Cauldron

The Mighty Krait - Operation Jaywick September 26 1943

Episode Summary

Let’s go back to beautiful Bali and the perilous Lombok Strait. Let’s go back to the hundreds of empty featureless miles of the Java Sea. To the craggy bushland and winding river training grounds of Camp X on the Hawkesbury River. Let’s go back to the crowded shipping lanes and jam-packed wharves of the Jewel of the East, Singapore itself. Let’s go back to a time when everything was on the line, freedom hung in the balance, and a few fearless men had the courage to gamble their lives in the hopes of striking the enemy a blow. Men that recognized the truth in Faulkner’s line "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." Let’s go back to September of 1943 and Operation Jaywick.

Episode Notes

The world was on fire. Evil had spread across the lands and seas like a virus, infecting everything with death and hatred. The monstrous Empires of Europe and the East seemed unbeatable and destined to victory. To win the Allies would need to try every trick in the book, use every method of war known to them. And at times even invent new methods. The more daring the more dangerous. But in a fight that could mean the end of everything, there can be no reserves, no plans too risky. Better to leave no stone unturned. Better to lose, if lose you must, having exhausted every possible or even impossible chance. The Allies in WWII knew this and in the Pacific theatre they tried every imaginable gambit.

Let’s go back to beautiful Bali and the perilous Lombok Strait. Let’s go back to the hundreds of empty featureless miles of the Java Sea. To the craggy bushland and winding river training grounds of Camp X on the Hawkesbury River. Let’s go back to the crowded shipping lanes and jam-packed wharves of the Jewel of the East, Singapore itself. Let’s go back to a time when everything was on the line, freedom hung in the balance, and a few fearless men had the courage to gamble their lives in the hopes of striking the enemy a blow. Men that recognized the truth in Faulkner’s line "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." Let’s go back to September of 1943 and Operation Jaywick.

Episode Transcription

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The world was on fire. Evil had spread across the lands and seas like a virus, infecting everything with death and hatred. The monstrous Empires of Europe and the East seemed unbeatable and destined to victory. To win the Allies would need to try every trick in the book, use every method of war known to them. And at times even invent new methods. The more daring the more dangerous. But in a fight that could mean the end of everything, there are no reserves, no plans too risky. Better to leave no stone unturned. Better to lose, if lose you must, having exhausted every possible or even impossible chance. The Allies in WWII knew this and in the Pacific theatre they tried every imaginable gambit.

Let’s go back to beautiful Bali and the perilous Lombok Strait. Let’s go back to the hundreds of empty featureless miles of the Java Sea. To the craggy bushland and winding river training grounds of Camp X on the Hawkesbury River. Let’s go back to the crowded shipping lanes and jam-packed wharves of the Jewel of the East, Singapore itself. Let’s go back to a time when everything was on the line, freedom hung in the balance, and a few fearless men had the courage to gamble their lives in the hopes of striking the enemy a blow. Men that recognized the truth in Faulkner’s line "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." Let’s get stuck in to Operation Jaywick September 26, 1943.

A small island nation with a burgeoning population and blossoming economy, Japan required almost everything it needed to run to be imported from far away. This meant that if trade deals couldn't be struck, the Japanese had to be willing and able to take what they couldn't buy. And the Japanese government had no qualms about using military force to strip a neighbor of anything valuable. By 1940/41, the Japanese had been running roughshod all over mainland China for almost a decade. Japan's hunger for raw materials was insatiable. As the world became more and more aware of this budding, aggressive Empire in the East, the Western powers tried to stabilize the region. By restricting access to critical resources like oil and rubber, the United States and Great Britain could put the breaks on Japanese expansion. Or so they hoped.

Japan was unable to cope with the economic pressures and sanctions from the West. The Japanese government began to scramble for ways to maintain their power position while negotiating a way free of the imposed restraints. Quickly it became clear that any talks with the US would likely prove fruitless. The Imperial Japanese military recognized that the fuel and materials they did have would soon be used up just by maintaining a war footing. There would soon come a day that even if Japan wanted to fight a war, they would be unable to do so out of a simple lack of means. Of course, the riches of the Far East lay all around Japan, ripe for the taking, and the temptation proved too much. All that was required was a way to knock down Great Britain and the US quickly, and if not permanently, then for a good long count.

