

25 Ki-48 Lily

7 Air Brigade (Yamamoto; at Phnom Penh)

12 Heavy Air Regiment

21 Ki-21 Sally

60 Heavy Air Regiment

39 Ki-21 Sally

51 Recon Squadron

3 Ki-15 Babs
3 Ki-46 Dinah

64 Air Regiment (at Phiquoc)

6 Ki-27 Nate
35 Ki-43 Oscar

98 Heavy Air Regiment (at Saigon)

42 Ki-21 Sally

10 Air Brigade (Hirotaka; at Krakor)

31 Light Air Regiment (at Siem Reap)

24 Ki-30 Ann

77 Air Regiment (at Siem Reap)

36 Ki-27 Nate

62 Heavy Air Regiment

22 Ki-21 Sally

70 Recon Squadron

8 Ki-15 Babs

12 Air Brigade (Aoki; at Phiquoc)

1 Air Regiment

42 Ki-27 Nate

11 Air Regiment

39 Ki-27 Nate

50 Recon Squadron (at Kompong Trach)

3 Ki-15 Babs

2 Ki-46 Dinah

81 Recon Squadron (at Phnom Penh)

9 Ki-15 Babs

7 Ki-46 Dinah

5 Air Division (Obata, at Heito) There is significant disagreement among various sources on the composition of 5 Air Division. We use the composition given by Francillon (1979).

4 Air Brigade (Kawahara; at Chiai)

8 Light Air Regiment

27 Ki-48 Lily

9 Ki-15 Babs

2 Ki-46 Dinah

14 Heavy Air Regiment

18 Ki-21 Sally

16 Light Air Regiment

27 Ki-30 Ann

50 Air Regiment (Hengchun)

36 Ki-27 Nate

10 Independent Air Squadron (at Heito)

52 Recon Squadron

13 Ki-51 Sonia

74 Recon Squadron

10 Ki-36 Ida

76 Recon Squadron

9 Ki-15 Babs

2 Ki-46 Dinah

11 Air Transport Squadron (at Taichu)

9 Ki-57 Topsy

12 Air Transport Squadron (at Phnom Penh) Not given in Francillon, but identified by Rottman as part of the parachute transport force.

9 Ki-57 Topsy

24 Air Regiment (at Heito)

36 Ki-27 Nate


Bradley et al. (1992)

Francillon (1979)

Morton (1953)

Rottman (2005)

Rottman and Takizawa (2005)

Willmott (1982)

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