The plan was bold, brilliant, dastardly, and infamous. The Imperial Japanese war machine was set upon the world in full on December 7, 1941. The attacks on Pearl Harbour, that pristine Hawaiian Sunday morning, were highly successful if not necessarily devastating (the aircraft carriers that Admiral Yamamoto most wanted to hit were safely out to sea at the time of the attack). 

The US Navy in the Pacific was hamstrung before it even knew it was in a fight. In a stunning display of coordination and operational capability, the following hours and days saw a flurry of Japanese attacks. Across the Pacific, from Malaya to the Moluccas, the Philippines to the Aleutians, the Japanese military lashed out. The freshly minted Allied powers, Great Britain and the US were shocked and sent reeling by a flurry of Japanese attacks. 

As the scale of the Imperial Japanese offensive became apparent, the Allies scrambled to cauterize the various wounds. The British believed one of the places that would help halt the onslaught was the "Gibraltar of the East," the metropolis of Singapore. Dangling at the tip of the Mayala Peninsula, Singapore was considered impregnable as a fortress, a nut too tough to be cracked. Tokyo hoped to take the city and thereby control the shipping lanes, giving them free rein in the Dutch East Indies. In a series of startling moves, the Japanese advanced down the Mayala Peninsula and soon were knocking at the gates of the city. What followed was, according to Churchill, the "worst disaster in British military history." The British commander, Arthur Percival, surrendered the city with its 80k man garrison, to an army of around 35k Japanese. We will cover this story further at some point, but for today's tale, Singapore had fallen, and the Japanese landed another blow to the Allied cause.

In the mayhem of a surrendered city, thousands of British, Australians, New Zealanders, and Europeans fled. Among the refugees was Cpt. Ivan Lyon, a man of great imagination and a fierce will to fight. Along with civilian Australian Bill Reynolds, Lyon began plotting how best to hit back at the invaders. He recognized that Japanese strategy would be to use Singapore to supply advances through Burma and eventually to use the city as a launching pad for operations aimed at Australia. He believed that as Japanese interior lines stretched further and further, striking logistical aspects of the Japanese military would prove just as useful as traditional combat, maybe more so. 

As the German Blitzkrieg swept through Western Europe, Churchill realized his small Island Nation could do little to hurt the enemy at first. But they had to do something to remind the enemy they weren't invincible, so Churchill called for an organization "To Set All Europe Ablaze." The Special Operations groups that soon formed were to specialize in asymmetric warfare. Traditionally thought of as a "weak" strategy, asymmetric warfare is a kind of strategic martial arts. It uses a larger opponent's size against itself. Through guerrilla tactics like sabotage, assassination, and partisan attacks, a smaller force can compensate for an adversary's more substantial conventional strength. The risks are incredibly high for the individuals involved, but the potential strategic gains are very high compared to the low cost in life and material. Today we see asymmetric warfare used to significant effect by insurgents and terrorist groups all over the globe. Most governments even have agencies that specialize in asymmetric warfare, think of any Special Forces units or agencies like CIA, MI6, KGB, SVR. The reason asymmetric warfare is so widely used is that it works, and there are few examples of running high reward low-risk asymmetric operations as successfully as 1943's Operation Jaywick.

SOA, or Special Operations Australia, was the organization set up to start waging a covert war in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. It was made of a mix of Australian, British navy and army as well as several other nationalities. Everyone involved was fully intent on bringing the war to the enemy. SOA established a commando raider unit in June of 1942, known as Special Unit Z. By late 1942 they had begun to turn. The Battle of Midway dealt a death blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy. It would take months before this was apparent, but the injury to Japan was mortal. Over time the Allies began to scrap and claw their way towards Tokyo, island by bloody island. As the red ring of Imperial Japanese control shrank, SOA's asymmetric warfare played a large part in creating chaos and confusion behind enemy lines. SOA's Special Unit Z would play arguably the key role in stirring the Japanese pot.

Ivan Lyon and Bill Reynolds hatched the plan to hit Singapore harbor in the early months after the city's fall. As refugees themselves, they recognized early on how easy it might be for a small group of men to get in and out of the harbor unnoticed. The plan was kicked around and eventually made its way to Archibald Wavell, CIC, in India. He was optimistic about the idea but had one small critique that proved hugely valuable. Wavell said the plan could move forward, but any infiltration had to come from the south and east, not from the West. His reasoning was simple but showed a deep understanding of his enemy. Wavell reasoned that the Japanese would expect attacks from the perimeter of their lines of control. But they would be completely confident in their total control behind the front lines. If the infiltrators could sneak through the thousands of little islands and waterways from the southeast, they might catch the defender's unawares. 

That small shift in the plan made the task of reaching the target infinitely more difficult. But first, Lyon and his team had to get to Singapore. For that, they would need a vessel durable and sturdy enough to make the trip but innocuous enough to go unnoticed. Unnoticed not for a minute but over 100's of miles and for days on end in enemy-controlled territory. That very ship was already at hand in the Kofuku Maru. Clocking in at 70 ft long, 11ft in the beam, and pulling a measly 5ft draft, the Kofuku Maru was ideal. With a vast 7-8k mile range, the vessel was suitable for tooling around the geography of the East Indies. Initially a Japanese fishing boat, the Kofuku Maru, would fit right in with local fishing fleets.

The Kofuku Maru had already proved it could handle the maze like seas and islands of the area. After Singapore fell she had been used to rescue 1.1k refuges and bring them to saftey. The only thing the Kofuku Maru lacked was a name fit for a warship. That changed when she was rechristened the MV Krait, the mighty Krait! 

The name had a duel meaning - one to strike fear in the enemy’s heart and one a joke for the men that had to live on board. The first meaning - a krait is a fierce, poisonous, deadly little snake. The second - a knock on the boxy, small boat’s look. Neither spacious or particularly elegant, the men that shipped on the Krait grew to love their ugly little duckling. Former member Horace Young recalls seeing the vessel for the first time. "I thought it was the most dreadful thing I'd seen in my life. Even my trawler days, when I think of them, I thought they were bad enough, but nothing could equal Krait, I'm sure." Lyon didn't care how Krait looked only how she performed, but first, he had to assemble his team.

From Flinders Naval Depot, Lyon selected several men and began to whittle them down. Through a rigorous process of eliminations, he eventually narrowed it down to 11 Australians and 3 Brits (including himself). These last men standing began intense training on August 15, 1943, in the Hawkesbury River area of NSW. The region was full of dense bush, inlets, bays, and cliffs. Perfect conditions for clandestine training, providing plenty of out of the way places to practice the commando arts and train with their new equipment. And train they did! From sunup to 10 pm and very often in between, the young men where on day-long runs, night-long marches, and continuously rowing. Hour by hour, the men trained with the Sten, Owen, Lewis guns, limpet mines, foldboats, and the other weapons of war. Every day brought on some new tasks designed to test endurance, ability, and commitment. The strain of the whole experience worked to mold a unit of brothers, men that could think as one. It was incredibly tough going, but essential in turning these young men into warriors.

As a group, the so-called "Jock Force" was a mishmash of random strangers. In time they became closer than family, and each individual would bring his own unique attribute to the Krait. Lyon had chosen well with his SIC Lt Davidson RNVR. Davidson was a hardass jackaroo known to the team as a true "man's man." He was a brilliant judge of character and played an instrumental role in building and training the team. His specialty lay in the dealing of death. His diary talks about a man's weak spots "Temple, good hard blow will kill. Eyes, gouge out in fighting, jab with two fingers in a sudden movement, finish off at leisure...Ears pull off, bite off, exert pressure upwards with both thumbs under the bottom of ears... Adam's apple, punch as Japanese do with second or long finger knuckled and protruding... Hands, tear fingers apart and split hands, bend fingers back and break." The SIC of Jock Force was a serious man! 

Lt Carse RANVR was the skipper of the ship who replaced the older Bill Reynolds. Carse doubled as the navigator as well. The Krait's medic was Lt Page AIF, a medical student with a gentle, sensitive nature. Cpl A Crilly AIF was an army engineer of Scottish roots. He came on as the cook but had little culinary ability, Lyon just wanted more engineers on board. The one thing Crilly knew how to make well were pancakes, hence his nickname "Pancake Andy." The many pancakes served up on the mission led most of the Jaywick men that survived WWII never want to see another in their life!

Cpl Morris BEF was a Welshman with a booming voice and a happy disposition. Known as 'Taffy," he was also a trained medic. In the Leading Stoker role was JP McDowell RN, a veteran Irish engineer. A/L Seaman Cain RAN, an experienced sailor known as "Cobber". A big powerful man, "Cobber” was made coxswain for the mission. Leading Telegraphist H. Young RAN was a smart, quick-minded young man. He had built his first working radio at 11 and joined the navy at only 16. A/AB's Falls RAN was a dairy farmer in NSW and the oldest of the recruits at a whopping 23. His age earned him the nickname "Poppa." A/AB's Jones RAN, known as "Joe," was a Perth man. Joe was a very reliable helmsman, and one of the teams more experienced seamen. 

A/AB's Huston RAN, "Happy" to the others, rarely smiled. He was diligent and hardworking, from Brisbane, and always trying to do the job well. A/Ab's Marsh was the team joker. Quick with a laugh or a gag, "Boof," as he was known, was taken lightly at one's own risk, as he was an expert in unarmed hand to hand combat. A/Ab's Berryman RAN rounded out Jock Force. Quiet and subdued, he had been a shop assistant in Adelaide before the war. Underneath the sheepish facade, though, Davidson believed there was a leader. Davidson wrote in his diary that all Berryman needed to excel was a "push." 

The team was assembled. The men were trained.The Krait was as ready as she'd ever be. All that was left was to set sail. At 1400 on September 2, 1943, she did just that. Leaving Potshot Base in Western Australia, the Krait headed for Rhio Archipelago. In the early go, the crew got there first chance to see how the Krait handled in rough seas. Choppy waters affected the Krait more than usual because, for the mission, she was over packed with men and material. All that weight meant that the little boat was sluggish when righting herself, and she rolled slow and deep. Even after the sea settled the next morning, there had to be a sense of foreboding running through the Krait. The mission had only just begun, and there seemed to be trouble already. 

The first real test of the disguise, the whole plan's most vital aspect, came on September 8. Heading through the Lombok Strait would require the Krait and her men to sail between Lombok and the Bali Islands. It was believed the waters were bound to be patrolled by both Japanese vessels and air recon. At the very least, there would be local fishing boats and likely tankers, all of which posed the threat of discovery. Initially, the plan was to slip through the straits at night under cover of haze. As the Krait got closer, Lyon and his men realized there was no haze protection whatsoever. There was no point in delaying, so the decision was made to go for it, and insight of any potential viewers, the Krait continued. Passing some uninhabited islands and in view of a few fishing vessels, the Krait shot through eventually getting some cover from the seasonal haze that developed. As they passed the Bali shore, they saw no activity and no trace of a tail. Steaming out of the strait into the Java Sea, the Krait had passed her first test and now headed towards the Kanegean Islands.

The Java Sea passage proved steady and slow, with little activity. The Krait passed several islands and spotted some far off sails but nothing that raised any alarms. Even when they passed a large tanker, the men felt reasonably safe as the other ship gave no sign of noticing Krait. The disguise was working. Some of the men had dyed their skin to an orange brown and all of them wore native dress. Added to the look of the Krait the deception seemed to be complete. The destination after the strait and the Java Sea was Pompong Island. Uninhabited, the little island had water on it and was out of the way enough to go uninvestigated. For all these reasons, Jaywick planners decided Pompong would work well as a base of operations.

 The plan to hit Singapore called for three canoes to paddle their way from a drop area well outside of Singapore right into the harbor plant their limpet mines. Then they were to paddle back to Pompong, get picked up, and then Krait would head for home. All the while, Japanese shipping in the harbor would be burning or sinking. 

Pompong might have worked on paper, but the men realized quickly that it wouldn't work in practice. A lack of other options nearby forced Lyon's hand; he decided to move forward with the operation. But now instead of the Krait hanging around Pompong, she would steam about in isolated waters being careful never to linger or go to the same place twice. The fear wasn't so much Japanese patrols but of local gossip about the weirdly dressed and colored men onboard a Japanese fishing boat. 

After being on Pompong for a short while, the crew realized the area was heavily patrolled. The decision was made to head north in a roundabout way to the island of Panjang. At 0500, on the 18th, men, food, and gear were offloaded. The Krait hauled anchor and headed for Borneo with the plan to meet up with the team on Pompong Island on October 1st or 2nd. The Jaywick raiders set up camp while the rest of the group and the Krait sailed off. The men dragged the stores and equipment into the jungle and went about scouting the area. Because they had reached the ops base a day ahead of schedule, the men rested on Sept 18th and 19th in preparation for the grueling trip to come.

On the evening of the 20th, the men set out with fully loaded canoes. Given the weight of men, gear, and a week's load of food, the little collapsible canoes or folboats sat low in the water and reacted very slowly. In the first canoe and navigating was Lt. Davidson and Poppa Falls, followed by Capt Lyon and Happy Huston and bringing up the rear Page and Joe Jones. On that first night, the team stopped after rowing about ten miles and set up camp for the rest of the night and the following day. Again at dusk on the 21st, the canoes slipped into the water this time heading up the Bulan Strait. That night the men seemed extra edgy, and due to this, they alerted to danger where there was none. The constant need to stop made for slow going, and the decision was made to stop and camp after going only 12 miles. The camp that night was set up in a swamp infested by sand flies. The nearby village and passing ships meant the men had to hunker down in the fly-ridden swamp all day. It could not have been much fun.

September 22 ended with the men making significant progress; they reached the end of the strait. They now headed for the island of Palau Dongas, which would be the forward OPs HQ, arriving at it around midnight. Palau Dongas had water, was thickly jungled, swampy, and uninhabited, perfect for a hidden HQ. Best of all, Dongas was a mere 8 miles SW of Singapore Harbor. On the 23, the men set up an Observation Post that was capable, with the right conditions, of seeing into Singapore or Keppel Harbour. As the men watched the target, it was realized just how effective this mission could be. The Japanese, as Wavell predicted, were supremely confident in their control over the rear areas. Singapore instituted no blackout at night, lights and cars and other vehicles could be clearly observed. The enemy had no idea anything was amiss.

On the 24th, a continuous watch was set on the harbor. During the entire time of observation, it became clear that the target was a fat one. Huge tankers flowed in and out of the port, ensuring that at no time was there less than 100k tons of shipping in the area. All the small local craft in and out of the harbor showed where the minefields lay, making the approach quicker and easier. That night a target appeared, and Lyon thought it was too good to pass. The canoes tried for hours to reach their goal, but powerful tides pushed them back, and at 0100 they turned back. Two canoes made it back to camp, but that same powerful current that had turned the whole group back sent Lyon's canoe way off the mark. The two men in that canoe reached cover as the sun rose and were forced to take shelter in a swamp all through the day. At sunset, Lyon and Happy quickly rowed back to base camp at Dongas. 

The swift current, unpredictable weather, and most importantly, unfavorable tides weren't going to change anytime soon. Realizing the whole mission could slip away due to these unforeseen circumstances, Lt. Davidson made a spot decision that would save the operation. He planned to relocate the HQ and OP ASAP to some new location from where the attack could more likely move forward. On the night of the 25th, the whole unit moved to Palau Subar, another small uninhabited island. This one had no water but a great view of the Anchorage and target waterways. 

On the 26th, the men spent the day diving up targets. One canoe, Lyon, would hit Examination Anchorage. 2 canoe, Davidson, would hit Keppel Harbor and the Roads. Three canoe, Page, would target Palau Bukum Wharf. If any should fail, they also had a list of secondary targets ready to go. At 1900 the canoes were on the water gliding towards their targets. Canoe's 1 and 3 stuck together in the approach. At a designated spot, the canoes split up, and now all three canoes were heading towards the enemy position. Alone.

Lyon and Happy reached their target zone at 2200. All the ships were blacked out except for a few tankers. Because of the blackout, the ships were virtually invisible to Lyon. As the men in the canoe tried to find a suitable target, they realized the allotted time limit was almost up. Not wanting the mission to be a total bust, Lyon decided to hit the tankers, easily visible due to their colored riding lights. Making their way around the hull Lyon and Houston attached limpet mine's to the engine room and the propeller shaft. Things almost took a crazy turn as Huston realized they were being watched by a man inside the ship only a few feet away. The face disappeared, and the light in his room came on, and for a few breathless minutes, Lyon and Huston waited to hear the alarm. None came, and the two men slipped back into the inky night and made it to Dongas before sun up.

Page and Jones in the three canoe made it to Palau Bukum wharves at 2200. Moving along silently, Page assessed the viable ships at anchor. There was one old freighter of the Tone Maru class that the attached limpets to the stern of the other ships were either too big or too small to hit. Skillfully avoiding the sentry on the pier and skirting the pools of light, Page and Jones picked out a couple of other ships to mine. In Keppel Harbor, the men found a newer freighter, the Nassan Maru, which they succeeded in placing limpets on. The final target was an older ship, the Yamataga Maru, or maybe the Nagano Maru. With all three ships wired with charges and ready to blow, Page and Jones paddled out of the harbor and made their way back to Dongas with no issues.

Davidson and Falls in the two canoe made it to their zone at 2100. Having passed by anti submarine mines, and past an antisubmarine boom, the men were almost rundown and sunk by a tug just going about its business. They avoided possible death and remained undetected but were disappointed upon reaching their first target zone. There just wasn't much in the way of targets, and what there was, was either dangerously light up or too small to warrant the risk of exposure. The two men turned around and backtracked to the Roads area. Here their luck changed. The Roads was chock fuel of targets. They singled out three of the biggest they could get to from the portside; this way, they avoided the bright lights of the city. All three ships were in the 5 to 6000 tonnage range types of transport. Each target was cased, and the mines placed. The two men of canoe 2 left the Roads at 0100 and headed for safety. They weren't going to Dongas but instead setting a course straight to the pick up at Pompong. The ensuing trip of 4 days was a slog as they two made frequent stops to rest and hide, but other than a storm that almost sank them, the men of two canoe made it to the rendezvous without issue. 

Canoe's 1 and 3 stayed at Dongas long enough to witness the results of their hard work. The limpets were all set with timed charges, and between 0500 and 0600 on the morning of the 27th, they went off. Seven explosions ripped through the previously quiet early morning harbor air. Debris and hunks of metal flew through the sky and smoked billowed from the hulking ships. Sirens screamed throughout the area, and the city of Singapore went black, anticipating a more extensive attack. The Ports were locked down, and small ships crazily went back and forth with no seeming destination. Chaos surrounded the port, and the Japanese had no clue what was happening. Air patrols droned through the skies trying to find the ships or planes that could have done such damage. It was clear to the Jaywick men that they had succeeded. One ship they could see was stern down, sunk. The smoke that cascaded from one of the burning tankers made any other visual confirmation impossible, but they had seen enough. The one and three canoes slipped into the water at sunset and set out for Pompong. 

The two canoes made their way along, but on the 30th, a brewing storm left the men beached. This meant the next day would have to be a daylight run of almost 30 miles to make up the lost ground, incredibly dangerous but necessary. Setting out on the morning of the 1st, the one and three canoes slid right under numerous aircraft and past a Japanese observation. They went wholly unmolested and unnoticed. Finally, at 3 in the morning, they reached Pompong and the pick-up. The Krait was supposed to be there to pick them up on either the first or second of October, but as the men exhaustedly rowed around the island, they saw nothing. 

Bone tired and somewhat disheartened, they dragged their kit up on the beach, and they slept. At dawn, they woke to see the Krait only a couple miles off; in their fatigue, the men had rowed past the anchored ship several times, never noticing her! The Krait sailed away, probably assuming something had held the men up. Lyon went into instant action prepping his small band for an extended stay. They began a cabin, made local contacts, even concocted a plan to steal a local ship and sail for India. None of this proved needed as the next day; the Krait chugged back into view. At 2200 on October 3, the last raiders of Singapore harbor boarded and set sail for home, for Australia. 

The return voyage was dull and uneventful compared to the intense last couple of weeks the men had just lived. The only danger came in the previous leg as Krait entered the Lombok Strait a Japanese patrol boat was sighted nearby. A tense hour passed, but the ship never challenged Krait, and the two ships sailed past each other. On October 19, 1943, at dawn, the men of Jaywick and their ugly little ship reached safety and the Exmouth Gulf. 

Forty-eight total days from start to finish and not a single casualty or significant issue. Over 4k nautical miles covered without being recognized or reported once by the enemy. The Japanese suffered one vessel of 3,100 tons sunk. 1 Nasusan Maru, one 3,800-4k ton Tone Maru class, 1 Taisyo Maru of 4,800 tons, and two unidentified freighters of 5 to 6k tonnage all sunk or heavily damaged. The largest ship, a Sinkoku Maru of 10k tons, was damaged and on fire for an extended period. That's a whopping 37k to 40k tons of enemy material affected by six men in collapsible canoes — incredible results for the SOA and the men of Z Special Unit. 

Many of the Jaywick team went on to continue fighting in the SOA and the war in general. Lyon would try to repeat the stunning success of Jaywick only to die in the process. Operation Rimau, Jaywick's would-be successor, was an unmitigated disaster that resulted in the deaths of its entire team including the fearless Ivan Lyon, the man and mind behind Jaywick. This is a story for the Patreon producers, and I'll get to it sometime this spring, so hang in there. As for the rest of the men of Jaywick, many survived the war but never left it. "Pancake Andy" went on and became a loving husband and father, but he was a haunted man. In and out of recuperation homes, he struggled with what is now called PTSD, to the day he died. His story is just one of many, but it highlights how even the "happy" and "normal" men that returned struggled to get on. The Jaywick men rarely talked amongst each other about what they had done during the war and never publicly. There was a protective aspect to this silence; you never wanted to put someone in danger by talking, but as the years passed and the mission became more well known, some of them opened up. They were honored both as a group and as individuals. Eventually, even ugly little Krait was given her due. She had continued to carry commandos through the war's end and was used even after the war for light duty. Then she was sold out of the service and played the waters off Borneo. She made her way home, though, and on ANZAC Day 1964, Krait was officially designated a war memorial. In '85, she was bought by the Australian War Memorial and housed at the Australian National Maritime Museum for the public. Since 2017 Krait has undergone extensive preservation and rehabilitation work to ensure that generations to come will be able to view her and experience her vaunted history. 

As for the Japanese, the raid stunned them. The idea that such an attack could have been carried out from Australia never crossed the Singapore authorities' minds. The SOA never took credit for Jaywick, the hope was to maintain the Krait’s anonymity for future operations. If the Japanese were looking everywhere but Australia as the source then they were blinded by distraction and ripe for further attacks using similar methods. And the Japanese were not only distracted but utterly baffled. The belief was that such a dirty trick had to have been played by local saboteurs, most likely the hated Communist Chinese. A total crackdown of the city was carried out by the Kempeitai. Something like the Gestapo, the Kempeitai, was a terrible murderous police force. They scoured Singapore for suspects, arresting, torturing, and executing people with no evidence or explanation. Chinese, Malays, European civilians, and even imprisoned POWs were all subject to the harshest questioning and torture. One victim, Elizabeth Choy, was arrested and interrogated. She was, in fact, a member of the local resistance funneling money and supplies to the underground, but of Jaywick, she had no idea, as nobody did. A small woman who in peacetime was a teacher and counselor, Choy suffered immensely at the hands of Kenpeitai. Stripped and beaten regularly, Choy was humiliated and repeatedly dehumanized by her captors. She would survive and eventually was given the order of OBE and was invited to be on hand for the Japanese surrender of Singapore in 1945. Her harrowing tale was one of many for the entire post Jaywick affair known as the Double Tenth, having happened on October 10. After the war many of the leading Japanese perpetrators of the Double Tenth terror were tried and convicted of war crimes. Most received prison sentences but some were hanged for their misdeeds. 

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So, was Operation Jaywick worth it? This question has been raised more and more over the years. I think the question exposes the luxury that time gives later generations. Time creates a sense of distance, false as that distance is. 75 76 77 years ago is not that long in the grand scheme. The other luxury that we have when asking questions of this nature, outside of just a distance buffer, is circumstance. It’s fairly easy to ask whether operations like Jaywick or Rimau or others are worth it when your existence is not on the line. It’s impossible to put ourselves into the shoes of the men and women that had to make the gametime decisions in a global conflict that threatened to engulf the world as they knew it. For Americans it’s even easier to question, we have always had oceans between us and “them”, whoever the “them” might be. To be an Australian in 1941,42,43, even 44 would have been heart poundingly suspenseful. The Japanese were only a boat ride away from families, friends, homes. The threat was real and ever present, so feeling like striking back in any way possible seems only natural to me. Even if failure meant exposure and likely death or imprisonment for the individuals, you take those risks. And even if you succeed and can’t tell anyone you hit back at the bad guys, you take those risks. Because it’s a matter of taking action as opposed to inaction. Keep the enemy off balance, always guessing, uncomfortable, and hitting them where they feel most secure. These are some of the oldest most pure and fundamental tenets of war and any general or leader would be foolish not to abide by them. 

Now the time and distance might make certain questions disingenuous but it does not mean we can’t recognize consequences and realities. The Jaywick raid was the direct cause of the 10 tenth crack down and the ensuing misery of the people of Singapore. That can’t be denied. And it shouldn’t be. There are heroes that emerge from that situation every bit as brave and strong as the men of Z Special Unit. The suffering of the city was probably factored into the Jaywick planning and it was deemed a necessary risk. It was probably even figured, in the most pragmatic sense, to be a good diversion and cover for future ops. Jaywick was both the right call and had some terrible repercussions. These truths can live in the same universe.

And look, Jaywick didn’t disrupt Japanese shipping or supply in a crippling fashion. It likely didn’t speed up the end of the war by a month or a week. It probably didn’t even speed up the war’s end by a day or an hour. But maybe it did by a minute, and when you are fighting the likes of a Hitler and a Tojo, every minute, every second matters. 

Alright that is Operation Jaywick! Stay tuned for the next episode preview but first - Thank you all for listening and for following along. This episode was inspired and driven along by a good friend down in Australia and it’s with him and his family in mind that I ask you to remember the Australian brush fires. Help if you can, it’s out of the news now in the US and people have moved on but there is still much to be done and help that is needed. Do so if you can! The episode sources this week are in the show notes and book reviews are on Patreon. Checkout the Instagram livestream every Wednesday night at eight we talk theory, movies, tv and books related to military history. Check instagram, facebook, and twitter for images and maps, just search cauldron podcast. Go to the Patreon for some cool extra content, swag, and early releases. RATE REVIEW SUBSCRIBE if you can and haven't already. I truly appreciate it and it does help the show! Finally next up we have river battles with gunboats, Billy Yank and Johnny Reb coming to grips, and early stages U.S. Grant demanding unconditional surrender under the threat of annihilation. Next on Cauldron we get stuck in at the Battle of Fort Donelson!